So, NATO has finally taken a half step. It has delayed George Bush’s expansionism.
Bush wanted to have Georgia and the Ukraine approved for entering NATO at the current summit in Bucharest. Apparently, Germany and France’s concerns about antagonizing Russia were enough for the organization to punt on a decision till at least December.
Not all the news out of the summit is good. NATO has endorsed Bush’s asinine plan to install radars in the Czech Republic as part of a missile defense system to supposedly track incoming missiles from Iran. With a whopping $160 billion spent on the program in its two decades-plus of existence, the “Star Wars” boondoggle has done little except line the pockets of military contractors. Plus, Russia is not too thrilled about the stationing of radars next door.
But at least one of Bush’s harebrained schemes has been ditched for now, albeit with an assurance that Georgia and Ukraine will be eventually made members. It should be noted that NATO has still expanded itself at the current meeting—southeastward to Albania and Croatia.
NATO’s drive eastward is a betrayal of a promise by Bush Senior’s Administration to Mikhail Gorbachev.
“In February 1990, after talks with West Germany's foreign minister, Secretary of State James Baker had assured Gorbachev and Shevardnadze that ‘NATO’s jurisdiction would not shift one inch eastward from its present position.’ ” writes Leon Sigal in “Hang Separately: Cooperative Security Between the United States and Russia, 1985-1994.” “The [first] Bush Administration began backing away from that pledge almost immediately. The Clinton Administration reneged on that commitment altogether when it decided to expand NATO to Eastern Europe.”
Gorbachev wasn’t amused about this duplicity.
“The issue is not just whether Czechs, Hungarians and Poles join NATO. The problem is more serious: the rejection of the strategy for a new, common European system agreed to by myself and all the Western leaders when we ended the Cold War,” Mikhail Gorbachev wrote in March 1999. “I feel betrayed by the West. The opportunity we seized on behalf of peace has been lost. The whole idea of a new world order has been completely abandoned.”
Now, I have no illusions about Putin. He seems like a guy who could bite people’s heads off for his daily lunch. But Bush’s grandiose notions for NATO have nothing to do with countering Putin’s authoritarian rule. NATO expansionism is based on the United States wanting to consolidate its hold on Europe and build up a favorable strategic position vis-à-vis Russia.
A defining element of U.S. policy toward Russia has been “a growing military encirclement of Russia, on and near its borders, by U.S. and NATO bases,” writes Russia expert Stephen Cohen in The Nation. “The result is a U.S.-built reverse iron curtain and the remilitarization of American-Russian relations.”
And this posture by the United States has had a number of negative effects in Russia.
U.S. policies have “provoked the Kremlin into undertaking its own conventional and nuclear buildup, … while continuing to invest miserly sums in the country's decaying economic base and human resources,” Cohen writes. “More generally, they have inspired a new Kremlin ideology of ‘emphasizing our sovereignty’ that is increasingly nationalistic, intolerant of foreign-funded NGOs as ‘fifth columns’ and reliant on anti-Western views of the ‘patriotic’ Russian intelligentsia and the Orthodox Church.”
But still George Bush strides onward, refusing to change course.