Beware of NATO Recognizing Russia’s Sphere of Interests

In the current issue of Foreign Affairs, former-President Carter National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski has a piece titled “An Agenda for NATO: Toward a Global Security Web” that calls for a treaty between NATO and the Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) as well as a Joint NATO-Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) council.

CSTO is a military bloc and includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The SCO consists of China, Russia and several Central Asian states, including Iran as a candidate member.

Brzezinski’s proposal echoes then-Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov who told the December 2006 meeting of the Commonwealth of Independent States:

The next logical step on the path of reinforcing international security may be to develop a cooperation mechanism between NATO and the CSTO, followed by a clear division of spheres of responsibility. This approach offers the prospect of enabling us to possess a sufficiently reliable and effective leverage for taking joint action in crisis situations in various regions of the world.

While Brzezinski did not call for such a “division of spheres of responsibility,” (de-facto recognition of Russia’s declared “privileged sphere of interests), such a pact would certainly amount to it. It would recognize and legitimize Russia’s hegemony in its “near abroad”. The Kremlin often speaks of greater cooperation, the creation of a sphere of influence (economically, politically, and militarily) in the former Soviet space remains an overriding priority for Moscow. President Dmitry Medvedev called for as much in his on August 31, 2008 televised speech.

Incidentally, this territory is almost identical to that of the Russian Empire.

Russia is pursuing this path through multilateral integration with the former Soviet states through Moscow-dominated international bodies, such as the CSTO, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC). The acceptance of the CSTO as the primary security provider and interlocutor for NATO is recognition of Russia’s imperialist aspirations that Brzezinski spent most of his life decrying.

Does Brzezinski believe that the world is becoming “multi-polar”, with Russia and China playing major roles? This is what Russia’s pre-eminent geo-strategist, former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov has envisioned since 1990s, and what the US managed to successfully defy under Clinton and Bush.

Recognition of the Russian “sphere of interests” through a NATO-CSTO pact may bode ill to US allies in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. It would negate the very notions of sovereignty and of nation-states rights to choose and pursue politico-military alliances.

The Obama Administration should reject such odious divisions of the world, which have its roots in the 19th century Weltanschauung of Prince Metternich and Count Otto von Bismark’s, and which led to the darker episodes of the early 20th century history.

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