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The “Cuban Missile Crisis” in Europe – RT Russia and the former Soviet Union

Through Glenn Diesen, professor at the University of South-East Norway and editor-in-chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs. Follow him on twitter @glenn_diesen.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded guarantees from NATO that the US-led military bloc will not expand further east. Washington, however, predictably ruled this out as a non-runner.

As Moscow views more NATO members at its borders as an existential threat and a deliberate provocation, much of the West is rallying to the principle that countries have a “Sovereign right” join the factions and groupings they like. For many analysts, this is the fundamental principle of European security.

But Russia insists that European security depends on limiting the expansion of military alliances and mitigating the oppositional format of the European security architecture. This dispute is at the heart of the standoff over Ukraine.

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These divergent views on the fundamental principle of European security are the result of a changing balance of power.

The bipolar era of the cold war

The fundamental principle of a benevolent security architecture is that states should not strengthen their security as this diminishes the security of others. This is based on one of the central concepts of international relations, the ‘security dilemma’, which recognizes that if State A strengthens its security at the expense of State B, then State B must react urgently. in a way that ends up undermining the security of the state. A. During the bipolar era of the Cold War, this was seen as an uncontroversial reality and the starting point for initiatives to ease tensions.

When Cuba exercised its sovereign right to enter into a military partnership with the Soviet Union, the United States did not defend the principle of the sovereign right to choose military partnerships. On the contrary, the United States has demonstrated its readiness to start nuclear war in 1962 to prevent Cuba from exercising its sovereign right to harbor Soviet missiles.

Any effort to establish a stable and peaceful European security order, from the Helsinki Accords in 1975 to the Charter of Paris for a New Europe in 1990, has focused on the concept of “the indivisibility of security ”, which is the principle of ensuring equal security to all nations. In a Europe made up of rival military blocs, strengthening security between East and West required a weakening of the zero-sum relationship between the two military blocs.

Reducing the zero-sum format of European security to alleviate the security dilemma was the winning strategy that ended the Cold War in 1989, but in 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed and the principle of the European security has fundamentally changed.

The sovereign right to join military blocs

The Warsaw Pact was dismantled and the Soviet Union dissolved, making NATO the only military bloc in Europe. By rejecting an inclusive European security architecture, Washington was able to monopolize security, as states could either have guarantees within the US-led military alliance or find themselves in limbo outside the tent. .

With NATO being the only game in town, old truths about security have been exposed. The fundamental principle of European security is now that states must have the sovereign right to choose to belong to military blocs. In other words, they have the right to be in the block no matter what others think.

Peace stems from compromise and coercion from rival military blocs, but NATO has rebranded itself as a liberal democratic institution and therefore a “force for good”. Peace no longer depends on compromise and constraint, but rather on the compromise of values, and accepting the limitation of expansionism is seen as equivalent to appeasement. Any Russian concerns about the zero-sum bloc policy are dismissed as “paranoia”, a “Zero-sum mentality”, and one “Cold War Mentality”. Russian opposition to NATO expansionism is seen simply as a rejection of democratic values ​​and an indication of Russia’s expansionist intentions.

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The “Cuban Missile Crisis” in Europe – RT Russia and the former Soviet Union

We are told that NATO is a liberal democratic institution that poses no threat to anyone, does not engage in zero-sum politics, and cannot have spheres of influence. The term “sphere of influence” was used to infer “exclusive influence” obtained by incorporating a state into a military bloc. NATO has now reversed the meaning of this word, as “sphere of influence” is now used to mean that Russia restricts the sovereign right of its neighbors to join the bloc.

George Orwell brilliantly summed up how propaganda turns language around to make dissent impossible: “War is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength”. In the era of NATO hegemony, invasion is humanitarian intervention, coup d’état is democratic revolution, subversion is the promotion of democracy, gunboat diplomacy is freedom of navigation , torture is improved interrogation techniques, the sphere of influence is a circle of well-governed states, the expansion of the bloc army is European integration, domination negotiates from a position of strength, purges the media and the political opposition in Ukraine defends democracy against the Russian Hybrid War, and Russia’s demands for guarantees against NATO expansionism are an attack on democracy and sovereignty.

The whole principle of the sovereign right to join military blocs rests on the fact that the bloc is the only option. The EU and NATO refuse to cooperate with the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization for fear that this will be seen as legitimate. Likewise, Hillary Clinton announced that Washington was determined to “Slow down or prevent” the development of the Eurasian Economic Union. The sovereign choice argument is not sincere if NATO is the only legitimate option.

The new balance of power

More powerful states will naturally adopt principles that remove constraints. Now that the era of unipolarity is over and the world is moving to multipolarity, will the West accept a return to the search for peace by forcing military blocs? It seems fair to assume that the term “sovereign right” to join military alliances would disappear from the American vocabulary if Russia returned its nuclear missiles to Cuba or if China developed a military alliance with Central American states.

Putin and US President Joe Biden will speak on Tuesday, at a time of high stakes. This may be the last chance to avoid a modern-day European Cuban missile crisis.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.


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