Ever since the idea of expanding NATO without Russia was first broached in the early 1990s, many policymakers and analysts have argued that Russia does not view NATO expansion as a threat but rather uses it as a pretext to interfere in the domestic politics or attempt to restore its lost empire. This is a false and dangerous myth that is intended to remove the share of responsibility the West bears for the growing conflict with Russia. This myth risks yet more conflict to the detriment of the West, Russia, and its neighbors.
Those who purvey the myth that Moscow really is not opposed to, or concerned about a NATO expansion that excludes Russia do so in the face of the facts. Indeed, every late Soviet and post-Soviet Russian president and foreign minister has rejected NATO expansion precisely because it is detrimental to Russian national security. Russia’s military doctrine puts at the top of the list of “external military dangers…the growing violent potential of NATO and the delegation to it of global functions which are facilitative of violations of international law and the nearing of the military infrastructure of the member-countries of NATO to the borders of the Russian Federation, in particular by way of the bloc’s further expansion.” Trial balloons and direct proposals floated by every post-Soviet Russian president about Russia joining NATO were received coldly or completely ignored. Putin publicly supported the possibility during his first months in office and received no response.