If NATO Hadn’t Expanded

A Swedish fighter-bomber that might have been. Source

There’s an ongoing argument about NATO expansion after the fall of the Soviet Union. Within the western political science community, there have been a number of sub-arguments, including whether Russia was promised that NATO would not expand. That has more or less been settled: Although some statements were made to that effect, they were not official commitments.

More broadly, arguments about NATO expansion tend to assume that if NATO hadn’t expanded, Europe would look about the same as it does now, but Russia would be less aggressive, and more accommodations would be possible.

Having co-chaired a NATO Advanced Research Workshop in Estonia and spent some time working with Estonians on a major environmental cleanup, I’ve recognized that there were many paths that could have been taken by the many actors involved, which could lead to quite different outcomes.

Would the newly independent countries trust Mother Russia? Could Mother Russia keep her hands off them? It would not be a single big decision, but a series of small ones.

At the Duck of Minerva, I’ve written a counterfactual in which NATO doesn’t expand. I’ve based it on events that have actually happened, although in different historical order. The outcome is different than has been assumed. It was fun to write and I think will be enjoyable to read.

Cross-posted to Balloon Juice

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