From the escalation of Donbass tensions to the expulsion of diplomats, Western countries and Russia have once again fallen into fierce confrontation. When the contradiction was acute, Ukrainian President Zelensky repeatedly mentioned Ukraine’s accession to NATO regardless of whether he was interviewed by the media or in phone conversations with the NATO Secretary-General, the British Prime Minister, and the Canadian Prime Minister. Ukraine’s “Weekly Mirror” described that becoming a NATO candidate has become a “top priority” for Ukraine. Can it do what it wants? If NATO expands eastward again, it will inevitably trigger strong opposition from Russia. This is not what all Western countries are willing to see. Today, the relationship between Russia and NATO has dropped to a freezing point. Some media have described it as “returning to the hostile state of the Cold War.” How did their relationship come to today? Is there any possibility of cooperation in the future?
1. Russian expert: NATO regards Ukraine as a “consumable”
In recent times, Ukrainian President Zelensky has mentioned on various occasions that Ukraine has joined NATO. On the 6th of this month, he said during a phone call with NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg that this is the only way to end the Donbass War and that Ukraine’s participation in the “NATO Member States Action Plan” can send a definite signal to Russia. On the 12th, Zelensky said in an interview with CNN that if the United States wants Ukraine to join NATO, it should provide Ukraine with more support, including more weapons and combat funding, instead of just talking.
In recent years, Ukraine has made a series of “preparatory work” for joining NATO. In 2014, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) abandoned a bill passed in 2010 establishing the country’s non-aligned status and decided to deepen cooperation with NATO. In 2019, the Uzbek parliament passed a constitutional amendment to include NATO as a basic national policy into the constitution. The following year, Ukraine reiterated this goal in its new national security strategy.
In 2018, NATO included Ukraine in the “Applicant Countries” list. Last year, Uzbekistan obtained the status of NATO’s “capability enhancement partner” and gained more opportunities to participate in exercises and share intelligence. Zelensky has repeatedly mentioned that the inclusion of Ukraine in the “NATO Member State Action Plan” is a procedure for becoming a NATO candidate. Faced with Zelensky’s voice, the United States’ statement is intriguing. White House spokesman Psaki said that the United States supports Ukraine’s entry into NATO, but it is up to NATO to decide whether to accept Ukraine.
Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the Russian “Defense” magazine, believes that Ukraine may not be able to join NATO within “20 years”, its armament “completely does not meet” standards, and it has territorial disputes. The Russian “Newspaper” stated that NATO’s support for Ukraine only stays at the verbal level and will not take action to formulate the country’s plan to join NATO, because it needs to consider strong opposition from Russia.
The report recalled that the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania issued a statement stating that Georgia and Ukraine will join NATO. At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Moscow regarded this as a real threat and warned of possible action.
What does Ukraine’s accession to NATO mean for Russia? Some analysts say that this means that there is a long-distance land border between Russia and NATO, and NATO’s military threat to Russia will come closer. Under the deteriorating situation, NATO may quickly mobilize troops to the Russian border via rail. And if Georgia joins NATO, it is possible to establish a naval base for NATO on the eastern coast of the Black Sea.
The newspaper quoted Brutel, an expert at the Russian Institute of Humanitarian and Political Investigations, saying that NATO countries expressed support for Kiev with the main purpose of containing Russia. For them, Ukraine is just a “consumable”. NATO will not provide any security guarantees for Kiev. “We must rely on ourselves. European and American countries will not fight for us. Don’t have such illusions.” Smyshko, former director of Ukraine’s National Security Agency, said in an interview with the media. ▲
2. Does NATO keep its promises?
The relationship between Russia and NATO is not always as tense as it is now. NATO’s official website said in an article entitled “Relations with Russia” in October last year, “In the past 20 years, NATO has been committed to building a cooperative partnership with Russia and conducting dialogue and practical cooperation in areas of common interest.” This kind of relationship began at the end of the Cold War. In 1991, Russia joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Committee composed of NATO countries, the former Warsaw Pact countries, the CIS and the Baltic States. In 1997, this mechanism was replaced by the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. The basic documents on mutual relations, cooperation and security between NATO and Russia signed in the same year became the basis of bilateral relations. In 2002, the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) was established for consultation on security issues and for practical cooperation in a range of fields. However, the military actions taken by Russia in Georgia in 2008 caused the NRC’s cooperation in some areas to be suspended until the spring of 2009 was resumed.
Looking back at the complex relationship between Russia and NATO, the US “Time” magazine stated that when the United States, Canada and 10 Western European countries formed NATO in 1949, their goals were clear: let the Soviets out, let the Americans in, and let the Germans. Anfen. But after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, NATO’s goals became less clear. With the end of the Cold War, Soviet leader Gorbachev once proposed to the then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker that Russia should join NATO. After Baker refused, the suggestion was put forward many times. In 1994, Russia formally joined the “Peace Partnership Program” aimed at establishing trust between NATO and other European countries and the republics of the Soviet Union. The then US President Clinton referred to this as Russia’s “route to NATO membership.”
“Time” weekly stated that although Russia initially revealed its willingness to join NATO, there are still tense factors in its relationship with NATO. “We do have common interests, and we have carried out cooperation in counter-terrorism and anti-drugs in Afghanistan.” Rasmussen, the former prime minister of Denmark, who served as NATO secretary-general, said, but Russia has also repeatedly asked NATO to reject the request: Don’t let its backyard Or neighboring countries) to become a NATO member. Jasevich, the former Permanent Representative of Montenegro to NATO, believes that around 1999, NATO and Russia had irreconcilable differences over the latter’s future. Russia became “anti-Western”, and the “nostalgia” towards the Soviet Union gradually became apparent. Since then, NATO has “become a security challenge” for the Kremlin.
“Does the West keep its promises to Moscow?” The Deutsche Telekom political website recently stated that the tension between NATO and Russia began when the former violated its promise not to expand eastward: In 1999, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary joined NATO; in 2004, NATO was a one-off. Accept 7 member states; Albania and Croatia joined in 2009; Montenegro and North Macedonia joined in 2017 and 2020 respectively.
In 2014, the annexation of Crimea to Russia increased the tension between the latter and NATO. In the words of Time magazine, “return to the hostile state of the Cold War period”. The American Association for Foreign Relations stated that since then, NATO has strengthened its defenses on the east wing and established new command centers in eight member states to support the new rapid reaction force of approximately 20,000. In 2017, NATO began to dispatch 4 multinational forces to the Baltic States and Poland in rotation, with a total number of approximately 4,500 troops.
While strengthening military deployment, NATO accused Russia of taking provocative military actions on the NATO border between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. In addition, former Russian “double agent” Skripal was poisoned in the UK in 2018 and NATO issued a statement in 2019. Events such as supporting the United States’ withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty have intensified the conflicts between the two sides. ▲
3. “NATO is an obstacle to improving relations between Russia and the West”
At the level of official statements, both Russia and NATO emphasized that they have no intention of confrontation. NATO’s official website stated that the strengthening of deterrence and defense capabilities is to cope with the ever-changing security environment while maintaining an open dialogue attitude. NATO claims that it “does not pose a threat to Russia,” but the improvement of relations between the two parties depends on “clear and constructive changes” in Russia’s own actions.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in an article introducing relations with NATO: “As before, we are firmly aligned with all countries and organizations in the Euro-Atlantic region in terms of strategic goals to maintain peace and stability…” But Russian diplomacy The Ministry believes that the two sides are in a “prolonged crisis.”
The “Moscow Communist Youth League” quoted the Russian Council of International Affairs expert Kanevsky as analyzing that there is a key problem in the relationship between Russia and NATO-the two sides lack understanding of each other’s true intentions. “This is a classic security dilemma.” During the process of “radical remarks” and “continuous display of force” on both sides, distrust spread. In addition, the anti-Russian sentiment in Eastern European countries further prompted NATO to regard Russia as a potential threat.
Comparing the relationship between Russia and NATO with the relationship between Russia and the United States, Dmitry Suslov, an expert at the International Debating Club of “Valdai”, a Russian think tank, said that the former is “more antagonistic and negative” than the latter because Russia and NATO There is no area of cooperation. “Only the antagonistic agenda is at the forefront.” There is a certain possibility of cooperation between Russia and the United States at least in areas such as arms control, the Arctic and climate change.
Suslov believes that all military exercises conducted by NATO are obviously anti-Russian. Now that the NRC is paralyzed, Russia has suggested that this mechanism be transformed into a communication channel between the two militaries to avoid accidents, but NATO insists that political affairs take priority over the platform. Suslov stated that since 2014, NATO has shifted from a strategic deterrence to Russia to a tactical deterrence, and it is preparing for potential armed confrontation between the two sides.
“NATO is an obstacle to the improvement of relations between Russia and the West.” Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Russian Center for Strategic and Technical Analysis, wrote on the US “Defense News” website two years ago. Almost all political parties in Russia believe that NATO is both. Part of the U.S. war machine is also one of the tools of U.S. global hegemony. In Moscow, no one believes that NATO exists independently of the United States. Regardless of what Western European partners think, Washington can always implement any decision through NATO.
The article believes that the West’s approach to Russia is different from its treatment of Japan and Germany after World War II—Russia was asked to become a loyal satellite of the United States but received no return. This is also the main reason why Russia’s pro-Western trend that emerged in the 1990s eventually fell apart and was completely marginalized. From the perspective of the Russians, NATO’s only task is to maintain confrontation with Russia. Most people agree with this view: Without Russia, there would be no NATO.
Within NATO, the attitude towards Russia is not entirely consistent. The German weekly “Focus” believes that the relationship between the EU and Russia is more complicated. Although the EU is dissatisfied with Russia on issues such as security and human rights, both sides have economic interests. The “Beixi-2” natural gas pipeline project is a symbol of cooperation.
Regarding the deterioration of the situation in Donbass, some analysts said that the attitude of the Western bloc split into two camps. The Russian “Viewpoint” believes that the camp that supports Kiev includes the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, and they are usually referred to as “Anglo-Saxons.” These countries intend to contain Russia in all aspects and seek to initiate a new round of sanctions to isolate Moscow as an “aggressor.” In addition, one of their important goals is to destroy the “Beixi-2” project. However, France and Germany are not satisfied with Zelensky. They have made a lot of efforts to ease the situation in Ukraine and do not want a war, because this means political and economic losses for European countries.
The British “Financial Times” stated that many Western European countries led by Germany opposed NATO’s eastward expansion. Former Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen stated that European countries have been very cautious in reacting to Russia. He also analyzed that Germany would hesitate to take military and other substantive actions against Russia. This is related to Russia’s recognition of its reunification in 1990 and its “historical gratitude”; France believed that “Russian interests should be respected, because It is a big country”; while Britain will take a more “realistic attitude” towards the Kremlin’s ambitions.