In the absence of an East-West conflict, NATO could redefine itself if it were to make Russia a member before expanding into its zone of influence and encircling it as a means of exerting paramount influence in the Trans-Caucasus and Middle East oil-gas regions. Throughout the 1990s, the US as well as Europe tried to integrate economically as much of the former Soviet republics as they could, in effect encircling Russia which itself began forging piecemeal integration pacts to protect from such encirclement.
If the US wants the otherwise insignificant Republic of Macedonia as a NATO and EU member over the objection of the nationalistic Greek government that takes offense to the small country’s name, then why not include Russia that would engender immense regional and global stability? Furthermore, Russia’s membership could account for a drop in defense spending and a rise in civilian GDP for all NATO and EU members. Even more significant, the otherwise diseased state-directed, state-supported capitalist system will be invigorated with the injection of new blood into its 500-year-old vampire veins currently fueled by globalization-privatization programs that have dubious if not counter-productive value to global growth and development.
It would make just as much sense to consider Israel as a NATO and EU candidate. After 60 years of war as a way of life backed by destructive for the region US policies perhaps there can finally be harmony in the Middle East with Israel as NATO and EU member. For those who may be jumping off their seat with the suggestion, why does it make any more sense to have Turkey as EU member than it would Israel? NATO-EU integration for both Russia and Israel is the road to constructive engagement, assuming the political will is there on all sides.
Presumably, both countries will become more open and progressive with better prospects for harmony and development under the NATO-EU umbrellas. If the US and its European partners continue the Eastward expansion course, Moscow is right to be concerned about neo-Cold strategies designed to asphyxiate Russia for geopolitical and economic reasons. Naturally, what I am suggesting assumes the political will in Moscow and Tel Aviv to move toward NATO and EU membership, as well as private sector pressure.
Entrenched interests will resist, and those include nationalists of various sorts, and militarists and right-wing ideologues in Russia, Israel, EU and especially in the US where the political establishment, media, and think tanks are nostalgic for the glory Cold War climate of the 1950s. Economic integration of Russia would be very costly for the EU and likely to meet major resistance. Therefore it would have to take a long time, while NATO integration could proceed more smoothly. The question for both Russia and Israel is whether in the 21st century it best serves their interests to be part of Europe and NATO, or to continue on the same course and see how far the US tightens the thinning rope?
Prudent US analysts know that such realignment is slowly taking place and that is the reason in the past two decades it has been so adamantly against the Russian pipeline going through several East and Southeast European countries that could easily become more accommodating to Moscow. This is also why the US and to some degree EU members want Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO as counterweights to Russia and the reason that the Bush administration so adamantly supported Georgia during the regional conflict in summer 2008. But can the US stop Russia when Europe needs cheap energy, when the US economy is the source of global dislocation, and when US foreign policy is as obsolete as the Cold War?