Juggling the Bear:
Assessing NATO Enlargement in Light of
Europe’s Past and Asia’s Future
David S. Fadok
I need not tell you gentlemen that the world situation is very serious . . . . It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to assist . . . . Such assistance, I am convinced, must not be on a piecemeal basis as various crises develop. Any assistance that this Government may render in the future should provide a cure rather than a mere palliative . . . . With foresight, and a willingness on the part of our people to face up to the vast responsibility which history has clearly placed upon our country, the difficulties I have outlined can and will be overcome.
-- Secretary of State George C. Marshall
Harvard Commencement Address
The United States has two strategic goals in Europe. The first is to build a Europe that is truly integrated, democratic, prosperous and at peace. This would complete the mission the United States launched 50 years ago with the Marshall Plan and the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization . . . . NATO enlargement is a crucial element of the U.S. and Allied strategy to build an undivided, peaceful Europe.
-- The White House
National Security Strategy
Most, if not all, contemporary debate on the policy of enlarging the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) focuses on its expansion into the Central and Eastern European security vacuum caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the attendant disintegration of the Warsaw Pact. Cost, benefit, and risk analyses for various policy options are currently bounded by considerations of European security in general and by concerns about US-Russian relations in particular.
Though limited, there has been some discussion within both US and European circles about bringing Russia into the NATO fold. However, this proposition has been dismissed by most as a political non-starter due primarily to its economic and/or strategic costs. Some assessments conclude the price tag for Russian membership in NATO is well above what either the US, its European allies, or Russia itself would be willing or able to pay. Others conclude that Russia’s inclusion would entail heavy strategic costs by either paralyzing NATO’s political and military responsiveness or by transforming NATO into a scaled-down, redundant, and, therefore, unnecessary replica of the United Nations.
This paper reopens the debate on Russian entry into NATO by arguing that the United States should begin advocating NATO membership for the Russian Federation as a means
Such advocacy would mark a clear departure from the current practice of not "naming names" of potential members, but would not entail an unconditional promise of accession. Rather, it would establish a clear link between the offer of membership and Russia’s continued development in accordance with NATO’s fundamental principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.
Before presenting my threefold argument, it is important to highlight what this essay is not. First, this is not an assessment of whether NATO has lost its raison d’être in the post-Cold War world. For the purposes of this paper, I accept the validity of NATO’s evolving role as a "collective defense-plus" organization with both "out of area" interests extending beyond its defined boundaries and new multi-dimensional threats to its security.
Second, this is not an analysis of the economic costs of NATO enlargement. While I do not downplay the need to incorporate detailed cost data into the decision-making process, I assume costs would be viewed by all parties involved as reasonable when balanced against the strategic benefits to be obtained. This presumption is increasingly plausible in light of a recent NATO study that concludes that actual enlargement costs for the proposed 1999 accessions may turn out to be significantly less than original Defense Department projections.
Third, this is not an assessment of whether all current members of the North Atlantic Alliance could garner the domestic/parliamentary support necessary to satisfy the treaty’s prerequisite of "unanimous agreement" for Russian accession. As with costs, I do not underestimate the practical significance of this matter. Obtaining consensus among sixteen, soon nineteen, sovereign states with distinct national interests on any controversial issue is a formidable task indeed. That said, this paper examines whether the US, as NATO’s historically dominant member, should take the lead in advocating Russian accession in order to win the assent of all other governments.
Fourth, this is not an appraisal of whether the Russian Federation would accept NATO membership if offered. Indeed, there are various historic, geopolitical, and sociocultural reasons why Russia might reject membership in a US-led alliance. Consequently, the possibility of offering membership, with the hope (or tacit understanding) that it would be refused, is a credible, and somewhat intriguing, policy option. However, for this research, I analyze the merits of advocating Russian membership without regard to the likelihood of acceptance or denial.
Fifth, this is not an assessment of Russian accession as a single, isolated event. Rather, I assume Russian entry into NATO would represent just one element of a more extensive enlargement process. This larger effort would address economic as well as security needs and would, in time or simultaneously, welcome other members of the former Soviet Union (most notably, Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic states), with the aim of creating a peaceful, undivided, and democratic Europe.
Finally, this is not an evaluation of the current US grand strategy of "engagement," as detailed in the White House document, A National Security Strategy for a New Century, published in October 1998. I accept this strategy of global leadership and cooperative involvement with other regional powers as the established blueprint to secure American interests in the foreseeable future, and analyze Russian NATO membership accordingly.
Having defined the scope of this paper, I now present the case for US advocacy of Russian accession, addressing first whether such advocacy could assist the Russian Federation’s shift from autocratic to democratic rule.
US Advocacy and Russian Democratization
The democratization process can be described analytically in terms of two distinct phases: transition and consolidation. In their insightful study on the subject, Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan stipulate three minimal conditions which must be met before a nascent democracy can be considered in the process of consolidation. First, a functioning state must exist. Second, the transition phase must be complete (as evidenced by free and contested elections that produce a government with de jure as well as de facto power to make policy). And third, the elected rulers must govern democratically.
If these conditions are indeed valid, then one can make a reasonably strong argument that, at present, the Russian Federation is a fragile and vulnerable democracy still in transition. Although the challenges to the Kremlin’s political transformation are numerous and varied, I contend there are three main internal threats that are jeopardizing Russia’s passage from the transition phase to the consolidation phase.
First, and steadily becoming foremost, is the emergence of organized criminal elements as principal players in both private and state-run businesses, as well as in the inner chambers of government. Russia’s own Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) estimates that organized crime controls 40% of all private businesses, 50% of all banks, and 60% of all state-owned industries. This criminal presence reaches into the government by way of the huge bureaucracy which exercises de facto power over a good deal of policy development and implementation. As Alexei Arbatov cautions, "For the majority of the bureaucracy at all levels the sole remaining raison d’ etre is self-enrichment in an environment of comprehensive corruption; indeed, for some individuals, staying in office is the only way of avoiding criminal prosecution."
Although criminal groups did operate within the Soviet state, their rapid spread in post-Soviet Russia can be tied to the absence of both effective laws and effective law enforcement. As Michael McFaul remarks:
Progress toward creating a rule-of-law state has been limited at best . . . [and] has become weaker regarding criminal and civil matters. The combination of a weak state and an incompetent judicial system has produced a sense of anarchy in Russia, a situation alien and frightening to a population accustomed to a powerful authoritarian state. Popular cries for law and order, in turn, threaten to undermine individual liberties and human rights.
Given the relative novelty of this challenge to Western security analysts, it is not surprising that appraisals of the nature and gravity of this threat differ greatly. As Phil Williams observes, assessments range from "worst case" to "best case" in a manner reminiscent of the Cold War debate between hawks and doves. He writes:
At one end of the spectrum are those who consider Russian organized crime a dangerous successor to the threat posed to Western values and Western societies by the Soviet Union . . . . At the other end of the spectrum are those who not only believe that the threat from Russian organized crime is greatly exaggerated in many Russian and Western commentaries, but also argue that, in present circumstances, organized crime has certain positive functions in Russian society and the economy.
A positive function often cited by the best case school is, ironically, the "order" that organized crime has forcibly imposed upon the socioeconomic chaos that gave it rise, primarily in the form of armed protection of business interests and contract enforcement. But, as the worst case school contends, such "order" is a dangerously poor substitute for democratic rule of law. And the longer these criminal weeds are allowed to persist, the more difficult they will be to uproot.
A second prominent threat to uninterrupted Russian democratization is the presence of a "red-brown" collage of neo-communists and ultranationalists that repeatedly challenges the legitimacy of the reformers and their experiments with democratic governance and market-based economics. Presently, this right-wing coalition dominates the 450-member State Duma, controlling almost 60% of the seats (266 of 450) as compared to less than one third filled by reformist party members (142 of 450). Although this parliamentary dominance is subdued somewhat by the new constitutional restrictions on legislative powers, the communist-nationalist opposition has proven to be a formidable restraint on most domestic and foreign policy initiatives attempted by the reformists.
Personified most colorfully in the person and rhetoric of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the Red-Browns advocate the revival of the Russian Empire and its superpower role in the world through the re-establishment of authoritarian rule at home and the conduct of a stridently anti-Western crusade abroad. Indeed, when one considers the Red-Brown political agenda in its entirety, this opposition coalition resembles in many respects the prototypical "anti-system party."
Replacing the ideological fervor and political promises of Soviet-era communism with those of Great-Russian nationalism, this movement has grown in popularity among a wide variety of social classes, as reflected by the electoral gains it has enjoyed at the expense of the reformist parties in two country-wide elections. The neo-communists and ultranationalists have advanced by seizing upon the economically based discontent and criminally based fears associated with the country’s shaky experiment with democracy. And despite some recent political setbacks on the domestic front (such as the failed vote of no confidence in October 1997), the Red-Browns continue to be a thorn in Yeltsin’s side and, simultaneously, an impediment to democratic growth via the "checks and balances" of their fiery rhetoric.
Assuming this formidable opposition continues to expand its sociopolitical base, it could arrest the development of democracy, once and for all, in either of two ways. First, an anti-system candidate could win a presidential election outright and overthrow the governing system from within. Or second, an anti-system coalition of forces (government, business, academia, media, etc.) could harass the governing regime from without and thereby provoke an "executive arrogation" in which the elected head of state concentrates power in his own hands and replaces democratic rule with more autocratic rule by presidential decree. Neither of these two scenarios is beyond the realm of possibility in today’s Russia.
The third potential threat to successful democratic transition is the evolution of a restless military increasingly dissatisfied with the overall state of affairs in the once-prominent armed forces. Marked by plummeting readiness and morale, Russia’s military is manned by soldiers who are "present without pay" when not "absent without leave," and thus increasingly tempted by the profits of illicit activity. Notably, these temptations are not restricted to the lower ranks. As Roy Allison emphasizes, "Corruption, theft, and even armed robbery have increased within the Russian officer corps. Military links with local mafia networks have developed, which may undermine the discipline of entire units and even pose a threat to society, especially in regions already beset by acute instability."
Complicating these unsavory developments is the fact that the promised fireworks of major military reform have fizzled. Most Russian and Western assessments attribute the stalled reform efforts to either bureaucratic resistance, inadequate resources to cover the upfront costs of "downsizing," or a combination of both. This "reform paralysis" signals trouble for the future of Russian democratization. Alexei G. Arbatov, Deputy Chairman of the Duma’s Defense Committee, recently predicted: "If real reform is not accomplished, then I’m afraid the situation in the armed forces will become the major threat to Russian security."
Equally disturbing is the deepening politicization of an officer corps disillusioned by the concurrent demise of the Soviet Union and the elevated social status once accorded its armed forces. As a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report observes:
The role and status of the Russian Army has changed dramatically from that of the Soviet era, when the Red Army was kept out of politics but enjoyed a preferential status in resource allocation and in prestige. Now these relations are reversed. The Army has become highly politicized but has a lower priority in resource allocation and has lost much of its prestige and pride.
This study goes on to note that 123 active duty officers, encouraged by then-Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, ran for political office during the 1995 parliamentary elections, resulting in victory for three military candidates.
In a subtle but very real way, this politicization has been encouraged by the periodic use of Russian armed forces as the President’s "weapon of choice" to quell internal unrest, from disputes with parliamentary rebels to those with Chechen rebels. It is further aggravated by the fact that genuine civilian control over the military has not yet been institutionalized, as evidenced by the successive appointments of general officers to the post of Defense Minister. What makes the increased politicization of the army so disconcerting is its right-wing nationalist bent. Assessing these negative trends, the aforementioned CRS report sides with many Russian assessments and concludes lucidly, "the ‘Russian military threat’ now is more to Russia than from Russia."
As suggested in the preceding discussion, the three main internal threats to Russian democracy--criminal corruption, ultranationalist rhetoric, and military politicization--are, in fact, interwoven. Taken collectively, these threats come very close to representing a phenomenon, first described by Samuel Huntington three decades ago, known as "praetorianism." In contrast to stable, institutionalized polities such as Western constitutional democracies and communist dictatorships, praetorian systems are marked by a sociopolitical state of affairs which is, to borrow Huntington’s adjective, "out-of-joint." This quasi-anarchic state is the product of sudden increased political participation by myriad social groups exacerbated by the absence or weakness of effective political institutions to moderate and resolve group conflict. In response, "Each group employs means which reflect its peculiar nature and capabilities. The wealthy bribe; students riot; workers strike; mobs demonstrate; and the military coup."
Among others, Jack Snyder of Columbia University argues that the key to constraining the adverse effects of praetorianism in Russia may lie in its integration into an interlocking system of international institutions. Admittedly, Snyder focuses his attention on economic integration; however, one of four justifications he provides for the efficacy of institution-building is that it produces a negotiated security environment favorable to all participants. Such a stable external setting helps to arrest the spread of virulent nationalism that so often infects praetorian systems, and which, if unchecked, manifests itself harmfully in both the domestic and international political arenas.
In keeping with the general philosophy of neo-liberal institutionalism, I contend that NATO membership could assist Russia’s democratic transition in the same way it assisted France, Italy, and Spain in years past; namely, through the "air of security" these struggling nations experienced as new members of an Alliance founded upon the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.
Two elements comprise this "air of security" and both contribute to successful democratization. The first is physical security from external threats (real or perceived), from which flows the convenience of inward focus on domestic impediments to progress. The second is psychological security from sociopolitical self-doubt, from which flows the national determination to "stay the course" and cultivate new democratic institutions by linking them to a larger whole.
To better describe how the "air of security" operates, I borrow several concepts from democratization theory. As almost all political scientists have posited, successful democratization is the product of both internal (domestic) and external (international) forces. The majority of these theorists identify internal factors as primarily responsible, with some citing a fully functioning market economy as the leading determinant while others define more imaginative behavioral, attitudinal, and constitutional prerequisites. But this partiality towards internal forces in no way discounts the impact of external forces on the process.
Based on a comparative study of twenty-six developing democracies on three different continents, Larry Diamond, Juan Linz, and Seymour Martin Lipset conclude that while internal structures and actions are the primary agents of political development and regime change, these internal factors have been "shaped historically by a variety of international factors." Robert Grey agrees, noting that while "the fate of democracy largely lies in the hands of the elites and masses of these new democracies, these countries do not exist in a vacuum, and outside actors and forces may impinge on their political system." He then discusses in some detail the impact of several external factors on the democratization process, concluding that success or failure is influenced as much by general characteristics of the international context (specifically, in the political, economic, and security spheres) as it is by direct attempts by outside powers to manipulate the process.
However, Grey differs with Diamond and his partners on which of the three contextual spheres exerts the greatest influence over internal structures and processes. The latter theorists contend it is the economic environment that matters most. Grey disagrees, arguing that the security environment has the most significant impact since "the greater the security threat a state confronts, or thinks it confronts, the higher the concentration of political power it is likely to be willing to accept. The higher the concentration of political power, the less likely its politics will be democratic." This reasoning is most compatible with my vision of how the "air of security" mechanism influences the prospects for successful democratization.
The psychophysical "air of security" that envelops budding democracies as a result of their politico-military union with similarly constituted governments operates in more of a contextual manner than a structural one. That is to say, it functions primarily by shaping the external atmosphere in which fledgling democracies attempt to spread their wings. The physical element of the mechanism works by fashioning a benign security environment via assured protection against external threats. The psychological element works by fashioning a benign geopolitical environment via institutionalized affiliation with like-minded partners. I now attend to the more interesting question of how US advocacy for Russian NATO membership could produce a democratic miracle for modern-day Russia.
First, in terms of physical security effects, unambiguous US support for eventual Russian inclusion in NATO would weaken the argument heard within Russia’s political, military and social circles that the policy of NATO enlargement is directed against post-Soviet Russia and is, thus, intentionally aggressive. The oft invoked corollary to this argument is the need to maintain robust conventional and nuclear force structures. This supposed requirement is a point of serious contention between the current government and its armed forces that is aggravating defense reform efforts and, in turn, civil-military relations. As Chairman of the Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Susan Eisenhower, explains:
At the end of 1997, the Yeltsin administration committed to undertaking defense reform and, in the process, decided to ignore NATO’s eastward movement in defining the scope of defense cuts. The military, however, insisted strongly that NATO’s new capability should not be discounted, much like Secretary of State George P. Schultz’s security policy axiom that contingency planning should be built not on the intention of foreign powers but on their capabilities. From the Russian contingency planners’ vantage point, the picture looks bleak. By their own reckoning, during the last ten years, the military balance has changed from a nearly threefold superiority to, eventually, an almost fivefold inferiority.
By diminishing the perceived threat from the West embodied in current expansion plans, US advocacy of Russian accession would undermine the xenophobic rhetoric and political credibility of the opposition parties, to include their sympathizers within the Foreign and Defense Ministries. Furthermore, by addressing the legitimate defense concerns of the historically insecure Russians (who fear exploitation of their current instability by neighbors to the west, south, and east), US advocacy of Russian NATO membership would allow the Kremlin to refocus more of its attention and scarce resources internally rather than externally.
Although progress has been made since the dissolution of the Soviet empire, Russia is still spending between 6-10% of its Gross National Product (GNP) on maintaining its nuclear and conventional forces. While the conventional arm of the Russian military has been reduced significantly over the last few years (from a force of 5.1 million to one of 1.5-2.0 million), this "downsized" force structure is nevertheless tailored to address threats from all directions and remains an enormous drain on a very underdeveloped economy.
Two other factors aggravate the fiscal challenge posed by Russia’s military to its economic growth, and both are related to the inferiority of Russian conventional forces as compared with their NATO counterparts. First, there has been intense pressure both inside and outside the Defense Ministry to make the leaner forces meaner through a costly "hi tech" overhaul, and to do so sooner rather than later. Second, sizable cuts in Russia’s nuclear forces (as codified in START II) have yet to be ratified by the State Duma due to its concerns about the eastward, and exclusionary, expansion of an American-led military alliance whose conventional superiority was demonstrated vividly against Soviet-style air defenses in the Gulf War. Also, there is renewed interest in the utility of tactical nuclear weapons as a counterforce to NATO’s conventional advantage that could signal a costly regression to the Cold War days of maintaining a robust "flexible response" capability at all levels of conflict. If, however, NATO was to include the Russian Federation now in its declared enlargement plan, both the need to quickly modernize conventional forces and the need to maintain an oversized nuclear deterrent would dissipate, freeing up scarce resources for other more immediate security challenges.
Indeed, redirected rubles could go a long way towards enhancing the efficacy and morale of the MVD, local police, and other law enforcement agencies currently hampered by low pay, lack of training, and outdated equipment. Bolstering these various internal security forces would begin to restore order to the heretofore chaotic democratization process in Russia. In so doing, it would better enable the reformists to consolidate their political power vis-à-vis the neo-communists and ultranationalists, thereby providing fertile ground for the governmental reforms needed to further strengthen Russian statehood and for the economic and judicial reforms needed to stem the rise of organized crime.
Second, in terms of psychological security effects, US support for Russian entry into NATO could provide Moscow with a strong incentive to readopt a less independent and adversarial foreign policy orientation more conducive to cooperative interaction with the West. In this way, the Russians could establish their credentials as reliable participants in a post-Cold War security order dedicated to a safer, more prosperous continent populated by stable, democratic market economies. As with Spain in the 1980s, faithful cooperation and effective joint action on security matters first could be Russia’s springboard to deeper economic ties with the rest of the world’s free-trading democracies via the European Union or other such institutions.
Furthermore, US encouragement of Russian association with the "NATO way" could put, and keep, the Kremlin’s defense reforms on track by steadily shifting its paradigms of appropriate civil-military relations. The Russians could use prospective NATO membership to bolster civilian control over the armed forces, to professionalize and depoliticize these forces, and to perhaps transform a larger portion of them into effective paramilitary forces modeled after those employed quite successfully by France, Germany, Italy, and Belgium.
It appears, then, that US advocacy of Russian membership in NATO may be a possible way to enhance the prospects for Russian democratization in the face of serious internal challenges. To determine whether it is the preferable policy option, one must look beyond the bounds of the Russian Federation and consider the impact of such a policy on international relations within two regions of vital interest to the US: the European continent and the Pacific rim.
US Advocacy and European Security Concerns
In a recently released document designed to articulate and advance US sovereign interests, A National Security Strategy for a New Century, the current Administration establishes a clear link between European stability and American security. This strategic blueprint goes on to state:
The United States has two strategic goals in Europe. The first is to build a Europe that is truly integrated, democratic, prosperous and at peace. This would complete the mission the United States launched 50 years ago with the Marshall Plan and the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization . . . . As a guarantor of European security and a force for European stability, NATO must play a leading role in promoting a more integrated and secure Europe, prepared to respond to new challenges . . . . Our shared goal remains constructive Russian participation in the European security system.
The passages cited above, while few in number, do represent the US strategy for post-Cold War Europe. To paraphrase Sir Basil H. Liddell Hart, the aim of any successful strategy is the sound calculation and coordination of ends, ways, and means. Using this template, we can describe the current American gameplan for this region in the following manner:
Interestingly, although this strategy is meant to guide formulation of US policy options, there remains little or no serious discussion among either statesmen or scholars about advocating NATO membership for Russia.
Clearly, US foreign policy makers and shapers recognize the vital importance of both NATO and Russia to the stability of Europe, and history supports them in this assessment. In its first forty years, NATO secured a cold peace across a continent previously ravaged by world wars and, in its fifth decade, NATO has helped contain "out of area" conflicts that threaten its periphery. Most importantly, this transatlantic alliance has institutionalized American interest in and commitment to European security. For its part, Russia has been a major presence on the European landscape for centuries, in terms of both bloc politics and coalition warfare. Consequently, as US National Security Strategy advocates, NATO and Russia must cooperate if genuine peace and stability are to persist from the Atlantic to the Urals. The question is how these key players should cooperate, as two parts of an integrated whole or as separate and distinct entities? Presently, the answer appears to be the latter.
Since the end of the Cold War, the expected and preferred course by which to realize the goals of European reconciliation and unification has shifted from the coalescence of Western and Eastern blocs within a pan-European architecture (e.g., the CSCE/OSCE) to the enlargement of Western institutions (e.g., NATO and the EU) eastward. Many who applaud this directional shift see it as the more prudent way to produce a secure, unified, and democratic Europe. However, in its present form, this course of action may lead to just the opposite result, the re-division of the continent into two distinct spheres of influence. To better understand why this unintended consequence may occur, a brief background on the course of relations between the US/NATO and Russia since the late 1980s is necessary.
Prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union, its last president, Mikhail Gorbachev, voiced a preference for establishing a "common European home" with his Western European neighbors. Though one could argue that this grand vision amounted to nothing more than a practical realization that the future of the Soviet empire rested in replacing East-West military confrontation with economic integration, it did set the tone for the early foreign policy orientation of the Russian Federation. This orientation was westward and institutionalist, and the security initiatives it engendered sought to create a multilateral pan-European architecture to secure peace and prosperity "from Vancouver to Vladivostok."
While some within the Russian foreign policy establishment promoted NATO as the doorway to a "common European home," most preferred the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) as the cornerstone from which to build a continental security structure. The rationale for the latter preference was two-fold. First, unlike NATO (which, at the time, was in the throes of an intense organizational soul-search), the CSCE had the defined purpose from its very conception in 1975 to act as a political forum dedicated to matters of European collective security. Second, and more important, the Russian Federation already had full membership in the CSCE and, thus, did not have to fret over the potential trials and tribulations of a formal accession process. This predilection for pan-European structures in general and for the CSCE in particular dominated the Kremlin’s foreign policy vision throughout the initial honeymoon period with the West.
As Russia pressed for the predominance of the CSCE, NATO’s sixteen members continued their internal debate about the organization’s continued relevance in a "Soviet-free" Europe. Yet despite the many uncertainties surrounding the future of this transatlantic alliance, one thing seemed crystal clear. So long as NATO remained in being, it would maintain maximum freedom of action by disallowing subordination to the CSCE or any other such pan-European system.
That said, the NATO Heads of State and Government did recognize the geostrategic window of opportunity at hand and, in response to the momentous shifts underway in international politics, they approved a new Strategic Concept in November 1991. Two noteworthy features of the revised strategy were, first, its support for increased use of political means to attain security objectives and, second, its call for dialogue and cooperation with the newly independent countries to the east, including those of the former Soviet Union. To make this vision a reality, NATO convened the inaugural meeting of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) one month later, an initiative taken in the spirit of creating a pan-European framework for political cooperation on security issues.
Two years later, in 1993, NATO launched another program designed to "build on the momentum for cooperation" created by the NACC by enhancing military ties with those states participating in the NACC (as well as other CSCE member nations who so desired). This initiative, termed the Partnership for Peace (PfP), differed structurally from the NACC in two important respects. First, in contrast to the multilateral orientation of the NACC, the PfP focused on establishing bilateral relationships between NATO and individual partners. Second, unlike the broad political agenda of the NACC, the PfP focused on more specific and practical defense-related issues. These structural differences caused concern among the Russian elite, an uneasiness heightened by coincidental American pressure to expand NATO into East-Central Europe (ECE).
Despite initial indifference to the issue and repeated US assurances to the contrary, the Russian elite came to view NATO enlargement as an exclusionary and, therefore, threatening process. Because of this, they perceived the PfP as a "dual use" tool that NATO was using to prepare the fortunate few for membership while placating the rest, including itself. Furthermore, the bilateral nature of the PfP stood in stark contrast to the multilateral, and somewhat institutionalist, approach to security issues preferred by the Russians, and inherent in the NACC and CSCE. As a result, Russia’s initial take on PfP was quite negative. Steadily, the Kremlin began to regard both NATO enlargement and the PfP program in increasingly realist terms.
Unfortunately, in the same two years between the introductions of NACC and PfP, Russia’s domestic situation began to unravel, culminating in the Presidentially-directed shelling of Parliament in 1993 and the Chechen crisis in 1994. Amid this turmoil, the US began to temper both its political and economic support for Russia and it too began to regard the actions and intentions of its Cold War nemesis in increasingly realist terms.
Each side viewed the other with suspicion—and respect. In 1994, the Russian Federation began to float proposals to establish the CSCE as an oversight agency, empowered to coordinate the various activities of other security organizations like NATO and the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). It also began to link PfP participation to the formalization of a special NATO-Russia relationship outside the purview of PfP.
Regarding the CSCE proposals, the US did agree to a name change (now the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE), an extension of roles and missions, and an official commitment by all members to develop the operational capabilities needed to execute the added tasks. However, it would not subordinate NATO under any circumstances. Regarding formal NATO-Russia relations, both the US and European foreign policy establishments acknowledged that Russian non-participation would undermine the fundamental purpose of the NACC/PfP and, therefore, they were increasingly sensitive to Russian demands to be treated with the respect due a "once and future king." Consequently, in June 1994, NATO agreed in principle to establish relations with Russia both inside and outside the PfP framework.
Details of this "special relationship" would continue to be debated over the next few years by both statesmen and scholars. In the end, the "Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation" was signed by the NATO Secretary General, the Heads of State and Government of the North Atlantic Alliance, and the President of the Russian Federation in May 1997.
The preceding review of NATO-Russian relations over the past decade is meant to highlight two significant points regarding the current approach of achieving European unification through enlargement of Western institutions eastward. First, it has produced, in the form of the NATO-Russia Founding Act, a security arrangement that is, in essence, a concert. Second, it has produced this concert within a pervasive atmosphere of mutual distrust. Most realists (and a few institutionalists) would applaud this development, pointing to the success of the Concert of Europe in preserving European peace in the early nineteenth century. While I agree that current arrangements are better than none, I believe the NATO-Russia Founding Act could produce the re-division rather than the unification of Europe. Here is why.
As John Mearsheimer defines it, "A concert is an arrangement in which great powers that have no incentive to challenge each other militarily agree on a set of rules to coordinate their actions with each other, as well as with the minor powers in the system, often in the establishment of spheres of influence." This frequent by-product of concerts is due to the fact that such arrangements, unlike purer forms of collective security, operate more in accordance with balance-of-power logic than institutionalist logic. That is, concerts are more likely to encourage behavior grounded in self-interest and self-help than in mutual interest and teamwork. The prospect for self-interested behavior increases proportionally with the level of distrust between parties.
When self-interests clash between powers in concert, specific disputes are resolved ideally by a "give and take" that produces consensus. More likely, however, consensus proves to be too difficult, and fundamental disputes are either resolved via the establishment of agreed upon spheres of influence or not resolved at all, resulting in the collapse of the concert. I contend the current NATO-Russia concert will re-introduce spheres of influence into Europe for contextual and structural reasons.
Contextually, as mentioned, the Founding Act was created within, and as a result of, a steadily worsening atmosphere of distrust between the US and Russia. The distrust is fueled equally by two factors: first, US perceptions of Russian actions at home and in the "near abroad"; and second, Russian perceptions of the US-led enlargement of NATO (and, by extension, the American sphere of influence) up to, and possibly including, the "near abroad." Interestingly, the two factors have combined to create a security dilemma of sorts for NATO and Russia. The "near abroad" is the first and highest priority in Russian foreign affairs. But as John Roper and Peter van Ham note quite poignantly, "Russia’s 'near abroad' is, in many cases, also democratic Europe’s 'near abroad': this applies not only to the obvious cases of the Baltic states, Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine, but also to a certain extent to Transcaucasian countries like Armenia and Georgia." As NATO’s "out of area" security interests extend into the "near abroad," the potential for deeper distrust and outright conflict between the West and the East increases dramatically.
Structurally, the Permanent Joint Council (PJC) established by the Founding Act is likely incapable of resolving fundamental disputes between NATO and Russia in its present design. This is because consensus among a three-way chairmanship is required before joint action can be taken in a crisis. Given the fractious contextual elements described above, it is difficult to imagine PJC consensus forming on "issues of common interest" such as the "near abroad."
However, since neither NATO nor Russia exercises veto power over the other, separate action by either party can be taken. According to the Founding Act, such action "must be consistent with the United Nations Charter and the OSCE’s governing principles." Unfortunately, this phrase does not constitute an effective deterrent against separate action in the absence of consensus. Hence, the outcome becomes either de facto spheres of influences for NATO and Russia or direct intervention to counter Russia’s separate action in the "near abroad." Presumably, most US and NATO policy makers would favor the former over the latter, but the goal of the US strategic blueprint outlined earlier is to avoid both. How then to proceed?
I maintain that strong and clear US advocacy of Russian entry into NATO is the preferable next step to creating a peaceful, undivided, and democratic Europe. As argued in the last section, such advocacy would have a tremendously positive effect upon the international security context within which Russia now struggles to build its democracy. It would also have a parallel effect on the geopolitical environment within which Russia now functions as a member of both the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Permanent Joint Council. By supporting the eventual inclusion of Russia in NATO, the US could immediately enhance the prospects of Moscow’s faithful participation in the councils and programs already in place, thereby "establishing with the weak Russia habits that will last with a strong Russia . . . the lesson of the successful integration of Germany and Japan into the community of the West." Through such faithful participation, Russia would be better prepared for full NATO membership when the offer came. Without such faithful participation, the offer would never come.
I recognize that Russian entry into NATO could make this organization as much a collective security system as it is a collective defense alliance. While this is indeed a change from the Cold War days, the transformation is evolutionary not revolutionary in nature. During its first half century, NATO functioned primarily as a collective defense alliance, but not exclusively so. It mediated and contained intra-alliance tensions (France-Germany, Greece-Turkey, Britain-Iceland) while deterring Soviet attack from the east. Indeed, as Alan Henrikson argues persuasively, the key provision within the North Atlantic Treaty, Article 5, was included as both a collective defense and a collective security mechanism. He writes:
The U.S. negotiators of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1948 and 1949 (principally the State Department’s John Hickerson and Theodore Achilles) introduced to the ongoing European discussions an important formula from the 1947 Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance concluded at Rio de Janeiro. The text of the Rio Pact was so drafted as to include the possibility of action against aggression from within the alliance itself, as well as from an extrahemispheric source. The historical example on every Latin American mind was the chronic Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia (1932-1935). In 1947, when the Inter-American Treaty was signed, the possibility of aggression from outside the Western Hemisphere seemed quite remote. The twenty-one American republic partners thus stated inclusively, without specifying the direction from which aggression might come, that "armed attack against one or more of them . . . shall be considered an attack against them all." This very familiar-sounding language is, of course, Article 5--the so-called heart--of the North Atlantic Treaty. As Hickerson pointed out at the time: "Conceived in these terms it would be possible for the Soviet Union to join the arrangement without detracting from the protection which it would give to its other members." This logical possibility deserves to be remembered.
Besides its origins and history as both a collective defense alliance and a collective security system, NATO is the best existing candidate to become an effective pan-European security structure for two other reasons. First, unlike the OSCE, NATO possesses (or is rapidly developing) the operational capabilities to perform the myriad tasks that may be involved in securing peace throughout post-Cold War Europe. It is true that NATO’s political structures and procedures are underdeveloped due to its Cold War heritage. However, NATO is moving to correct these deficiencies, as evidenced by both the 1991 Strategic Concept’s creation of the NACC (now the EAPC) and the 1997 Founding Act’s establishment of the PJC. In contrast, the OSCE still lags far behind NATO in terms of operational capabilities despite the recent pledge by its members to improve. Neither the developed economies of the West nor the developing economies of the East can afford to build redundant military machines for both NATO and the OSCE. Consequently, the nod should go to the organization better positioned now to assume the dual roles required of any twenty-first century pan-European security order—collective security and collective defense—and that organization is NATO.
A final, more symbolic reason for promoting NATO over other organizational candidates as the future continental security structure lies in its roots. As the preamble to the North Atlantic Treaty states, the parties are "determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law." While the OSCE’s charter reads as impressively, NATO alone represents a family of market-based democracies with a defined transatlantic link to the US. More than any other institution, the North Atlantic Alliance symbolizes the fruits of American interest in and commitment to European security. It is for this reason that US National Security Strategy directs that "NATO must play a leading role in promoting a more integrated and secure Europe."
Still, many traditionalists and realists question the efficacy of any collective security architecture for post-Cold War Europe and the wisdom of any NATO evolution as just described. In a fairly representational article, Charles Glaser expands upon both these doubts as he evaluates various future security arrangements for the continent. He identifies two major threats to US security interests: 1) a resurgent Russia with expansionist tendencies and activities; and 2) war between major Western European powers. He then assesses the ability of several proposed security arrangements to confront these threats. Two of these options apply to the current discussion: 1) NATO, as a Western collective defense alliance that "might offer conditional security guarantees" to some Central European countries; and 2) a continent-wide collective security organization. The author concludes that a preserved NATO is still best for the emerging security environment in Europe.
His rationale for preferring a transatlantic alliance (with a partially extended defense shield) over a pan-European security architecture is two-fold. First, such an alliance would provide a better hedge against a resurgent Russia since the most appropriate response to a "known" threat from the East is to balance against it, and a Western military bloc is perfectly suited for this balancing mission. Second, this bloc would continue to secure peace among Western European powers in the future as it has in the past, by preserving America’s role as a "defensive balancer." I address each argument in turn.
While I do not dispute the general claim that it is better to balance against rather than bond with a clearly defined threat, I disagree with the underlying premise that a "known" threat originates from a major power in the East. It is precisely the indeterminate nature of both conventional and unconventional threats throughout Europe (notably, in the republics of the former Soviet Union) that makes the debate about NATO’s future relevance so engaging and worthwhile. I do not think Glaser would disagree with the uncertainty surrounding European security challenges, since he speaks of continued collective defense through NATO as a "hedge" against a resurgent Russia. But if the US is dealing with probabilities instead of certainties, I contend the likelihood of an increasingly uncooperative and aggressive Russia is less under an inclusive collective security system than it is under an exclusive collective defense alliance that balances specifically against it. It is quite possible that Moscow’s negative perceptions of such a bloc could be lessened through "unilateral Western restraint" as Glaser propounds. However, his "lines of restraint" parallel the eastern borders of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary and, in effect, redivide Europe. Again, this is not necessarily a bad proposal from a purely realist perspective. But it is not in keeping with the US National Security Strategy and other official American proclamations, such as the January 1998 Baltic Charter that, in terms of security commitments, tiptoes across a diplomatic tightrope strung between towering Baltic hopes and Russian fears.
Regarding Glaser’s assertion of NATO’s past and future success in preventing war among major powers in Western Europe, I agree wholeheartedly. However, as argued, this internal pacifying role is one of collective security, not collective defense. Glaser questions the deterrent effect of "all-against-one" response inherent in collective security arrangements. That said, he attributes NATO’s feat of war prevention to the deterrent effect of an implicit American promise of "two-against-one" response to any intra-alliance aggression. He writes: "Combined with the forces of the attacked country, the conventional capabilities of the United States and its even greater military potential should be sufficient to thwart any European expansionist." If, as Glaser insists, the deterrent capabilities of America as "defensive balancer" against internal threats and of NATO as "defensive balancer" against a resurgent Russia are credible, then bringing Russia into the fold could provide the best means to check Russian expansionism now while simultaneously reducing its likelihood over time.
As one might expect, US advocacy of Russian membership in NATO would have global implications, most notably in the Asia-Pacific region, due to reasons that are historic and ongoing, actual and potential. To these concerns I now turn.
US Advocacy and Asia-Pacific Security Concerns
Most US security analyses of the Asia-Pacific theater identify the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the emerging military threat to American interests in the region. Indeed, the focus and pace of Chinese defense modernization suggest a determined effort to obtain both power projection and theater denial capabilities that could enable the PRC to challenge American presence in the region and, perhaps, elsewhere. However, many of these same studies also conclude that China’s top priority at present is economic modernization, and that the PRC will not jeopardize these reform efforts by directly confronting the US within the next two to three decades.
That said, it is also increasingly evident that China, like many other regional players in the post-Cold War world, is not enamored with America’s sole superpower status. Beijing repeatedly asserts that American global hegemony is as unacceptable today as it is unlikely tomorrow, as a more natural multipolar world order eventually replaces the atypical bipolarity of the previous half-century. Furthermore, the PRC not-so-privately proclaims that the US strategy of engagement is, in effect, a policy of "soft containment" designed to subvert the world’s remaining Communist power through a dual-track approach. As described by Chinese analysts, America’s "soft containment" has two concurrent aims: to fence China militarily and to undermine it politically, economically, and culturally through a "peaceful evolution" effected by Western commerce and aid. The political and cultural subversion inherent in this "peaceful evolution" is of utmost concern to Beijing’s ruling elite.
Having witnessed first-hand the rapid disintegration of a preeminent "socialist" empire due to policies of glasnost overpowering those of perestroika, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is understandably worried about the devastating consequences of serving the intoxicating wine of political reform before its time. While economic modernization is indeed a principal goal for the CCP, its own survival remains the paramount objective. For, as seen by Beijing, it is only through the CCP’s firm centralized control—and the civil order thereby obtained—that economic reform efforts will bear their greatest fruits.
Recognizing both the internal security threat of an American-led "peaceful evolution" and its present desire to avoid direct confrontation with the US, China may heed the advice of its most famed strategist, Sun Tzu, and resort to indirect means instead. One possible indirect approach could be the formation of a strategic partnership with another regional power similarly dismayed with America’s global hegemony.
Interestingly absent from contemporary lists of security concerns published by Chinese foreign policy and defense officials is their neighbor to the north, Russia, whom they have eyed suspiciously for centuries. In fact, certain recent events suggest a warm front passing between the two perennial adversaries which is melting away the icy barriers erected during the 1950s and 1960s.
Initiated by Leonid Brezhnev in the early 1980s and advanced by Mikhail Gorbachev as that decade drew to a close, concerted efforts were made by the Kremlin to begin "normalizing" the relationship between Moscow and Beijing. After the displacement of Soviet communists by Russian democrats in 1991, a pragmatic CCP still saw value in improving diplomatic, economic, and military ties with the government of the newly formed Russian Federation. Between May and June 1995, three events marked a turning point in Sino-Russian relations: the visit by Chinese President Jiang Zemin to Moscow; the visit by Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev to Beijing; and the prime ministerial meeting between Viktor Chernomyrdin and Li Peng. These high-level meetings and the various agreements they produced solidified an informal but effective strategic partnership between the Chinese and the Russians that continues to strengthen to this day. In its present form, this partnership has three main directions. First, it is designed to mobilize Russian industrial-technological potential to assist the steady modernization of the Chinese economy. Second, it aims to mobilize Russian military-industrial potential for an accelerated modernization of the Chinese armed forces. Third, it focuses on providing China with access to the vast natural resources of the Russian Far East and Siberia.
These expanded arms and trade agreements, coupled with such diplomatic advances as the November 1997 border demarcation protocol signed by Presidents Yeltsin and Jiang, could presage a formal strategic alliance between Russia and China, undoubtedly an effective counterweight to US influence in the region and around the world. Russian security analysts, concerned about US hegemonic behavior (such as NATO expansion) in the face of their nation’s loss of superpower status, recognize that, as "regional powers," Russia and China "will need each others’ support at the world level simply because there are few regional powers around to support them."
In slight contrast, China views its current geopolitical environment as favorably stable and, as a result, Chinese security policy is focused on maintaining the status quo for the time being. By extension, Beijing is not interested in rolling back American presence in the region since it views this presence as a necessary check on the growth of Japanese military power. Instead, the Chinese are pursuing, in the words of Fei-Ling Wang, a "double security objective of using and containing" the US in the Asia-Pacific region. But as mentioned, China recognizes that it can only devote limited means to this two-pronged strategy in order to sustain its remarkable pace of economic modernization and thereby achieve its "manifest destiny" as the power hub of the Orient. Thus, because of its own restricted capacity, "the PRC is likely to play the old balance-of-power game to maintain the favorable status quo." If the Chinese are in fact executing such an indirect strategy to mitigate US global influence, the American government could undercut it by first allying with Russia in NATO. But two questions persist: first, is this preemptive action necessary, and, second, is it worth the possible costs?
While there are indeed signs of increased economic and military cooperation between China and Russia, it is difficult to determine with certainty if these efforts portend a politico-military alliance per se oriented against America as the world’s sole superpower. One could answer in the affirmative, citing official comments like those by former Defense Minister Grachev when he advocated a "joint security system" with China during his 1995 meeting with leaders of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). However, a more plausible interpretation of current developments is also much less dramatic in geopolitical terms.
From a Russian standpoint, these cooperative efforts may just signal a practical acknowledgment that, for various reasons, rapprochement with China is important to the success of its economic recovery program, as outlined by Soviet President Gorbachev in the early 1990s and adopted by his successor, Russian President Yeltsin. Among other things, this program recognizes: 1) the value of large Chinese markets as a "pressure relief valve" for an oversized military-industrial complex in the throes of a necessary, but harsh defense conversion and still reeling from the loss of former Warsaw Pact customers; 2) the value of cheap Chinese labor in tapping the natural resource potential of an underdeveloped Russian Far East; and 3) the value of relatively inexpensive and abundant Chinese consumer goods for a disenchanted society in which demand outruns supply on a regular basis. In addition, these Russian overtures to China likely reflect the growing predominance of "Eurasianists" over "Atlanticists" in the Kremlin’s foreign policy circles, as embodied by the January 1996 succession of Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev by Yevgeny Primakov.
Likewise, from a Chinese standpoint, this Sino-Russian collaboration may signal an equally practical recognition by the PRC that its northern neighbor is still a valuable source for the arms sales and technology transfers which are key to the power projection capability its military currently lacks. The Chinese also see the tremendous commercial worth of eastern Russia’s energy reserves and other raw materials. In addition, Beijing appreciates the domestic political importance of closer economic ties between its northern provinces and the Russian Far East. Expanded growth in the north could reduce the socioeconomic inequality that exists between these regions and those to the south and, in this way, counter potentially destabilizing migratory and/or separatist tendencies.
Thus, while current developments in Sino-Russian relations justify continued close watch by the US defense and foreign policy establishments, they appear to signal a "marriage of convenience" between the two regional powers rather than a formal politico-military alliance. In fact, both the Russian and Chinese Presidents have downplayed the strategic significance of their improved relations, jointly insisting that the time of military alliances "aimed against third countries" has passed.
So, at first glance, offering NATO membership to the Russian Federation solely to preempt it from establishing formal politico-military ties with Beijing could be deemed unnecessary. That said, there still may be valid reasons for strong advocacy of such membership by the US.
Having been the diplomatic fulcrum throughout the Cold War standoff between the Americans and the Soviets, the PRC leadership appreciates "balance-of-power" game rules and Russia’s new role as the post-Cold War "China card." While centuries of history may work against the establishment of an official Sino-Russian alliance, the last five decades have taught the Chinese the geopolitical value of ensuring that no other power successfully courts a next-door neighbor with whom a 2800 mile fenceline is shared. It is clearly in the PRC’s strategic interest to separate the Russian Federation from the US, particularly in light of the American alliance with Japan.
It may also be in Beijing’s ideological (and domestic) interest to promote the failure of democratic rule as the preferred path to stable economic reform. Indeed, some Eurasian analysts foresee the rejection of Western political constructs as a possible ideational platform upon which China bonds with other disenchanted developing countries to oppose US global hegemony and its attendant strategy of democratic internationalism. As Graham Fuller explains:
A series of regimes not able to make the successful transition to democratic free market orders or cope with the inherent ethnic challenges of the nation-state could well make common cause to create a bloc designed to thwart the Western-conceived international order. Both China and Russia, but also possibly North Korea, and even Iran and some Central Asian states, could gravitate towards such an entente . . . . [This body of states] would reject Western domination of the international political and economic order, reject Western political and cultural values as cultural imperialism, and would seek to alter the international economic order to accommodate more centrally-directed economies under law-and-order authoritarian regimes, free of meddling human rights interventions.
The current NATO enlargement process—which, in fact if not in theory, excludes Russia for the foreseeable future—provides the Chinese with an ideal "wedge issue." They are using this issue within the framework of an adroit "balance-of-power" gameplan to paint the US as a global hegemonic power willing to exploit the internal instability of developing countries in order to expand its own international influence and domestic economy. The effectiveness of this message is evidenced by the striking parallels between Chinese and Russian depictions of NATO expansion into Central and Eastern Europe.
For the PRC, the actual and potential benefits of this NATO "wedge issue" are many: 1) maintenance of the status quo geopolitical environment that, as discussed, favors accelerated economic and defense modernization efforts; 2) reverse containment of US maneuvering in the Asia-Pacific region; 3) strengthening of the pro-Chinese elite in Russia; and 4) resurrection of authoritarian Communist party rule in Russia (or, put another way, a successful "velvet coup" in contrast with the failed 1991 rebellion by Soviet Communists against Gorbachev which China appeared to support).
As should be obvious, the US could undercut this divisive, and strategically costly, "wedge issue" through open and earnest advocacy of NATO membership for the Russian Federation, regardless of whether or not it eventually joins. Such advocacy could reshape Moscow’s perceptions of current expansion plans to match the "reality" upon which the US insists; specifically, that NATO enlargement is an inclusive process that welcomes and encourages the nascent Russian democracy as a full participant.
Still, such advocacy may be undesirable when its potential costs are weighed against the benefit of bloc politics just discussed. These possible costs are three, and collectively they suggest that, if American advocacy would likely result in Russian entry into NATO, the US could undermine another declared goal of its "engagement" strategy: a strong and stable Asia-Pacific community.
First, having recently expanded the scope of its Defense Cooperation Guidelines with Japan, that the PRC immediately branded as a disturbing "anti-China" development, the America government could cause irreparable damage to its relations with China by further encircling the "Middle Kingdom" via a formal alliance with Russia. In fact, recent discussions with PLA representatives indicate that Beijing strongly rejects security structures based upon military alliances as breeding ground for mistrust between nations and, thus, as inherently destabilizing international arrangements. Consequently, the fruits of American diplomacy in China could rot if PRC fears of "soft containment" and strategic isolation are fed by Russian entry into NATO. Furthermore, the PRC could attempt to counter this American use of the "Russia card" by assuming the role of "global spoiler" through the skilled use of its own potent hand—one that includes a "weapons proliferation card," a "market access card," and a "North Korea card." China could drop any or all of these cards at the tables of the UN or other localized agencies, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), undermining US strategic interests in the process. It is precisely because of these undeclared, but understood, Chinese threats that former US Secretary of State Warren Christopher noted: "Our differences with China are an argument for engagement, not for containment or isolation."
Second, but to a lesser extent, Russian membership in NATO could strain US-Japanese relations in light of historic, and as yet unresolved, Russo-Japanese tensions in east Asia, most notably, the ongoing dispute over the Northern Territories. Absent a near-term settlement of this contentious issue, which appears unlikely, the Japanese government would understandably view an extension of NATO’s collective defense guarantees to the Kurile Islands as provocative and unacceptable. The potential fallout could be a pessimistic reappraisal of US commitment to Japan’s security interests and right-wing calls for rearmament and re-nationalization of Japanese defense policy. Clearly such calls, if ultimately heeded, would generate grave concern among Japan’s regional neighbors and could possibly ignite a destabilizing arms race.
Third, in light of the previous two costs, Russia may jeopardize its own economic recovery plans by entering into NATO. As mentioned, the success of these plans depends upon rapprochement with China and Japan, the former for its markets and the latter for its capital and technology. A sound economy is a crucial prerequisite for successful democratic reform in Russia and, without a modern-day Marshall Plan currently on the table, the Kremlin’s economic planners must turn to other non-Western sources for the necessary aid. If the wells of the Orient run dry due to tensions with China and Japan, the US government may face the stark choice of "putting up or shutting up" with regard to Russia’s economic recovery and, hence, its future as a healthy member of the Western democratic family.
While these potential costs deserve serious reflection, they could be mitigated through a set of carefully constructed security accommodations and reassurances among the four powers of the Asian "Strategic Quadrangle." These accommodations could be codified in either bilateral or multilateral agreements and could address economic as well as more traditional military matters. In terms of economic security, these agreements could reaffirm certain existing trade relations and establish various new ones, with an eye towards encouraging greater openness and interdependence. In terms of military security, these agreements could include territorial guarantees and concessions, and promote confidence-building measures such as arms control and cooperative exercises.
To ease Chinese concerns, a bilateral security pact between Beijing and Moscow could preclude any further buildup of Russian/NATO forces in the bordering military districts, so long as PLA mobilization in the north is likewise held in check. It could also secure respect for the rights of ethnic Chinese now settling, for economic reasons, in Russia’s eastern territories, while at the same time disavowing any Chinese claims to lands "torn" from them in centuries past due to the "aggression of Russian Tsarism" and its "unequal" treaties "forcefully imposed" upon China. It is very much in America’s strategic interest to encourage—and engage in—the process of increasing cooperation between the PRC and the Russian Federation. A series of carefully constructed bilateral arrangements between these two historic adversaries, supported and shaped by the US, could further diminish deeply entrenched Sino-Russian hostility, reducing the risk of a major power conflict in East Asia.
Furthermore, skillful US diplomacy could "package" its advocacy of Russian accession in terms readily understood by the Chinese. NATO membership could be presented as a means by which to achieve political stability within the Russian Federation by marginalizing the cause of the ultranationalists. The US could remind the PRC of its vested interest in suppressing such ultranationalism in light of the two million ethnic Chinese now residing in Russia’s Far East. The US could also borrow Paul Marantz’s observation that "Russia will influence Asia in the years ahead more through its weakness and potential for instability than through its strength," and then link Russian stability to Chinese preoccupation with undisturbed economic reform.
To ease Japanese concerns, a trilateral security pact between the US, Japan, and Russia could establish a loose link between Russian entry into NATO and resolution of the ongoing Russo-Japanese dispute over the Kurile Islands. Such a pact might contain three key elements. First, in the spirit of the 1983 Reagan-Nakasone declaration of the "indivisibility of Western security," the US could offer Japan observer status in NATO concurrent with Russian entry and pledge with Russia to support a permanent Japanese seat on the UN Security Council. Second, Japan could agree to de-link military cooperation and government-backed economic aid from the territorial dispute. Third, Russia could agree to begin negotiations over the Northern Territories based upon either the 1956 Soviet-Japanese Declaration inspired by Nikita Khrushchev or a time-compressed version of the 1990 Five Point Plan offered by Boris Yeltsin.
Admittedly, this "loose linkage" between Russian NATO entry and resolution of the Kurile Islands dispute could jeopardize parliamentary support for accession within the Russian Federation by flaming nationalist passions. However, present arguments against making territorial concessions to Japan offered by Russia’s major moderate-conservative factions are couched in impassive geostrategic language. These legitimate worries about continued access to vital sea-lanes and ports in the Sea of Okhotsk could be addressed through one of three instruments: the aforementioned trilateral pact, NATO’s Article 5 defense guarantees, or amendments to the US-Japan Defense Cooperation Guidelines. If so done, then Russian entry into NATO could prove to be the catalyst for resolving this long-standing disagreement between Moscow and Tokyo. And, in turn, this resolution could more fully open the door of economic cooperation between the two nations, a prospect that is equally bright for Russia and Japan.
US advocacy of NATO membership for the Russian Federation is an admittedly radical policy proposal when viewed exclusively through a Cold War lens. The perceived extremism is largely due to a commonly held belief on both sides of the fallen Iron Curtain that the North Atlantic politico-military alliance always was, and still is, anti-Russian in essence.
Indeed, it is a bit of an understatement to note that this suggested course of action challenges "conventional" thinking on the subject of NATO enlargement. It posits a diplomatic overture by America that would be unprecedented in its boldness, unless of course one recalls Richard Nixon’s extraordinary opening to China in the early 1970s. It was understood then, and even more so now, that only a conservative President with established anti-Communist credentials could have pulled off such a dramatic and, in hindsight, brilliant maneuver as this.
Such thinking could explain the lack of serious discussion about Russian entry into NATO when it comes to contemporary "Beltway" debate on enlargement. A Democratic Administration, faced with a Republican-controlled Senate that must consent to treaty modifications, cannot afford to appear either too idealistic about Russia’s future chances or too intimidated by Russia’s current concerns. As a result, the US government has opted for the "middle road," embarking upon a journey of NATO expansion without fully defining how it will, or should, end.
An additional factor makes US advocacy of Russian accession so difficult for many statesmen and scholars to accept. To a much larger extent than current enlargement plans, Russian inclusion in NATO reveals, and reverberates, an historic tension in American foreign policy: that between the Washingtonian fear of "foreign entanglements" and the Wilsonian hope in US-led international collective security efforts. Clearly, American support for Russian NATO membership would reflect the hope rather than the fear. However, as I have argued, there are both institutionalist and realist grounds for this hope, and these are to be found in an examination of Europe’s past and Asia’s future.
Throughout the centuries, Russia has been a key player in all European security arrangements, from the balance of power inherent in the post-Napoleonic Concert of Europe to that inherent in the more recent NATO-Warsaw Pact standoff. Any pan-European security arrangement worth its salt must provide for constructive participation by the Russian Federation, given its geostrategic position, interests, and history. Few US policy makers would deny this, as evidenced by the terms of the recently concluded NATO-Russia Founding Act which give Russia a "voice, not veto" regarding NATO’s European security affairs. Indeed, even the staunchly conservative Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms, has acknowledged that "since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, practical experience in Europe has shown that Russia engages best in Europe when it works with NATO." Yet most pundits agree that full Russian membership in NATO would defeat the very purpose of the organization, certainly a truism if NATO’s sole purpose is collective defense against the external threat of Russian remilitarization. But should the Alliance become more if, as our National Security Strategy posits, NATO is to promote a more integrated and secure Europe?
Article 12 of the North Atlantic Treaty stipulates that the pact itself and, by extension, the organization it ordains are meant to be dynamic and responsive. The organization’s roles and missions are to be reviewed regularly, "having regard for the factors then affecting peace and security in the North Atlantic area." It is obvious the European security environment has changed significantly in the post-Cold War era. If NATO is to take advantage of this moment of historic opportunity, it must transform itself accordingly, from an organization primarily focused on collective defense against an external threat into one primarily focused on collective security in the face of both external and internal threats. With its 1991 Strategic Concept now under revision, it remains to be seen if NATO aspires to be this type of security agency. If it does, the functional transformation would be evolutionary, not revolutionary. As its past illuminates, NATO has performed effectively as both a collective defense alliance and a collective security system. Indeed, it was through this "dual-role" capability to check both external and intra-alliance aggression that NATO contributed to the successful democratization of Western Europe. Still, many traditionalists are bothered by any talk of change, while most realists believe that such fundamental change is ill-suited to current or future strategic challenges the US may face in Europe.
In addition to these concerns about functional transformation, another worry often expressed about Russian membership in NATO centers on the increased potential for organizational paralysis as former Cold War adversaries are brought into the fold. This "immobilization anxiety" stems from NATO’s consensus rule of decision making and, by implication, the ability of one member to override the unanimity of all others by means of its veto. While this concern is valid, several mollifying points need mention.
When one looks beyond Europe’s past and into Asia’s future, US advocacy of Russian NATO membership carries potential benefits for American security interests in the economically vibrant East Asian region. However, as discussed, this policy proposal is by no means risk-free, particularly with regard to US relations with China and, to a lesser degree, Japan. Unless it is executed with adroitness and sensitivity, US support for Russian entry into NATO could become a diplomatic disaster in all four corners of the Asia-Pacific Strategic Quadrangle. That said, genuine concerns need not degenerate into groundless fears that prevent prudent strategic action on behalf of American interests. As Bruce Russett and Allan Stamm observe: "If Russia is to be kept out of NATO for fear of antagonizing China, much the same logic would stop NATO expansion into Eastern Europe for fear of antagonizing Russia."
Bold vision demands bold action. The vision is one first described by George C. Marshall over fifty years ago and now established in US National Security Strategy: "At this moment in history, the United States is called upon to lead—to organize the forces of freedom and progress . . . and to advance our prosperity, reinforce our democratic ideals and values, and enhance our security." The action is one needed sooner rather than later: open US advocacy of Russian entry into NATO.
In closing, it is worthwhile to reflect upon comments made by Lester B. Pearson, the Canadian Undersecretary of State for External Affairs and one of the principal architects of the North Atlantic Treaty, at its signing on 4 April 1949.
This treaty, though born of fear and frustration, must, however, lead to positive social, economic, and political achievements if it is to live—achievements which will extend beyond the time of emergency which gave it birth, and the geographic area which it now excludes.