How not to deal with Russia

That bar, the Red Star, on the far side of eastern Europe is closed. So why is the Black Star on this side still open, and even extending its drinking hours?

By Jonathan Power (World View)

Published: Sat 23 Aug 2008, 11:46 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:12 PM

Once the Warsaw Pact closed shop there was no good or honest reason for keeping Nato going. The threat that Nato was created to deter disappeared when the Soviet Union collapsed. Let the European Union take the strain, by trade, investment, diplomacy and political intimacy, the hallmarks of a successful union that has mastered the art of expansion and influence by clever use of the carrot, whilst America has led its quest for influence by application of the Bush doctrine of "preventive war".

As Mark Leonard, the director of foreign policy at the Center for European Reform wrote in his clever, little book of three years ago, "the contrast between the two doctrines is stark. The Bush doctrine attempts to justify action to remove a "threat" before it has a chance of being employed against the US. It is consequently focused very closely on physical assets and capabilities, necessarily swift in execution and therefore short term in conception, and unavoidably entirely military in kind. The European doctrine of pre-emption, in contrast, is predicated on long-term involvement, with the military just one strand of activity, along with pre-emptive economic and legal intervention, and is aimed at building the political and institutional basis of stability, rather than simply removing the immediate source of threat." This is why Nato is no longer needed in Europe.

Passive aggression — the outward expansion of the Eurosphere — is what Europe needs. For countries such as Turkey, Serbia or Bosnia, the only thing worse than having the Brussels bureaucracy descend on its political system with its multitude of new rules is to have its doors closed to them.

At the time when the expansion of Nato was first being discussed by the Clinton administration, it was none less than a group of conservative experts, led by Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to former president, George Bush, Sr, who wrote in the New York Times, "antagonism is sure to grow if the alliance extends ever closer to Russia....We will have misplaced our priorities during a critical window of opportunity." George Kennan described it as, "the most fateful error of the entire post Cold War era."

According to the former president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, he was assured by James Baker, the US Secretary of State, that if the Soviet Union permitted the reunification of West and East Germany "there would be no extension of Nato's current jurisdiction eastward". Gorbachev's words have the ring of truth. Why at that time would a Soviet president voluntarily concede such an important piece of the chessboard without a reasonable quid pro quo? Jack Matlock, Jr, the American ambassador in Moscow at the time, has confirmed the deal, "When Gorbachev and others say that it is their understanding Nato expansion would not happen, there is a basis for it."

The US has rolled all over that commitment — with a supine EU going along with it. Not only is Nato right up to Russia's borders, US troops are now to join the Polish military to operate an American Patriot anti-missile battery right on Russia's front lines. If, as the White House has long maintained, its anti-missil e system is only directed at Iran why has it announced this new agreement with Poland in the week that Russia invaded Georgia?

Europe has missed an important beat with Georgia. It should not have allowed the US to set the pace, pulling Georgia into its embrace, aggressively pushing the homeland of Stalin to be made a member of Nato.

Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France and also currently of the European Union, has done much to redeem Europe's position, rushing in the first hours of the Georgian crisis to Moscow and securing a peace deal, whilst Bush still dozed at the Olympics.

This needs to be followed up by a dramatic realignment of Europe's eastward stance. An offer of membership negotiations to both the Ukraine and Georgia, with a reaffirmation of the goal, as carefully spelt out by Zibigniew Brzezinski in an interview in World Policy Journal, Prospect Magazine and the Arab News with me, that one day Russia too will be invited to join the EU.

This is what the Ukraine and Georgia both badly need and the present leaders of their countries do them a bad service by emphasising their military needs rather than their social, economic and legal. At the moment the plan is to start the Ukraine's Nato accession talks in December. Unless Europe wants to be party to laying the ground work for a re-ignition of the Cold War it should veto this and concentrate on expanding the Eurosphere.

Jonathan Power is a veteran foreign affairs commentator based in London

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