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Eastern Europe: In the context of NATO - Russia relations

Analytics | Hamid Ahmedli | 17-02-2018, 16:15


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established to eliminate the ideological and military threats posed by the Soviet Union after it appeared as a winner in evident results of the Second World War. The Truman doctrine which forms the base of the Cold War policy of the United States was meant to limit the geopolitical expansion of Soviet Union and in a different way was considered as part of a policy of encircling the Soviet Union. During the Cold War years NATO, being an important part of "encircling policy" realized its expansion for the first time in the East by adding Greece and Turkey into the organization and as a result, the Soviet threat towards these nations was softened. Later in 1955, the involvement of Western Germany in the organization was a clear manifestation of continuation of the expansion strategy and as a response to that, the Warsaw Pact was signed in the same year by the Soviet Union. Eastern European countries which were part of the new organization, were functioning as a buffer zone and were limiting the expansion of NATO, at the same time ensuring the military presence of the Soviet Union in the region.In parallel with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Union, NATO entered into a new period. The clash of interests was observed in the new period between West and Russia, first prioritizing political and economic unity of Europe and the latter seeing the Eastern Europe and former Soviet states as a "sphere of influence". 


NATO after 1991

Following the unification of Germany and collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the expected development policy of Western institutions was at the center of attention in the world. The consequences of a unification contract are still being criticized by the political authorities of Russia. The reason for this is continuation of expansion policy of NATO despite the unification of Germany and the end of Cold War. For the first time in 1999, three members of the Eastern bloc - Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary and in 2004 the remaining states of Central and Eastern Europe, including Baltic nations which were formerly represented in the Soviet Union entered NATO. The third expansion toward the East was mainly focused on the Balkan territory and regardless of Russia's objection, Montenegro was admitted into the alliance. Integration of Montenegro into NATO resulted in the encircling of Serbia and the experts believe Serbia's integration into Western institutions in the near future is inevitable.

We can confidently claim that NATO has approached to the borders of Post Soviet states. At the time Ukraine and Georgia are in the process of developing relationships with the bloc through intensive dialog and discussions. Even in 2008 with the serious support from the USA, the enforcement of Membership Action Plan for Ukraine and Georgia was included in the agenda of NATO's Bucharest Summit, however in the end Germany and other states have not supported the process.


Expansion and disbelief

Today, NATO’s expansion towards the East is believed to be creating dangerous scenarios along the borders of Russia, according to the Russian government. Considering only the encircling strategy of NATO military forces would be too simplistic approach. Looking at the recent history, we can see that in parallel with its encircling strategy, there are attempts to promote Western-based values system to the East and this situation still remains unacceptable by Russia. Therefore, after the revolution of 2014, the policy of integration into European Union and NATO, adopted by the new democratic forces in power in Ukraine, ended up with uprising of separatist forces in the east of the country who claimed to stop the policy which was executed. Incidents happening in Ukraine today may also seem as the breaking point caused by the clash of civilizations because the integration process of a post-Soviet country with Orthodox, Slavic identity to the Western-based values system is in the end understood by Russia as an attack to the "Near Abroad". It is impossible not to consider the economic factors here. For instance, after radical changes in the Ukrainian politics there has been a dramatic decrease in the trade turnover with Russia which in the near future may result in loss of internal markets of Ukraine and replacement with European products.


Various conflicts and arms race

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the process of integrating its former republics, as well as the post-socialist Eastern European countries into North Atlantic Bloc has faced serious problems. Based on the Article 6 of the North Atlantic Treaty- "The purpose and Principals of Expansion" of NATO a condition of resolving any ethnic or territorial conflicts by Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has been put  for each state willing to join the organization. Despite the serious efforts of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova toward democratization and integration to NATO, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and Donbas conflicts remain unsolved which will be an obstacle to the development of processes. In response to West becoming active in the region and seizing the advantage, Russia has been holding a chain of military trainings on the borders of Ukraine and Baltic states whileaccumulation of military troops has been observed. As a result of annexation of Crimea and destabilization processes in Ukraine a consensus has been held in the Warsaw summit of NATO on sending equipment and more than 7000 multinational troops in 4 battalion permanently to Baltic states and Poland. The same year in July during the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission in Kiev the president of the country announced that they will start to discussions around the enforcement of Membership Action Plan and after meeting the requirements for reforms in 2020 they will apply for the membership.



We have been witnessing a fast arm race and mutual military trainings for the first time in Europe and its East side after the collapse of Soviet Union and Warsaw pact becoming a history. Starting again to fight for the Eastern Europe after Second World War Russia has targeted to block the integration attempts of the countries in the region for its national interests. It is not a coincidence that in September of the current year Russian and Belorussian announcement about their mutual "Zapad 2017" military training was met with anxiety by NATO and to overcome any dangerous situation in advance that may arise during the trainings, the USA placed Patriot missiles- long range air defense systems in Lithuania and sent 173rd Air Force Brigade to Estonia. To summarize, Eastern Europe and post-Soviet territory possess importance for both poles and different scenarios of expected happenings will directly affect the relations between West and Russia.


About the author:

Hamid Ahmedli

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