Enlargement of NATO and  EU is not in European interest

Enlargement of NATO and EU is not in European interest

25 janvier 2022 0 Par Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann

The escalation of the crisis between Russia and NATO and the EU over Ukraine has put the expansion of NATO back in the spotlight. The question of EU enlargement is necessarily linked to this issue, as NATO has always preceded EU enlargement since the end of the Cold War. But since the EU considers itself complementary to NATO, the EU is not credible towards the Russians, because it is too much aligned with the geopolitical priorities of the United States and NATO. The United States and NATO refuse to negotiate a new treaty on security, as the Russians demand to stop the enlargement of NATO. However, since the EU has no clear different official position from the US and NATO, it is not credible to be at the negotiating table. Moreover, Mmeber states are deeply divided inthis issue. However, if we analyze the situation rationally, the continuation of the enlargement of both NATO and the EU is not in the interest of the European project.

Fixing our respective borders

In 2005, former Czech president Vaclav Havel said: « Historically, Russia has spread out and contracted. Most conflicts came about from quarrels over borders and territorial conquest and losses. The day when we calmly agree where the European Union ends and the Russian Federation begins, half of the tensions between the two will disappear  » [iv]

In the recent and more ancient history of Europe, borders have always moved and the annexation/reunification of Crimea by/with Russia is only a small brick in a wide process at work since 1990 (Map on border change after 1989). This question should not become an obstacle for EU-Russia relations, since this change of border can also be interpreted as a case of the UN « right of people to determine themselves », although Western states insist on the « territorial integrity of Ukraine ».

To avoid future confrontation, clear borders and respective red lines concerning EU enlargement should be negotiated between Russia and the EU.

Membership of the Atlantic Alliance has so far filled the role of « anteroom » to the EU. The freezing of the Atlantic Alliance’s enlargement would also enable EU’s own project there to be halted. A renunciation of enlargement of the EU and the Atlantic Alliance into Russia’s ‘near abroad’ is the way to increase regional stability and improve relations with Russia. It is in the Union’s interest to reduce Russia’s perception of encirclement. [v] A buffer zone including Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova gradually transitioning  into a region of cooperation between Russia and the EU is a more realistic option. It would ease suspicion and dissolve Russia’s priority to break its encirclement by the Atlantic Alliance, to prevent further EU enlargement, which in turn would contribute to the clarification of borders of the Russian federation.

Fixing EU borders is also a condition to strengthen EU identity in the eyes of external entities. It would enable a clearer identification of its foreign policy interests, preserve its cohesion and attract more support of European citizens in the context of « enlargement fatigue ». European citizens cannot identify themselves with the EU as long as EU borders are unclear. With stable frontiers, the EU would put an end to its dilution after successive enlargements. Leaving aside the Balkans, the negotiation of political alternatives to the prospect of enlargement is the best solution. 

EU’s pursuit of enlargement today, is causing it to import the geopolitical fault-lines resulting from the historical frontiers which mark the Eurasian continent. This weakens EU’s coherence and identity and increases the risk of dilution.

Enlargement objectives are the result of a ‘domino effect’: it is a mean for peripheral member states to achieve a more central position (Germany, for example, a former « front state » wanted to be surrounded by allies after the Cold War). For example, with the potential admission of Turkey, the EU would become a ‘Little-Eurasia’ and the question of admitting all southern Caucasian states would arise (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, are already members of the Council of Europe). With a potential enlargement to Ukraine (Poland and Baltic states push in this direction), the EU would find itself directly facing the identity question between Russia and Ukraine. From the geopolitical angle, and the interests of the European project, enlargment of NATO and EU should be therefore stopped and this should be specified in a new security treaty wit Russia.