Putin’s Tragic Miscalculation

Russian President Vladimir Putin, August 17, 2015The truth is that the young democracies of Central and Eastern Europe sought to join the EU and NATO – and worked hard to gain membership – because they longed for peace, progress, and prosperity. It was those countries’ ambitions, not some vendetta against Russia, that drove EU and NATO enlargement.

Russia should not bemoan its neighbors’ decision to engage with the EU and NATO, which, after all, paved the way for economic progress and security improvements. The EU and NATO supported the construction of strong democratic institutions based on the rule of law and respect for minorities, the emergence of viable and dynamic economies, and the peaceful resolution of border disputes.

A secure and prosperous Central and Eastern Europe benefits everyone – especially Russia. Today, the EU is Russia’s largest foreign market, with a major share of its exports going to the member states that joined in 2004. And Russia’s border with the EU, far from posing a threat, is the most stable and secure of all its frontiers.

In fact, no NATO ally would attack Russia, as such a move would defy a key tenet of international law: respect for other countries’ sovereignty. In the case of border disputes, NATO members are committed to finding nonviolent solutions.

In short, thanks to the EU and NATO, the stability on its Western borders that Russia has sought for centuries has now been achieved. Russia should be celebrating – and it should be seizing the opportunity to deepen its ties with the West….

Russia is far from our strategic partner; it is our strategic problem. In fact, the current Russian military doctrine names NATO as one of the main external threats to Russian security….

When it comes to Russia today, appeasement will not lead to peace; on the contrary, a conciliatory approach will only prolong the conflict. The sooner the West convinces Russia’s leaders that it will not back down, the sooner the conflict will be over. Only then will Russia return to the path of constructive cooperation with the EU, NATO, and the US – and a more prosperous future.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Prime Minister of Denmark and Secretary General of NATO, is Founder and Chairman of Rasmussen Global.

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Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin, August 17, 2015 (photo: Office of the President of Russia)