Russia and NATO: Threats worse than the Cold War legacy
The issue of creating a system of European security dates back several centuries. The latest, most stable iteration of this process was a bipolar system of international relations. Some experts believe that the Warsaw Pact, which disbanded 20 years ago, was a key element of the European subsystem. The counterweight in this difficult equilibrium was NATO. However, I think that military stability in Europe and beyond was guaranteed by the nuclear arsenals of the Soviet Union and the United States. The Warsaw Pact was a Soviet instrument whose only purpose was to maintain order among its allies. This was proved by détente, because the two military-political blocs began a constructive dialogue only after the superpowers began one.
The end of détente was brought about by the inability of the Soviet Union (not the Warsaw Pact) to continue counteracting the growing influence of the United States, not NATO. The Soviet Union had either to switch to a posture of aggressive confrontation or give it up altogether, and this is what happened in the late 1980s. The Warsaw Pact’s disintegration became part of this process. Therefore, the recent proposal to expand dialogue between the military-political blocs with the participation of Russia and the United States – i.e. between the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and NATO – should not be viewed as an end in itself.
I believe that cooperation on such issues should be mainly among the region’s leading countries. NATO and CSTO are more like auxiliary mechanisms, and interstate dialogue must never be replaced by relations between the blocs. After all, the future architecture of European security is a matter of national interest for the region’s countries, and such issues should not be decided at bloc level. I think NATO should recognize CSTO, but it would be counterproductive for them to develop their relations after the Warsaw Pact-NATO model. This would mean returning to the nightmarish bipolar confrontation that must be prevented by all means.
Thus, rapprochement and mutual recognition is the only correct model for the relations between CSTO and NATO. However, NATO should become closer to CSTO in its internal structure and the distribution of powers and responsibilities between members. It should also stop laying the main emphasis on its military component and become a political bridge between the United States and Europe.
Russia’s security initiatives coincide with the interests of European countries. Europe’s security status is very vague – it has many overlapping organizations but none of them, including NATO, can do anything real. It is necessary to create something new in Europe. Like us, Europeans are interested in regional security.
However, European missile defense is a major destabilizing factor that is affecting relations between Russia and Europe and Europe and America. I think the proposed system is absolutely pointless and that it makes no sense to discuss how to improve cooperation in this sphere. This idea must be renounced; otherwise there could be dire consequences. The missile defense issue prevents us from building real trust between Russia and NATO, because this is a bilateral issue. Will the sides manage to build confidence in the future? I think that the two sides can learn to trust each other, especially if the Americans and the Europeans realize that there are worse threats than the bilateral problems inherited from the Cold War.
Timofei Bordachev, deputy dean at the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs of the Higher School of Economics (HSE), director of the HSE Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies and head of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy research programs.