Monday, January 30, 2006


I caught an interesting article today, via MosNews ... from the CATO Institute. For those who don't know, the CATO institute is a private conservative organization / think-tank. I would say I generally agree with their writings and opinions, but not always. They tend to be real conservatives, as opposed to most of the crop of big-spending Republicans we have been saddled with over the last two decades.

In any case, the article "NATO Insists on Poking Russian Bear" is worth reading, and certainly would be a popular opinion within Russian. However, I take particular issue with one of the authors statements:

"Russia -- like any other country -- tends to get alarmed when the world's sole superpower extends security guarantees and military cooperation to countries on its borders."

Really? Like any other country? I'm drawing a blank here. What other countries??

I mean, really ... I'm very curious what countries Mr. Logan and Mr. Carpenter are thinking about. France? Germany? Italy? Is there any western European country that would become anxious about the US extending security guarantees to a country on its border? Is there any other country, anywhere? I would say that most of Asia, Africa, and South America really wouldn't become "alarmed" at the US promising to defend another sovereign nation from attack. Is Columbia anxious because it borders Panama? Actually, even Venezuala would likely be defended by the US if it were attacked, even if such agreements are not in place. Is New Zealand anxious because the US would defend Australia? China anxious because the US would defend Japan? (Ok, maybe China gets anxious ... a little.)

In fact, I would say this alarm is strictly a Russian situation. No other country in the world is so paranoid about having strong countries on their borders, as Russia. I would say that through their history, this is even justifiable. Russia has been repeatedly invaded .. and truly devastated by invasions. The scars of this history are present even now ... Russians have long memories.

Now, Americans who might be reading this ... try not to laugh ... but many Russians really believe that they are going to be invaded again someday. No really, I told you not to laugh. Stop laughing now. There is more than ice and tundra in Russia. Really, I've been there. Many Russians believe they could be attacked for their resources. Oil, metals, wood, what have you.

I think the real problem is that, in many ways, Russia is not treated as an equal partner in the west. Russia sees this snub and carries a chip on its shoulder, along with its always present paranoia / xenophobia regarding outsiders, invasion, etc. The desire to be treated equally manifests itself these days in various counter power-plays around the globe ... particularly in the last few years of the Putin era. The US military being tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan has created many openings for the Russian government and military to regain influence (Iran and China being prime examples of buyers of Russian air-defense systems).

There are reasons why Russia isn't really REALLY allowed to sit at the grown-up table (consider recent calls by Leiberman and McCain to suspend Russia's G8 status). Much of it is the historical behavior of the Russian government. But it becomes sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy; because Russia is snubbed as a REAL power, their behavior tends to be contrarian. They will fill the void on the other side of the table, as it were. This puts the ability to end this cycle of "cooperation, but not really cooperating" squarely in the hands of the US and western nations. In this regard, the future expansion of NATO really makes no sense.

Further, I think Jackson-Vanik makes no sense. It serves both US and Russian interests to promote trade, rather than restrict it. It creates a situation where common interests make NATO less and less important, even to Russians who carefully watch their borders. It makes Russian paranoia regarding NGOs less credible as well, or certainly opens the door for civil and charitable influence in Russia through the business sector, rather than through artificially constructed civil organizations.

Mr. Logan and Mr. Carpenter's article is otherwise spot-on. Recognizing Russia's particular issues with expansion of NATO and US influence on its borders, and how Russia might see this as provocative (where I believe many other nations would not and certainly not the same extent) is important to US and Western Europe foreign policy. At this point I could launch into a discussion of Russian oil, old Western Europe vs. new Eastern Europe ... but I'll leave that for a topic at another time.

1 comment:

schiehallion said...

Russia stills thinks it is a military superpower, but it has lost this status completelly in the past 20 years. Russia today might not be able to conduct a small-midsize intervention in a other country (thanks god). Its military structure, equipment status and whole operational processes are not in the favour of out-of-area missions. Currently even milder UN-peacekeeping missions are almost unfeasible for Russia. In Dec. 2005 Putin had suggested that Russia should send 200 soldiers to Sudan/Darfur. This might already be quite a test if realized (unlikely).
So the reason why Russia is afraid of security guarantees from outside, is that it is not able to match up to this with own security guarantees for its dubious allies, especially in the Cuacasus or fromer CIS states.