Written in July 2000

Source: Stephen J. Blank (Strategic Studies Institute’s Expert on the Soviet bloc and the post-Soviet bloc)

For Russia, all the security concerns of last decade are the threats of today. NATO is now closer to Russian borders. Even before NATO’s new strategic concept, the alliance’s development of Combined Joint Task Forces offered ways for the alliance to employ forces outside the constraints of Article 5 (self-defense). NATO’s changes, combined with its determination to use force against nonmembers threatens Russia because political turmoil in the former Soviet Union increases the likelihood of NATO involvement near and perhaps even in Russia. Moscow has long feared that expansion of the alliance could radicalize or destabilize neighboring countries, sparking internal splits or civil wars that could drag in Russia—a role it neither wants nor can afford. The main objective of NATO enlargement was to weaken Russia’s influence in Europe and around the world. The firm NATO ring around Russia enables the West to apply effective economic, political, and possibly even military pressure on Moscow.

NATO’s eastward enlargement not only radically altered the force ratio in theaters of military operations, but also permitted a number of kinds of tactical and operational-tactical weapons to perform strategic missions previously set aside for Pershing II missile complexes and cruise missiles. There is also a broad range of political-military threats, which also directly emerged out of NATO enlargement,  NATO enlargement and its many strategic repercussions constitute a large number of the military-political threats.

Any enlargement of NATO is at Russia’s expense and European security is a zero-sum game. It is a challenge to Russia national security. The approaching of NATO’s infrastructure to Russian borders is a direct increase of NATO’s combat possibilities, which is unfavorable for Russia in a strategic sense.

Russia still rejects NATO enlargement on principle and regards further NATO expansion in territory or mission as intolerable.

The principal threats facing Russia are :

  • Territorial problems connected to the absence of precise juridical borders;
  • Intervention in Russian Federation affairs, including encroachment on state unity and territorial integrity;
  • Attempts to ignore or infringe upon Russian Federation interests in resolving international security problems;
  • The appearance and escalation of armed conflicts, particularly near the borders of the Russian Federation and its allies;
  • Creation and buildup of troop groupings that disturb the balance of forces near those same borders;
  • Expansion of military blocs and alliances to the detriment of Russian security; and,
  • Actions aimed at undermining global regional security.

Russia’s exclusion from NATO means that NATO ignores Russian security interests. NATO’s benevolent intentions are irrelevant because its capabilities are what matters and they are awesome and growing.

The main foreign threats to Russia that represent a threat to its sovereignty and integrity include,

  • Negatively developing trends in the entire system of international relations expressed in the United States and NATO striving for military resolution of political problems and bypassing the U.N. and OSCE.
  • The strengthening of unfriendly military-political blocs and unions (i.e., the U.S. alliance system) “and the broadening of their ‘sphere of influence’ and ‘zones of responsibility’ with the simultaneous intensification of centrifugal forces within the CIS (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyztan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan)
  • The outbreak and escalation of armed conflicts in proximity to the borders of Russia and the CIS.
  • The sharp escalation of the scale of international terrorism against Russia and its allies, to include the possible use of weapons of mass destruction.
  • The increasing gap between those leading military powers who are breaking away from other states and the growth of their capabilities for creating a new generation of military and military-technical weapons. This trend triggers a qualitatively new phase in the arms race and significantly changes the character, forms, and composition of military operations.
  • Territorial claims on Russia from neighboring states. This is most powerfully expressed in NATO’s “expansion to the East and their aggression against Yugoslavia, as well as the events in the Northern Caucasus.

Foreign threats

  • States’ desire to bypass organizations of security like the U.N. and OSCE;
  • Weakening Russian influence in the world;
  • The strengthening of military blocs and alliances, particularly NATO’s eastward expansion;
  • The possible emergence of military bases and presences “in the immediate proximity of Russia’s borders,”
  • Proliferation of nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles, weakening of integrative processes within the CIS;
  • The outbreak and escalation of conflicts near the borders of Russia and/or the CIS states; and,
  • Territorial claims on Russia.

Another threat is that NATO’s enlargement isolates and marginalizes Russia as a serious player, let alone a great power, in areas of historic influence and dominance. The idea that Russia will cease to be counted a great European and global player on a par with Washington terrifies many elites, even if the younger generation is allegedly more reconciled with contemporary reality.

NATO’s enlargement in both scope and mission threatens some of Russia’s most basic foundational myths. It undercuts the reformers of 1991 and their acolytes’ cherished belief that the Russian people and Boris Yeltsin, and not NATO’s steadfast resistance to Soviet power, destroyed the Soviet Union. Second, enlargement equates the Soviet system with Russian imperialism. It strikes at the very tenacious Russian myth that Russia suffered more than anyone else, or at least as much as other peoples, from the Soviet system. This Russian version of Dostoyevsky’s “egotism of suffering," or what Freud called the “narcissism of small differences,” is very deeply ingrained now among many members of the elite alongside older notions of state and empire being equivalent concepts.  NATO enlargement, seen from Moscow, is hostile even to what Russians believe are voluntary, foreordained integrationist tendencies in the CIS that would preserve what Russians perceive as the positive ties of the old empires. It allegedly denigrates the extent to which Russia has refrained from inciting its co-nationals 

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