NATO expansion and ’90s era analysis

I found the following on NATO expansion at

Russia is the main opponent to this expansion, because it interprets this as an increasing military presence on its borders. There is also a concern over old territorial claims to parts of Russia’s new neighbors that Moscow may try to pursue subsequently. For example, one vague scenario is of Russian intervention in the Eastern Ukraine to “protect the lives and property of Russian citizens”. Despite this, there has been a detectable thaw in Moscow’s opposition to NATO expansion as its leadership recognizes that the alliance no longer poses a threat to Russia, and this should be a manageable concern. For example, Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov recently stated the following: “I have become convinced NATO is not a threat to Russia, but I have millions to convince in Russia who are still worried that it is a threat.”(2)

United States Marine Corps
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Marine Corps Combat Development Command
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Captain Gyula Bene, Hungarian Army
AY: 1996-97

If NATO expansion had occurred in a different way, one without the stripping of the Russian economy, aggressive democracy promotion as regime change, Iraq and Libya and a “global” NATO diluting its capabilities, what then?

Update: Great comments by all. In case it wasn’t clear from my series of posts, I agree with commenter dearieme: “But what would be the point of expanding NATO? It’s job was done. Declare victory and dissolve it: replace it by some low-key organisation that doesn’t worry the bear. And, above all, don’t, don’t, don’t interfere in places like Georgia.” In this post I was trying to point out that even if one thought NATO necessary, the nature of its expansion hollowed it out. But I think the US has to start thinking in a very different way about our security. We are not well-served by our foreign policy elite.

14 thoughts on “NATO expansion and ’90s era analysis”

  1. Ukraine is even more important to Russia for four reasons. First, a NATO presence in Ukraine would threaten Russia’s control over the Black Sea. Second, 11 million ethnic Russians live in Ukraine, which is more than 20 % of its population, which Russia claims it does not want to “abandon”. Third, NATO would have a direct border with Russia. The Russian Defense Minister has said that moving NATO’s border to Russia’s doorstep would upset the strategic balance on the continent and restore a Cold War situation in Europe that would force Russia to take countermeasures.(36) Lastly, there is a close relationship between the two countries. Russia has powerful levers, especially its close ties between Russian and Ukrainian enterprises, and Ukrainian dependence on Russian natural resources such as oil and gas.(37) Moscow clearly does not want to lose its influence over the Ukraine, and the latter’s entry in NATO might make it harder for Russia to exert its leverage over the Ukraine.

    I’ll add one more – the SE part of the East European Plain is Russia’s most vulnerable spot and always has been. They are constantly fighting insurgents there, and their greatest fear is (or at least should be) an invading force coming through Ukraine and linking up with rebels to shut them off from not only the sea but their Caucasus oil and gas deposits. It’s what the Nazis were trying to do and would have succeeded if Hitler hadn’t been such an incompetent lunatic.

    The NATO expansion into the Baltics didn’t instill as much angst because they’re relatively isolated and basically indefensible. Even though Ukraine was close to joining back then, NATO never let them in. There was likely some tradeoff to appease the Russians, who, regardless, were mired in a battle to the death with their own radical Islamists and too weak and distracted to do anything.

  2. But what would be the point of expanding NATO? It’s job was done. Declare victory and dissolve it: replace it by some low-key organisation that doesn’t worry the bear. And, above all, don’t, don’t, don’t interfere in places like Georgia.

  3. “And, above all, don’t, don’t, don’t interfere in places like Georgia.”

    How about helping Georgia defend itself ? Should we do a Chamberlain and force Georgia or Ukraine to accept partition ? That is what Chamberlain did with Czechoslovakia. I see no role for US troops but we can sell equipment, like Antimissile systems, to Poland to Czech Republic who want them.

    Our strongest response, and one that should appeal to even Ron Paul, is to strengthen our own economy by abandoning the regulatory state being expanded by Obama and the Democrats.

    Drill, baby, drill.

  4. “All illegal groups must be disarmed” (Geneva treaty 2014).

    The current government of the Ukraine illegally overthrew the lawful government of the Ukraine 2 months ago. All armed groups with the Ukraine are now equally lawful/unlawful. Obama supports one illegal armed group, Putin supports the others.

    If one reads a history of Russia, the Ukraine has been the heart and soul of Russia since the 1200s. Russia has a 1000 missiles and there is no reason for their existence except to defend the Ukraine.

    If America troops invade the Ukraine they invade Russia. The missiles must be used to defend Russia. I suppose Obama has been assured that our missile defense is 100% effective. However some missiles may explode several miles above causing an EMP catastrophe. And out of 1000 missiles, 10 or 20 may get through and destroy some cities. Perhaps Obama owes us a fireside chat while we still have electricity.

    Perhaps we should restock our backyard bomb shelter and test the emergency generators and water supply.

  5. @ dearieme:

    I agree.

    I see that now that my posts have been confusing.

    First, I think NATO should have been disbanded and the US could have had a military-military relationship with whatever collective entity came up after the disbanding. It’s not true that Europe can’t defend itself. Factions in the US threat inflate because they want to keep the US as a European hegemon for a whole host of reasons, some including arms sales, ideology, worry about their foreign policy desk jobs, etc. And various NATO factions play the US off of others for their own purposes.

    BTW, I’ve seen that linked piece. There is a similar Phyllis Schafly article from the late 90’s that is a hoot. I should post it sometime.

    Second, even if one thought NATO was needed to protect against a resurgent/revanchist Russia, the way in which it was expanded did nothing for European defense. It hollowed it out because a global NATO was always fig leaf for DC adventurism and a cheap way for others to keep the US paying for the most of it. Plus, most of that money comes back to US defense contractors.

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

  6. Grey eagle makes a great point. MAD is still in effect. The Munich comparisons don’t work because of this fact. It cannot be overlooked, the unclear escalatory logic regarding nuclear weapons in this situation.

    It is madness to play around with the nuke line.

    And I bet some of our European partners have put their foot down and said behind the scenes they would not support a hard-line American approach including selling weapons to Georgia, etc.

    They have the economic leverage. We don’t. They also live next door. We don’t. Poland spends, what, barely 2 percent of its GDP on defense? And what about Eastern European nations working with one another in a low key way? Putin is doing the unconventional warfare thing. If they govern better and include minorities in their systems better, it would help too.

    The US is not the only one that can help Georgia protect itself. Saakashvili made terrible decisions when in office and became overconfident because of thinking the US would stand by his adventurism. By the way, part of the reason the neocons wanted Georgia was because of Iran. CIA war-on-terror detention centers (or torture sites) were in Georgia too, weren’t they? A lot of this has nothing to do with protecting Georgia.

    The US foreign policy elite and American arms sellers are in a bind; peace might cramp their style. IF Europe looks after its own defense, it will buy its own weapons.

    Sure was a mistake to outsource our manufacturing for some cockamamie globalization fetish and so a bunch of stupid CEOs could hollow out their own country. Patriots my you-know-what.

  7. “I see that now that my posts have been confusing.”

    I don’t think so. You’ve made your case well, and it’s a fascinating one. I just don’t agree that our side and our role in the situation is quite constituted in this framework like you think it is. But that’s me- I’m a natural contrarian. Maybe if I see more proof…

    Whatever is going on, one thing is for certain, we can’t arm the Ukrainians. Their response to the Russian fomented rebellion in the eastern part of the country combined with the fact that their arms suppliers still supply Russia’s military should give everyone great pause. I was skeptical after Crimea was taken so easily, but now it’s evident.
    Clearly the Russians have agents within and without the government and Ukrainian army. Any assistance we send them will just go down a black hole. We need to be preparing for a partition of the country.

    We should feel better about Georgia though. We need to help them as much as we can. Very, very important that they don’t go the way of Crimea.

  8. The Baltics are more important than Georgia and Ukraine. They are viable states, for one thing. They were grand duchies before 1917 but were never part of “Mother Russia.” Ukraine and Georgia are not viable economically. Of course, Europe is not much better.

    We need to end the regulatory state we are and free up our economy. I’m not sure the people have enough self confidence anymore to do so. The stronger we are domestically, the more we are credible as a nation state. Right now we are the “sick man” of north America. Canada is booming with oil. Mexico is getting itself organized by sending its poor north. The PRI is unalterably corrupt but Mexico is a rich country without its peasant class and they are moving to Los Angeles.

    Australia has come to its senses but we don’t seem to be able to do so. They have thrown off the Labour Green coalition and are growing again.

    Powerline has an interesting set of charts today. This gives us an idea of the cost of Obama so far.

  9. Onparkstreet: What an amazing thought!!! MAD is over!!! If attacked by 1000+ missles destroying our half of the world, Obama will not launch our missles to destroy Russia’s half of the world. That is why he has replaced the leaders of the US missle command!

    I suppose we should all leave the USA. It is dead. Where to go?

  10. If one reads a history of Russia, the Ukraine has been the heart and soul of Russia since the 1200s

    Maybe if you read more broadly, you might learn of things like the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the various Cossack uprisings, etc. Like so much of Central and Eastern Europe, the history is a little more complicated than that written by the (pro tem) victors.

  11. I am polish and prussian and descended from viking fun seakers. My friends are from Scandanavia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland. Our ancestors were serfs and slaves in Russia and various Germanic principalities. We are called Slavs because we came from lands that produced the slaves that built the Roman empire and kept it running.

    My ancestors cheerfully fled eastern Europe in order to find peace and prosperity in America.

    Putin has nukes. It is suicidal madness to dismember his country. If my fellow poles, latvians, lithuanians, estonians, and ukrainians don’t like it – then they should come to america and pretend they are mexicans.

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