The fundamental decision to expand NATO eastward in Washington did not mature immediately. After the collapse of the USSR and the liquidation of the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO), the Americans could not believe the luck and in the early 90’s did not even think of NATO moving towards Russia’s borders. However, everything happens for first time. Making sure that you can do anything with Yeltsin’s Russia, they decided to bring NATO military structure to Russia’s borders.
The Americans started from a favorable international environment. Firstly, there was no signed document regulating the expansion of NATO: the words of the then US Secretary of State James Baker that NATO “will not move to the east even for an inch,” were only words. Secondly, the former Warsaw Pact allies with their moaning about the ‘Russian threat’ were able to convince the Americans to expand the North Atlantic bloc to the east.
Hungary, the Czech Republic and, of course, Poland were the first one to join NATO in 1999. A symbolic nail was battered in the coffin of the Warsaw Pact. Warsaw, which gave the very name of the Warsaw Pact, now becomes member of NATO – an alliance, against which the Eastern military bloc was created.
It was the fourth expansion of NATO. When the fifth expansion in 2004, the Western military alliance was joined by Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and three former Soviet republics – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. Therefore, when people say that if Ukraine joins NATO, from its territory it will take NATO aircraft 15 minutes to fly to Moscow, somehow they do not mention that from the Baltic to St. Petersburg they will fly much faster.
Yet again: it was Yeltsin’s Russia, and the Americans literally turned around country’s little finger: “In the American political elite, there is the prevailing point of view that NATO expansion must take place even if Russia opposes. This position is explained by the fact that the sovereign states of Central and Eastern Europe have the right to decide for themselves what military and political organizations to join.”
The situation changed with the strengthening of Russia in 2000’s. Then, only Albania and Croatia were admitted to NATO (2009). As part of the “Balkan direction” in May 2016, “the foreign ministers of NATO countries signed a protocol on the accession of Montenegro to the military bloc as an observer. To complete the integration procedure it is required that all member states of the alliance ratified an agreement.” So far, only 16 countries voted for the accession of Montenegro: their parliaments ratified an agreement to join. Among these countries there is no main NATO government – the United States of America. Only the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Senate voted “for,” and there are still two instances – the Senate and the President.
Why Montenegro? Its army has two and a half thousand people, there is no serious military equipment, besides Montenegro is not a neighbour of Russia. Why NATO needs it? However, Montenegro has something. For example, its geographical location. You can join NATO’s Albania and Croatia and lock Serbia on the mainland, cutting off access to the Adriatic. One can also annoy Russia, accepting its historical ally to the Western military alliance: “In 1904, Montenegro became the only country that has declared war on Japan in solidarity with Russia.” And they will accept it, in spite of the bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999, which consisted of Serbia and Montenegro.
But the question can be put differently. Why do we need NATO? In 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was instituted as a military unit, which opposed to the “Soviet threat”, but the Soviet Union and the Warsaw treaty is long gone. Why there is NATO? If it exists, then, it was created not to defend but to attack. So, in 1949, NATO was conceived as an aggressive bloc, which was originally aimed at the Soviet Union, and the Warsaw Pact, created six years later, was originally a defensive bloc.
Four American presidents – Bush, Clinton, Bush Jr., Obama – not only did not eliminated NATO as unnecessary, they have expanded and strengthened it, having turned it into the world’s policeman. Obama, for example, began redeployment of military forces in Poland and the Baltics. It seems that only Trump realized how hopelessly outdated NATO is.
As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump said: “I think NATO is obsolete. It was created during the Soviet era, which was obviously larger than the present-day Russia. I do not say that Russia is not a threat. But we have other threats, such as terrorism, and NATO does not discuss terrorism. NATO is not intended for the fight against terrorism, and its structure includes not the countries it needs.”
After the election of US President Trump, these words are not disavowed. Vice President Mike Pence said that “NATO will continue to fulfill its ‘historical mission,’ acting as a counterweight to Russia.” Trump just wants to make Europeans fork out for NATO, but for some reason this was perceived in Europe as almost a declaration of war.
What can it mean? Only one. The United States can no longer single-handedly pull the military spending of the entire world. They are extremely interested in the real financing of their darling, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, by the European allies. Will NATO be alive? It will. Once a military bloc is created, it can be dismissed only by the defeat. US considers itself the winner in the Cold War, and therefore Western military alliance will never be dismissed. But NATO can undergo such reforms that will drive its impact to the level of 1949. In general, Trump’s first hundred days or the first year are at risk of being extremely interesting.
Vladimir Bidyovka, the DPR People’s Council deputy