Old NATO was wise. It patiently waited years of using containment borrowing on George Keenan’s vision with a finale of President’s Reagan’s no-nonsense but initially fair approach to make a deal with President Gorbachev. That deal to let the Iron Curtain come down was matched with an agreement that NATO would not expand. Old NATO had fulfilled its goal and essentially its key raison d’être ended with many of its members scaling down to get a peace dividend.
Preceding this, one should not forget that President Nixon formulated detente and missile reduction treaties with President Brezhnev. Despite previously, invasions by Russia into Hungary and Czechoslovakia, Nixon made vital agreements with Russia and toned down the very negative rhetoric on both sides. His strong position against letting Russia get troops into the Middle East, but making it clear that America would not march into Russia’s sphere of influence maintained peace, prevented nuclear war and kept containment in place. His predecessors essentially followed the same policies.
Now for the new NATO which began after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Reagan presidency. It overly expanded into Russia’s sphere in the post Soviet reality. It was warned by Russia many times that Russia felt suffocating pressures from such an expansion practically year in and year out particularly into the new twenty first century. One by one NATO swallowed militarily in alliance most of Russia’s former allies and even some former Soviet states on or near its borders.
Does this process spell deception and humiliation to a former superpower that had a commitment from Reagan that NATO would not expand? The answer in a Foreign Affairs publication article recently published (see my blog titled “Vindication…”) that underlines this New NATO failed strategy.
NATO expansion and lack of respect for Russia emboldened Georgia’s top leadership in 2008 to try and create a crisis under which it thought NATO would be forced to welcome that country into its membership and defend it. Interestingly, Senator John McCain famous for his presence in Kiev during the “coup” there was a neo-con lobby front man for trying to get Georgia into NATO. We know how all that worked out with Russia countering in going into Russian minority parts of Georgia, leading to what is now annexed to Russia.
After Georgia, you think new NATO might have learned something important. That Russia was on the way back to protect itself, even aggressively from NATO expansionism and US perceived exceptionalism. That Russia was not for sale despite the consumer revolution that had got finally started there and that Moscow would increasingly protect its interests in very serious ways.
But no, we then see NATO accelerated meddling in getting the duly elected Ukrainian government at the time thrown out and replaced with a pro western one. One that led to ripping up of trade agreements with Russia. Did NATO think there would be no reaction? According to Mike Rogers, Chair of a congressional intelligence committee, the CIA did not foresee the annexing of Crimea by Russia. Should the problem of incompetency be added to the new NATO?
New NATO is like the bad drunk bully, in this case drunk with new post Soviet Union period power. One who keeps knocking down the door with repeated warnings not to do so but knows it is highly muscular compared to the occupants. And it even kicks at the occupants after it has floored them. NATO knows how to kick a man when down? It made a mistake because the one it kicked is back and standing straight. And it does not forget.
Most bullies do not know the point when they have gone too far until they get a really big black eye at the very least. And Vladimir Putin is punching up this bully, one body part at the time. I am afraid by the time he has finished in the neighborhood, it could become unrecognizable given NATO’s current trajectory with sanctions. And NATO will mostly have itself to blame.
New NATO also reminds me of the son who is handed so much- as Reagan and Keenan handed down to it- and is too undisciplined to know how to manage all that positive built up political capital in the post Soviet Union period as its leadership did not work so hard to create it. Hence, they take their inheritance and the continued future of it for granted by continuing archaic policies. American and certain NATO political elites have thus got sloppy in the unipolar world they inherited and forgotten the lessons learned by old NATO leaders of showing Russia a certain necessary respect.
Even though the economic snd military power advantages are vastly more on the West’s side, I believe this sloppiness and even political decadence should make NATO fear. Fear that many countries will regret they ever joined the alliance as the reemergence of Russia becomes more apparent. That rather than NATO gaining more members, it may start to shed some over the next decade or more as a result of New NATO being such a lightening rod to Russia -and incompetent or grossly inefficient. At the very least, some country members may reduce their commitment to the alliance and internal disunity may grow.
After all, Russia still is awfully important to east Europe and Austria and Finland, two non NATO countries that have benefitted from such neutrality. And in the end, NATO will be proven as an anachronism as much as the Warsaw Pact was in the continued post Soviet reality. Its dissolution is inevitable into a new security arrangement that will hopefully include the Eurasion union.
It is but a matter of time, which makes NATO Brussels fear for their jobs thereby making them the number one cheerleaders for fear mongering including evermore happily promoting themselves of going through the lucrative rotating doors with the defense industry. Russia is also for NATO secretariat staff, their stay on the job card if they can falsely vilify Russia sufficiently thereby conning NATO taxpayers into subsidizing arm purchases for Eastern Europe and MATO countries. And continued, insane expansion.
In summary, NATO is like a kind of overly jumped up and spoiled brat wanting more, running around willy-nilly with its distinct “unmatched” unipolar powers for now. It is not only a kind of bully in the neighborhood, but one which should get a real vocation called eventual dissolution to the benefit of western taxpayers. It should stop abusing its overstay and the political and security capital it inherited from old NATO. The world would be safer and the West richer if it did so.