Tuesday, June 4, 2013
NATO Expansion North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO) is a military alliance of different governments. It is based on the North Atlantic Treaty signed in 1949. NATO draws its members from countries that have a reciprocal response of defense to attack from any source. They maintain that an attack on any one member is an attack on the whole group of nations. At the beginning the first NATO Secretary General, Lord Ismay, famously stated the organization's goal was, "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down" (Reynolds, 1994, pp. 13). The paper seeks to bring to the fore the problem facing NATO expansion and who is threatened by the expansion. The paper delves into the historical factors which have led to the opposition to NATO expansion and finally gives a way forward on how to increase the acceptance of the expansion. The NATO expansion eastwards has pushed the boarder of NATO towards Russia and is now being shared by Belarus and the Ukraine. The new development made Russia to reassess strategic imperatives in their western boarders because of the mutual distrust resulting from the new alliance formed between the former enemies during the cold war. The countries view the security of one member country as a threat to the others. The expansion has led to a politico-military response between the former states which formed the Soviet Union. The response main aims are defense and security cooperation between the states (Mearsheimer, 265-268) The main problem is the perception of NATO by Russia and Belarus as a potential enemy thus the need for the republics defenses to protect themselves from western approaches. The presidents of Belarus have even mooted a planned desire to turn the alliance with Russia into a powerful deterrent to NATO activities. Russia and Belarus are closely monitoring the surety issues that will result form the proposed NATO expansion. The two countries are planning to have a joint security organization to tackle the new security challenges that will be posed by the eastern NATO expansion. They also plan to determine their sphere of influence while at the same time strengthening this sphere (Black, 42-43) Black (2000) further states that although Russia has tried to come to terms with the eastern expansion of NATO, her partner Belarus has adopted a more rigid stand of no expansion, leaving it in a situation of waning relationship with the west. Belarus has often accused NATO and the United States of harboring plans to invade it. NATO has thought of improving its relationship with Russia but not with Belarus because of their poor human rights record and the allegations that they sell weapons to states that support terrorism. Russia has also been accused by the other NATO members of harboring imperial ambitions (Barany, 59-60). Barany further explains that the opposition to NATO expansion arises from issues of security thus the military cooperation between the two states which will eventually lead to a new geopolitical map of Eastern Europe. Russia views Belarus as the necessary entry point to the eastern block of Europe thus an important partner in the military strategies of Russia. In addition to that, it provides direct access to central Europe necessary to exert Russia’s influence in the region which mainly relies on NATO for its security. Thus Belarus is a very strategic partner in the security plans of Russia (71-76) According to Duignan (25-32), Russia’s has reached agreements with Belarus to the use of their military infrastructure after Russia lost significant military bases in the Baltic States. The two countries have held training programs together aimed at countering any attacks by NATO on the two states. (Black, 65-70) outlines that the two countries even have a weapon procurement program underway all aimed at the Belarus-Russia military doctrine. All this cooperation’s are done in secrecy and with little government transparency. Because of the high levels of new security threats, the manipulation of information is in itself a strategy that the two nations have used to their advantage. Russia’s main reason for objecting to NATO expansion according to Duignan (29-32) is the disappearance of the defensive wall provided by the USSR following the collapse of the Soviet Union. This led to the exposure of Russia to the western powers which include the U.S. and other strong NATO members from Europe. The NATO expansion led to Russia’s rush to build strong security alliances. That’s where Belarus fitted in because the too needed a close military cooperation to boost their national security. Russia viewed the expanding NATO as infringing on their western security space, an area where they reigned supreme before. Belarus importance to the Russia’s cause is her geopolitical orientation. It plays an important role in the establishment of east-West cooperation. Thus the NATO expansion has turned the nation into an important military and political center. Russia has also been accused of planning nuclear countermeasures in reaction to countries that intend to join the NATO. They have threatened to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus should any central European state join NATO. Belarusian president in a speech on the eve of victory day in 1996 said that they could not sit back and watch as NATO encroaches upon their boarders. The president further accused NATO o double standards by demonizing the Russia-Belarus cooperation while singing praises at the NATO expansion (Duignan, 55-63). There were also concerns in Russian corridors of power as to why NATO supported military cooperation with former Warsaw Pact states while the eastern states were against it. In 1997 the leaders of Russia and Belarus issued a statement on their opposition to NATO expansion; which they cited as the key reason why they were pooling resources for military action and also forging links in foreign relations (Bebler, 75-82). Russia further maintained that military structures and cooperation were inevitable due to the planned North East Corps base in Szczecin, a move which was viewed as advancement with weapons to the boarders of Russia. Further in 1998 after the entry of Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary into NATO, the cooperation was strengthened specifically on the fronts of efforts to establish military installations. NATO expansion according to critics failed to convincingly give the reasons why it considered the expansion plans. After the collapse of communism in central and Eastern Europe, NATO had lost a chunk of its collective purpose of defense (Bebler, 59). Rauchhaus (27-30) indicates that Germany came out as one of the advocates for the NATO expansion. Their motivation was the quest for the admission of Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary in her commitments to further her influence in Central Europe. Germany also viewed the expansion as an opportunity to end the long running German-Polish conflicts and also to advance German’s economic interests in Central Europe. The enlargement was also viewed as part of the democratization process of the three countries and to also enhance German’s security in the Central and Eastern Europe. The U.S. main objective for the support of NATO expansion was so that the United States could be anchored in Europe by securing the transatlantic dimension. The United States saw the addition of the three members to the NATO fold as an increased market for their weapons trade which had significantly gone down in the periods after the collapse of communism (Bebler, 171-173). After the collapse of the Warsaw pact, NATO should have ceased to exist since it was formed to balance the powers of the nations that were part of the pact. The expansion is viewed by many pundits as an offensive mechanism by the powerful countries to force the vulnerable nations to do their bidding. The weaker nations seem to accept the expansion out of because of their recognition that it is needless to resist great powers and sometimes because of the perceived benefits that they can get from the alliance. The great nations according to Mearsheimers cited in (Sundevall, 29-35) states that the powerful nations first look for opportunities to accumulate power. After they have gained significant power, they then take advantage of the power. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the U.S was left as the only power to reckon with, NATO would have been dissolved as there was no potential common enemy. Russian acceptance of NATO will rest on assurances that the infrastructure and markets in the Baltic States will not be interfered with. Russian acceptance can also be ensured if solid assurances can be given that NATO will not in the future turn hostile towards the Russian republic (Bebler, 173). The solution to the problem faced by NATO expansion would be to accord respect for Russia’s interests in any undertakings aimed at building a single union. The policy of not building new zones of regional instability should be reinforced for example by the use of the existing armament treaties between the enlarged states. The above approach would lead to the elimination of the fears that Russia have long held about NATO expansion (Kaplan, 241-254). Work Cited Barany, Zoltan. The future of NATO expansion: four case studies. Cambridge University Press, 2003. Black, Lanham. Russia Faces NATO Expansion: Bearing Gifts or Bearing Arms? Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2000. Bebler, Anton. The Challenge of NATO Enlargement. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1999. Duignan, Peter. NATO; its Past, Present and the Future. Hoover Institution press publication, 2000. Kaplan, Lawrence. The Long Entanglement: NATO’s First Fifty Years. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1999. Mearsheimer, John. The tragedy of Great Power politics. New York: Norton, 2001. Sundevall, Oscar. Masters thesis: Testing Offensive Realism on NATO expansion in Europe. Uppsala University, spring, 2011. Rauchhaus, Robert. Explaining NATO enlargement. Routledge, 2001 Reynolds, D. The origins of the Cold War in Europe; International perspectives, Yale University Press.
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