Nato Enlargement: The Implications For Canada

By Franklyn Griffiths | 1997-09-01 12:00:00

If the Cold War is over, why are we admitting new countries to the military alliance that was invented to defend the West from the Eastern bloc? Griffiths addresses this question from the Canadian perspective, and in the next article we'll see the Russian view.

NATO, they used to say, was an institution to keep the Americans in, the Germans down, and the Russians out. NATO is now becoming a means to keep the Americans in, the Germans down, and the Russians down but not out. But Russia will not be kept down for long. Nor will she be brought wholly into the Alliance.

In due course, Russia will regain strength. With Western help, Russia will also find her way partially into NATO, or to a new organization representing a European security and defence identity. She will come only part way in because neither organization is likely to guarantee Russia's borders with China. But all this is off in the future.

Today, Russia is very much being kept down. We can turn some of the volume down on NATO's new mission of democratization. The same goes for the niceties of associating Russia with the Alliance as it admits the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. The Western powers are trying to reduce the Russian threat in every way, not without reason.

We would defang them militarily through disarmament, arms control, and through activity designed to relieve them of their excess highly enriched uranium. We would shut them down in Eastern Europe by starting to gather their former allies and, indeed, former constituent republics of the Soviet Union, into NATO. We would make them over into a democracy on grounds that democracies don't go to war with one another. We would enhance in them a culture of materialism and greed in the name of a market economy that, together with democracy, enfeebles the state such as they have known it. We would make them more pliant by drawing them gradually into the web of international institutions which we dominate.

All of this is presented to them as an expression of Western good will and the best of intentions. Not surprisingly, they don't see it that way. They are not good sports. We elbow them in the eye with NATO enlargement. They choose to be resentful.

Resentment,of course, runs deep among those in Russia who are not given to Western culture, to Western political ideals, or to Western economic practice. To them, NATO's effort to keep Russia down strikes to the very heart of Russia's capacity for greatness. So also do the efforts of their compatriots who would go with Western ways and who are viewed as rootless cosmopolitans, if not traitors as well.

This ancient dispute within Russia will not go away. It is embedded in the Russian consciousness, which retains a pre-modern capacity to live with and act upon mutually exclusive ideas. Even as the desire for wealth and strength keeps them moving to a Western view of things, they will continue to express what to us is their otherness. This they will do in foreign affairs through action that is contrary, unilateral, and self-isolating, no matter how accommodating we in the West might try to be.

Squeezing the Balloon

NATO enlargement is perfectly designed to encourage the non-Western in the Russian identity. We are squeezing the Russian balloon on the west. It will expand elsewhere and on other issues even as the Kremlin continues to collaborate with the West. The elsewhere is likely to include the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Baltic states. The other issues will entail destabilizing arms sales, nuclear technology transfer without sufficient regard for non-proliferation, coordinated naysaying with the Chinese to the liberal democracies, and a propensity for spoiling behavior in the violent conflicts that lie ahead.

NATO enlargement is misguided, yet it is a done deal - that is, unless the U.S. Congress gags on the cost. It serves primarily to keep the United States in by providing the Alliance with a new mission that helps keep U.S. isolationism and unilateralism down in the absence of the Soviet threat. This gain is won at considerable cost. It underwrites Russian unilateralism and contrariness. It reduces the security of those countries not admitted in the 1997 draft. And it excuses the European Union from its responsibility to lead in the fashioning of a new European security architecture. The implication for Canada is that we are very largely in the business of damage limitation.

How then might we respond?

The OSCE alternative

First, we should do what we can to strengthen the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). An unwieldy but very useful talking shop for 52 European states plus the U.S. and Canada, the OSCE acts only when there is near-unanimity among its members. As such, it acts only in ways that everyone can live with. Long supported by Canada, the OSCE is strongly favored by the Russian Federation as the foundation for development of a pan-European security system. It should be strengthened both on its own merits, and as an offset to NATO enlargement which helps to widen the Russian Federation's participation in cooperative security activity.

Specifically, Canada ought to come on very strongly in favor of developing an OSCE peacekeeping capability for out-of-the-way conflicts that may be of only little interest to NATO. I am thinking here of Central Asia and the Caucasus. I am thinking of intense Western engagement of the Russian Federation in peacekeeping training, exercises, and codification of norms consistent with the December 1996 OSCE declaration on security. I am thinking of Canadian leadership in this, and also of a vigorous Canadian approach to Russia for bilateral military cooperation in peacekeeping. If the non-Western in the Russian identity is to be expressed in a ballooning of military-political activity in the southern reaches of the former Soviet Union, let us try to ensure that Russian conduct conforms increasingly to European and indeed to Canadian norms of civility and transparency.

We might also consider what could be accomplished for the OSCE process through focused Canadian interaction with one state in Central Asia or the Caucasus-say Georgia or Kyrgyzstan; we can do no more. Our aim here would be to bolster that country's security and well-being, to make it clear to Moscow that local Russian actions were under closer scrutiny, and at the same time to evoke Russian conduct consistent with OSCE values.

Second, there are modest opportunities for Canada to add to the security of Western former Soviet states who are not likely to join NATO any time soon. Currently we have the lead in multilateral coordination of NATO-member relations with Ukraine. As well, we might consider selective and focused support for one of the Baltic states. Assuming it were Estonia, we could pitch in with a concerted effort to help reduce Estonian vulnerability to Russian pressure by developing bilateral relations on trade, human resource development, human rights, environmental protection, and you-name-it. As well, we could seek to develop trilateral Canadian-Estonian Russian projects in these areas so as to provide reassurance to the Russian Federation itself.

No Plutonium Deals

Third, NATO enlargement has implications for a dark horse in Canada's relations with Russia and the United States. I am referring to the CANDU MOX initiative which has been entered into the international sweepstakes for the disposal of Russian and U.S. weapons plutonium rendered excess to defence needs by events attending the end of the cold war. The idea here has the explicit support of the Prime Minister. It is to embed the plutonium in nuclear waste which would be produced with the generation of electricity and then stored forever in Ontario. If a winner, and it's a long shot, the initiative would see Ontario Hydro enter into a 15-25 year agreement with the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom) for the supply of mixed uranium and plutonium oxide (MOX) fuel to be burned, along with U.S. MOX, in CANDU reactors at the Bruce nuclear generating station on Lake Huron.

Even if NATO enlargement is carried off without throwing a wrench into the works of Russian-U. S. strategic nuclear disarmament, it is likely to foster Russian roguishness on international arms issues, including nuclear technology transfer and non-proliferation. In the scheme of things Russian, Minatom itself is a danger to the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Saddled with roughly a million employees and their dependents, and unable to account for, much less fully control, the nuclear material in its hands, Minatom will be tempted to cut corners in its deals. The danger is already evident in the extension of nuclear assistance to Iran, a potential nuclear-weapons state, which has been unfolding without NATO enlargement.

Predictable Russian reactions to NATO enlargement make it unwise for the Canadian government to support the creation of an intimate long-term relationship between Ontario Hydro and Minatom. The closer Canadians and Ontarians are to Minatom, the closer they are to avoidable trouble. The Prime Minister's backing for the MOX initiative should be withdrawn now.

Franklyn Griffiths is George Ignatieff Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies at University College, University of Toronto.

Peace Magazine Sep-Oct 1997

Peace Magazine Sep-Oct 1997, page 6. Some rights reserved.

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