Sunday, June 22, 2008

Why Ukraine Needs to be in NATO

In spite of the fact that the Russian Federation is growing economically and is becoming more intertwined by trade with the rest of the world, I believe it still poses a major danger to Ukraine's territorial and cultural integrity. Ukraine absolutely needs to become a member state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And this is quite apart from the fact that NATO is an elite organization, being a member of which will add political weight to Ukraine, and the fact that joining NATO has been a precursor to joining the EU for all of the Eastern European states that have taken this path.

Yes, trade and democracy tends to lessen conflict, at least between real democracies. But Russia is not a real democracy and neither does it pretend to be. "Managed democracy" is a form of authoritarianism, which is precisely what Russia is. Entangling the Russian empire into the European and global trading systems is going to make it more difficult for Russia to wreak havoc. But Muscovites are not a reasonable kind of people. They easily destroy their own economic benefit for the sake of pride and power. How else do you explain the recent events of the complete blocking of trade with Georgia, for example, and now bringing the situation to the brink of war by pulling Russia's troops into Georgia and shooting down a Georgian recoinnassance plane?

Wealth breeds pride and hubris, and power breeds corruption and desire for asserting that power. Russia's newfound oil wealth is getting to the Moscow leaders' heads and they are becoming much more assertive and reckless. The fact of the matter is that, unlike the Western European states (or Greece, or Rome, or the Mongols, or any other empire known to history), Muscovy has never lost its empire. And as long it has this empire, it continues to justify having it, and not just having it, but expanding it. Because in their view, if you are not expanding, then you are contracting. Which is probably true in Russia's case. And as long as Russia remains an empire, it will never be a safe and reasonable country to deal with, and especially so for its neighboring nations that used to be part of that empire and are now seen by Muscovites as a target for reabsorption, at least in part if not in whole. Russian officials are already threatening to break up Ukraine and refusing to leave Ukraine with their Black Sea Fleet on time, even though the Ukrainian Constitution prohibits foreign military bases on Ukrainian soil. Russia will cease to be an empire only when it looses its entire Asian possessions, as well as the Southern Muslim Republics and possibly the Tatar areas as well. Although they are so intermixed with the Tatars, they may choose to stay together, but if recent history is any guide, if Bashkiria and Tatarstan autonomous Republics within the Russian Federation were given a choice, they would choose to be independent.

On top of it, Russia will be a majority Muslim nation within a generation. Since it's not really a democracy, that's less of a concern, since democratic Muslim nations tend to elect more religiously and politically extreme governments. Also, since Russia's Muslims are fairly secularized, it could become more like Turkey - a secular Muslim empire. Easier to deal with, but not exactly European material.

So, NATO is going to remain an important option for Ukraine to take advantage of to secure its own future.

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