Friday, 14 March 2014

GLOBAL REALIGNMENT: WHAT IF RUSSIA AND ISRAEL JOINED NATO and the EU?



In February 2008, I wrote a brief article for the World Association of International Scholars. In that article, which I am re-issuing below, I proposed six years ago that world stability would be greatly enhanced and at the same time the peace would help global trade and economic growth if Russia and Israel joined NATO and the EU. On the eve of the referendum in the Crimea on Sunday, 16 March 2014, it seems that the issue of global realignment by having Russia and Israel join NATO and the EU may be something to debate seriously.

Russia: 
Once again Moscow has warned about NATO's eastward expansion plans that include Ukraine and Georgia, and perhaps eventually other former Soviet republics in dire need of cash and desire to use NATO as a counterweight to Russia. In the absence of the East-West conflict, NATO ought to consider making 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 and using NATO as leverage for all other matters. Throughout the 1990s, the US as well as Europe rushed to integrate economically the former Soviet republics--the new Third World to be exploited--in effect encircling Russia. 

Under 'Man of the Year' Putin, Moscow forged piecemeal integration pacts to protect itself from 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 archaic 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 western-centered capitalist system can 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 growth and development. If NATO continues the Eastward expansion course, then Moscow has every right to be concerned about neo-Cold strategies designed to asphyxiate Russia for geopolitical and economic reasons.

Israel: 
It would make even more sense to consider Israel as a NATO and EU candidate. After 60 years of war as a way of life for Israel and the entire Middle East, there can finally be regional harmony if Israel were NATO and EU member. For those who may be jumping off their seat by my suggestion, it makes as much sense to have Israel join the EU as it does Turkey, and even Sarkozy may go along if the two were a package deal. 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 pluralistic, tolerant of minorities and progressive with better prospects for sociopolitical harmony and economic development under NATO-EU umbrellas. 

By the same token, anti-Semitism will lessen in the EU, as will tense relations with the Muslim countries with which Europe maintains better relations than the US which has not served Israel's best interests as judged by results. Tel Aviv's fears of Arab encirclement and its unrestrained aggressive response can be
attenuated with EU and NATO membership. Naturally, what I am suggesting assumes the political will in Tel Aviv and Moscow to move toward NATO and EU membership, as well as private sector pressure.

Entrenched interests will resist, especially nationalists of various sorts, militarists and right-wing ideologues in Russia, Israel, EU and US where the political establishment, media, and think tanks are nostalgic for the Cold War. 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?

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The article above written six years ago has more significance today than it did in 2008.
The global economic power balance is changing very rapidly, and that means gradually US policy will have to change to reflect the realities of its own power and the role of other powers in the Middle East. Realizing that there are certain entrenched interests that want no change in the status quo in Israel, the question is can you count on the status quo remaining in the early Cold War mode? The conflict with the Palestinians must come to some kind of resolution if Israel is to transform itself into a more secure and prosperous society for all people and not one where only some enjoy the benefits of the current war economy.

There are very powerful European interests currently refusing to invest in Israel, directly or indirectly, to say nothing of interests linked to Islamic sources. For example, one of the world's largest fund at more than one trillion euro is Norwegian. Along with other EU funds, it refuses to invest in Israel. If I were advising the government, I would ask what is the trade off here and how can we move ahead to promote the welfare not of a handful of Israeli interests, but of the broader middle class and workers? In short, Israel's integration into the EU and NATO does have trade offs, but this means more Israeli citizens benefit in exchange for leaving the early Cold War ideology in the past. It is time for Israel to move on and embrace the future, which is not the US but Europe.

If the goal of Western capitalism is continued expansion, including geographic integration of as much of the world as possible, and if the goal is to reduce tariff barriers and maximize profits while creating more opportunities for growth and development, then the proposal to have Russia and Israel join the EU makes sense. After all, if Turkey is an associate member, why not Israel and Russia? At the same time, if the concern of the West is antagonism from Russia because it is a nuclear power, then what a better way to coopt the country with second largest military arsenal on earth? And if the endless Israel-Palestinian conflict seems like an endless possibility, is there a better way to coopt Israel other than bringing it into NATO and EU? While such a proposal as described above may actually divert precious resources from the defense sector to the civilian economy and benefit all concerned, that may be one reason, among many others that are largely political, for the difficulty of pursuing it.
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