Leonardo Goi (Italy, AC 07-09)
Whilst the 58th division of the Russian Army started the withdrawal procedures from Georgia on the 21 of August, Moscow announced the end of military cooperation with NATO. Carmen Romero, an alliance spokeswoman, said NATO had “taken note” of Russia’s decision “to halt international military cooperation events between Russia and NATO countries until further instruction”. Russia’s cut off appeared to be a prompt response to NATO’s provocative notification of last week, warning that there would be “no business as usual” as long as Russian troops remained in the occupied soil.
After six years of Council cooperation, considerably undermined by the Space Shield crisis and by minor – but constant – post Cold War frictions with the US, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has officially put an end to Russia’s “NATO Era”. The rebirth of a new International Crisis was easily predictable, as the premonitions which saw in the Georgian crisis an heirloom of Cold War history were confirmed by George Bush’s speech on the 20th of August. “South Ossetia and Abkhazia are part of Georgia, whose territorial integrity ought to be guaranteed”; “The world must defend Georgia’s freedom”.
It did not take long for the Kremlin to reply: Russia will react, diplomatically or not, if the US will effectively set up a new military base in Poland as part of the Space Shield Program. The Kremlin’s warning sounded sinisterly accurate: the setting up of the Space Shield will stir up a new catastrophic arms race, which will end up involving the Cold War Powers as well as the whole of Europe.
Russia’s decision stems from the unsolved bitterness with the West, and, seen under this perspective, appears reasonably logic: the threat of a new NATO base in Poland is a risk the Kremlin is not willing to run. The spokesman of the US State Department, Robert Wood, has arisen the frictions Moscow-Washington by depicting as deplorable the cease of Russian cooperation with NATO.
It would be too easy, however, to avoid taking into account the parallelism between modern Russia and the embryonic state born out of the end of Cold War era. The reasons of the failure of mutualism between NATO and Russia involves the study of its past, along with its present. The issues related to the minorities living on Russian soil have never been thoroughly solved, and the embroidery of reforms struggling to prevent future unrests has only arisen the unsolved problems of modern Russia.
The Nato pact might have prevented Russia from dealing with its internal contrasts without Western intervention. Whether Georgia was used by the US as a proof of Russian authoritarianism over minorities or not, Medvedev’s intervention stirred up an international crisis appallingly escalated by Russia’s alliance with NATO. Rather than being depreciable, the Georgian crisis – seen under Russia’s perspective – was the perfect pretext to put an end to the alliance. The long term consequences of Russia-NATO relations would have ultimately undermined Russia’s “splendid isolation”, and its power to deal with local frictions without causing a domino effect affecting the whole West.
Yet if the NATO era has ceased to be, the Kremlin appeared keen on finding a suitable solution for Russia, Georgia and the International Community: after the Paris Treaty of the 12th of August, Russia has been discussing with the UN the next steps to be overcome the crisis. Whilst Washington aims for an explicit recognition of Georgian territories and their integrity, Moscow calls for an international discussion aimed to guarantee long term security for South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia’s solution, however, seems unlikely to be achieved, since the UN appeared keen on reaching a solution as soon as possible, for it is reasonable to believe that an open discussion would stir other frictions, casting a shadow on the importance of the meetings aims.
In response to Robert Wood’s statement, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has openly said that “NATO needed Moscow more than Moscow needed NATO”. If the US spokesman’s words were merely an effort to cast doubts on the democratic control of Russian minorities (arising the frictions between Russia and the West), Lavrov’s words stood out as a cynical, but accurate, examination of Russia’s present situation. If Soviet Russia was not able to put into practice its concept of isolation from the West, given its internal contrasts and economic instability, Medvedev’s Russia is finally capable of doing so. The former “siege mentality” of the USSR (that is, the fear of being under constant attack by the West), has no reason to exist: Russia’s economic development has strengthened its political situation to the point that arrogance has become a feature of Foreign Ministry. Russia’s behavior might be a feature arisen by the latest political events; however, it is a true indicator of the new political hierarchy: Russia does not fear the West more than the West fears Russia.
Those who saw in the 2002 NATO Treaty the end of Cold War, or at least the end of US-Russia frictions, have to reconsider their views. Lavrov’s words might have marked the beginning of a new epoch: the end of the siege mentality, and the rise of new catastrophic nationalisms.
– United World College Student Magazine –