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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Good Neighbor Russia

The exclusion of both Germany and Russia from the approaching D-day commemorations is highly inappropriate. Not only did millions of Russians die defeating Hitler but millions of Germans have been born and have grown up in a democratic Germany that is now a solid part of the West. It is especially inappropriate because the quality of Europe's security will be determined largely by the degree to which Germany remains permanently anchored in an integrating Europe and the extent to which Russia is linked constructively to a bigger and more secure Europe. Both these countries are destined to continue playing major roles in European affairs. But neither is likely to play constructively if the geopolitical context creates tempting options for national self-assertion, especially if nationalistic temptations are exacerbated by a sense of exclusion. Germany has been a good European citizen for decades now. It has loyally and generously supported Europe's security and is the only NATO member with all its forces fully integrated into the joint command. It has been willing to propitiate French pride in order to foster a far-reaching French-German reconciliation, the foundation and catalyst for unification in Europe. At the same time, Germany has managed to serve as the linchpin for a continued U.S. military presence on the continent. Last, but by no means least, Germany has demonstrated a genuine commitment to democracy; for example, no country has more humane, liberal immigration laws. But Germany's circumstances -- and psychological mood -- are changing. The leadership will soon be renewed. The approaching 50th anniversary of the end of World War II will mark a milestone in generational change. This year will see the departure of the last Russian soldier from German soil. Might not some Germans soon begin to resent the presence of American troops, claiming that Germany is the only European country still "occupied?" And what will be the German -- and Russian -- reaction to a central Europe that remains a geopolitical vacuum? If Europe enlarges, deepens its unity and widens its security perimeter, there are good prospects for Germany to remain a good citizen as well as the leader of a Europe that becomes more truly European. However, Russia -- unlike Germany -- has yet to demonstrate that it truly means to be a good citizen of Europe. True, its leading politicians often speak of Russia as belonging to Europe and even possibly joining NATO. But at the same time they make outlandish statements about Russia's "unique Eurasian mission" and assert a special right to use military force anywhere within the entire space of the defunct Soviet Union. Simultaneously they clamor for status as a global power and America's co-equal "strategic partner" (even while pleading for more financial assistance). Clearly, Russia cannot be all these things at the same time. Being a part of Europe and NATO is not compatible with pursuing a unique Eurasian destiny and seeking to operate as a global counterpart of the United States. The politically decisive fact is that Russia bulks too large, is too backward currently and too powerful potentially to be assimilated as simply yet another member of the European Union or NATO. It would dilute the Western character of the European community and the American preponderance within the alliance. Instead of perpetuating the illusion that Russia will someday join the West's core political institutions, it is more important to define what it means for Russia to become a good neighbor for Europe and eventually a partner for the United States. Russia should: ?Withdraw its troops from the Baltic republics on schedule. ?Accept the reality of Ukraine as a secure, friendly neighbor, sovereign politically but a close partner economically. Similarly, respect the political sovereignty of the new republics of the ex-Soviet Union while pursuing deeper economic cooperation with them. ?Tolerate, rather than obstruct, the desire of central Europeans to belong to both the European Union and NATO. A Russia willing to become a good neighbor should be given other incentives: ?An offer by NATO of a special treaty of friendship and alliance with Russia, even as the alliance expands its membership eastward into central Europe. The treaty between NATO and Russia (even if Russia falls short of U.S. hopes for its democratic evolution) would embrace Russia within a wider framework of military and political cooperation, consolidating security within Europe and even extending it into Eurasia. ?An invitation to join the G7 forum of leading industrial nations. These initiatives would provide the Russians a gratifying recognition of their country's status as a major power. They amount to a significant Western option for Russia, making it more worthwhile for Moscow to eschew imperial ambitions. However, Russia will be more likely to pursue the good-neighbor option if a larger, more secure Europe promptly fills the potentially destabilizing geopolitical no-man's land between Russia and the European Union. Absent though they may be from the Normandy festivities, the Germans and the Russians are likely to loom large in the thoughts of President Clinton and other leaders gathered there. They will provide a timely reminder about the need for greater geopolitical imagination in shaping Europe's security. Zbigniew Brzezinski was President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser. He contributed this comment to The Washington Post.