NATO Expansion

Joint Council for Profit

Respublika (independent), Vilnius, Lithuania, May 29, 2002

The recent assurance of the U.S. president that the creation of a Joint Council by NATO and Russia will draw us nearer to a common and secure Europe sounds very unrealistic. The “historic document” concerning the establishment of the Joint Council was signed at the Italian military base [Practica di Mare], where unprecedented security measures were in place. Even nudists were driven away from the neighboring beaches.

The air wasn’t filled with the smell of security, however. It was more like fear of new terrorist attacks, against which the most powerful missiles are useless.

It is quite clear that Sept. 11 and the allies’ unsuccessful military action against Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan were the main reasons that forced “dear George” to become a closer friend of “dear Vladimir.”

In exchange for the involvement of Russia in the military council, the United States expects from Moscow more support in the war against terrorism. But Russian analysts believe the NATO friendship seems more of a declarative or “virtual” character. Russians are afraid that the United States wants merely to lull Russia with promises and to become itself the world’s sole superpower.

Unfortunately such worries are a bit too late: The United States is already behaving like the world’s only superpower, and there is nothing that Russia can do to resist. Even regarding NATO expansion—the most painful issue for the Kremlin—Russia is showing less resistance.

Vladimir Putin has already said that Russia can’t stop the process of NATO expansion. Russia’s top politicians also are very quietly observing the session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, which has decided to support the admittance to NATO of seven new members, including the Baltic States.

On the one hand, the Joint Council is a good way for Russia to keep face in the present situation. On the other hand, Moscow will benefit from supporting the war against terrorism. For example, Russia will enjoy a free hand in Chechnya; after all, somebody who plans to bomb Iraq should not raise any questions regarding bombing Grozny.

In any event, the establishment of the council is very important for all nations. Two antagonistic superpowers have ended their confrontation. This raises the hope that the division of the world into to two radically opposite sides is over now.

Paradoxically, the integration of Russia and NATO could undermine the main argument of Lithuania’s NATO enthusiasts for a joining the alliance. It is not a big secret that the NATO treaty’s article on joint defenses—according to which war against one member of the alliance is understood as war against NATO as a whole—is the most important argument for NATO membership [among Lithuanians].

If the Russia-NATO integration process continues, this argument will disappear. Other arguments for joining NATO have yet to be presented to us. Might it be “right” to fight in Kashmir or somewhere else in the East?

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