Russian Foreign Policy and the Expansion of the European Union and NATO into Central and Eastern Europe in the 21st Century
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NATO?s expansion into ex-Soviet Europe has been a topic of enduring debate. Since the first expansion into the region in 1999, critics have argued that NATO enlargement has only heightened the long-standing friction between the West and Russia. Furthermore, it has been said that the extension of membership to seven other satellites and ex-Soviet republics in 2004 hs only carried an expensive, symbolic status of Western orientation, which has exacerbated East-West tensions at the expense of truly promoting international security. Others believe NATO expansion exemplifies the Alliance?s adaptability to the post-Cold War environment: its growth has promoted democratization in Central and Eastern Europe; reduced the likelihood of bilateral conflict; and is mutually beneficial in Western-Russian relations, though Russia?s traditional claim for influence in its ?near abroad? has prevented such an understanding. Both sides? claims are legitimately based, which in part explains why NATO-Russian relations have often been inconsistent and rhetorical, even though there has been true effort toward greater political, economic, and military cooperation. My research has consisted of detailing the institutions and programs through which NATO and Russia have offered collaboration; elucidating the interests of Russia, NATO, and Central and Eastern European states; and determining the ways in which mutual understanding of the 21st-century security environment can be reached. The project concludes by providing examples for why all parties must prevent traditional tensions from allowing true cooperative efforts within the ?new NATO?-Russian framework to be viewed as a concession of political, economic, and military interests.