In the debate between people who are enthusiastic about universal, market-based world values and those who are skeptical, I find myself in the latter camp. If the past twenty-five years have shown us anything, it’s that Samuel Huntington’s basic insight about the existence of different geographically- and historically-defined cultures, with incommensurable values, was correct. And yet, I have to admit, civilizational clashes are not necessarily inevitable. Sometimes, they result from many, many small decisions, disagreements, and mistakes that, over time, push nations to opposite positions and that magnify cultural differences.
A new book from Columbia University Press, No Place for Russia: European Security Institutions Since 1989, by William Hill (National War College) argues that the estrangement of Russia from the West since the Cold War was not unavoidable, a reflection of deep differences between Orthodoxy and the post-Christian West. Rather, it was the result of steps, all which seemed reasonable at the time, that Western institutions took, and all of which Russia–I think the author would say, rationally–perceived as a threat. And so here we are. The publisher’s description follows:
The optimistic vision of a “Europe whole and free” after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 has given way to disillusionment, bitterness, and renewed hostility between Russia and the West. In No Place for Russia, William H. Hill traces the development of the post–Cold War European security order to explain today’s tensions, showing how attempts to integrate Russia into a unified Euro-Atlantic security order were gradually overshadowed by the domination of NATO and the EU—at Russia’s expense.
Hill argues that the redivision of Europe has been largely unintended and not the result of any single decision or action. Instead, the current situation is the cumulative result of many decisions—reasonably made at the time—that gradually produced the current security architecture and led to mutual mistrust. Hill analyzes the United States’ decision to remain in Europe after the Cold War, the emergence of Germany as a major power on the continent, and the transformation of Russia into a nation-state, placing major weight on NATO’s evolution from an alliance dedicated primarily to static collective territorial defense into a security organization with global ambitions and capabilities. Closing with Russia’s annexation of Crimea and war in eastern Ukraine, No Place for Russia argues that the post–Cold War security order in Europe has been irrevocably shattered, to be replaced by a new and as-yet-undefined order.