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 Expanding NATO was always hugely controversial

Russia’s Ukraine invasion may have been preventable, The US refused to consider Ukraine’s NATO status asPutin threatened wae. Experts say that was a huge mistake, MSNBC, March 5, 2022,  By Zeeshan Aleem, MSNBC Opinion Columnist  ”……………………………………….Expanding NATO was always hugely controversial

NATO was originally formed as a military and political alliance between the U.S., Canada and several Western European nations in 1949. It was meant to serve as a collective defense organization to contain the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and its most important provision, Article 5, held that an attack on one member of the alliance was an attack against all of them.

n 1990, the West led the Soviets to believe NATO would not expand further eastward across Europe in exchange for Germany reunification and the agreement that the new Germany would be a NATO member. Most famously, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker once assured Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that the NATO alliance would move “not one inch eastward” in exchange for this agreement, but as the late Princeton University scholar Stephen Cohen pointed out in 2018, this pledge was in fact made multiple times by several Western countries.

These assurances were not honored, and NATO has expanded eastward over the years to include many more countries, all the way up to Russia’s borders.

“It is the broken promise to Gorbachev that lingers as America’s original sin,” Cohen said then.

NATO’s expansion was hugely controversial in policy circles in the 1990s. As foreign policy commentator Peter Beinart has noted, around the time the Clinton administration was considering NATO in the ’90s to include Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic — a debate that almost caused President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Defense William Perry to resign — many influential voices dissented:

George Kennan, the living legend who had fathered America’s policy of containment against the Soviet Union, called NATO expansion “a strategic blunder of potentially epic proportions.” Thomas Friedman, America’s most prominent foreign policy columnist, declared it the “most ill-conceived project of the post-Cold War era.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan, widely considered the most erudite member of the US Senate, warned, “We have no idea what we’re getting into.” John Lewis Gaddis, the dean of America’s Cold War historians, noted that, “historians—normally so contentious—are in uncharacteristic agreement: with remarkably few exceptions, they see NATO enlargement as ill-conceived, ill-timed, and above all ill-suited to the realities of the post-Cold War world.”

The major concern was that expansion would backfire — that it would, as Kennan put it in 1997, “inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion.” Indeed, Russia hated it. As Lieven previously told me, for decades the Russian political establishment and commentators have vociferously objected to NATO expansion and “warned that if this went as far as taking in Georgia and Ukraine, then there would be confrontation and strong likelihood of war.”

Russia perceives NATO as an existential threat

Russia is no longer at the helm of a global superpower, but it is still, at the very least, a regional great power, and as such it devotes considerable resources to exerting its influence beyond its borders and using the states around it as buffers. Russia views Ukraine, a large country to which it has long-running cultural and historical ties, as a particularly critical buffer state for protecting its capital.

The issue that Russia saw in NATO was not just an expanding military alliance, but one that had shifted gears to transforming and proactively intervening in global affairs. After the end of the Cold War, NATO’s raison d’être no longer existed, but instead of disbanding, its mission shifted to democracy promotion. The carrot of membership in NATO was used to encourage countries to adopt liberalization and good governance and align with U.S. political, economic and military interests.

Of particular concern to the Russians have been NATO’s operations outside of NATO countries. The Russians were shocked by NATO’s bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, where NATO not only intervened in the affairs of a non-NATO country, but took sides against the Serbs, allies of the Russians, and did so without United Nations Security Council approval. NATO has also been involved in regime change and nation-building projects in places like Libya and Afghanistan………..

Things turned up a notch in 2008, when NATO declared that Ukraine and Georgia “will become members” of NATO. It did not specify a timeline, and it was assumed that it was conditional on the countries adopting political reforms, but it infuriated the Russians……

John Mearsheimer, an international relations scholar at the University of Chicago, also warned that this was foreshadowing, and Ukraine’s pseudo-membership status was going to bait Moscow and result in catastrophe. “The West is leading Ukraine down the primrose path, and the end result is Ukraine is going to get wrecked,” he said in a lecture…………………………….


March 19, 2022 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international

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