Russia and NATO: Gerald McGhie argues that Western attempts to expand NATO membership in the former Soviet Union are triggering traditional sensitivities in Moscow.

The history of Eastern Europe looks across many centuries. The Kievan Rus, in the area of present-day Ukraine, Belarus and part of Russia, was a loose federation of peoples from the 9th to the 13th century. The three modern nations mentioned claim Kievan Rus as their ancestry. Russia, in particular, claims deep cultural and ancestral roots in the broad area that is now called the Ukraine. Thus if the United States gets further involved in what, in the minds of Russians, is territory historically part of their own country, Jack Matlock, a distinguished former United States ambassador to Moscow, fears there will be another nuclear arms race. (1)

The clear message is that when foreign interests begin to encroach on what Russia sees as its own area of vital interest, Moscow takes a serious view of the consequences. The Nazi invasion of the Second World War was met by a strong Russian response to a breach of its border. The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is a more recent example of the Soviet Union taking the initiative by invading a border area seen by Moscow as representing a threat.

It is useful to go back to the end of the Second World War. At that time many Western nations decided that Moscow could no longer be seen as a reliable ally and, in the light of the colossal disruption to people and property of the Second World War, Western leaders realised that they were neither able nor willing to engage in hostilities or to repeat the 1930s tactical error of 'appeasement' (2) and rounds of endless concessions with a dictator; this time it would be Stalin, who commanded a large defence force, and vast tracts of territory, some of which was in Europe.

The American diplomat George Kennan's 1946 'Long Telegram' from the United States Embassy in Moscow showed the way to what John Gaddis refers to as 'the third path between the extremes of war and appeasement'. That policy was called 'Containment'.

Although the policy was implemented over 70 years ago, its essential terms are still worth reviewing. Stalin, Kennan said, is not Hitler. He did not have a fixed timetable for aggression. He wanted to dominate Europe and, if possible, the world, but there was no hurry about it. If the United States and its allies could be patient and contain Soviet expansionism without war or appeasement over a sufficiently long period of time, the Russians would change their priorities. Kennan foresaw contradictions within the Soviet system that would probably cause it to fall apart. Thus, if...

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