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Creating An Enemy

Europe, Russia and NATO

Bharat Dogra

Europe’s problems increased when NATO started looking for an enemy that wasn’t there. After the break-up of the Soviet Union there was a new situation in Europe as Russia was very willing to be an equal and very friendly partner in any new architecture of European security. Of course, there were some problems such as the excessive number of nuclear weapons Russia possessed but these could be sorted out, in fact could be sorted out better if and when Russia was accommodated with self-respect within the European set-up.

This did not necessarily mean that Russia would also become a NATO member; in fact, there was a stronger case for discontinuing NATO just as the Warsaw Pact had been discontinued. However even if NATO was to continue and even if Russia was not to be accepted as a NATO member, there were still possibilities of finding a place of self-respect and equality for Russia in any planning for comprehensive European partnership and unity. In terms of peace, stability, and economic prosperity this would have been the win-win path ahead for Europe if Russia and other neighbouring countries, earlier parts of the Soviet Union such as Ukraine and Belarus, were all included in a comprehensive European partnership.

Unfortunately, despite the initial very friendly and accommodative dialogue between Gorbachev, his close colleagues, and their Western counterparts, this concept of comprehensive European unity and partnership could not move ahead and in particular a decision appears to have been taken to take in any other East European country but not Russia. This decision to leave out the country with the most area and resources forever out of a European partnership obviously lacked rationale and economic as well as strategic sense but appears to have been accepted nevertheless as a given, as something not to be questioned.

Such a decision to forever regard Russia as a country outside of European partnership appears to have been driven by a highly unjustified and non-rational urge to find an enemy when one did not exist. Russia in the 1990s was clearly not an enemy either of Western Europe or of the USA. In fact, it was very eager to court friendship and partnership.

However, the USA and NATO had other ideas. As NATO had been founded on the idea of promising defence mainly of Western European countries under the leadership of the USA against a powerful enemy, the concept of an enemy had to be maintained if the justification of a military alliance led by the USA was to retain some relevance. Hence Russia was converted into an enemy even when it had ceased to be an enemy. In other words, Russia has to be somehow seen as an enemy to continue to justify that European countries remain in a military alliance that for all practical purposes is dominated by the USA.

In the 1990s at a time when Russia was looking most eagerly for support and partnership, the response of the USA-led West was to promote the leadership of a person like Yeltsin in Russia who would collude in western plunder of the country. The situation in Russia deteriorated so rapidly that even life expectancy decreased significantly, although normally such changes do not take place in such a short span.

This led Russia to start moving away from further dependency on the West and again find its strength in an independent path. Within the next decade 2000-2010, Russia was able to get its act together, check the decline and start achieving significant improvement in development indicators. This too was not liked by the Western powers. Now they started increasing problems for Russia in the form of fast eastward expansion of NATO, in breach of the assurances extended earlier to Gorbachev and in violation even of the sound advice of peace extended by many leading western diplomats and statespersons. In the decade of 2010s western efforts to create problems for Russia increased further, centering more on engineering a coup in Ukraine to make it permanently hostile to Russia, strengthening neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine just because they were the most inclined to be hostile to Russia and instigating violence and injustice against Russian language speaking of Ukraine. The results of such short-sighted policies are there for all to see today as the country which the western countries claim to ‘help’ the most has actually been ruined the most.

All this time Russia and its leadership have been irrationally demonized by western leadership and Western media. Hence it may surprise several people to know that during 2000-2021 several human development indicators in Russia improved very significantly. Child mortality in Russia declined from 20 in year 2000 to 5.1 in 2021 (compared to 6.2 for the USA) while the maternal mortality rate declined from 52 to 14 (compared to 21 for the USA) during the same period.

What is the way forward? The peace movement in Europe has a very important role in the present-day conditions. It must work in cooperation with the peace movement in the USA to push USA towards less aggressive policies, as well as to create a wider European partnership in which all the willing European countries are included as equal partners, committed to progressing with peace and environment protection.

[The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, A Day in 2071, Man over Machine, and Earth without Borders.]

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Frontier
Vol 56, No. 48, May 26 - Jun 1, 2024