Center for Strategic Decision Research


Russia and the New Security Landscape

Ambassador Dr. Franz Cede
Austrian Ambassador to NATO

Since we met in Berlin, ten countries have joined the EU. Earlier in 2004, NATO admitted seven Central and Eastern European nations as new member-states of the Atlantic Alliance. The political, economic, and strategic significance of these developments can hardly be overestimated. They conclude a process that was triggered by the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the end of the Soviet Union, and confirm the Western reorientation of these countries that for more than 50 years were the satellite states of the Soviet Union or, as in the case of the Baltic States, were treated as an integral part of the Soviet Union. The integration of these countries into European and transatlantic security structures is a sea change of the greatest order. 

Under the leadership of President Putin, Russia has adjusted to the new realities in Europe with remarkable professionalism and a keen sense of pragmatism, given the fact that the Eastern European countries’ membership in the EU and NATO meant in substance that Moscow had to say goodbye forever to the idea of forging a special relationship with its “near abroad” in Central and Eastern Europe. Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova and most of the former Warsaw Pact and COMECON countries are now integrated into Western institutions on the basis of binding norms of international law. 


Why was it so difficult for Russia to accept the new security landscape in Europe? I should like to identify three main reasons: the psychological factor, the loss of superpower status, and the vested interests of the military-industrial complex. 

The Psychological Factor

For the political and military establishment, which is still dominated by those who spent most of their professional lives in the former Soviet Union, NATO is still mainly seen as a military bloc led by the U.S. and directed against the security interests of Russia. The paradigm change in international relations has not yet sunk into the minds of these people, and NATO’s military operation against the Milosevic regime has done a lot to confirm their negative attitude. 

“Lost Empire” Status

Another reason behind the dissatisfaction of Russia’s ruling class toward NATO’s eastward expansion can be found in the fact that, unlike the former Soviet Union, today’s Russia can no longer shape the destiny of those countries that belonged for more than two generations to its sphere of influence in Europe. This realization, that the political order that was established in the wake of World War II is definitely gone, has not been easy for the Russian leadership to digest. The dissolution of the Soviet Union meant the end of world-power status for Moscow. Although the permanent seat in the Security Council and the maintenance of a nuclear arsenal continue to ensure Russia’s status as a great power, Russia had to accept that she could no longer play in the same league as the U.S., which remains the only global superpower. 

The Vested Interests of the Military-Industrial Complex

The oversized Russian armed forces and their contingent armament sector are faced with an identity crisis. The changes in the international security landscape that resulted from the political transformations in Europe have not yet led to a fundamental reform of the Russian military. The strategic concept of the Russian Federation in fact still applies to a war in which the deployment of huge armies and massive military hardware would be needed. For those holding positions of power in the Russian armed forces, it goes without saying that a reform of the army in response to the new challenges would diminish their influence and perhaps even lead to the loss of their jobs. No wonder they are having a hard time acknowledging the new security threats and NATO’s rapid adjustments to them. 


Against this background it seems that President Putin’s policy regarding the eastward enlargement of NATO and the EU is a wise one. As he overcame difficulties at home and found viable solutions to the problems that resulted from the enlargement process, he was still able to safeguard, against all odds a cooperative relationship both with the U.S. and Europe. Despite the divisive Iraq conflict and the negative fallout from Allied Force, the NATO-led operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999, we continue to see the restoration of normal and businesslike relations between Russia and its Euro-Atlantic partners. President Putin has not made NATO’s extension to the east a bone of contention, and has accepted the recent EU enlargement in a way that takes into account Russia’s interest in maintaining healthy relations with the U.S. and its European partners. The strengthening of the Russia-NATO framework as well as the way in which Russia-EU relations are being conducted give further evidence of the importance both sides attach to mutual cooperation. 


In the book “NATO-Russia, Between Cooperation and Confrontation,” an Austrian analyst described the delicate development of the NATO-EU relationship. It is my assessment that we are going in the direction of cooperation. This was illustrated to me when President Putin sent his new foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to participate in businesslike and constructive talks at NATO on April 2, 2004—the very day when an emotional flag-raising ceremony took place at NATO headquarters to salute the seven new Eastern European member-states. This augurs well for the future. 













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