If the U.S. and Russia are Implacable Foes, Then All Lines of Inquiry Lead to NATO
In 1961, as a young academic, Henry Kissinger had an opportunity to interview President Harry Truman. He asked the former president what in his presidency had made him most proud.
Truman replied, “That we totally defeated our enemies and then brought them back to the community of nations.”
Unfortunately, the U.S. chose not to emulate Truman’s achievement in the years that followed. With the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact, the military threat to Western Europe had ended, but the NATO alliance did not disband itself. Mission accomplished was not good news for the military alliance — it needed new enemies and a new mission for self-preservation.
Indeed, NATO had no difficulty adjusting to the emerging world order. A new enemy was invented — Russia was to be treated as a descendant of the “evil empire.” The concept of an alliance was quietly converted into a doctrine of collective security. The difference is that while alliances are aimed at a specific threat and define the obligation of each partner in case of belligerency, collective security is an ambiguous concept that defines no specific threat and is designed to resist any aggression anywhere in the world. In this new mission, NATO equated peace and security with expanding democratic gains and the proliferation of American values.
In conformance with a new disposition, in the exultant atmosphere of the end of the Cold War, when Russia’s executive power was in a state of paralysis and its military in a state of despair, NATO hastily extended membership to the countries of former Soviet satellite orbit. The projection of a hostile military alliance eastward to within several hundred miles of Moscow could not be long tolerated by Russia irrespective of invocations of goodwill.
After the restoration of her economy and years of heavy investment into the modernization of its armed forces, Russia feels strong enough to confront what she considers a serious threat to her security.
Putin proclaimed his strategy, which was akin to a Russified Monroe Doctrine. It aimed to reassert Russian hegemony around its perimeter, or what Russia has long called its "near abroad."
Russia’s fear is not unfounded. “If you know a country's geography, you can understand and predict its foreign policy,” said Napoleon.
A glance at the map of Europe shows that if Ukraine and Georgia became members of NATO, Russia would be almost entirely flanked by NATO on its European border.
This irrevocable fact of geography, in Russia's eyes, forced Vladimir Putin to demand from America a security guarantee that Ukraine and Georgia would never be accepted into NATO. To demonstrate that he meant business, he assembled a sizable military force in the proximity to the Ukrainian border.
Moscow caught Western allies at the moment of maximum weakness. The geopolitical environment has dramatically changed in Russia’s favor. The European Union is in a state of economic weakness and political uncertainty. Obsessed with global warming or cooling or a vague climate change, it has shut down its nuclear- and coal-fired power plants and is now dependent on Russian gas to keep its industries running and homes warmed.
European members of NATO have degraded their military capabilities and are totally dependent on the U.S. for their defense. The current “Harris administration,” as it has been characterized by Joe Biden, looks feeble and inadequate. The Pentagon is woefully incompetent. It proved incapable even to organize a retreat from Afghanistan, and cannot be expected to conduct an effective offensive in Europe. Kiev’s regime is inept and corrupt and thus of no consequence.
It seems that both sides are consumed by excess expectation. Moscow’s excess expectation is that invasion would be quick, easy, and painless. Biden, however, warned Putin that the democracies are ready to impose crushing sanctions. Because the U.S. practically controls world trade and banking, the sanctions could result in chronic shortages, hyperinflation, and economic isolation for Russia.
Washington’s excess expectation is based on an assumption that the consequences of such sanctions would not significantly backfire onto the democracies that would be affected. It is a miscalculation that may result in a colossal geopolitical failure of American diplomacy. Isolated with nobody to turn to, Russia would be pushed by the U.S. into the arms of China. The unity of objectives could drive both countries to form an economic, political, and military alliance.
Past history also offers valuable lessons. The oil embargo the United States imposed on Japan in July 1941 was a critical reason for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The vindictive and punitive 1919 Treaty of Versailles, which imposed high reparations and a near-complete economic blockade on Germany, ostensibly to make the world safe for democracy, killed German democracy at its infancy and led to fascism, and eventually to the Second World War. Soon after Adolf Hitler had taken power in Berlin, one of the guests at a London dinner party asked aloud, “By the way, where was Hitler born?” “At Versailles,” replied Lady Astor. The challenge for American foreign policy is to avoid this very dilemma.
Regardless of how this political odyssey will play out, thus far, the current policies have already had a devastating impact on the development of Russian democracy. Before NATO’s expansion into the former Soviet satellites, Russia had been steadily advancing toward the club of democratic nations. While we can concede that Vladimir Putin is not Thomas Jefferson and that Russia does not muster with the National Endowment for Democracy, we should also acknowledge that after the death of Joseph Stalin, every Soviet/Russian leader was more benevolent and more democratic than his predecessor. This evolution was due to the moral authority of “the land of the free.” Continuation of the current policies may lead to changes in Russian leadership very much not to America’s liking.
Russia needs to be brought into the community of nations just as was done with Germany and Japan after their defeat in the Second World War and dealt with in terms of moral persuasion and commonality of national interests.
Under this scenario, NATO would lose the enemy and have no purpose.
Alexander G. Markovsky is a scholar of Marxism and a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, a conservative think tank that examines national security, energy, risk-analysis and other public policy issues. He is the author of "Anatomy of a Bolshevik" and "Liberal Bolshevism: America Did Not Defeat Communism, She Adopted It.” He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ted Belman is the founder and publisher of Israpundit.org
Image: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division. United States Central Intelligence Agency. Commonwealth of Independent States, European states. [Washington, D.C.: Central Intelligence Agency, 2003] Map. // fair use / public domain