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NATO’s New Not So Legitimate Friend

Posted By Kim Holmes On September 16, 2009 @ 3:15 pm In Security | Comments Disabled

NATO chief, Anders Rasmussen, said yesterday that NATO should have closer ties with Russia and that Moscow has “legitimate security concerns.” Which country does not have security concerns? But what does Rasmussen mean by “legitimate?” Does he mean when Russia announces, as it did yesterday, that it would seize any Georgian ship it finds in the territorial waters of Abkhazia, the Moscow-backed rebel region of Georgia?

Or maybe he means when Russia occupied South Ossetia, essentially annexing parts of Georgian territory illegally? No one except for such radicals as Venezuela, Nicaragua, Hamas, and the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnitria recognizes Russia’s right to do any of these things—not even the United Nations. And yet Moscow claims the actions are “legitimate.”

Maybe he means the right, as Moscow sees it, to hold European territory completely vulnerable to its nuclear missiles without any interference from NATO missile defenses? After all, Russia has complained mightily about NATO’s “third site” in Poland and the Czech Republic, and many Europeans routinely argue that Russia has a legitimate concern about these defensive systems.

But what’s so legitimate about wanting a clear nuclear shot at a NATO ally—even though those missile defense sites have no capability whatsoever against Russian missiles? Or maybe it’s “threats” from those pesky Baltic States that Moscow appears to believe should be in its sphere of influence, and not NATO’s? Is Russia’s interest in controlling their destinies more important than their right to self-defense?

We could go on, but you get the picture: What passes for Russia’s legitimate security interests are often little more than an excuse to deprive other peoples of their rights and security. No one, including the Russians, really believe NATO is about to invade Russia. That’s why vague references to Russia’s legitimate interests from a NATO chief only serves to affirm the legitimacy of what Russia really cares about—controlling countries on its borders.

But the Secretary General of NATO should know better. Rasmussen also said yesterday that although the alliance needs to get into new areas like climate change and cyber security, its “core” mission was still territorial defense.

Against whom, we wonder? We doubt he has Ukraine or Moldova in mind.


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