NATO is a relic of Cold War hostility that belongs in a war museum not in a modern forum for diplomacy.
It was the end of an era this week when Russia announced that it was severing diplomatic links with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. For the past 30 years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation has engaged with the US-led military bloc in a bid to establish partnership and secure peace.
The incipient detente culminated in the NATO-Russia Founding Act in 1997 which demarcated certain boundaries for peaceful coexistence. Those boundaries were subsequently flouted as NATO doubled its members over the ensuing years to stand at the current membership of 30 countries, including states that share a border with Russia.
There was also established in 2002 a NATO-Russia Council which in principle provided a forum for dialogue between delegations hosted in the Belgian capital Brussels where NATO has its headquarters.
But the truth is initial promises of partnership have waned. For several years now, at least since the 2014 Ukraine crisis, NATO’s relations with Russia have been characterized more and more with an imperious attitude of lecturing Moscow over a litany of alleged transgressions. These allegations are more accurately described as slanders because they are never substantiated beyond bald accusation.
Russia is routinely accused of posing a threat to Europe and plotting to sabotage Western democracies. This week the NATO defense ministers held a summit in which it was breathlessly claimed that Russia is becoming an even greater threat to the transatlantic alliance. On the back of that hysterical claim, NATO has now moved to implement a “master plan” to “defend” Europe from a “potential Russian attack on multiple fronts”.
Reality check. Moscow has repeatedly stated that it has no intent of aggression towards the United States, NATO, Europe or anyone else for that matter. Despite this categorical assurance, the Western bloc has persisted in talking up tensions with Russia.
It is the United States that has abrogated several arms-control treaties and introduced new missile systems into Europe. It is NATO that is encroaching on Russia’s territory. Reality is turned on its head by Western accusations.
Indeed there have been conflicts over Georgia in 2008 and ongoing in Ukraine. But in each case, there are substantial grounds for laying the blame of these conflicts on NATO. How did the coup d’état in Kiev happen in 2014, who supported it? And why did the people of Crimea vote in a constitutional referendum to secede from Ukraine to join the Russian Federation with which they have centuries of shared history and culture?
In any case, if there were proper partnership and dialogue between NATO and Russia then such concerns and disputes could have been appropriately aired and discussed in the assigned forum. But the fact is there was never any genuine attempt at dialogue by NATO. Russia has become an object of harangue and hostility. The supposed partnership envisaged some three decades ago became a travesty. Instead of dialogue and debate there was simply disdain. Instead of equality there was vilification, opprobrium, and sensationalized smears without the slightest due process afforded to Russia (the Skripals, Navalny, Novichok, electoral interference, cyberattacks, shooting down a Malaysian airliner, and so on and so on, like an old broken vinyl record incapable of moving on.)
The supposed diplomatic channels were nothing but echo chambers for NATO propaganda talking points, rather than being used as a means to resolve misapprehensions through mutual dialogue and presentation of evidence.
As the Russian foreign ministry noted this week in explaining the severance of diplomatic ties, it is NATO that systematically destroyed relations and “chose the Cold War logic”.
Alexander Grushko, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, commented that normal relations were not possible amid unfriendly steps taken by NATO “sliding into Cold War schemes”.
The last straw was the expulsion earlier this month by NATO of Russian diplomats from the NATO forum in Brussels. The Russian staff were accused of being “undeclared spies” allegedly working for military intelligence. No evidence was provided, as usual, by the accusers. It was the familiar high-handed approach of fait accompli and Russia “guilty until proven innocent”.
Everyone recognizes that relations between the Western states and Russia are at their lowest since the end of the former Cold War. Thus it may be put to Moscow that it is being reckless to close down channels of communication at this precarious time.
Russia has not ruled out pursuing a more productive relationship in the future. It has said, however, that it is up to NATO to make the first move towards improving relations. Until then, henceforth, any communications can be submitted through Russia’s ambassador to Belgium.
It is our view that Russia has made the correct call to drop diplomatic channels with NATO. Russia will pursue bilateral relations with individual nations as it does already, for example, with the United States on the vital issues of arms control and cybersecurity. NATO has proven to be incapable of progressive negotiations owing to an organizational “groupthink” that is encumbered with Russophobia and Cold War ideology.
By engaging directly with individual nations, it may be more productive for mutual understanding to be advanced because the noise of “groupthink” and of competing group negativity is removed.
Unfortunately, it has to be noted that the original purpose of NATO when it was formed in 1949 was rooted in Cold War hostility towards the Soviet Union. Such animosity has not abated even though the Soviet Union no longer exists.
Fundamentally, NATO is an organization in search of enemies in order to justify the militarism that is essential for the functioning of Western capitalism. There is a pivotal contradiction between NATO and today’s emerging world of multipolar cooperation and peaceful development. Its disgraceful, diabolical destruction of Afghanistan alone debars that organization from having any progressive role in today’s world.
Russia is right to disabuse the illusion of “partnership” with NATO. It is a relic of Cold War hostility that belongs in a war museum not in a modern forum for diplomacy.