Home/Daniel Larison/NATO Expansion Makes Less Sense Than Ever

NATO Expansion Makes Less Sense Than Ever

Irakly Areshidze and Elena Suhir make a terrible assumption and offer an equally terrible suggestion:

Surrounding Russia with NATO members will not only curb Moscow’s imperialist ambitions, it will also strengthen the cause of democracy inside Russia.

There are a lot of bad ideas for the U.S. and EU response to Russia’s incursion, but the idea that they should rush to expand NATO is one of the very worst. Aside from the fact that NATO won’t and officially is not supposed to bring in new members that have ongoing territorial disputes with their neighbors, advocates for expansion don’t seem to understand that “surrounding Russia with NATO members” is one of the things that makes Russia so hostile to the idea in the first place. It is the fear of being surrounded by an alliance that it still regards as a major threat that has driven much of its opposition to bringing former Soviet republics into the alliance. Western governments have repeatedly failed to anticipate how Russia would react to their plans for incorporating more countries into the alliance, and for a while they could afford to do that because Russia was not prepared to do anything in response. Over the last decade, that changed, but many Westerners remained oblivious to the change. Dragging Ukraine into NATO–and it would probably still have to be dragged in against the wishes of a large part of its population–is just the sort of thing that could trigger the escalation and conflict that everyone should be trying to prevent. One of the worst things that the alliance could do to itself at this point is to undermine its existing security guarantees by extending them to countries that we already know we’re not going to fight to defend. It wouldn’t anyone any favors, and would be more likely to invite the intervention that it is supposed to deter.

P.S. Surrounding Russia with NATO members is more likely to cause the state to become more authoritarian, illiberal, and paranoid, and it would make it much less likely that Russia would undergo peaceful political change to a more pluralistic and liberal order.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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