ber1_Darko BandicNewsmakers_getty images_albanian children war Darko Bandic/Newsmakers/Getty Images

Russia and NATO

To commemorate its founding 25 years ago, PS will be republishing over the coming months a selection of commentaries written since 1994. In the following commentary – the first ever published by PS – Christoph Bertram advanced a strategy for expanding NATO eastward, while maintaining engagement with Russia.

HAMBURG – The Balkan War, now in its fourth winter, has had many victims, with hundreds of thousands dead, millions of refugees, and millions dehumanized. Yet another casualty is the credibility of all the organizations created to prevent conflict in Europe: the European Union, the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), the United Nations, and now NATO. Ironically, it has also put the question of NATO’s eastward expansion back on the agenda.

It is ironic because the Western alliance – comprising Western Europe and North America – finds itself in deep crisis as a result of its failure to employ its still-enormous military might to further a Balkan settlement. When the walls came down all over Eastern Europe in 1989 and 1990, this alliance had seemed victorious, and when the Soviet Union fell apart a year later, it could proudly claim to be the only functioning multilateral security organization on the continent.

But when the Balkan War presented the first test of the claim, NATO showed all the determination and muscle of a paper tiger. While the old Soviet threat had united its 16 members, the new threats, it turned out, divided them. Today, the best hope of the Western powers for an end to the conflict lies with the man who started it all: Serbian President Slobodan Milošević, who is being urged to increase pressure on the Bosnian Serbs to accept the plan for Bosnia-Herzegovina created by the Contact Group (France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States).

25 years of the World's Opinion Page

Project Syndicate celebrates its 25th anniversary with PS 25, a collection of our hardest-hitting commentaries so far.

To continue reading, log in or register now.

Register / Log In

Get unlimited access to all PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine. Subscribe Now.