Beyond Yalta

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By George Weigel

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A new, reconstructed NATO, open to all the states of the former Soviet bloc that met the criteria defined above, would also put an end to the Yalta mentality, which has exacerbated the security problems of Europe by getting us accustomed to thinking in historically and culturally artificial terms about “western Europe” and “eastern Europe.” The history of the twentieth century ought to have made it clear that European security is precisely that, European security, or it is no security at all. We cannot make a single great leap forward into a pan-European security system. But such a system ought to be our goal, and achieving that goal requires the incremental reconstruction of NATO.

The need to reconstruct NATO requires us to think far more carefully than we have to date about how U.S. and Western policy influences the course of events in Russia. How might we honor Russian patriotism without encouraging Russian imperialism? How do we help assuage traditional Russian security concerns without ascribing to those concerns a canonical status? How do we help Russia avoid the temptation to mitigate its present woes by indulging in hegemonic adventures that will contribute nothing to the rebuilding of its society, economy, and culture?

We have been down the road marked by tacit signals about European “spheres of influence” before: the result was the Yalta agreements, and forty-six years of Cold War. It would be a historic tragedy of the gravest consequence if, at precisely the moment when we ought to be consolidating the victory of the forces of freedom in the Cold War, we accepted, by design or default, Joseph Stalin’s concept of what Europe ought to look like.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.