The alternative to NATO enlargement, which will not arouse opposition on the part of Russia

For all this pandemonium and disputes about whether or not too friendly President trump and his team against the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, is a more important issue. If the property is trump serious about a very worthy and important work to improve Russian-American relations, how can she do it?

Putin and many members of his entourage it is very rigid and autocratic people. And since they are in power, to restore relations between America and Russia to normalcy will be very difficult. But the risk of confrontation and war can be reduced if to address the underlying, according to Putin, the cause of this problem, what is NATO’s enlargement.

We don’t have to apologize to the Russian dictator for the increase in membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, now extended to 28 countries, and which for years after the cold war has added to its lineup of 12 members, including three former Soviet republics. Also, we should not leave to the mercy of fate and millstone Russian rule our democratic friends, such as Ukraine and Georgia. But we need better ways to assist them.

Today we have the situation as if worse. At its summit in 2008 NATO promised Ukraine and Georgia that they will eventually become members of the Alliance. But no specifics about when this happens, it is not presented. Today these two States and other neutral countries in Eastern Europe have no protection from NATO. Knowing that we are interested in including these countries in NATO, Putin has aimed at weakening and destabilizing, so they did not have rights to join.

Some of these countries, including Georgia and Ukraine (and Armenia and Azerbaijan, between which there is an unresolved conflict) to spend on its military more than two percent of GDP, as provided by the rules of NATO. But they are simply too small and poor, and unable to resist Russian intervention. In addition, they are close to Russia, and that NATO is unable to protect them, not having the major and regular forces deployed on the front lines of defense. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was planning today to hold a nationwide referendum on NATO membership. This will further add fuel to the fire.

Western countries time to negotiate a new security architecture for the neutral countries of Eastern Europe. The basis of this concept should lie permanent neutrality, at least with regard to formal membership in military organizations, where the terms of the treaties provide for mutual defense. These countries work together to form a fragmented arch, reaching from the far North of Europe to its South, and includes Finland, Sweden, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus and Serbia and other Balkan States. The discussion process should begin within NATO, after which it will be able to join themselves a neutral country. And then you can begin official negotiations with Russia.

The new security architecture will demand that Russia, as NATO has pledged to maintain the security of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and other countries in the region. Russia will have to withdraw from these countries troops that should be officially confirmed. After that, it will be possible to remove the current sanctions. The issue of Crimea can be solved in different ways, say, by refusing recognition of the Russian territory. But this question should be put aside. Neutral countries will retain the right to participate in multinational operations security — approximately the same scale as they did in the past. And it can be operations under the leadership of the Alliance.

New security system guarantees neutral countries the right to choose their own form of government, political leadership, the nature of diplomatic relations and economic Association. While Russia recognizes the exclusive right to their accession to the European Union (with the exception of security).

After the end of the cold war, NATO worked hard on its relations with Russia. She agreed not to deploy major military forces on the territory of its new members accepted into the Alliance after the cold war. Even today, after a long Russian provocations, she placed in the Baltic countries and in Poland, only five thousand of their troops. NATO has also established the mechanisms of the North American cooperation Council and Partnership for peace, to collegiate to get closer to Russia and other former Soviet republics, and to establish interaction with them.

However, Russian look at this situation differently. Someone sees NATO as a physical threat, and some don’t; but they all believe the actions of the Alliance offensive to their country. They believe that the former adversary Russia has on the psychological and political pressure, coming close to its borders. Russia has a declining population and its economy is extremely weak compared with NATO countries. GDP of this country is about half a trillion dollars and a population of less than 150 million people, while NATO as a whole, these figures are 40 trillion dollars and 900 million people. This contributes to the anger and to some extent paranoia.

There is no guarantee that this idea will be of interest to Putin. Perhaps for the sake of support from the population and strengthening the influence of Russia he would prefer a hostile relationship with the West.

However, you should try to negotiate. If Russia will refuse from conscientious participation in the negotiation or process will not fulfill the conditions supported it in the beginning of the agreements that we have little to lose. We will have the opportunity to strengthen policy against Russia in the future. But only put forward such ambitious and bold initiative, trump will gain a real chance to improve Russian-American relations.

Michael O’hanlon — senior fellow of the Brookings institution.