NATO's mistake is that it still thinks it's dealing with the weakened Russia of the 1990s | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN

NATO's mistake is that it still thinks it's dealing with the weakened Russia of the 1990s

Recent shockwaves in Russian-Ukrainian relations, and the increasing involvement of the US, could prove to be among the most significant milestones in the history of Europe since the end of the Cold War, over three decades ago.

But the groundwork for a clash of heads was laid long before the present day. Since the reunification of Germany, the continent’s security architecture – the careful truce between East and West that held strong even at the most tense moments of the 20th century – has been systematically dismantled.

Was that process avoidable? It’s pointless even to ask. What matters is that, since then, the key principle has been that each and every country can decide for itself which military and political alliances it wishes to join. Of course, that choice wasn’t always a free one and, after 1991, NATO became the only club in town as the others had all packed up.

NATO’s new problem

This, however, meant that the bloc itself fell into a trap. It underwent a series of seemingly trouble-free expansions, finding little or no opposition, as part of a political and ideological crusade. The military aspect came second, both in terms of how much new member states were actually supposed to contribute and whether the bloc would actually step in to defend them at all. Mutual support was there in theory, but nobody was anticipating starting a war with Russia or defending Slovakia or Latvia – this was viewed as an impossible scenario.

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