Moscow and NATO from Stalin to Putin. Conclusions for Moldova. Op-Ed by Anatol Țăranu



As Stalin, through his aggressive policy against the West, fundamentally contributed to the founding of NATO, in the same way Putin, in decades, by imperial policies, contributes to strengthening NATO and extending this organization towards the borders of current Russia...


Anatol Țăranu

After the July 4 meeting of the Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, Igor Grosu, with NATO Deputy Secretary General, Mircea Geoană, the high-ranking NATO official reaffirmed the support for Moldova’s integration into the European Union: “I welcome Moldova’s efforts to strengthen national security. The allies support the European integration of Moldova, which can bank on NATO’s support”. For his part, Igor Grosu thanked NATO for the offered assistance and said that over the past two years, Moldova has made significant progress in the defense sector and this became possible thanks to the support of NATO and the European Union.

During the past few years, the pro-European government in Chisinau took concrete steps to extend the Republic of Moldova’s relations with the North Atlantic Alliance, increasing this way the Moldovan state’s capabilities for militarily defending itself from external threats. These efforts received incontestable justification against the background of the Russian military aggression in Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova being considered by a series of experts as a state to which the war going on in the proximity can extend. But nobody believes that the Moldovans army is capable of resisting a direct confrontation with the Russian army by the Ukrainian example.

The entry into NATO is the only solution that can guarantee the protection of the Republic of Moldova in the case of a military aggression from outside. But this solution is not feasible for now because most of the citizens of the Republic of Moldova are against it as, for over 30 years, they have been hostage to the yet Soviet negative perception of NATO’s role in global security architecture.

“Aggressive” alliance, origins of myth

The Soviet propaganda from the start presented NATO as the biggest geopolitical evil in the postwar world. This perception was ad integrum disseminated by the Russian propaganda and was promoted with maximum intensity in the zone of information influence of Putin’s Russia. The anti-NATO propaganda became the battle horse of Russian imperialism that reappeared in an aggressive form to restore the empire after the collapse of the USSR. In fact, through the supreme argument in favor of the fight against NATO, current Moscow justifies its right to suppress the state sovereignty of the former Soviet republics, which became independent states in full compliance with norms that are unanimously recognized by international law.

It is well known that the largest word war – World War II – was started in September 1939 under an agreement of the political-military alliance between Hitler and Stalin, which was signed in Moscow on August 23 of the same year. Ultimately, the history made so that the interests of the then great world powers were placed on the constitution of the anti-Nazi international alliance, with the participation of the Soviet Union led by Stalin, whose crimes against humanity have been not less odious than those of Hitler.

However, in virtue of the historical circumstances, the crimes of Stalin’s regime haven’t been condemned by an international tribunal, by the Nürnberg model, the Soviet Union benefitting from the prestige of the winner alongside the alliance of liberal democracies of the world. A unique historical chance for liberalizing the political regime of Stalin and anchoring the Soviet Union’s development course into the path of a democratic society, even with elements of political authoritarianism, appeared this way. If this development model had been embraced by Soviet society, this would have led to the creation of an international atmosphere in which the appearance of a new world war was improbable. But Stalin’s regime abided by entirely different priorities in international relations after World War II ended, continuing the line of liquidation of the capitalist system by causing the global proletariat revolution. In such conditions, the world entered a long phase of the Cold War against the background of nuclear armament of the main geopolitical rivals.

Failed blockade

In the summer of 1948 already, the former allies of the anti-Hitler coalition came into an acute conflict after Stalin ordered the start of the Soviet blockade of West Berlin, which lasted from June 1948 until May 1949. During almost a year, Stalin and the East-German Communists faithful to him had tried to starve West Berlin, to force the Western allies to abandon the place and the citizens of Berlin to obey the fate and the Soviet occupation authorities. During almost a year, the railways and roads that led to the west of the city had been blocked. During almost a year, everything that was needed – from food to coal – had been supplied to West Berlin by plane. The Americans, the Brits and the French people organized an unprecedented air bridge, when transport aircraft landed and took off every two-three minutes, performing almost 280,000 flights.

In the end, Stalin had to admit the failure of his attempt to intimidate the former allies and to withdraw before the concerted effort of the Western democracies. On the night of May 12, 1949, the Blockage of West Berlin was lifted. Nevertheless, the Cold War started to determine the politics in Europe and in the world and did so during many decades. The main political result of the Berlin Blockade was the unification of the Western territories and the Federal Republic of Germany and the granting of the status of autonomous unit to West Berlin. Furthermore, under the sign of the Berlin Blockade and the “air bridge”, on April 4, 1949, it was decided to found the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) to defend liberal democracies from the Soviet aggression. Owing to NATO, West Berlin continued to be an insular city until November 1989, when the Wall that separated it fell.

Fundamental task vs. fundamental blunder

Ensuring the freedom and security of all its members by political and military ways in accordance with the North Atlantic Treaty and the principles of the United Nations Charter has been the essential goal of NATO since its founding. The three core tasks of the Alliance are: deterrence and defense; crisis prevention and management; and cooperative security. Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty allows the allies to consult and cooperate in areas related to security and defense, while Article 5 specifies NATO’s major task, collective defense, this way: “an armed attack against one or more of the allies in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against all allies”.

The appearance of NATO was the result of the fundamental geopolitical blunder made by Stalin, who by his shortsighted policy to confront the West contributed to the formation of the North Atlantic Alliance, depriving this way the USSR and all its successors of any chance to emerge victorious in the military confrontation with the members of this international defense organization. Not at all accidentally, the fury caused by the acknowledgement of this truth made the Soviets turn NATO into the favorite target of its propaganda, misleading the generations of people from its sphere of influence about the character of this organization and hiding behind this lie to camouflage and justify the own aggressiveness and contempt for the freedom of other peoples.

The anti-NATO policy was assumed by the neo-imperialism in Putin’s Russia. Invoking the NATO enlargement, which in essence is the legitimate right of the sovereign peoples of the new European democracies for guaranteeing security, the current regime in Moscow claims the right to restrict this right, aiming to re-conquer territories and peoples that were earlier subjugated by the tsarist and Soviet empires and that got rid of the colonial yoke together with the fall of the USSR.

Putin’s neocolonial regime doesn’t even hide that in 2008 and in 2022, Russia started the military invasion of Georgia and Ukraine for the reason that these sovereign and independent states expressed their legitimate wish to join NATO for the purpose of fully guaranteeing their security. But Putin, like his predecessor Stalin during the Blockade of West Berlin, irremediably blundered geopolitically, starting this time the war against Ukraine.

As Stalin, through his aggressive policy against the West, fundamentally contributed to the founding of NATO, in the same way Putin, in decades, by imperial policies, contributes to strengthening NATO and extending this organization towards the borders of current Russia. The war in Ukraine already brought into NATO Finland and Sweden, which until recently were states with established neutrality regimes in Europe. Ukraine and Georgia are on the same trajectory in relation to NATO, while in the Republic of Moldova the voices that more insistently plead for renouncing the status of neutrality go up in number.

Lesson for Moldova

From the viewpoint of the contemporary Russian defense strategy, NATO should be kept far from Russia’s borders. But Putin’s policy weakened the Russian state to the most dangerous point after World War II. This is the result of Putin’s adventurist policy that increasingly turns Russia into an outcast of the international relations, pushing the Russian state to the next territorial fragmentation. But the decline of the Russian state implies major risks for such states as the Republic of Moldova, which is unable to guarantee independently its military security. The necessity for the Moldovan state to orient itself to NATO derives from here, this being the only feasible solution for ensuring guaranteed security.

But Moldovan society continues being hostage to the yet Soviet perception of NATO, which was assiduously reedited in the information space of the Republic of Moldova by Moscow’s propaganda. The change of the mental paradigm in Moldovans society about NATO is the key point in guaranteeing state national security. But today only one in three Moldovan citizens realizes the value of NATO in ensuring national security. A sustained effort is needed to positively change the perception of NATO in Moldovan society, while the pleading of the representatives of the Moldovan political class against NATO should be described as political approach against national security and complicity with foreign forces that are hostile to the country’s interests.

Anatol Țăranu
doctor of history, political commentator

IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.

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