NATO and EU Eastward Enlargement and Russia

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Baku, 19 November 2014 –

NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia was discussed during Alliance’s Summit held on 3-4 April 2008. U.S. pledged support to these nations while France and Germany objected citing Russia’s concerns. At the end of the day consensus was not reached, however, albeit official accession process was not launched, Ukraine and Georgia had embarked on a journey.

President Vladimir Putin’s ultimatum that "If Ukraine joined NATO that step could mean end of its existence'' was ignored by the West. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko also warned that "Today we see that NATO enlargement fails to ensure security of countries. All the more so, the European continent may encounter serious problems if Ukraine and Georgia were to become NATO member states'' (1).

Disregarding these warnings the U.S. and European Union went on to initiate the ''Eastern Partnership'' program in 2008. Its objective was to propel economic development and European integration of Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and other nations. In the meantime, Russia, that managed to significantly mitigate economic and security grievances anticipated the first opportunity to retaliate against the U.S. and Europe.

The most fitting occasion came in 2008 when Georgia commenced military operations aiming to restore authority over breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Before Georgia’s military was able to secure the control over these regions Russia deployed its troops from the South Ossetia and chased the Georgian army back to Tbilisi. After the eight-day invasion Russia pulled its troops back thanks to mediation efforts of the U.S. and France. However, Russia’s ultimatum to the U.S. and EU was recognition of Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s independence. Yet again, Russia’s ultimatum was dismissed and NATO welcomed Albania and Croatia as new member states.

From 1991 through 2013 the U.S. had allocated $5 billion for economic development and bolstering of democracy in Ukraine. The funds were mostly transferred to the former through the U.S.-based ''National Endowment for Democracy''. This institution had facilitated over 60 projects in Ukraine under the purpose of development of democracy, protection of human rights and acceleration of economic and political streamlining with Europe.

Political engineering initiatives of the U.S. and the European Union were not welcomed by the Russian officials. NED’s president Carl Gersham remarks that "Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents'' (2) clearly represented the tensions throughout different phases of this rivalry and objectives of the organization he represented.

Russia has cautiously observed the process of NATO’s eastward expansion in the past 20 years. Substance of NATO and EU eastward enlargement threatened Russia’s economic and political security and was aimed to contain the nation within its borders. This was unacceptable for Russia because under such circumstances the former Soviet countries would become detached from Russia’s influence. In fact, Russia possesses effective mechanisms in every post-Soviet space nation to prevent that from happening and occasionally puts them into use. The following is brief classification of such mechanisms:

  • Interference with ethnic conflicts in the post-Soviet geography (Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, Nagorno Karabakh);
  • Interference with mosaic ethnic composition of the post-Soviet states (Armenians of Georgia, Gagauz region of Moldova and etc.);
  • Presence of ethnic Russians in the post-Soviet countries (Transnistria, annexation of Crimea and buttressing of separatist demands of ethnic Russians in the Eastern Ukraine);
  • Control over energy supply routes;
  • Economic dependence of post-Soviet countries from Russia;
  • Presence in Russia of migrants from the post-Soviet nations (Armenia – 2.5 million, Georgia – above 1 million, Kazakhstan – 2 million, Uzbekistan – above 2 million).

Dr. Hatem Jabbarly

  1. Э. Велиев, НАТО на Южном Кавказе пока не будет, «Зеркало».-2009. 3 апреля.-№55.-С.1.
  2. Дж. Миршаймер, Почему Запад повинен в кризисе на Украине, Россия в глобальной политике, 3 сентября 2014.
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