By the end of 1980s, the economic and political crisis in the Soviet empire led to political and economic instability in the union. The economic meltdown along with the failure in Afghanistan and other factors led to the disintegration of Soviet Union and the creation of sovereign states in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Pragmatically, the end of the cold war meant that it was the end of Eastern alliance (that was created as a result of the Warsaw pact in the 1950s in response to NATO). It was also said after the soviet disintegration that alliance formulated during cold war would not expand further, paradoxically; Warsaw Pact collapsed but NATO continued to expand. and the so-called promises ‘will not expand even in an inch in Eastern Europe’ seemed futile over time.
NATO was actually formulated in 1949 to curtail the expansion and to counter the soviet threat. First the Western Europe states joined the alliance but after the end of cold war several other states such as Germany (unified Germany) joined the club in 1995, following that Poland in 1999 and so on. In a nutshell, what it means is that only NATO was left in the town and others had all packed up.
One of the fateful blunders the US had made after the end of cold war, its expansion toward Eastern and central Europe. George Kennan was the US ambassador to Moscow at the time when World War II ended, his long telegram which ignited the cold war and laid the foundation for the strategies for the US during the cold war, has subsequently said that “the NATO expansion after the end of cold war was one of the significant errors of the US”. This is because the end of the cold war was the period when US-Russia could sit together but the NATO expansion didn’t allow that and it would remain an enemy of the US.
Prudently, the bloc itself fell into its trap; this is because the notion of NATO was of collective defence. But collective defence against what? the Russian threat no more existed in the continent then why it needed. Russia was so weak both economically and militarily after the fall of the Soviet Union, that it was assumed that it may be neutralized using non-military means.
NATO showed its superiority during the 1990s and 2000s, because it was the winner against the erstwhile USSR. The negotiations that were held between the Russian and western alliance had very limited success, anything that had connection with security was rarely discussed. The westerners never bothered to include Russia as part of pan-European structure. For the last 30 years, the Russian efforts in designing the pan-European security structure were totally ignored. It was Moscow who was pushed for making the OSCE (organization for security and cooperation in Europe). In addition to it, the proposal given by Yeltsin and Putin regarding the partnership with NATO was never considered by the US. Moreover, Putin in 2010 suggested an EU-Russia Union. But unfortunately these ideas remained neglected by the West.
Most of the analysts believe that what is happening in the Ukraine is the reflection of what the US has done with Russia in the past, making attempts to expand itself towards the border with Russia. Henry Kissinger in 2014 warned Ukraine not to join NATO because it would then become the theater of East-West confrontation. Subsequently, the world today is witnessing what is happening in Ukraine. Western states portray the Russian invasion as the Russian insurgency and label them as the victimized at the contemporary time. Moreover, they also fear
that Russia is reviving the glory of the Soviet empire. It might be true, but on the other hand it was Ukraine and the US who crossed the Russian red lines. This is because Ukraine’s willingness to join NATO is not acceptable for Russia; as it was part of the soviet empire before disintegration. Secondly, NATO at the Russian border means the US forces at the Russian border, which is totally unacceptable for Russians in any case.
The willingness shown by Finland and Sweden to join NATO is now another challenge that they might have to face in the future. These two states remained neutral since the end of World War II. They even remained neutral during the cold war and never joined NATO. The notion of neutrality in these two states is linked with their old tradition which they were following for decades. But this time the willingness to join is such a development in the world which will again manipulate the security structure of Europe. This is because again the rise of Russia as a resurgent state is now the new threat they are facing at contemporary time.
It can be concluded that without the inclusion of Russia in pan-European structure, the resurgent Russia has the potential be a great threat for them. Joining NATO and expanding it to the Russian border will further escalate the problem. The increase in the size of the club is actually the imminent threat for Russia. Prudently, Russia will not sit back but will fight back to secure its borders and vital interests from NATO and US forces. The conflict is already affecting the economic situation not only among the western states but wheat shortages would further escalate the famine in the African and Asian region. Not only that but also fuel prices in the international market are at an all-time highest since the 2008 crisis. So, it will affect the states which are fully dependent on oil imports, especially a setback for the developing states. Therefore, it is necessary to avoid further escalation. The security structure of Europe needs to be revived and most importantly, NATO’s further expansionism needs to be stopped to avoid such conflicts in the future.