Russia Set To Block Further NATO Expansion
October 15, 2012
Russia set to nix NATO expansion
Russian President Vladimir Putin has again criticized NATO for what he describes as its warmongering and expansionist policies. Putin recently called NATO a throwback to the Cold War era and said it should be transformed into a political organization as soon as possible.
Before the Russian parliamentary elections earlier this year, Putin signed a decree in which he elaborated on Russia’s strategic stances in the areas of security, foreign policy, internal politics, the Eurasia union, and economic developments. In the defense section of the decree, Putin calls for the disarmament of NATO. He said that NATO was originally established to address the security concerns of the West in regard to the Soviet Union, but with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1991, NATO’s raison d’être vanished, and thus the organization should have voluntarily dismantled its military apparatus long ago.
However, over the past two decades, the United States has redefined NATO’s mission in light of the new political and military landscape. NATO’s sphere of influence has also been expanded, resulting in the bloc’s direct intervention in countries like Afghanistan. This new policy has transformed NATO into a tool in the hands of the U.S. to justify its military interventions in other countries. This is certainly at odds with Russia’s general strategies, and Moscow is using every means at its disposal to contain this expansionist plan.
Russia’s continuous focus on NATO in its foreign policy is quite significant. Since the very beginning of his third term in office, Putin announced that his main foreign policy goal would be to engage in interaction and dialogue with the major international powers.
However, NATO’s ever-increasing desire to encircle Russia will certainly be countered by Moscow. The accession of countries like Georgia and Ukraine to NATO would surely decrease the depth of Russia’s influence in the region. Thus, Putin’s recent trips to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, in which he extended Russia’s military pacts with these countries for 15 and 30 years respectively, are viewed as practical steps to solidify Moscow’s strategic posture vis-à-vis the West.
The friction between Russia and the United States is not restricted to NATO. There are many other points of disagreement between the two countries, including Kosovo, South Ossetia, and the ongoing conflict in Syria. However, NATO is the frontline of the strategic battle between Moscow and Washington, and Putin is well aware that NATO is where he can really contain the U.S.
Hassan Beheshtipour is an expert on Russia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia based in Tehran.