Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Why Not Invite Russia Into NATO?

According to MSNBC, the Bush administration, NATO, and the G-8 are considering what they all can do to "punish" for their actions in Georgia.

But we don't really have any leverage for punishing the Russians. Boycotting scheduled joint NATO/Russia military exercises or booting Russia out of the G-8 won't work. The boost that Russia's nationalists get from "standing up to the U. S." easily trumps the petty embarrassments we can dish out. More important, these kinds of minor punishments don't make any progress on resolving the tensions between Russia and the former Soviet bloc states along its borders.

Let's try something different then.

Why not invite Russia to apply for membership in NATO along with Ukraine, Georgia, and other former Soviet bloc states that want to get in?

Letting the Russians and other former Soviet bloc states into NATO has significant advantages that should not be overlooked. Most importantly, bringing Russia and the former Soviet bloc states into NATO gives them all a common organizational framework within which they can work out their issues with democratization, minority populations, and natural resources. NATO isn't strong enough to provide the military protection Ukraine and Georgia want. But, NATO can give the parties a framework for working on their problems in a productive way. After the wars in the Balkans, Chechnya, and Georgia, everybody should recognize the depth of the problems in the former Soviet bloc states and be willing to start a long-term effort to develop solutions. A NATO framework with regular meetings, joint military exercises, and requirements for democratization can provide an organizational basis for dealing with short-term flare-ups and engaging in the long-term negotiations necessary to develop solutions.

It could be argued that letting Russia into NATO would be rewarding them for bad behavior or appeasing them. The neo-cons already view the Bush administration's failure to militarily confront Russia as a form of appeasement that is just as cowardly as Neville Chamberlain ceding the Sudentenland to Hitler in 1938.

But the American public should have learned something about aggressive nationalism from our own neo-cons. In particular, neo-cons like Dick Cheney or John Bolton detest the constraints put on the U. S. by international organizations like the U.N. or NATO. They also have an intense dislike of negotiations, compromise, and cooperation with other countries on any terms other than those dictated by the U. S. In other words, they hate anything that ends up constraining our ability to do anything we want. They don't like the ICC, the Geneva conventions against war crimes, or the constraints that our NATO allies have put on our military operations. They get the creeps every time they think that France has a say in the ability of the U. S. to wage wars.

Russian nationalists are the same way--suspicious of alliances, negotiations, or anything else that constraints the ability of Russia to "recapture its rightful place in the world." The same is the case with aggressive nationalists everywhere. They think they should be able to do whatever they want and get enormously frustrated by any kind of constraint.

From this perspective, offering Russia membership in NATO would be the ultimate punishment that we could inflict on the aggressive nationalists in Russia's political and military elite. NATO membership would place the Russians in a huge bureaucracy with large numbers of boring meetings, seemingly useless rules and requirements, and a tremendous bias against quick action. Just think of it. Hot-blooded Russian nationalists would have to spend whole careers listening to French, German, and Dutch diplomats, being "actively engaged" in committees, and attending any number of NATO ceremonies and commemorations.

Far from rewarding Russia's most aggressive policy-makers, NATO membership will give them the boredom that they deserve almost as much as they dread.

In the meantime, NATO will provide a basis for gradually working out the difficulties that Russian nationalists and American neo-cons wanted to go to war over.

1 comment:

Aqua Fyre said...

I wish to reply to your post.

I agree with you, even though I am most definitely NOT a Leftist.

From my perspective, inviting Russia would lob the ball firmly into Moscow's court.

The US is arguing that the defense shield in Poland is not about Russia , but is meant to be a line of defense against states such as Iran.

Well, by inviting them to share the keys so to speak, Russia would be able to verify for itself, the veracity or otherwise of such Nato claims.

As for boredom, there would be many ex Russian Politburo members, who would be only too willing to add new and exquisitely torturous layers of Kafkaesque beaurocracy to Brussels, Nato and the EU...

In which case.

Heaven help us...(only joking)...