Michael O’Hanlon, writing for the Brookings Institution several days ago, offered an idea for smoothing relations between the US and Russia.
It is time that Western nations conceptualize, and seek to negotiate, a new security architecture for those countries in central Europe that are not now part of NATO that would guarantee their safety without bringing them into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
So far, so good. NATO, whether obsolete or updated and upgraded to lose that obsolescence, doesn’t need to expand further. In no particular order:
He based his idea on a misunderstanding of the Russian position after the end of the Cold War.
Many Russians [including Vladimir Putin, of “historic tragedy of USSR breakup” sentiment] feel that NATO did not win the Cold War. Rather, a new generation of leaders of their own country had the wisdom to end it. They were then rewarded for their good sense, not only by a reaffirmation of the organization that had been their nation’s adversary, but by a major expansion of that very alliance.
What O’Hanlon missed is that the reason Russia didn’t, and doesn’t, think NATO won the Cold War is because that contest didn’t end with the breakup of the USSR. The interregnum—which is all that resulted—was simply a period during which Russia has refit, recovered, and resumed its expansionist drive, first to recover the Russian empire that was the Soviet Union, and then to continue that empire’s expansion.
O’Hanlon did assert, correctly, the legal and moral right of each nation to its own sovereignty, and that
This is as true for Ukraine and Georgia, and other countries of Central Europe, as for America’s traditional core allies or any other nation. This principle is inherent to the UN Charter. It is also central in the 1975 Helsinki Final Act….
O’Hanlon, though, omitted the Budapest Memorandum, of which Russia is a signatory, that guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity and its sovereignty. Yet here Russia is, having partitioned Ukraine and occupied Crimea and eastern Ukraine. There is, too, Georgia, which Russia also has partitioned and occupied. So much for the value of Russian commitments to Charters, Final Acts, and Memoranda.
Then his naiveté exposed the danger of his naiveté:
It is important to make a proposal for a new security architecture with the willingness and ability to walk away, should Moscow begin to engage in negotiations and then escalate its demands—perhaps proposing that some new NATO members be removed from the alliance, or that the alliance itself be somehow recast or neutered.
Offer someone we want for an ally an arrangement and then walk away from it when Russia acts up—because these nations are mere pawns in a discussion with Russia. Yeah, that’ll show our reliability. Besides, we tried that. We offered missile defense systems for stationing in Poland and Czech Republic, and then walked away from those after some proposals from Russia. Worked really well.
And this danger from his naiveté:
The new security architecture would demand that Russia commit to help uphold and guarantee the security of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and other states in the region. They would also be promised their complete freedom to associate economically and diplomatically with whomever they chose. They would also be allowed to participate in multilateral security operations on a scale comparable to what has been the case in the past.
We’ve seen the value of Russian commitments to Charters, Final Acts, and Memoranda. Add to Ukraine and Georgia Russia’s unwanted “presence” in Moldova. There is no basis for believing Russia would honor this new set of commitments. Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results is symptomatic of what, again?
No, what’s needed to face an historically and still aggressive and expansionist Russia is a new mutual defense treaty alliance, a separate alliance from NATO, in that central Europe, one which includes such of those nations on the Russian border that wish to participate in order to maximize their ability to protect their sovereignty from Russian aggression.