Fear of The Union
In 1945 as the World War 2 drew curtains, it left countries with massive destruction. More than 35 million dead in Europe alone and those who survived the carnage, were forced to live life of a refugee. The culmination of World War 2 has already given birth to a long drawn Cold War. The Soviets and Americans both fighting common threat of likely expansion by the other. While majority of European powers faced decimation by the end of war, Soviets luckily survived with strong military and huge territory. The Europe was under tremendous stress to build back but they also continued to immensely fear Soviet intentions. The actions of Soviet Union were only further aggravating their insecurity. Overthrowing of elected government in Czechoslovakia by communist coup in February 1948 and the blockade of East Berlin a few months later were direct actions undertaken by Soviet Union. These actions created anxiety among Western Europe and search for a military alliance. Americans sensing the panic quickly stepped in with bounty of assurances and hordes of dollars. They began formulating an alliance that would turn out to be largest military alliance created in peacetime. North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO was thus formed in April 1949 having 12 founding members across the Atlantic which included Western European powers, USA and Canada. The most important of the binding force for NATO was the Article 5 which unambiguously laid down – “an attack on one is an attack on all”. Soviet Union saw this coming, after first two NATO expansions in 1952 & 1955 Soviet Union came up with it’s own security alliance as counter to NATO via Warsaw Pact. The communist country’s isolationist approach was most fearsome; as if world constituted of them and more nations like them only.
During the Golden Age of Capitalism between 1951 – 1973 massive economic expansion was witnessed in Europe. Addition of Spain as new member in NATO in 1982 further gave them a psychological strength. Soviets weren’t happy about this but nevertheless were forced to square up. Strangely it wasn’t US, their bête noire of Cold War, but the NATO which put severe resource challenge to communist giant. Soviet Union was under pressure to convince it’s Eastern European allies that they will be having matching security and resources as their Western European counterparts. This time Soviet intelligence committed a historical error, their focus got shifted too much outwardly while the threats were emerging closer home. Soviet started spending heavily on it’s military to counter NATO, which was three times what US was doing while it’s economy was only one third of US. It was a leap of No return, the Soviets put immense stress on it’s own resources to match it’s military ambitions which was clearly unsustainable. It was a subjugating scenario created deliberately, wherein Soviets got stuck once and till the Union lasted. The agenda was clever, making the adversary weaken under own weight. What the centuries of conflicts and World Wars couldn’t do this shrewd trick succeeded.
Emergence Of The Federation
Russia probably crossed it’s worst phase of history when it witnessed Union getting divided into 15 independent nations. The new Federation weathered bruises of 23% reduced land mass, 82% reduced economic size and an unquantified emotional pain. Russia among other things faced serious leadership crisis during this transition when it’s adversaries didn’t lose an opportunity to heap more embarrassments. Post leaders like Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin came Vladimir Putin. He was a complete non-conformist of a political leader, an unknown persona even for Russians. No one knew this ex frontline KGB operative, partially because of his profession and partially as an attribute to his mysterious personality. In reality this was one of the key traits of Putin which qualified him for the top job in the first place. Owing to worsening health and a fear of reprisal post leaving the office, Boris Yeltsin wanted next President to be an outsider whom he can trust. An unassuming Vladimir Putin with a complete low profile fitted the bill, he was popped up by the influential Russian Oligarch to replace an increasingly unpopular Boris Yeltsin on new year eve in 1999. A new era had begun; all it was known that Vladimir Putin is a nationalist, simplest but strong headed who doesn’t shy away from unorthodox methods a lesson probably from his erstwhile profession. He went about rebuilding the Federation with a mission like focus, although his critics suggests that he strengthened his own position more than that of Russia. He did bring out increased prosperity, economic development and more importantly a strong economic integration with EU.
A Celebrated Alliance?
With improved economy, President Putin consolidated his position further. Putin’s asset was his deep knowledge of European behaviour, when he operated extensively during his KGB days. He knew the limitations of NATO, for all it’s fame NATO nevertheless remain more of a celebrated alliance than a military power. Somewhere, he was convinced that real player and threat to Russia isn’t from Europe but from across the Atlantic. NATO did as much to give this theory credence, not a single of NATO’s military operation is self driven be it Bosnian war in February 1992, which was the first NATO military operation in more than four decades of it’s existence, or intervention in Libya in March 2011 both were more of enforcement of UN resolutions. Post 9/11, Afghan war being the only such occasion when NATO invoked it’s famed Article 5 for collective security. How ironical it was on history, that an organisation which was primarily created to ensure collective security of Europe was actually only time acted on charter to collectively safeguard American security! Willy-nilly NATO had landed it’s feet where US has wished and not the vice versa. If the sudden and embarrassing withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021 is anything to go by, it failed NATO’s mission of leading the ISAF to laid down objectives. Nothing can bring more truism than the reality that– ‘US has built, sustained and exploited NATO for it’s own advantage’ and all this at expense of Europe! If all the might and over the years sustained operations of NATO in Afghanistan couldn’t bring it mission objectives, discussions on NATO vs Russian Federation should be given a break. NATO’s achievements, if counted, remained a reactive response to Soviet actions. From its emergence till date Soviet Union and later Russian Federation has spooked the NATO not once but multiple times. Be it Korean war initiated by the North Korea with Soviet backing in June 1950 or the Suez crisis when under threat from Soviet Union; UK and France, both key NATO members, retreated from Egypt with humiliation. The Soviet launch of Sputnik had stunned the NATO into greater scientific cooperation, in 1962 the CIA sponsored failed Bay of Pigs invasion immensely damaged US creditability followed by Soviets missile deployment in Cuba. This forced NATO to recalibrate it’s crisis response from “Massive Retaliation” to “Flexible Response”. The new millennium didn’t turn out any better with shock annexation of Crimea and now the bold military actions in Ukraine, Russian Federation has NATO scourging for cover and muddled for response.
Misplaced Sense of Security
NATO in all these years has redefined itself on multiple occasions and as they say – more it changes, more it remains the same. It could never feel convinced about it’s own capacity, the right size, the right priorities or even the right liabilities. It’s eight expansions till date and ninth one in the offing, bears a testimony to that; while it’s stated adversary Soviet Union reduced in all dimensions and capacity. Primarily, because more than a military strategy the decision of expansions has been political one, much of it spurred by the US and sleepwalked by NATO. Any sane military mind would argue to maintain a buffer territory with your prime adversary; not with NATO though, on the contrary NATO continues to head bang right into it’s adversary’s backyard. Result – reduced thresholds, reduced reaction time, quick provocation and immediate aggravation. An alliance fabricated to give peace of mind to it’s original European members has morphed into a critical security dilemma of those member states itself. Only NATO member to gain all is the one sitting across the Atlantic with No direct borders even remotely coming close to Russia. World still remembers what happened when only time US’s and Soviet influence brushed the American borders during the Cuban missile crisis. The credentials of likely two new NATO members Finland and Sweden would suggest that NATO’s active military strength and defence budget of it’s European allies will increase by merely 1.3% and 3.1%, the corresponding liability to defend territory would have increased by 18% and the territory which directly borders Russian Federation by 260% from 508 Km to 1,848 Km. NATO is betting it’s audacity on a weakened Russia but it should know the history well; while Russia has grudgingly lost territory it has consolidated it’s liabilities whereas, NATO continues cumulating new vulnerabilities. NATO is committing the same mistakes where it had proved one up on Soviet Union, it is growing into unsustainable size and commitments. There appears a déjà vu; history repeating itself only the protagonist would have interchanged with catastrophic implications for NATO’s minion member states!