Monday, August 18, 2008

George F. Kennan on NATO expansion

What did the late George F. Kennan, former US ambassador to the Soviet Union, and architect of America's fifty-year-long "containment policy" have to say about NATO expansion to the borders of Russia? Kennan wrote:
(E)xpanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold war era. Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.

More recently, Henry Kissinger, proponent of NATO expansion to include the states of Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe, warned against further NATO expansion:

Confrontational rhetoric notwithstanding, Russia's leaders are conscious of their strategic limitations. Indeed, I would characterize Russian policy under Putin as driven in a quest for a reliable strategic partner, with America being the preferred choice ... But the movement of the Western security system from the Elbe River to the approaches to Moscow brings home Russia's decline in a way bound to generate a Russian emotion that will inhibit the solution of all other issues. It should be kept on the table without forcing the issue to determine the possibilities of making progress on other issues.
Earlier in 2008 the US Senate passed the NATO Freedom Consolidation Act of 2007. John McCain co-sponsor off the bill, which authorized the United States to invite Georgia and Ukraine -- former Soviet Republics -- into NATO. It passed unanimously in the United States Senate.

Stalin biographer Richard Lourie wrote a commentary on NATO expansion back in 2006 in which he concluded: "There’s still plenty of time for Kennan to be right." It looks as if that time is at hand.

Hat-tip: Belgravia dispatch


  1. I would argue that the Russians haven't exactly made the overtures of alliance that we would want from a defense partner. Their actions in Chechnya are disturbing and frequently appalling. The lack of press freedoms and the apparent hegemony of Putin make Russia look more like a loose cannon than a stalwart ally. Their willingness to support Iran and other questionable regimes, sometimes in direct opposition to Western security concerns, is also not the strongest concrete to build an alliance on.

    This is not to say that the West has clean hands in this regard, but I would argue that Russia has some housecleaning to do before current NATO expansion plans canbe called unwise.

  2. I would argue that the Russians haven't exactly made the overtures of alliance that we would want from a defense partner.

    And why haven't they? Their disagreeable behavior isn't happening in a vacuum. If you ask the Russian leaders, they will say their displeasure has a lot to do with the fact we don't listen to them about their concerns.

    The NY Times has an interesting article about "not-listening" to the Russians:

  3. to J-P

    >>>Their actions in Chechnya are disturbing and frequently appalling... Their willingness to support Iran and other questionable regimes, sometimes in direct opposition to Western security concerns...<<<

    man, are you so naive or totally ignorant?

    educate yourself!

    just few names in the LOOOOOOONG list if DICTATORS installed / supported by US during past 50-60 years (since WWII), and all kinds of Genocides, Politicides, Democides caused by their such actions :
    Diem, Thieu, Suharto, Marcos, Sarit, Thanom, Polpot, Somoza, Castillo, Mendez, Osorio, Montt, Cordova, Batista, Banzer, Balaguer, Figueres, Branco, Viola, Galtieri (and his Battalion 601), Honduran Battalion 316, Pinochet, Stroessner, Chiang Kai-shek, Mao, Hafizullah Amin, Yahya Khan, Zahedi, Mobutu, Savimbi, Saddam, Osama, Haradinaj, ... these are just a few most known ! and Saakashvili is one of those.

    so, how can US be so hypocritical as to bring up ANY charges against Russia? this is not to justify Russia or Putin of course. but this confrontation between "West" and Russia has been going on for almost 1 century already - perhaps since Crimean war and fall of Sevastopol to Brits and Co, in Rus-Turk war .... America and West has always tried to move close to Russian borders. but if Russia tried to move to their borders? like Cuban missile crisis...

    after Cold War US and Nato must have befriended Russia and concentrated rather on potential threat from China. but no - they still continue in the same Cold war style !

    Russia is a survivor, it has been cornered (often even surrounded by enemies) more than once or twice in its long history. naturally it feels somewhat paranoid or oversensitive when there are signs that someone tries to undermine its security. US on other hands has NEVER had real threat to its own soil or near its own borders, since independence from Britain. even during WWII - Pearl Harbor was relatively remote from its mainland territories. and all other the wars it has fought abroad, often quite far away from its soil. while Russia has been occupied several times in past millennium, occupation lasting from few years (by Nazis) to few centuries (as by Mongols).

    I wonder what would be US reaction if Russia started to install its own anti-missile system in Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico ? yeah, right - under excuse of protection from potential treat from "rogue states" LOL

  4. thanks to Jotman for mentioning Kennan ! he certainly has many interesting thoughts.

    I like what he said about "democracy" - that US should stop using it as a slogan and justification of its foreign policies. "human rights" too.

    (that I've read on Wiki)


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