Green With NATO Envy

"How interesting!"

These were the words of an airport security officer as he lifted a folder from my suitcase printed with the name of a conference titled, "Fascism: Familiar Enemy or New Threat?" He opened the folder, hoping to read its contents, but he was a bit disappointed to learn that I was only using the folder to hold miscellaneous papers.

"What do you think -- is there really a fascist threat?" he asked me.

I mentioned several racially motivated killings in Russia, but that did not interest him much.

"Sure, those things happen," he said. "But take a look at the Baltic countries! They deny ethnic Russians their civil rights and close down their schools. Or Ukraine," he continued. "That's even worse. They're planning to join NATO. I stay up all night thinking about this."

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After speaking with the security guard, it became clear to me that the global fascist threat comes from Kiev. A few years ago, who would have thought that Russians would fear subversive activity from Ukraine as much as Islamic terrorists? But this is one example of how the anti-Ukrainian propaganda influences Russians. And it raises the question: Why is Russia so afraid of NATO expansion?

Russian propaganda angrily condemns NATO expansion, but it never explains the specific problems or threats that could result from it. Moscow reacts with insults and protests but not with clear political reasoning.

Of course, this does not mean that NATO is a purely peace-loving and democratic organization concerned exclusively with the security of its member countries. The Kremlin can find valid reasons to criticize NATO, but the problem is that Moscow can't offer its own principles or models for providing collective security that would serve as an alternative to NATO.

NATO is no longer a defensive bloc, but a global police organization that is not subject to checks and balances. Although the alliance's stated mission is to defend democratic values, its actions often contradict these values. There are no control mechanisms preventing NATO from carrying out military or political decisions that contradict its own charter. France and Germany occasionally raise their voices and remind the United States that it should not forget about the existence of Europe. But they are allowed to express their opinion only when Washington asks for it. On the other hand, how often do European governments seek the support of their citizens before making a decision within the NATO framework?

In the modern world, international alliances and organizations increasingly provide member governments the opportunity to make military and political decisions without having to answer to their citizens for their actions. True, member states must gain one another's approval at high levels within these global organizations, but they all share the common goal of avoiding accountability to their own people.

Exactly the same kinds of ethical norms prevail among the ruling elite in Moscow and Kiev. If the Kremlin had sufficient resources, it would not hesitate to create a NATO-like organization among former Soviet republics. Unfortunately, Moscow doesn't have the financial resources or the regional influence to do this, and this is why the Kremlin is so jealous of the United States' powerful leadership role in NATO.

But every dark cloud has its silver lining. Moscow's failure to halt NATO expansion might eventually prompt at least a few Foreign Ministry officials to seek allies in the West, including those from the anti-war movement. Even Soviet leaders understood this. Despite their "totalitarian" nature, they did a better job of finding a common ground with the West than the current leaders. In the end, it will be difficult to win the sympathies of European pacifists with imperial rhetoric and threats to "waste the terrorists in the outhouse."

Boris Kagarlitsky is the director of the Institute of Globalization Studies.