The Foreign Service Journal, December 2022

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | DECEMBER 2022 11 LETTERS Putin and NATO: An Evolution I would like to compliment Ken Moskowitz for his excellent article, “Did NATO Expansion Really Cause Putin’s Invasion?” (October 2022 FSJ ). The answer is, of course, no. It was always just a cover for President Vladi- mir Putin’s emerging design, which was to reconstitute the Russian empire. Despite Russian complaints about NATO behavior and outrage over Kosovo, Putin’s original policy was, in fact, to have Russia join NATO as quickly as possible—just without having to go through all the folderol that other lesser countries had to endure. Apparently, Putin didn’t really understand what NATO was. He viewed the alliance as just another very power- ful group that could benefit his own interests, and over which he might exert influence. It typified his transactional nature, in which he allied with anyone who could benefit him. During his St. Petersburg years, he worked with local organized crime groups. During his early Moscow years, he relied on his clique of former Leningrad KGB officers to help him rise rapidly to the top. Putin initially viewed NATO in much the same way, as a club whose member- ship would confer status and benefits on himself and on Russia. It was only later that he realized he could not deal with NATO in the same way he dealt with criminal gangs and political allies. As Putin consolidated his control over Russia, his objectives changed, and new enemies were required. Mikhail Khodor- kovsky explained this evolution to Fareed Zakaria on the Oct. 2, 2022, broadcast of “GPS” (Global Public Square): “In [the early 2000s] ... it became clear that [Putin] had decided to rule the country as one would rule a gang, but at that time he wasn’t a bloody dictator. This happened in front of our eyes. In front of our eyes, step by step, from somebody who violated a sovereignty of a neighbor- ing country in 2014, when he annexed Crimea. From that person, through the person who decided to attack a neighboring country, this evolution has happened from an autocrat through a—via a dicta- tor into a bloody murderer, a bloody assassin.” So, Putin’s complaints about NATO, while compelling for many Russians, have always just been a propaganda ploy, conveniently adopted when circumstances dictated. Now, the die is cast. As long as Putin rules, NATO will be the enemy. As Fiona Hill recently told Susan Glasser: “There’s an element of self- delusion to much of the current commentary about the possibility of Washington and the West continuing to back Ukraine while avoiding conflict with Putin—who, after all, launched his war against Ukraine not in February but eight years ago when he invaded the country and illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula.” As far as Hill is concerned, we are already fighting in the Third World War, whether we acknowledge it or not: “We’ve been in this for a long time, and we’ve failed to recognize it.” James F. Schumaker FSO, retired San Clemente, California Why Romania Joined NATO The question of whether NATO expansion into Eastern Europe caused Russia to behave as it has in Ukraine and elsewhere, as posed in Ken Moskowitz’s perceptive article ( “Did NATO Expansion Really Cause Putin’s Invasion?, ” October 2022 FSJ ), is long- standing and unlikely to be resolved definitively. Nevertheless, I will share my perspective as one who served in Romania from 1991 to 1995, a time when the issue of “joining the West” was prominent in many minds there. In Romania, at least, the U.S. did not push the Romanians to adhere to NATO—it was something that they des- perately wanted on their own. Their main foreign policy goals then were to gain membership in NATO and the European Union (E.U.) as quickly as possible. The reasons are self-evident, espe- cially in light of their unhappy expe- riences as an involuntary ally of the Soviet Union. NATO membership would provide security against possible preda- tions by others, especially Russia, whom the Romanians in general feared, dis- trusted, and disliked or hated. The E.U., on the other hand, offered the promise of much better economic circumstances and of belonging to the “civilized world,” something Russia could never hope to match. The U.S. role in Romania, in the early 1990s at least, was to promote changes and reforms that would make the country eligible for NATO mem- bership—greater democracy, civilian control of the military, reduced corrup- tion, peaceful relations with its immedi- ate neighbors, and so on. The decision on whether to seek membership was entirely up to the Romanians. We were eager to help them to achieve the needed reforms. If that led to NATO membership, we were fine with that; but fundamental reforms were our