"Just say NO to NATO?"
August 31, 2010 4:22 PM   Subscribe

Let's say Russia wanted to be rid of that pesky NATO alliance once and for all. For fiction purposes, how might they go about making this happen? All ideas welcome, no matter how implausible.

I am just dipping my toe into understanding Russian politics of this day and age, but it does seem clear that the Russian hardliners are getting more and more upset about the expansion of NATO, especially in Eastern Europe. And that Europe relies on the US for their nuclear back-up in the case of a war with the East, yet they are also reliant on Russia's gas (I've heard in some places, up to 80% of their gas comes from Russian pipelines.) I know Russia doesn't have the military capacity to wage war with the US, but finding a sneaky way to dissolve NATO could only work in their favor, right?

If you were a corrupt Russian despot with unlimited resources, how might you sneakily begin the process of undermining the NATO alliance, potentially leaving Eastern Europe's borders once again vulnerable to Russian invasion?

Also, bonus points for getting China involved somehow. Thanks for your brainstorming help!
posted by np312 to Law & Government (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think the best way to go about it would be to foment disagreement an ill-will between the main NATO countries, like trying to drive a wedge between the US and France (prob. not that difficult), Germany (hard), and England (prob. impossible). If you could get the main powers of NATO bickering and untrusting of each other, it wouldn't really matter what Lithuania thinks. It would have to be pretty covert, not involving outright explosions and death, more like lobbying and disinformation, covertly finance isolationist, if not nationalist politicians.

Another way would be to try to get the EU to stand up for itself, to disassociate itself from the US and NATO. Again, this could be done through politics, especially focusing on the concept of spending money at home, rather than abroad. In some ways you could look at how popular opinion is against the US bases in Japan (yet the leadership is too weak to do much about it) as a jumping off point. A couple 'accidents' during training flights in or around American bases would do well to spread negative opinion.

I think any inclusion of China would more than likely strengthen NATO, unless the whole plot was Chinese, not Russian, in origin. To some extent, in this scenario, the upstart, growing power would be more likely to try to subvert NATO than the decrepit, shrinking old giant, but NATO doesn't really have much to do with China.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:36 PM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: Make continental europe dependent on russian oil and natural gas. Then cut it off.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:36 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Here's an article that's all about NATO, China, the US, and Russia. As for your question, with limitless resources, Russia could have its pick of NATO countries to destroy. I'd imagine that they would get kicked out for waging war against an ally.
posted by tomtheblackbear at 4:36 PM on August 31, 2010

Uh, Russia isn't in NATO.

Gas. Cutting off the gas would be the first step.
posted by nestor_makhno at 4:45 PM on August 31, 2010

Yeah, my bad. I misread the question. With limitless resources, they could destroy every NATO country. Easy enough.
posted by tomtheblackbear at 4:53 PM on August 31, 2010

Divide and conquer. More carrots, fewer sticks. (Belarus and Georgia, as examples)
posted by finding.perdita at 4:57 PM on August 31, 2010

Response by poster: Sorry, just to clarify: I'm not interested in destroying, as in waging war, with every NATO country. I'm more interested in just how they might start to dissolve the alliance. Something more nuanced than 'if they have limitless resources than they could just invade."

I meant "limitless" in the sense that Russia is a very powerful country with a lot of money that can do pretty much what they please with it, without a lot of red tape to worry about.
posted by np312 at 4:59 PM on August 31, 2010

It could quietly support elements that would predictably erupt in a local war that would necessarily gain NATO's attention, and then see how reliable the various allies would be as the United States called them to assist in responding. If it turned out that several major European members were unwilling, timid, halfhearted, and/or duplicitous, Russia could reasonably conclude that the NATO alliance is no longer a threat and it could then act accordingly.

But, then, how likely is that?
posted by megatherium at 5:01 PM on August 31, 2010

Divide and conquer.
posted by Biru at 5:11 PM on August 31, 2010

The key is to identify the weak links. Romania, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Portugal, Ireland, and all the smaller Eastern European countries can be easily swayed with money or energy or bribery of elected officials or promises of being kept safer (say, from terrorism) than the US can manage. I wouldn't bother with anyone I really needed to negotiate with, or with open threats or even stupid covert "nuke his cup of tea" stuff. All you have to do is break the commitment the old powers have with the young powers, that the West has with the near-Russian areas, that everyone has with the US.

You could also do it by destabilizing the US economically and socially. This would be a good task for China. Heck, they could just start offloading our debt on the open market. By itself that wouldn't be enough; if you could ramp up a regional conflict (Somalia? Kashmir? West Bank?) that makes the US behave in a way that pisses off half of America and three quarters of Europe as a lead-in, it would be a serious problem. Do it in 2040, and Social Security woes can add to the political wobbling.

Note: this Russian is playing a VERY long game, straight out of Tom Clancy.
posted by SMPA at 5:47 PM on August 31, 2010

They could post spies in each country focused not on stealing secrets but instead on building networks of high profile business people and then pitting them against each other. Through in a few targeted assassinations, a return to the Cold War days, and support for murderous regimes that force the hand of the NATO countries, and the paranoia and anarchy created will eventually destabilize the backbones of each country.

Oh wait, you said fiction didn't you? Sorry.
posted by jwells at 6:01 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nah the Germans are the most pro-russian group in NATO no one else other than maybe the Italians - but they don't really count - would have an interest in preserving a relationship with Russia over NATO. Probably do it by driving a wedge over something in the Balkans - Kosovo or Macedonia vs the Serbs. The only Slavs who are big fans of the Russians are Bulgarians and Serbs. They need to exploit that.

Need to keep the Turks out of anything they do though to keep the Germans happy.

China can fuck with the US in the Stans and South China Sea but its hard to see an angle on NATO that involves them.

Cutting off the Gas isn't really an option for the Russians for very long and everyone realizes it.
posted by JPD at 6:08 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

finding a sneaky way to dissolve NATO could only work in their favor, right?

No way. No NATO means a fully militarily independent Germany that would have to be mildly unhinged not to immediately build as many nuclear weapons as they could and in general arm themselves more heavily.

Of course, a fully militarily independent Germany that's arming itself means that its neighbors like Poland (and France, but they're already heavily armed) would have to be completely over the top poop-eating bonkers not to do likewise. And Poland's neighbors. And the Baltics.

In particular, I'd expect smaller states to invest rapidly and heavily in a nuclear capability.

And this rearming means a lot more conflict over strategic resources throughout the world.

Overall, I'd bet hard that European dissension that was strong enough to dissolve the alliance would result in a much more heavily armed, dramatically less stable Europe, such that it would be far more likely that it would be Russia being invaded. Again.

All ideas welcome, no matter how implausible.

Russian scientists could get the Motherland to jump timelines to one without NATO. Or even just one where Europe is still primitive, or just doesn't have humans.

posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:19 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

If I were Russia and I wanted to neuter NATO I would join NATO. Sure, the NATO states probably don't want Russia as a member but with some careful planning and bunches of carrots it should be possible to get a point where NATO couldn't easily turn Russia away.
posted by rdr at 6:23 PM on August 31, 2010

to ROU_Xenophobe's point - the only thing Eastern Europeans would hate more then Russia as the hegemon is Germany as the hegemon. That's why this is such an insane question Additionally You wouldn't need to blow up just NATO but also the entire EU and all of the economic and commercial ties that bind these countries together.
posted by JPD at 6:27 PM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: Russia's problem is that any direct approach to a NATO member will just make NATO membership more valuable. What it needs to do is reduce NATO's significance overall, and I think it can do that by focusing on Turkey. NATO without Turkey would basically be a defense pact between the EU and the USA - hardly significant, because there are already arrangements of that sort at the national level and it would be easy to formalise them at the federal level.

Turkey's problem is that it wants to be a senior European figure, the bridge between East and West, but the Europeans aren't interested. This might change if Turkey had more influence in the Middle East. Russia could help it strengthen its ties with Iran and Syria, thereby strengthening its international significance and cementing its commercial advantage as the outlet for Iranian oil. People are already asking questions about Turkey sharing military information with those countries: what would happen if the USA attacked Iran and Turkey was privy to their plans?

If this strategy worked then it would change the regional balance by adding a third player. Call this new bloc the Ottomans, for want of a better term. Russia would already have won by turning NATO from an anti-Russia bloc into just another regional grouping with multiple competitors. In fact NATO might make an approach to Russia rather than allow the ties between Russia and the Ottomans to get any stronger. And at that point it doesn't matter whether NATO survives - it is no longer a threat to Russia.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:45 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Russia has several problems with Turkey tho - how they've treated muslims in the caucuses and the still not totally settled Armenian/Azeri conflict. Additionally the pipelines designed to short circuit Russia.

I'm not sure what Russia brings to the table wrt to Iran and Syria for the turks.

But yeah - the US needs to be more aware of how important Turkey is even if it means pissing off Israel.
posted by JPD at 6:54 PM on August 31, 2010

I had this in mind scrolling through, but ROU_Xenophobe is suggesting pretty much the same thing-- Russia would get Germany to militarize. In my mind, the whole point of NATO is to make Western Europe dependent on US military protection-- good for the US's status in the world, good for US defense contractors, good for the balance sheets of Western European countries that are spending little on defense. If Germany arms itself, it makes the UK and France (the two linchpins of the treaty) uneasy and makes as US military presence less necessary.

The big hole in the plot is how Russia manipulates European politics to make Germany feel that this is necessary because it violates the current German constitution. Someone smarter than me can probably think of some sort of EU legal or financial intrigue that could theoretically do this.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:54 PM on August 31, 2010

Maneuver US to re-invade Vietnam and to stay in Afghanistan for another 20-odd years.
posted by rainy at 8:56 PM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: If the US leaves NATO, then NATO is finished. It's that simple. What your hypothetical Russians do is to spend money on publicity in the US trying to convince Americans that everyone else in the alliance is a free-loader (which is damned near the truth) and encouraging a resurgence of American isolationism.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:05 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

Well if I were Russia I would do everything within my power to see to it that Obama is defeated, assassinated or otherwise leaves office. Then I would clandestinely support a neo-con or other crazy winger for U.S. president. Then I would funnel arms and money to the Taliban, therby increasing the NATO/U.S. commitment in Afghanistan. A total mess there could very well drive a wedge into the alliance. The Neo-Con in the U.S. would likely play right into this scenario. Of course, I have no idea how Russia would accomplish any of this, but since it's fictional I figured you could work out the details
posted by IvoShandor at 12:47 AM on September 1, 2010

Of course, my above scenario might work no matter who was in office. I guess I was just brainstorming, but then I remembered how much Obama seems to love the Afghan War.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:55 AM on September 1, 2010

If the UN were a functional entity that did the job it was created to do, there would be no need of military alliances. Every member nation of the UN has signed the UN charter by which they agree not to attack other members of the UN (and virtually every nation in the world is a member). Military alliances are a direct cause of war. One of the major causes of WW I was the existence of two enormous military alliances, the Triple Entente and the Central Powers, both of which were so powerful that they considered themselves to be the dominant force in the world, thus making them very hostile to a competing dominant force. The previous situation with NATO vs. the Warsaw Pact was almost an exact repeat of the Triple Entente vs. the Central Powers, and came very close to destroying the world - only the fact that nuclear war was recognized to be a form of global suicide prevented the outbreak of WW III (and even then it almost happened - the world hung by the merest thread during the Cuban Missile Crisis). The UN logically should come up with a new international agreement which bans all military alliances. If any nation gets into the kind of trouble for which they would want to be in a military alliance, they should be taking that problem to the UN Security Council anyway, not putting together their own response. That, in fact, was exactly where Bush went wrong with the Iraq war. It should have been a UN operation. That's what the UN charter requires.
posted by grizzled at 5:15 AM on September 1, 2010

The book and movie "The Fourth Protocol" address the breaking up of NATO.
posted by Fiat124 at 12:05 AM on September 2, 2010

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