Don’t Offend Russia?

Heaven forfend.  Or at least that was Michael O’Hanlon’s (Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution) concern when he proposed An Alternative to NATO Expansion That Won’t Antagonize Russia.  Never mind that what’s in American national interest is what matters, not that subset of it that won’t upset an enemy of ours.

[T]hese two countries [Ukraine and NATO], as well as other Eastern European neutral states, get no protection from NATO.

I’ll leave aside the value of NATO protection as that organization is currently constituted, funded, and armed; that’s a separate discussion.  No, the nub of O’Hanlon’s misunderstanding is this:

They are also too close to Russia for NATO to protect them, absent the deployment of a large and permanent forward defense.

He wrote that as though he thought forward deployment would be a bad thing.  In some respects it would be, but not for the reason he thinks.  Forward deployment of lots of heavy units would be foolish; such units would simply be targets in the event of a Russian decision to invade (aside from the fact that, with modern weapons and Russia’s forward deployment of nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad and its deployment of nuclear cruise missiles in western Russia, such units would be targets anywhere they’re stationed).  On the other hand, forward deployment of smaller, but still combat capable, units would send a very clear message that any Russian invasion would be an invasion of much more than just the nominally target nation.

On top of that, they most assuredly are not “too close to Russia.”  They merely abut Russia.  Russia is too close to eastern European nations by O’Hanlon’s logic.  Then he suggested this in all seriousness:

It is time that Western nations seek to negotiate a new security architecture for neutral countries in Eastern Europe today. The core concept would be permanent neutrality, at least in terms of formal membership in treaty-based mutual-defense organizations. The countries in question collectively make a broken-up arc from Europe’s far north to its south—Finland and Sweden; Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus; Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan; Cyprus plus Serbia, and possibly other Balkan states. …

The new security architecture would require that Russia, like NATO, commit to uphold the security of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and other states in the region. Russia would have to withdraw its troops from those countries in a verifiable manner

It is, indeed, time for a new security architecture, but O’Hanlon’s idea is little different from unspoken surrender born of false premises.  Permanent neutrality?  Russia won’t allow it; it never has.  Russia commit to uphold another nation’s security?  It’s already partitioned Georgia and occupied parts of it, and it’s dividing up Moldava, working as it is to carve off Transnistria.  It’s partitioned and occupied parts of Ukraine, explicitly crapping on the Budapest Memorandum in the process.

O’Hanlon can’t be that ignorant.

This isn’t naïveté.  This is idiocy.  I repeat: what’s in American national interest is what matters, not that subset of it that won’t upset an enemy of ours.  The same holds for Europe, as well, most especially those nations of eastern Europe, under the Russian gun as they so plainly are.

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