2.  NATO and Russia: Macro-level theories


The main question this dissertation addresses is the nature of a relationship, and whether it is characterized by either conflict or cooperation. First and foremost, the main hypothesis proposed is that NATO and Russia are caught up in a dynamic situation of a perceived balance of power problematic that is neither about actual power, nor about actual threat, but rather about residual Cold War tensions that are inherent in the way both actors perceive each other, as well as in the structures within which they interact. This often results in interaction that is characterized by a certain level of irritation between the two actors. From this it follows that theoretical considerations need to take into account the importance of the concept of power, while at the same time placing the concept within a more diversified context. Neither term – cooperation or confrontation – does the research question justice. The second hypothesis claims that neither constructivism, i.e., norm and value convergence, nor realism per se explain why Russia and NATO interact as they do. In order to elaborate on this point, the present chapter is divided into four parts: This first section introduces some methodological considerations and troubleshooting issues that needed clarification before continuing with the actual analysis. Section 2 explains which theoretical approaches were chosen and which ones were not, as well as the reasons behind my choice. Section 3 and 4 will subsequently analyze the applicability of realism and constructivism to the hypothesis. Section 5 will offer a summary and conclusions.

Though hardly an understudied topic empirically, locating the issue of NATO–Russia interaction within a theoretical framework remains challenging. Choosing a clearly defined approach is to no small extent hindered by the fact that the two actors are different level units and therefore difficult to accommodate within the confines of one theory. By their nature, NATO and Russia are different entities. Whereas Russia is a nation-state, NATO is an international defense organization. This is important for several reasons: first and foremost, the single most important core unit used in order to explain phenomena in International Relations (IR) has changed surprisingly little over the years or turns in discussion about theoretical approaches. For the most influential thinkers in IR, analysis begins with the nation-state. Attempts at shifting the focus away from the nation-state as analytical starting point have nearly all come across the problem that there is simply no other unit that can replace the nation-state as such. Though different research designs and implementations have yielded different results with regard to topics such as the society of states, cooperation in international politics, or the purpose of alliances to name but a few, it has proven virtually impossible to bypass the concept of the nation-state. Declaring the state to be the principal actor of course poses no problem if the analysis concerns Russia. Though a heated debate about the past and future of Russia as a traditional nation-state continues to evoke many different opinions, for the purpose of methodological clarity, Russia can be safely placed in the primary category of a state. This means that classification of concepts such as rational choice, agency-structure issues, and so forth is easier and more structured, as the core assumption behind “the state” is that it is considered a unitary actor.

This is slightly more problematic in the case of NATO. Created as a military defense organization and constituting an alliance64, NATO originally consisted of 12 European nations, as well as the US and Canada. Through several rounds of accessions and enlargements, NATO today numbers 26 sovereign member states65; therefore, NATO constitutes a different unit of analysis than a nation-state. The question that arises is how to investigate a relationship between two actors that fundamentally differ in their constitutive definitions. In order to resolve this issue, two core assumptions will be introduced. First of all, the interest of this project consists of macro-level events in international relations, in turn requiring macro-level theoretical approaches. Therefore, both NATO and Russia are seen as holistic entities and not as a sum of their constituent parts.66 This applies to areas such as policy outcomes, bureaucratic functions, outside representation, and so on. In other words, in terms of output, the two actors are treated as identical units. As far as the internal processes and the input processes are concerned, they will certainly also need to be looked at; this will be done, however, based on the understanding that for the purposes of this study, it is the outputs that matter for the research question.


Secondly, the problem of dissimilarity between the two units of analysis can be solved by making a general assumption about NATO as an actor. In order to do so, it is necessary to return to the beginning of this chapter and the discussion about whom or what constitutes the main units of analysis in international politics. Here too, the dichotomy between a nation-state’s actions (and the reasons behind them) and an international organizations’ actions can pose methodological problems. Therefore, the second assumption holds that NATO, like a nation-state, acts in a rational, as well as in a profit-maximizing, manner. This assumption goes back to the issue of identifying a starting point for analysis in IR theory. As mentioned before, a core tenet of IR theory is that the unit of analysis tend to be the nation-state. A second tenet is that states as actors behave rationally, which, in itself leads to the pursuit of a profit-maximizing strategy. By assuming that NATO, even though it is an international organization and therefore has to deal with agency-problems in a way that nation-states do not, acts along the same lines as a nation-state, i.e. rationally, another problem potentially arising from comparing nation to organization can be circumvented.

An interpretation strongly in support of treating NATO as a unitary actor is offered by Mancur Olson and Richard Zeckhauser. In “An economic theory of alliances” they argue that since NATO’s proclaimed purpose is the protection of member states from a common threat, Article 5 therefore constitutes a unifying force serving as glue binding the different states together.67 In other words, the commonality of threat perception becomes more important than the aggregate components of NATO. In Olson and Zeckhauser’s words:

Deterring aggression against any one of the members is supposed to be in the interest of all. The analogy with a nation-state is obvious. Those goods and services, such as defence, that the government provides in the common interest of the citizenry are usually called “public goods”. An organization of states allied for defence similarly produces a public good, only in this case the “public” – the members of the organization – are states rather than individuals.68


Using these two assumptions facilitates the analysis of NATO–Russia relations and prevents charges of comparing 'apples and oranges' in the form of inherently different units. Before addressing the theoretical foundations of this project, a caveat should be noted regarding the application of a specific approach. There is an inherent risk in making a biased theoretical selection when it comes to utilizing a theoretical underpinning for a research project. Any intrinsic tendency to let ontology get in the way of analysis should be avoided, though, naturally, this is nearly impossible to do in a watertight scientific manner. On the other hand, it is equally important to avoid 'theoretical overstretch' i.e., attempts to make a theory fit in with empirical findings.69 The goal is rather to complement theory with empirics in order to explain certain processes and outcomes. In order to avoid both pitfalls, it seems imperative to use a combined theoretical approach and to carefully test empirical evidence against the core elements of each of the theories. Furthermore, in addition to limiting theoretical bias as much as possible, a combined theoretical approach can also shed innovative light on the combined empirical findings – if an effort is made to look beyond theoretical stereotypes. Additionally, combining theories will most probably lead to a closer approximation to reality than a mono-theoretical approach.

The above also relates to the research design, which will be conducted on the macro-level. As stated in the introduction, in addition to tracing actual events and interactions between NATO and Russia, this project aims to go beyond the descriptive element in order to assess whether certain patterns of either confrontation or cooperation can be discerned that are indicative of the “bigger” picture in IR. NATO and Russia are not seen as isolated actors frozen in time, but rather as dynamic by-products of international structures more generally. For this reason analysis on the macro-level is necessary. Elements of the meso- and microlevels70 will be taken into consideration as far as they contribute to explaining high-level outcomes. If, however, the subject is approached from the macro-level, then it will be essential to work within a high-level theoretical framework. As mentioned before, a combined theoretical approach will be applied to the phenomenon of power structures that have influenced the relationship between NATO and Russia since 1997.

A closer look at the literature on this topic also reveals a general trend to place NATO–Russia relations within a relatively wide theoretical framework. A plethora of literature deals with the fate of NATO as an alliance; on the other hand, just as much has been written about post-Soviet Russia, with the main focus lying on the rise and fall of empires. However, theoretical literature addressing the actual relationship between the two actors is not as ample as one might expect. This is especially surprising considering the fact that, as mentioned before, NATO–Russia relations is hardly an understudied topic. One explanation for this paradox could be the difficulty in placing both actors in a methodologically sound framework (see above). For instance, some studies undertake an analysis of US–Russia relations instead of NATO–Russia relations, which facilitates research design whilst still investigating core issues pertaining to NATO and Russia. Another problem might be the result of the relatively new situation that this relationship represents. While the end of the Cold War and the “new world order” has subsequently prompted a whole new theoretical discussion about IR, this debate has tended to address the overarching concepts rather than actual actors.


By definition, NATO–Russia relations need to be placed within the context of post-Cold War theoretical literature. The great debates that have emanated from political science since the early 1990s are widely developed; the challenge is identifying the specific theory or theories useful for a particular analysis from the plethora of theories proposed. NATO–Russia relations, it seems, are characterized by a mixture of fluidity and rigidity. The basic question is whether or not the actors are still seen as relics of the Cold War and how this influences the way they are seen in theoretical terms. If they are considered relics, then rigidity prevails and few theoretical innovations can be expected. If they are seen as something else, as something that works within the new system instead of against it, then a different theoretical approach altogether might be needed. In order to investigate this issue, this dissertation will draw upon the post-Cold War theoretical debate. In the first stage, the debate about the new world order will be reconstructed with particular emphasis on its usefulness for analyzing the relationship between NATO and Russia.

Finally, literature dealing with NATO–Russia relations tends to discuss either NATO or Russia, but not both of them in a consistent manner. Very often, NATO–Russia relations are placed within a wider framework, such as relations between NATO and Europe generally.71 The wider context of geostrategic developments on the Eurasian continent will be analyzed and NATO’s place within them assessed. Relations between Russia and the OSCE and Russia and the EU are discussed in addition to NATO–Russia relations, leading to a more holistic approach to Russia–Western relations after the Cold War. However, this is not the central aim of this the dissertation. While the intricate web of multi-layered interaction between the different European and Euro-Atlantic institutions can not be ignored, and will figure into the analysis as appropriate, the main focus remains on the two actors, NATO and Russia, and on discerning the pattern of interaction between them.

2.1.  Choices of theory

2.1.1.  General remarks

An interesting aspect of the debate about IR theory generally is its appropriateness with regard to explaining real world phenomena. Some have questioned the actual contributions of IR theory to real-world problem solving: IR theory, which for the past decades has been dominated by the neo-realism/neo-institutionalism divide, has become tangled up in a continuous back and forth between the two schools, leading to an overly narrow theoretical framework that was supposed to accommodate a myriad of actual developments. The greatest charge against traditional IR theory is that it was not able to foresee the end of the Cold War. While this is – wrongly – often associated specifically with realism’s shortcomings, it has to be said that developments within all theoretical approaches during the 1970s and 1980s failed to predict the end of the Cold War, or indeed offer any logical explanations for it.


While it is always easy to point out the shortcomings of previous research designs with the benefit of hindsight, it is not without merit to approach the traditional theoretical approaches with an open mind. An interesting challenge to the core tenets of IR theory is presented by Barry Buzan and Richard Little.72 Though this volume is perhaps somewhat overly ambitious in its scope and timeframe, the core premises that the authors put forward are interesting in terms of providing a holistic and differentiated approach to conventional IR theory. Three premises challenge a more traditional view of IR theory: First, they claim that "[n]one of the existing conceptualizations of the international systems have emerged and evolved through the course of world history”73, second “…the level of theoretical understanding in IR has been held up by a failure to examine international systems from a world history perspective”74 and third “…the international system constitutes the most effective unit for developing world history as well as for helping social scientists to advance a macro-analysis of social reality.75

Though looking at IR through the lens of world history in order to make sense of macro-trends makes sense, it is far beyond the scope this dissertation. The interest in Buzan and Little’s premises lies in the fact that they propagate a more open-minded approach to IR theory than has been employed in the past, especially when the research interest include macro-concepts such as the international structure or the international system, as is the case in this dissertation. Different theories will not be brought into question per se, but rather, will be used as roadmaps in order to identify useful analytical tools. Understanding NATO’s and Russia’s place as well as their interaction in the new world order, as presented in the previous section, already hints at two theoretical approaches that offer quite divergent insights on the subject: traditional realist paradigms and, in contrast, the more recent theoretical framework of social constructivism. Even though these two theories are ontologically diametrically opposed, having fundamentally different assumptions about IR and human nature generally, it should not be automatically assumed that the two approaches are mutually exclusive, nor that the hypotheses of one disproves the hypotheses of the other. On the contrary, it makes sense to try and identify complementary rather than contradictory elements within both theories. Whether or not this can actually be achieved will be seen throughout this chapter.

The approach employed to make theoretical sense out of my research interest, namely NATO–Russia relations, was chosen for several reasons. First, the dichotomies of post-Cold War IR seem to best be captured by choosing a combined approach. Second, I have chosen to specifically make use of realist, or neo-realist theory.76 One hypothesis claims that the essence of the evolution of NATO-Russia relations cannot be adequately captured without some of core tenets of realism. In order to stay true the methodology of a combined approach, I have chosen to develop my theoretical considerations using constructivist thought in addition to realism. In the same way that realism is necessary for understanding some aspects of NATO-Russia relations, constructivism is necessary to fill in the blanks that realism leaves unanswered. The combination of both approaches effectively captures the main issues and seeming controversies surrounding NATO–Russia relations, as well as reflecting post-Cold War events more generally.

2.1.2. Institutionalism


The approach taken in this thesis should not be seen as a deliberate attempt to circumvent the contributions that institutionalism has made to the subject.77 In one way or another, all articles written within an institutionalist or neo-institutionalist78 framework take realism to task for over-emphasizing the role of power, as well as the state of anarchy79, in IR. Rather than seeing states as billiard balls on a pool table that aim to knock out of the way any other billiard ball that gets in the way of victory, institutionalism see relations between states as an intricate web of interconnectedness – or interdependence – that links the international system together by means of communication, international organizations, trade and so on.80 Robert Keohane defines institutions as a “…persistent and connected sets of rules (formal or informal) that prescribe behavioral roles, constrain activities and shape expectations”.81 Of particular value, according to institutionalism, is the fact that states chose to forego short-sighted opportunism by deferring on important strategic decisions in order to not lose credibility in the long run, which outweighs the short-term gain of momentarily opportunistic behavior. David Lake describes it thus: “Institutions either enable actors to achieve outcomes that might otherwise be impossible or constrain actors from undertaking behaviors that would otherwise be chosen. They [institutions] are intended to channel behavior in predictable ways.”82 In other words, institutions, among other things, also have a socializing effect on their members, who choose to remain “predictable” to others in order to reap long-term benefits. Moreover, international institutions are considered to be effective with regard to addressing the problematic of a security dilemma that states can find themselves in: the logical consequence of states wishing to maximize their power may lead to an aggressive build-up in arms, whereby an increase in one's own security can result in instability as other states also strive to increase their own security and power.83

While the institutional approach in its different facets is undoubtedly relevant to NATO-Russia relations, it will only be drawn upon in a complementary fashion. This might seem perplexing in light of the research interest. Some would argue that any research that concerns itself with NATO should make primary use of institutionalism. However, once the two main assumptions regarding NATO as an actor – output-concerned as well as rational – are recalled, developments within NATO itself do not necessarily need to be seen through the lens of institutionalism. On the other hand, as far as Russia’s relation with NATO is concerned, the compromise of seeing both as unitary actors does not preclude the possibility that institutionalism offers mainly invalid or insights that are at best of minor relevance. Also, the argument about ever-increasing interconnectedness put forward by Keohane and Nye certainly holds truths that are applicable to any dissertation that concerns itself with contemporary political science. However, since the aim of this project is precisely to investigate the actual contents of “interconnectedness” between NATO and Russia, this approach could run the risk of being tautological; it uses the status quo as an explanation.84 That NATO and Russia interact in many ways and for many different reasons is obvious, otherwise there would be no point to this dissertation.

Moreover, David Lake observes that:


Security institutions are central to patterns of conflict and cooperation within the international system … The search for how and to what extent international institutions ‘matter’ has largely played out in the realm of international political economy. To the extent that scholars look for institutional effects, it is mostly at the level of universal or at least broad-based multilateral institutions in the area of trade, finance, standards and so on …85

Lake's observation touches upon two important issues: first, the debate about whether and to what extent “institutions matter”, which is a product of the classical institutionalism-realism debate. The second, and even more important point that Lake reiterates – and takes issue with – is that international cooperation is least likely to occur in the area of security matters. Whereas areas like trade, finances or sometimes more elusive concepts such as human rights are more likely to evoke cooperation among states that are willing to consider the opportunity cost of limited sovereignty, “entangling alliances” and so on in order to reap longer-term benefits, it is generally agreed upon that security issues do not necessarily fall into this category.86 In Lake’s words, “With several noteworthy exceptions87, analysts presume that in the “high politics” realm of security affairs, states will eschew institutions and depend on their own unilateral capabilities.”88 While several analysts, including Lake, have eloquently challenged this view, it does nevertheless represent an empirical issue that is especially important for the purposes of this dissertation.

2.2. Realism

2.2.1.  Realism as status quo

The most (in)famous of all theoretical approaches, realism continues to capture the mind and imagination of analysts. No other theory has endured as long as realism has or so often been adapted to fit new realities. Moreover, no other theory has provoked such strong objections and sparked more debates. This in itself indicates that realism contains some core tenets that are difficult to completely disprove. On the other hand, the substantial criticism levelled at realism, whether in the form of institutionalism before the end of the Cold War (and still ongoing) or, particularly over the past two decades, in the form of social constructivism represents a serious challenge for any analyst applying realist theory to a research design. However, playing one theory off against another is not likely to yield satisfactory results; on the contrary, the two theories should not be seen as mutually exclusive, as both contain elements that are more useful or less useful, depending on where the analytical focus lies. This view is very accurately expressed by Robert Snyder in his analysis of the reasons behind Gorbachev’s perestroika: “Constructivists risk reifying the concept “identity” much as they accuse neo-realists of doing with “anarchy” [in failing to see the instrumental purposes of Gorbachev’s identity shift]”.89 His conclusion is that, "Although realists and constructivists have offered strong insights into understanding the end of the Cold War, this paper raises some doubts about both perspectives with respect to this case. Both fail to provide a satisfactory explanation, and they are somewhat misleading in their interpretations."90 While this statement does not suggest that both realism and constructivism should be disregarded, it does make a strong call for a careful evaluation of both theories.


A major claim of this dissertation is that NATO-Russia relations are not fully explainable without taking into account important tenets of realist theory. Just as the relationship between NATO and Russia is a Cold War/post-Cold War story taking place within Cold War/post Cold-War structures, key elements pertaining to the way NATO and Russia interact are remnants of structures that used to be the result of an ideological, political and military divide. The confrontation/cooperation debate addressed in this dissertation cannot be developed fully without considering realism and realism’s implications for IR generally. Most basically, realist theory revolves around the concept of power – realists have built their theory around notions of the definition of power, the distribution of power, or the use of power. When applying this focus to international relations, i.e. to actors and how they interact, one finds that the most prominent and enduring feature is that international relations are dominated by constant struggles for power. I would like to reiterate that for methodological reasons, I am treating both Russia and NATO as primary and singular units since realism’s claims are founded on unitary actors and their use of power.

The concept of power is key in IR. The earliest works in political theory deal with this concept, such as Thucydides’ 400 BC “Melian Dialogue”.91 In this work, he addresses the issue of one-sided growth of power and the ensuing shift in the balance of power. “The strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept” sums up what Thucydides believes to be the essence of politics and international relations. This idea reappears a thousand years later in the writings of Machiavelli, who deemed the survival of the state to be paramount. In his work “The Prince”92, he addresses the issue of how to gain, maintain and expand power. In his extreme interpretation of power and state, Machiavelli states that ethics and politics are divorced from considerations of power, and that power politics is the only relevant factor. “What good is good in an evil world?” asks Machiavelli. One of the most influential authors to write about power politics, Thomas Hobbes, takes up this thought and reaffirms the necessity of a powerful centralized political authority, “the Leviathan”93 who guards the state from the anarchy of the natural state. Anarchy is at the core of the realist school's understanding. The structures that states create (internal as well as external) are meant to guard against anarchy in a hostile environment.94 Realism may seem dated, as events that shaped the world of Thomas Hobbes and Machiavelli do not necessarily reflect present-day issues. Indeed, the end of the Cold War in particular has given rise to hopes that the “nasty, brutish, and short” paradigm would lose some of its prominence. However, some key thoughts that realists – and neo-realists after them – have put forward still need to be considered in order to get a complete picture of the current state of IR.

Realism has five core tenets. First, the main actors in international politics are states. Second, the most defining characteristic of the international system is the state of anarchy, i.e., the absence of a world government. Third, states behave as unitary and rational agents who seek to maximize their interest. Fourth, in the absence of a world government that could protect states from others, all states are constantly preoccupied with security and power, which inherently causes conflict and confrontation. Fifth and finally, international institutions offer little incentive for international cooperation.95 These five statements broadly represent how realists have interpreted IR since the days of Hobbes and Machiavelli. Responding to an ever increasing chorus of critics of the “traditional” view of IR, Kenneth Waltz eventually offered an elaboration on classical realism. In his work, “Theory of international politics”96, Waltz goes a step further, refuting that the inherent corruption of the human race is to blame for the persistent state of violence in international politics.97 However, he does not challenge the single most important claim made by realism: the struggle for power. Waltz argues that in an international environment that is defined by anarchy, the international system itself explains how states interact with each other. Conversely, it is the difference in abilities of states that defines the shape of the international structure. This means that states always fear the comparative advantages of other states, and that therefore the status quo in IR should not be characterized as cooperative, but rather as an enduring struggle that leads – in the best case – to the establishment of a balance of power capable of maintaining peace.98 The important contribution made by Waltz to the realist tradition is first of all the acknowledgment of an international system. By shifting the focus away from a more anthropologically defined view of power – namely, the inherent badness of man – he opened the field up to new analytical possibilities.99 However, the distinction between realism and neorealism should not obscure the fact that core tenets of realist theory are still evident in the neorealist response.


The relevance of realism to NATO-Russia relations has already been established: the tradition of confrontation that the two actors have come from. The most basic self-definition of NATO is one that clearly positions itself against the Russian, or Soviet enemy. The raison d’être of NATO is based on circumstances that were unequivocally in line with the realist tradition. The Cold War competition between the Soviet Union and the United States, or between their respective military alliances, the Warsaw Pact and NATO, consisted of all the elements that make up realist traditions: a prominence of power and threat, an attempt to find a way to balance power, and actors seeking to maximize their interests – though this point is already questionable with the benefit of hindsight, as bringing the world close to a nuclear war might reasonably not be viewed as acting in either of the two actor’s best interests. Nevertheless, the interaction between NATO and the Soviet Union is a prime example of textbook realism as well as neorealism.100 However, analyzing current NATO-Russia relations through the realist lens is not as straightforward.

Looking at IR today, John Mearsheimer notes that:

The sad fact is that international politics has always been a ruthless and dangerous business, and is likely to remain that way. Although the intensity of their competition waxes and wanes, great powers fear each other and always compete with each other for power. The overriding goal of each state is to maximize its share of world power, which means gaining power at the expense of other states.101


Moreover, he contends that “Great powers are rarely content with the current distribution of power; on the contrary, they face a constant incentive to change it in their favor. They almost always have revisionist intentions, and they will use force to alter the balance of power if they think it can be done at a reasonable price.”102 Mearsheimer’s ideas are interesting for several reasons. First, he agrees with the above mentioned theorists who accorded primacy to the distribution of power and the struggle for power in international relations: this is the unquestioned status quo of international relations, he argues. Second, Mearsheimer does not make any concessions to different forms of power struggles. According to him, each interaction between states is defined by power maximization and any outcome of interaction is characterized by the dominant state imposing its will on the other. In a way, Mearsheimer is a pure Hobbesian as far as his pessimistic outlook on interactions in IR is concerned. Though acknowledging that realism in itself consists of varying degrees of power struggles103, Mearsheimer makes a “…number of arguments about how great powers behave toward each other, emphasizing that they look for opportunities to gain power at each other’s expense”.104

This would have enormous consequences for the interaction between NATO and Russia. Keeping in mind that both are for the sake of parsimony considered unitary actors, it would follow that a dangerous race for power were indeed taking place. However, using this approach would be to oversimplify matters. NATO itself claims that

[s]ince the end of the Cold War, [NATO] has attached particular importance to the development of constructive and cooperative relations with Russia. Over the past ten years, NATO and Russia have succeeded in achieving substantial progress in developing a genuine partnership and overcoming the vestiges of earlier confrontation and competition in order to strengthen mutual trust and cooperation.105


Clearly, this statement does not tally with the ever-present competition that realism sees as the most enduring characteristic of interaction. Therefore, an in-depth assessment analyzing statements in light of actual outcomes needs to be undertaken.106 However, the assumption remains that the interaction between NATO and Russia, in spite of abundant rhetoric, often revolves around old confrontational lines reminiscent of what Mearsheimer outlines in his writings. This manifests itself, inter alia, in residual great power thinking, including geo-strategic great power considerations, such as NATO enlargement and privileged partnerships with countries of the former Soviet Union.

A die-hard realist might even place NATO enlargement within the parameters of offensive realism. At the 1997 Madrid Summit, formal accession talks were initiated with the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Additionally, NATO heads of state and government indicated that the alliance would be open to talks with other countries as well:

Today, we invite the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to begin accession talks with NATO … we reaffirm that NATO remains open to new members under Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty. The Alliance will continue to welcome new members in a position to further the principles of the Treaty and contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area. The Alliance expects to extend further invitations in coming years to nations willing and able to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership, and as NATO determines that the inclusion of these nations would serve the overall political and strategic interests of the Alliance and that the inclusion would enhance overall European security and stability.107


Looking at this statement through the offensive realist’s lens, one could claim that NATO is trying to expand its sphere of influence at the expense of Russia. In Mearsheimer’s words: “This unrelenting pursuit of power means that great powers are inclined to look for opportunities to alter the distribution of power in their favor.”108 Clearly, a redistribution of power has taken place in NATO’s favor, at least from a Russian perspective.

However, the discrepancy between perceptions of power and actual power needs to be taken into consideration, especially in this very specific, post-Cold War situation. Though it is true that NATO found itself in a win-win situation after 1989, applying the Cold War logic of winners and losers to the mid-1990s could turn out to be more problematic than realist theory would suggest. The crucial point here is to distinguish between the above-mentioned perceptions and realities. Applying a purely realist-driven approach to NATO’s enlargement in the mid-1990s might seem anachronistic; however, denying that “old-style”-thinking about balance of power issues have taken place – and still do – in Russia and elsewhere would again mean oversimplifying the issue. Therefore, as mentioned previously, assessing NATO- Russia relations without taking into account the issue of power – whether perceived or actual – and thus, realist assumptions, would result in an incomplete analysis. The challenge lies in identifying to what extent actual or perceived struggle for power defines an actor’s choices.

2.2.2. Balance of power vs. balance of threat

In order to assess these factors, realism offers more tools than the concepts of balance of power and power maximization. Though the concept of power should not be underestimated, as noted before, it is crucial to differentiate between different aspects of power. The struggle for power maximization is not as straightforward as offensive realists like John Mearsheimer suggest. More issues factor into the equation than a simple struggle for ever-greater comparative advantages in the international system. Taking issue with classical realism’s main problem, namely the inevitability of war due to precisely the fact that human nature is not fit for maintaining a state of peace and cooperation, Kenneth Waltz introduced the concept of systemic, or structural realism. According to Waltz, war can be prevented because the tendency of states to achieve a balance of power situation is inherent in the international system, because states will always strive to counter hegemonic power.109 Whereas Waltz shifts attention away from human nature to the international system per se, he still doesn’t take issue with the concept of power itself. In line with realist tradition, Waltz treats the concept of power as a black box – his theory rests upon treating power as a given entity that all actors strive for.


The problem with this way of interpreting IR is, very simply, that it does not fully reflect reality. Even though there is still a certain amount of truth in the statement that conflict is the most defining aspect of IR, it is difficult to argue that there is no sort of cooperation between states. Waltz himself has acknowledged this fact in his “Theory of international politics” by introducing the concepts of balancing and bandwagoning to describe states’ behavior with respect to the international cooperation that occurs within a multipolar environment. It is crucial to note, however, that even while making concessions to states interacting with each other in a non-bellicose way, Waltz’s form of cooperation is still mostly defined by an important amount of competition and struggle. It is not the sort of cooperation that institutionalists or constructivists would characterize as real cooperation. The concepts of balancing and bandwagoning were picked up by Stephen Walt, whose contribution to differentiating the realist argument about power is substantial.110 Walt, most commonly associated with alliance theory, contends that faced with an external threat, states can choose to either balance or bandwagon:

Balancing is defined as allying with others against the prevailing threat; bandwagoning refers to alignment with the source of danger. Thus two distinct hypotheses about how states will select their alliance partners can be identified on the basis of whether the states ally against or with the principal external threat.111

According to Walt, bandwagoning will occur when a state recognizes its comparative disadvantage against another state. Only when states perceive that they have a realistic chance to challenge another one will they consider balancing, i.e., challenge prominence. Otherwise, a rational actor will choose to enhance its own security by seeking an alliance with someone who is perceived as stronger and able to provide protection.112


The balancing vs. bandwagoning issue is important as it serves as a general foundation for explaining alliances and their existence (or lack thereof). Besides explaining why alliances take place and how they work, alliance theory can also be applied to great power behavior generally, as the binding issue is the fact that a perception of threat is inevitably the driving force of actors’ behavior and the choices that they make. The distinction between power and threat, or between actual threats and perceived threats is an important one, as it offers a more intricate analysis of actor behavior than a theory that relies solely on ”power” as the explanatory variable. According to Stephen Walt, states choose to engage in alliances because they seek protection from threat rather than from power.113 Walt himself sees his theory not as a replacement but as a refinement of the classical balance of power approach. Power is not substituted by another variable; rather, an explanation of the black box “power” is offered, namely, that powerful actors have greater capabilities than weaker ones.114 Walt’s thoughts offer important insights: the interest in distinguishing between balance of power and balance of threat is first and foremost due to the explanatory possibilities that arise with regard to behavioral structures. It once more fleshes out Waltz’s theory about the international system with more behavioral explanation: how do actors perceive what is in their interests and what are they willing to invest in their security.

Furthermore, Walt’s theory precludes the possibility that actual cooperation between two equal partners occurs in international relations. Either states are of equal strength and must therefore compete with each other, or they are asymmetric in power and capabilities, in which case the weaker power seeks protection from the stronger one at the expense of equality. This “if you can’t beat them, join them” issue has already been mentioned in the introductory chapter. In the case of NATO and Russia, it is Russia that would have to bandwagon with NATO, since the balance of capabilities, and thus power, are in NATO's favor. Therefore, an asymmetrical situation arises, in which Russia cannot balance against NATO out of its own force, which in itself puts Russia on the defensive end of the relationship. Additionally, rhetoric about who won and lost the Cold War has aggravated the sense of weakness felt by Russia. With the prospect of NATO enlargement, Russia felt that NATO was gaining new members at its expense. The issue of Russia itself joining NATO is precarious, so enlargement is perceived as a way to structurally further subdue Russia. As Ira Straus observes:

For a very good reason, Russia fears being isolated as the only excluded country. It fears that the Henry Kissinger scenario will come true, which is that all of the other countries will be members of NATO for the purpose of joint opposition to Russia. Russia would be conceived as the enemy that holds NATO together, and the door would be slammed shut to Russia. So Russia’s objections are real, sincere and, serious.115


Statements about Eastern European countries being sovereign countries with the right to choose NATO membership without having to take Russian concerns into consideration, though undoubtedly true, did not alleviate Russian fears of marginalization.

Furthermore, following Walt’s logic, NATO enlargement can be seen as proof of the alliance acting in a threatening way in regard to Russia. According to Walt, states with aggressive intentions are more threatening than states that only seek to preserve the status quo.116 In the case of NATO enlargement, the balance of threat scenario was not in Russia’s favor. Also, other factors that make an actor more threatening, such as overall capabilities, proximity, as well as perceived intentions117, all point to the conclusion that NATO’s actions could only be perceived as threatening by Russia. Of course, concessions must be made to the scenario of NATO extending membership to Russia itself. Not once did NATO purposely exclude Russia from its overall enlargement plans. Nevertheless, seen in a realistic light, the prospect of Russia joining NATO on the same premises as Poland or Latvia was never a viable option, and therefore Russia and NATO consequently found themselves within structures that were characterized by balancing rather than bandwagoning. The other crucial event that is seen as having defined the nature of the relationship between NATO and Russia in the late 1990s, the war in Kosovo, is also an example of an attempt to balance on the Russian side. NATO's intervention in Kosovo was perceived as being against fundamental Russian interests and therefore prompted a response that called for balancing against NATO’s action.

However, in both cases, NATO enlargement and the Kosovo war, Russia had to eventually forgo balancing for reluctant bandwagoning. This was largely due to the fact that the distribution of capabilities was in the end in favor of NATO. There are some general trends to NATO and Russia's patterns of interaction: new developments that seem to advantage the position of NATO over Russia’s position are first met with fierce opposition by the Russian side, regardless of how much NATO tries to refute the general (Russian) perception that NATO and Russia are mutually exclusive concepts. However, this initial opposition is then replaced by acknowledgement that little can be done about a given situation, be it enlargement or Kosovo. This in turn leads to Russia “joining” the “winners”, as it did when troops were sent to participate in IFOR, SFOR and KFOR. In the case of enlargement, Russia agreed to not interfere in any way in any bilateral agreements between Eastern European states and NATO.118

2.2.3. Cooperation and bargaining


Of course, like any interaction between two very different actors, NATO-Russia relations are much more complex than a simple back and forth dynamic between a stronger and a weaker power. Even though Russia has arguably found itself on the defensive end, it has managed to make its voice heard clearly in Brussels. Realist theory accounts for this in the form of concessions to the bargaining processes that take place between actors.119 Likewise, realists acknowledge that international cooperation might take place, regardless of the defining status quo in international relations, i.e., anarchy. However, realism views the possibilities for international cooperation with a certain degree of caution. Whereas institutionalists would contend that cooperation is indeed not only possible, but already widely in place primarily thanks to the role that international institutions play with regard to information-sharing and reduction of transaction costs120, realists still privilege the role of power and capability advantages. Joseph Grieco starts from the premise that in IR there are always stronger and weaker parties involved. This does not preclude cooperation, but it does shape the way the two – or however many – actors interact. He contends that “My realist-informed argument begins with the point that, for weaker partners, the rules of a collaborative arrangement will provide them with more or fewer opportunities for having effective ‘voice opportunities’”.121 Furthermore, he states that

[i]f states share a common interest and undertake negotiations on rules constituting a collaborative arrangement, then the weaker but still influential partners will seek to ensure that the rules so constructed will provide for effective voice opportunities for them and will thereby prevent or at least ameliorate their domination by stronger partners.122

Grieco’s assumptions offer a solid basis for the analysis of NATO-Russia relations. “Common interests” have indeed be revealed, as official documents teem with affirmations of the common interest that NATO and Russia share, including first and foremost the fight against terrorism. “Effective voice opportunities” were extended to Russia with the establishment of the PJC in 1997 and the NRC in 2002. In accordance with Grieco, both the PJC and the NRC were established in exchange for Russian consent to the two rounds of enlargement. In this way, Russia obtained an institutionalized way to raise issues within NATO structures, thereby enhancing its ability to influence matters of direct concern to it. Even so, returning to the previous argument, granting Russia a voice in the PJC or the NRC implicitly means that cooperation between equals is not taking place. Rather, by implementing these structural changes, NATO was intending to solve a Cold War-issue, while at the same time being firmly committed to post-Cold War issues.123

2.2.4. Path Dependency


In summary, tenets of realist theory have some explanatory power with regard to interaction between actors, or, in this case, between two former superpowers confronted with a new international order. Survival of the strongest, which is the most simplified summary of realism, goes some way to offering explanations pertaining to developments since the early 1990s. Thucydides’ statement that “The strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept”124 still holds some truth. Additionally, acquired habits are hard to shake off; 40 years of nuclear confrontation are a powerful constraint on how NATO and Russia interact. The same applies to the way Russia is perceived by third countries, especially the countries of the former Warsaw Pact. Path dependency125 creates a framework that puts constraints on cooperation even when it is both rationally desired by the different actors. To this effect, Ruth and David Collier have noted that actors make contingent and consistent choices based on previous conditions, resulting in “critical juncture” laying out a path along which developments tend to occur. This “path of development” is very difficult to reverse or alter, even when there is a basic consensus that stepping outside of the critical juncture would be in all actors’ best interest.126

Collier and Collier’s argument supports the thesis that NATO and Russia are caught in a situation where the past still plays a role in deciding what current developments should look like. In fact, path dependency continues to influence perceptions and policy planning within NATO itself. For example, one of the main reasons for the creation of NATO, namely the containment of Germany, continues to resurface in discussions about the future of NATO. With regard to Germany’s position in post-Cold War Europe, John Duffield points that

As many analysts have noted, few if any concrete reasons exist for expecting a renewal of German aggression. Nevertheless, perceptions do matter, and the profound change that has occurred in Germany’s position within the European state system will inevitably raise questions about its future foreign policy orientation.127


The same is of course true for Russia – the second main reason why NATO exists: "Given these insecurities [about Russia’s transition to democracy], the countries of Western Europe have found it desirable to maintain a counterweight to the residual military power of the former Soviet Union, especially Russia’s nuclear capabilities."128 This illustrates how in NATO’s case, the past continues to shape the present.

2.2.5. Preliminary conclusions

As has been demonstrated, different components of realism, combined with the historiographical awareness that Collier and Collier have put forward explains some fundamental patterns that have occurred and continue to occur in the relationship between NATO and Russia. An analysis of the interaction between the two actors would be incomplete if core concepts of realist thought, such as power, balance of power, perception of threat and the impact of anarchy on IR were left out. Contending that Cold War confrontation has been replaced by consistent cooperation, caused by interdependence and ever closer ties between NATO and Russia necessitates neglecting solid facts. This point is implicit in the first hypothesis proposed: that NATO and Russia have not progressed along a linear development of cooperation from confrontation to integration. Therefore, confrontational cleavages that have been treated as a given, such as the low point of relations between NATO and Russia during the war in Kosovo, also seem overly simplified. Also, the newly seized-upon opportunity for cooperation that arose as a consequence of the events of September 11th has not developed in such a linear and straightforward manner as is generally perceived. Due to the diverse and multiple intricacies that constitute the relationship between NATO and Russia, an “either-or” analysis seems misplaced.

This also implies that relying solely on one theoretical approach to analyze NATO-Russia relations after 1997 would risk falling into the same trap of bias. Though realism does indeed offer many explanations pertaining to questions about NATO and Russia, it certainly does not describe the full picture. The complexity of the issues mentioned before also demands a diversified theoretical approach; occurrences in the real world tend to not fit an “either-or” analysis. While realism supports observations that find more confrontation than cooperation between NATO and Russia, even using all the different arguments that I have outlined above, it does not offer a satisfactory analysis as to why NATO and Russia have chosen to not see themselves as outright enemies anymore. Die-hard realists would argue that any cooperation that has taken place up to now or that will take place in the future is a result of trade-offs between two actors that take decisions based only on their own best interest. This is a far cry from actual, benevolent cooperation. In order to challenge realists’ views on NATO-Russia relations, I will now discuss what answers can be found within a different school of theory: one that largely advocates cooperation, or even convergence, rather than confrontation.

2.3. Constructivism

2.3.1.  Constructivism vs. realism?


Very often, constructivism is regarded as being diametrically opposed to realism. Whereas realism uses a power-centric approach and tends to focus on a rather bleak understanding of human interaction, constructivism challenges both realism’s and institutionalism’s core tenets. Indeed, constructivism was born out of an attempt to overcome the impasse that the “great debate” in IR, namely the controversy between realism and institutionalism, had manoeuvred itself into. Rather than reiterating the foundations of both “previous” approaches129, constructivism seeks to answer a whole different set of questions pertaining to IR. The greatest charge levelled at both realism and institutionalism is that neither theory predicted the end of the Cold War and the ensuing developments that changed many commonly held assumptions in IR. According to Peter Katzenstein, realism and institutionalism (as well as their neorealist and neoliberal counterparts) fail to provide adequate analyses of the post Cold War-world because they focus only on capabilities and the structural composition of institutions.130 Katzenstein goes on to claim that only by shifting attention away from states and institutions and by focusing on a broader range of issues, such as cultural and national identity, is it possible to account for developments in IR that have taken place over the past decades.131 Alexander Wendt notes that “Mainstream IR theory simply had difficulty explaining the end of the Cold War, or systemic change more generally. It seemed to many that these difficulties stemmed from IR’s materialist and individualist orientation, such that a more ideational and holistic way of international politics might do better.”132 Furthermore, Wendt claims that “Social theory is concerned with the fundamental assumptions of social inquiry: the nature of human agency and its relationship to social structures, the role of ideas and material forces in social life, the proper form of social explanations, and so on.”133

Constructivism is often linked to the so-called “English School”, mainly due to the emphasis on interpretive methods that echo Hedley Bull’s call for reliance upon exercise of judgement rather than subjecting everything to verification and proof.134 The English School, or rationalist approach is associated with classical thinkers such as Grotius and Vattel, and modern writers such as Wight and Bull. Most importantly, these modern writers argue that there is a third way of looking at IR that, even though overlapping with realism and idealism, takes the middle ground between them.135

The rationalist school contends that “…the international system is not a state of war, and there is a surprisingly high level of international order given that states have an internal monopoly of control over the instruments of violence and, as sovereigns, no obligation to submit to a higher power.”136


Rationalists put forward the notion of an “international society of states”, which exists because states share a common interest in restraining the use of force by using an intricate system of accommodation and compromise.137 In the same manner, constructivism is often described as a “third way” between realism and institutionalism/liberalism, as being a “third power” in its own right because it stresses “…the importance of normative as well as material structures, on the role of identity in shaping political action, and on the mutually constitutive relationship between agents and structures.”138 Constructivism is also born out of the tradition of critical theory, which ontologically criticizes “the image of social actors as atomistic egotists, whose interests are formed prior to social interaction, and who enter social relations solely for strategic purposes.”139 By contrast, critical theory contends that “…actors are inherently social, that their identities and interest are socially constructed, the products of intersubjective social structures.”140 Constructivists insist that ideational and normative factors are just as important as material ones. These ideational structures create a system of shared beliefs and values that in turn condition actors’ identities as well as their interests and finally, actions.141

The constructivist approach obviously differs from the realist approach in its different facets described above. Culture, norms and values are terms missing from the realist discourse. Conversely, constructivists have avoided usage of the concept of power and “selfish” interest in IR. Looking at events from a constructivist stand point, one gets a much more optimistic picture of the possibility of international cooperation and interaction between different actors in general. Put in very simple terms, realism, institutionalism and constructivism can be aligned with international confrontation, cooperation and convergence respectively. According to constructivists, actors do not simply agree to cooperate, but rather, due to an ever-closer understanding of shared norms, they eventually become more like each other. While constructivism enjoys the benefit of being the most recent addition to IR theory142, and has therefore not been exposed to as much criticism as previous IR discourses, applying some of its core principles to contemporary developments in IR is fruitful. In keeping with the opening remarks about the importance of a combined theoretical approach to NATO-Russia relations, it is imperative to look beyond the realist framework and analyze events through a different and more nuanced approach.

Generally speaking, the constructivist IR discourse does not take the concept of power struggle for granted. Writers such as Karl Deutsch have put forward the notion that the best form of international integration consists of multiple channels of communication and a move toward consensus-driven decision-making.143 According to Ira Strauss, “NATO used that sort of ideological justification for its habits of operating by consensus over the years, and once something becomes not only a habit but an ideology, it becomes difficult to dislodge.”144 While Straus implies that many of NATO’s problems are due to the fact that the NATO decision-making process works by consensus, Deutsch’s thoughts about establishing consensus and increasing channels of communication in order to enable members to reach a state of unity are crucial to constructivist views of international interaction. Although chiefly an argument against federalism, Deutsch nevertheless advocates cooperation between nations that goes beyond balancing, bandwagoning or teaming up against a common threat. Deutsch believes that unanimity and consensus born out of diverse channels of communication are the best ways to achieve true international cooperation and understanding. Shared values emerge through consensus, eventually leading to convergence of norms, in accordance with constructivist theory.145


Clearly, a main objective of NATO has been the synchronization of interests and values of its member states, mostly through an intricate web of communication and negotiation. This, in turn, can create an atmosphere in which it is possible to overcome the most constricting status quo in IR: the maxim of national self-interest as basis for interaction with others. To this effect, Alexander Siedschlag observes: “If norms and institutions (such as NATO) are based on common interpretations and communication between states, they can shape a systematically policy-oriented political force, so that the law of the strongest and the power of national self-interest disappear in favor of international legitimacy.”146 As already mentioned above, the integration of (West) Germany into the transatlantic security structures was one of the three main objectives of NATO; the process has been an unequivocal success story, also due to the fact that NATO effectively managed to propagate a unified, Western, and transatlantic security and political culture. Moreover, channelling security concerns and policies into an international alliance means that each nation effectively became a member of that family of Western security, and thus did not see its own security as separate from that of its neighbors, while at the same time underlining the voluntary decision to join NATO, hence safeguarding the principle of sovereignty. NATO states that its security tasks are based on the following:

The fundamental principal underpinning of the Alliance is a common commitment to mutual cooperation among the member states, based on the indivisibility of their security. Solidarity and cohesion within the Alliance ensure that no member country is forced to rely upon its own national efforts alone in dealing with basic security challenges. Without depriving member states of their right and duty to assume their sovereign responsibilities in the field of defense, the Alliance enables them to realise their essential national security objectives through collective effort.147

2.3.2. Path dependency: constructivism’s critique

The flip side of established institutions functioning on the basis of a habit born out of consensus and convergence of norms is that they tend to stick to whatever modes of functioning were acquired; i.e., the emergence of path dependency and institutional stickiness can become problematic. This is considered an issue that mainly neorealists have pointed out. John Ruggie takes up this issue by reconstructing the neorealist and institutionalist/neoliberal debate and its problems: “Other neorealists, notably Krasner, have long allowed for ‘stickiness’ of institutional arrangements, however, whereby they continue to function along their original paths even after power relations shift, or even take new departures, so long as they do not drift too far out of the underlying power-based structure.”148 The issue of path dependency and the problems it can create in IR have already been discussed in the previous section. Whereas realists see the possibility of an international organization not reflecting reality due to institutional stickiness and the lack of freedom to manoeuvre, constructivists take a different approach. Realists, they contend, fall into the trap of seeing path dependency as the inherent driving force of IR. Therefore, the driving force behind establishing international organizations is also power, not norms or values. If, however, the cornerstone of international organizations is indeed power, and if international organizations only reflect current power structures in IR149, then it follows naturally that organizations will not be able to modify their institutional setup in response to changes that occur in the real world. They will continue to represent a world that used to exist at the time a particular organization was created.


Refuting this rather fatalistic way of viewing international organizations, constructivists, once again challenging the power-premise of realists, argue that change is possible and keeps on occurring in IR, and thus also in international organizations because the norms and values that shape them are themselves in transition. This point is put forward by John Ruggie who states that “Instances of institutionalization are situation-specific. That is, they are specific to given sets of actors who stand in specific relation to one another in the context of particular issues.”150 Therefore, Ruggie claims, cases of institutionalization are also inherently unstable, as

It follows that any given expression of the collective situation will not capture the individual situation of all participants equally well, and it will not conform to the individual situations of all participants equally well … Thus, any given collective situation is inherently unstable. It may change as knowledge of cause/affect relations changes, as prevailing configurations of interdependence alter and, of course, as capabilities or objectives change. Each collective situation is, therefore, subject to continued renegotiation...151

Thus, whereas realism sees international organizations as flawed because they tend to reflect the status quo and therefore inevitably become obsolete at some point, constructivists privilege the formation of organizations as inherently erratic, because the status quo itself does not exist the way realists envision it. Instead, the status quo itself is a compromise, which makes it more likely that international organizations will eventually undergo changes. Ruggie uses this line of reasoning to advocate that NATO, an international organization operating in very different circumstances from the ones for which it was created, should move forward by strengthening its European forces in particular while ushering in the end of the US preponderance in NATO, and in European security structures generally. Since the threat situation of the Cold War no longer exists, it is imperative for NATO to reconsider its focus; otherwise it runs the risk of operating under threat perceptions that no longer exist.152 To Ruggie, international organizations are not inevitably fated to one day become obsolete. On the contrary, the ever-changing environment of IR, as well as the changing values and norms that make up IR, are the reasons why these organizations exist in the first place. Therefore, there should be no reason why NATO would cease to exist.


This links into what many see as the greatest charge laid at the standard IR debate since WWII that was born out of – amongst other issues – the pre-eminence of realism and the institutionalist challenge: the problems both theories encounter when trying to explain how change occurs in the international system. As Ruggie has pointed out, a changing international environment is not the reason per se why NATO should cease to exist. In order to be able to discuss change in international organizations, one should understand the structural change in IR that has brought about the need for organizational change in the first place. Realists see static conditions in IR as pre-eminent and privilege them over change because they are believed to foster conditions that are conducive to maintaining peace. In contrast, constructivists maintain that the entire modus operandi of IR consists of change and therefore the decade-old impasse of how to accommodate change in theoretical models becomes obsolete. According to Ruggie, constructivism goes beyond the confines of neorealist (and neoliberalism) by

[p]roblematizing states’ identities and interests, by broadening the array of ideational factors that affect international outcomes; by introducing the logically prior constitutive rules alongside regulative rules; and by including transformation as a normal feature of international politics that systemic theory should encompass even if its empirical occurrence is episodic and moves on a different time line from everyday life.153

NATO, therefore, is not defined as a static, undefined object of IR, but rather as a living, constructed actor that itself is based on identity change that results from general movements in IR, but also from its constitutive parts themselves. Thomas Risse-Kappen reaches the same conclusion: liberal democracies form images of groups of friends and of groups of potential enemies. Through socialization, a group of states154 can acquire a sense of community in which the role of power is minimized for the benefit of compromise and persuasion. Based on these assumptions, Risse-Kappen argues that NATO’s successful existence is a consequence of the persistent “we-feeling” that NATO members share.155 However, who is “in” and who is “out” may change over time; in fact, Risse-Kappen suggests that the “otherness” of Russia vis-à-vis NATO will subside over time due to ongoing democratic reform in Russia.156

2.3.3. Normative politics


By privileging the concepts of norms, values and the convergence of the two, constructivism inherently takes a normative outlook on IR: stressing the normative element of politics in general, and of international politics in particular, allows theory to move beyond the purely structural and rigid confines that were long considered to be the bases of IR. On the other hand, this also implies the normative judgement of developments in IR that neorealism, with its focus on power and structures, has shied away from. To neorealists, power is neither good nor bad, it just is, and therefore it shapes IR. Constructivism is much clearer on the issue, as Martha Finnemore explains, “…normative contestation is in large part what politics is all about: competing values and understandings of what is good, desirable, and appropriate in our collective, communal life.”157 Similarly, Finnemore contends that (Western) cultural norms have increasingly resulted in world-wide similarities in organizational and behavioral structures that would not have emerged if the world worked according to the power rules laid out by the neo-realist school.158 However, even though Finnemore assumes that norms and values will transcend different societies, she does not claim that the world community will eventually agree on one set of values or norms: “My international society is one in which basic norms are not in complete congruence. At times, they may make claims on people or mobilize groups with opposing claims, both of which are grounded in basic, legitimate norms of society.”159 She advocates a system in which the “minority discourse” will exist alongside the “majority discourse”, sometimes resulting in trade-offs, sometimes in a realignment of the majority discourse. Also, she claims that “conflicts among norms have no unique solutions. Different and shifting solutions will be tried in different places, and local context becomes important in identifying the particular solutions…”160 In her works, Finnemore walks the narrow line between identifying a global convergence to a particular set of norms on the one hand, and acknowledging that “one size does not fit all” on the other. However, her main statement remains that states, organizations and civilizations generally are driven by norms, not power.

Finnemore’s observations are certainly relevant for an analysis that deals with the relations between NATO and Russia in a changed international order. The argument for value convergence within NATO and among its member states has already been discussed. The same line of argument can be applied to Russia and its relationship with NATO. After all, NATO’s present membership of 26 also happened through processes of “enlargement”, implying gradual change within NATO itself as well as change within the applicant countries. Otherwise, the task of preserving the original Alliance would be assigned to the original member states of NATO, which are themselves a rather heterogeneous group of states. Thus, the actual, enticing question that constructivism raises has to do with exactly how much an international organization changes internally once it engages in external, visible change such as enlargement, in NATO’s case. Does the organization itself change, or does the required change happen asymmetrically, or, in NATO's case, is it the prospect member state that actively aligns its values and norms with those of NATO? If, as Finnemore claims, a convergence of values takes place that leans towards what is considered good, desirable and appropriate, who decides what is and what remains good, desirable and appropriate? In other words, how is the discourse determined, and by whom? How much convergence towards particular norms and values actually takes place, and how much of the normative in politics remains in the everyday dealings of an international organization?

Applying these questions to NATO and especially NATO’s relationship with Russia is challenging. The parallel often drawn between Germany and Russia as the “others” that are integrated into the “civilized” society of nations – normatively, militarily, economically and politically – does not hold up. (West) Germany joined a relatively new NATO, an organization that was created to protect the continent that (West) Germany is a part of. Russia, on the other hand, existed as NATO’s “other” for 40 years. That NATO was created because of Russia is not merely a historical truism; this fact continues to shape interactions between NATO and Russia. In accordance with the main hypothesis of this dissertation, it also puts some very basic constraints on the interaction between NATO and Russia. This does not preclude that interaction, and sometimes even cooperative interaction between the two actors has occurred and continues to do so. Neither does it preclude that NATO and Russia share any values or norms, or in Finnemore’s words, share a sense of what is “good, desirable and appropriate”. Indeed, the following chapter will analyze in more detail what set of events led to intensified cooperation between NATO and Russia. Constructivism’s assumption that the status quo in IR is a difficult concept has some very important implications. Just because actors have a history of not sharing a specific set of norms, they are not eternally condemned to live in a state of rivalry and confrontation. If that were the case, the Cold War would still being in progress – an argument that returns to the roots of constructivism itself and its qualms with the established theories in IR.


However, as Finnemore herself concedes, the so-called convergence of norms and values that takes place on an international scale is far from linear and clear cut. Different discourses coexist, and the majority discourse that emerges can itself be interpreted very differently by different actors. Therefore, the normative aspect to international relations inevitably leads to differences in perceptions as to what the majority discourse actually is. Questions concerning who has the most influence over the accepted discourse are therefore not unjustified. In order to be a member of a club, the applicant has to accept certain discursive elements that may or may not conflict with the applicant’s own history or set of values. In Russia’s case, this has certainly been the case. This aspect brings me back to the more “realist”, power-oriented side of the discussion, which should be seen as complementary, not opposed to the debate on values and norms. Does norm convergence entail trade-offs, zero-sum logic, or an interaction between two equal partners? Based on the neo-realist considerations that I have introduced earlier in this chapter, I would argue that in the case of NATO and Russia, the former is accurate.

Most constructivist literature remains ambivalent on the issue. The focus lies on establishing that convergence takes place and defining what exactly that means, as well as on discussing who or what is the entity that develops an identity. Rodney Hall for instance circumvents the problem of how an identity is established by focusing on the definition of a state as the primary actor – and thus the primary source for shaping identities – in IR and argues that:

… [t]he state is just the rational, bureaucratic, institutional manifestation of societal collective identity; of the nation, in the age of nationalism… Significantly, it is the legitimating principle of a given, historical, social order that privilege this rational bureaucratic manifestation of those principles as an institutional artefact of the system … Thus, I would ascribe equal ontological status to the nation (sovereign), as well as the state (institutional manifestation of sovereignty) and the system.161


However, even though Hall points out this discrepancy in the usage of terms, he does not privilege another form of government as the main unit of analysis. Like many other authors, his main argument is that “…change in the international system occurs with changes in the collective identity of crucial social actors who collectively constitute the units from which the system is comprised.”162

However, Hall does not offer an explanation for the issues raised above, namely the construction of identity – neither for states nor for organizations. Some issues are simply taken for granted and accepted.163 Finnemore points out that a tendency to treat given issues as a black box is widespread in IR theory: “Realists and liberals of various stripes have accepted and explored means of coordinating behaviour among rational actors. What actors want is treated as largely unproblematic in these analyses; norms are means to Pareto improvement by regulating behaviour in ways useful to actors164”. Finnemore’s answer to this dilemma is that actors behave according to reconfigurations of interest; that the “norms explored here are ‘constitutive’ in the sense that they constitute, create, or revise the actors or interests …”165 While this statement goes one step further towards explaining why certain actors behave a certain way, it does not ultimately resolve the inherent question of consensus-formation. Although it shifts the focus away from the perceived dead-end of power politics towards a more integrated approach that takes into consideration the social or human components of decision-making, ambivalence still remains with regard to certain processes of preference-building, and thus, policy-making.

This observation is of course not new. Opportunities for further research dealing with the above-mentioned issues have been pointed out by constructivists themselves. For example, Antje Wiener recounts constructivism’s main achievements and purposes, reaching the conclusion that


[t]he social ideas station stresses the importance of interaction and change. It begins with the assumption that social ideas such as norms and social knowledge have an impact on actors' identities, they are therefore constitutive for decision-making. However, this station still sticks to a structural notion of norms; it stresses their guiding role, and underestimates their ability to change… The particular dual quality of norms bears potential problems for social scientists, as norms may be stable for a certain amount of time, however, they are also subject to change. When and how do norms change?166

Once again the debate returns to the issue of change in the international system; it is interesting to see that, apparently, the problem of when and how change occurs still has not been answered definitively. The main claim made by (neo)realism, namely that rigid structures make change very unlikely to occur, reappears within constructivist thought. Therefore, the necessity to see theories as complementary and not mutually exclusive seems increasingly important.

Many theorists in IR have reached the same conclusion. For example, Ole Wæver tackles the classic divide realist/liberal divide in IR by declaring the feud to be over: “Realism and liberalism are no longer incommensurable – on the contrary, they share a rationalist research program, a conception of science, a shared willingness to operate on the premise of anarchy (Waltz) and investigate the evolution of cooperation and whether institutions do matter (Keohane).”167 Along the same line of thought, Henrikki Heikka picks up Wendt’s ideas on international security systems and their mode of functioning in a complex world. Heikka, like Wendt, concludes that, depending on several factors, security systems can be competitive or cooperative. First, states do not have a set of security interests that they apply regardless of the particular situation, but rather, each situation requires a new solution, and thus, a new set of preferences. Second, Heikka contends that much depends on how states view themselves and each other when it comes to international security168 – a statement that brings to mind the famous debate about actual vs. perceived threats that is a cornerstone of realist theory. In order to gain new insights into old problems, Ted Hopf summarizes what he believes are the main shortcomings of the different theories.169 He sees neorealism as being too state-centred, overly focused on anarchy and the principle of self-help and material power.170 Constructivism on the other hand does not account for progress and runs the risk of being methodologically unsound.171 


In other words, theoretical considerations do not offer the final word on real-world issues. However, they do help to classify thoughts and concepts in the quest for new insights on different problems. Therefore, the following table serves as a summary of this chapter and is meant to give an overview of possible scenarios of NATO-Russia interaction and the theoretical implications connected to the scenarios. In this table, confrontation and cooperation are clearly associated with realism and constructivism, respectively. The scenarios chosen represent a representative situation within the relationship, oscillating between confrontation and cooperation; in accordance with the main research question that this dissertation has put forward.

Table 1: Scenarios for NATO - Russia interaction


Partnership schemes/

Joint exercise

Institutio-nalized Dialgogue

Disbanding of institutional interaction






Balance of power

Perception of threatening behavior

Actions that are threatening to vital interests of either party


Convergence of norms

Convergence of interests

Seeking a common

language and community

Divergence in norms and values

Break-down of common norms and values

2.4. Connecting the threads – interim conclusions and problems to solve

2.4.1.  Chapter summary

This chapter has outlined the contributions as well as the shortcomings of realism and constructivism to the analysis of NATO–Russia relations. Rapprochement vs. estrangement is well mirrored – if only superficially – in this seemingly contrasting debate. As mentioned before, the phenomenon of the collapse of the Soviet empire has found a theoretical home within constructivist theory, if only ex-post. Jeffrey Checkel, for example, credits a turn in Soviet thinking for the end of the Cold War.172 According to Checkel, domestic institutions and international structure influence the way different countries use ideas in order to shape policy. In the case of the Soviet Union, the struggle between new and old ideas led to a softening of entrenched assumptions which in turn made it possible for new foreign policy to emerge.173 Meanwhile, Michael Williams and Iver Neumann argue in favor of a new idea shaping NATO-Russia interaction: enlargement constitutes a “symbolic power” that consists of institutions, identities and narrative structures that contributes to creating a security community with which both NATO and Russia can identify themselves174, thereby offering an explanation for NATO’s continued existence. The existence of NATO after the end of the Cold War has also been advocated by analysts focusing less on normative causes such as values or security conformity, and more on military and political assets. NATO exists, and will continue to exist simply because it continues to provide security. This means that contrary to the argument often heard that NATO has lost its purpose in a post-Cold War environment, NATO has actually succeeded in carving out a new set of responsibilities for itself.175 For example, Christian Tuschhoff argues that NATO continues to provide valuable security to its members.176 He claims that a combination of defense planning and political discourse have brought NATO up to speed with the challenges of the 21st century, particularly the fight against international terrorism.


It is much more complicated, however, to reconcile NATO’s continued existence with assumptions made by realists. Arguably, advocating NATO’s ongoing existence along strict realist lines would imply that Russia continues to be seen as a potentially lethal adversary. But if this line of reasoning is to be refuted, i.e., that Russia de facto does not constitute a threat to NATO, then what does NATO’s threat perception entail? This brings up the major dilemma that realism faces when confronted with NATO: why does NATO still exist when the Soviet threat has been eliminated? This seems like a no-win situation at best and a dead-end situation at worst. Generally speaking, placing Russia within this context in realist discussions turns out to be difficult. At the core of what this dissertation is aiming to explain, this dilemma does indeed raise several interlinked issues. Returning to the beginning of this chapter, and taking into account the overview given in the previous sections, I would like to consolidate the different issues pertaining to NATO-Russia engagement, especially in light of the hypotheses put forward in the introduction and in the beginning of this chapter. As I have pointed out, theoretical approaches do not always fully and accurately reflect actual events in IR. Therefore, the only logical consequence that can be drawn is that every theory needs to be tested against reality, and, if necessary, complimented with elements of other theories. For this dissertation specifically, the consequences are twofold: first of all, the existence of actual NATO-Russia interaction and the absence of open hostile threats challenge some tenets of realism. Second, the fickleness and reluctance that NATO–Russia interaction is characterized by puts limits on constructivism's central tenets. Of course, opinions diverge on how much NATO and Russia interact and to what extent the interaction is positive or negative; while some see reason to expect an ever-closer cooperation, others contend that the two actors are drifting apart. Accordingly, both realism and constructivism are employed to explain events.

This has several implications for this thesis’ hypotheses. Hypothesis 1 – that NATO and Russia interaction is characterized by residual Cold War issues that arise from a perceived balance of threat situation between the two actors – addresses an issue that often gets obfuscated in the debate about the state of the art in IR after the end of the Cold War. Whereas it is undeniable that NATO and Russia do not follow patterns of interaction that are as openly aggressive and destructive as they used to be during the Cold War, it does not necessarily follow that they find themselves engaging in an ever-closer relationship. First and foremost, NATO and Russia interact because they must. Geopolitical events after 1989 have made it impossible either to ignore or openly confront each other. Taken per se, this statement does not conflict with any of the major theoretical approaches of realism, liberalism or constructivism. It does, however, put a certain amount of constraint on the explanatory power that any of the theories offer. For example, NATO and Russia do not behave along strictly realist terms because they do not consistently try to gain absolute advantages over one another, but this does not prevent them from interacting in such a way that rivalries still exist – and therefore, it is entirely possible that both are missing out on positive outcomes that would be possible if real cooperation existed.177

On the other hand, the fact that NATO and Russia interact because they have no other choice does not mean that far less cooperation between them is entirely feasible. Therefore, according to the constructivist argument, the interaction that we see today between Russia and NATO is the result of progress that has already been made in terms of convergence of values and rapprochement of norms. Indeed, if the Cold War status quo is the bar that contemporary NATO-Russia interaction is measured against, then constructivism certainly does have a point. This reflects the argument made by the second hypothesis – that neither realism nor constructivism by themselves adequately explain patterns of interaction between NATO and Russia. At the same time, I would like to put a caveat on the idea of an ever-closer convergence of norms and values that paves the way for ever-closer cooperation between NATO and Russia. As stated in Hypothesis 1, and reverting back to the notion of path dependency and its importance for NATO–Russia relations, patterns of confrontation resulting from the structural imbalance that is created when NATO interacts with Russia still continue to shape the way both sides perceive each other, which in turn affects policy outcomes. Closely related to this is the problem of discourse and agenda-setting, an issue that I have discussed at length in this chapter. Who decides what the discourse should look like is also heavily influenced by certain power structures. These are what I refer to as “residual Cold War” patterns. These residues that align more with a realist worldview should not be underestimated in their importance, even though this might seem inopportune given the criticism that has been levelled at the realist school, especially since the end of the Cold War.

2.4.2. Methodolody


The theoretical approach chosen ties in with the methods used in order to be able to put forward a solid analysis of NATO–Russia relations since 1997. This analysis rests to a large extent on three research methods: first and foremost the analysis of primary documents relating to the NATO–Russia institutional framework, second, the complementary analysis of secondary literature, and third, the gathering of empirical information in the form of interviews with experts and policy makers.178 This dissertation is therefore employing qualitative methods, which, according to King, Keohane and Verba, are characterized by not relying “on numerical measurements. Such work [qualitative research] has tended to focus on one or a small number of cases, to use intensive interviews or depth analysis of historical materials, to be discursive in method, and to be concerned with a rounded or comprehensive account of some event or unit.”179 One main component of this qualitative method is what Stephen van Evera refers to as “process tracing”: “In process tracing, the investigator explores the chain of events or the decision-making process by which initial case conditions are translated into case outcomes.”180 In order to establish what the initial case conditions are, I base the majority of my research on primary documents such as speeches, summits, meeting minutes, etc. Here the main caveat concerns the risk of letting one’s own ontology interfere with unbiased textual analysis. Also, the analysis of primary documents such as speeches, treaties and policy papers is by definition a normative endeavor, as it is difficult to distinguish between official language and actual outcome. The same problem applies to the analysis of data gathered in interviews: it is impossible to be sure of the interviewee’s own ontology or of particular organizational discipline as far as communication with outsiders is concerned. In order to receive answers that are as unbiased as possible, all interviewees employed by an international organization were granted anonymity.

As far as the choice of interviewees is concerned, I have sought to select a diverse group of experts and policy-makers. Naturally, employees of both the International Staff and the International Military Staff at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels were of prime importance. In order to be able to make complementary observations as far as institutional preferences are concerned, I also interviewed staff at the External Relations Directorate General of the European Commission in Brussels: interviewees were in charge of the EU’s political portfolio concerning Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, as well as the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP).181 A round of interviews was also conducted in Moscow; here, I opted for a mixture of experts and policy-makers: first, NATO’s Military Liaison Mission (MLM) and Information Office (NIO) were of vital importance as far as the gathering of empirical evidence was concerned. Second, interviews at both Russian and foreign think-tanks were conducted. Finally, the list of interviewees included staff of the German embassy and Russian journalists. In a third round of interviews I focused on staff of the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin. The analysis of interviews thus constitutes an indispensable tool for this research project. Nevertheless, official discourses such as speeches and primary documents served as the empirical underpinning of this dissertation. Of particular importance are the two basic treaties: The Founding Act and the Statement of the NATO-Russia Council. In addition, the NATO handbook that is freely available on NATO’s website turned out to be of great value, as was the NATO emailing service that updates interested parties on recent speeches held by the Secretary General of NATO, of official visits, as well as news regarding joint exercises etc. Meeting minutes of PJC and NRC sessions gathered by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly were a very useful tool for process tracing.

However, as I have already pointed out, the discursive method also runs the risk of being overly normative, which is something that I am keen to avoid. Therefore, considering secondary sources such as books, articles, conference papers and cutting-edge analyses that deal with the relationship between NATO and Russia is just as indispensable. Here, I paid particular attention to avoid taking on a specifically pro-Russia or pro-NATO view; a concern that is also reflected in my choice of interview partners, as well as in the effort to include both Russian and NATO sources in this project. I have already alluded to the potential problematic of bias in mainstream IR theory, and it is certainly an issue that Russian academics are keenly aware of. It is also a fact that most textbooks and articles that are considered the cornerstones of present-day political science emanate from the US or from Europe. Thus, throughout this dissertation, I have tried to avoid certain truisms that provide simple answers to complex questions, keeping in mind that the Russian perception differs quite significantly from NATO’s perception or the perception of the West in general. Simplistic answers to current issues in NATO–Russia relations such as “Russia has to accept the fact that it is no longer a superpower and needs to start acting accordingly” are not satisfactory in my opinion. Of course, statements like these may contain more than a grain of truth and thus need to be analyzed with care. However, my aim is to treat them as only one side of the coin, and not as axiomatic. Whereas discourses can wield great explanatory power, they can also solidify existing prejudices – this is something that holds particular truth as far as NATO and Russia are concerned.


The following two chapters will take a close look at actual events that have shaped NATO-Russia interaction since 1997. Particular attention will be given to developments that are established as proof for either “cooperation” or “confrontation”182, as well as to the patterns that can be established from them. This will set the framwork for the actual case study that is expected to shed a fresh look at what NATO–Russia interaction: both actors’ involvement and professed interests in Central Asia. Assumptions and claims put forward in this theory chapter will continue to be referred to throughout the dissertation in order to enable a holistic conclusion that picks up where this chapter ends. I will therefore now turn to tracing and analyzing events that have been “agenda-setters” since 1997.

Fußnoten und Endnoten

64  In its most basic form, an alliance can be defined as: “a formal agreement establishing an association or alliance between nations or other groups to achieve a particular aim”, English Dictionary: wordreference.com, http://www.wordreference.com/definition/alliance, [last accessed on October 15, 2005]. The definition and purpose of an alliance will be discussed in detail later on. A good definition of alliance is put forward by Mark Webber: “A second course open to states [who do not wish to pursue a policy of military build-up] is to join with others in the form of an alliance…states recognize the necessity of temporarily pooling their capabilities in order to counteract a state or a group of states that appears to be accumulating a disproportionate amount of power”, in: Webber, Mark: “The international politics of Russia and the successor states”, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996, p. 6.

65  NATO enlargement took place over the course of six decades. The dates of accession are as follows: the original North Atlantic Treaty was signed on April 4, 1949 in Washington DC by Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. Greece and Turkey acceded on February 18, 1952; the Federal Republic of Germany on May 6, 1955, Spain on May 30, 1983; the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland on March 12, 1999; and finally Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia on March 29, 2004. In total, NATO today includes 26 member states.

66  This applies to the methodological approach only. In terms of empirical findings, looking at NATO’s internal composition – especially where the impact of US hegemony is concerned – remains an important part of this research project.

67  Olson, Mancur and Zeckhauser, Richard: “An economic theory of alliances”, in: The Review of Economics and Statistics, vol. 48, #3, 1966, pp. 266-279, p. 267.

68  Ibid, p. 267.

69  Glaser, Barney and Strauss, Anselm: “The discovery of grounded theory: strategies for qualitative research”, New York: de Gruyter, 1967.

70  Such as, for example, NATO’s consensus-bound policy of unanimity.

71  E.g. Webber, Mark: “Russia and Europe: conflict or cooperation”, London: Macmillan Press, 2000.

72  Buzan, Barry and Little, Richard: “International systems in world history”, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

73  Ibid, p.3

74  Ibid.

75  Ibid.

76  Realism and neo-realism are both explicitly mentioned, since elements of both will be discussed in this chapter. However, I draw mostly on neorealist theory, unless classical authors are specifically mentioned.

77  Examples include: Herd, Graeme and Ackerman, Ella: “Russian strategic realignment and the post-post-Cold War era?”, in: Security Dialogue, vol. 33, #3, 2002, pp. 357-372; Kay, Sean: “NATO, the Kosovo war and neoliberal theory”, in: Contemporary Security Policy, vol. 25, #2, 2004, pp. 252-279; Keohane, Robert and Martin, Lisa: “The promise of institutionalist theory”, in: International Security, vol. 20, #1, 1995, pp. 39-51; Peters, Guy: ”Institutional theory in political science: the new institutionalism”, London: Cassell, 1999; Wallander, Celeste, Haftendorn Helga and Keohane, Robert: “Imperfect unions. Security institutions over time and space”, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

78  In this dissertation I largely refer to liberal institutionalism, or liberalism. The subdivisions within the institutionalist school are plentiful, and include approaches as diverse as historical, international or rational-choice institutionalism. Liberalism is the subdivision that is most often applied in the “grand debate” between realism and institutionalism. Core tenets of this school include IR that are characterized by complex interdependence consisting of multiple channels of interaction, where the use of force plays a minor role. Institutions are largely seen as a “management tool” for IR, whereby relative as well as absolute gains over policy outcomes create an incentive for states to “bind themselves” to one or several international organizations or regimes.

79  Essential terms of IR theory such as power and anarchy will be defined in detail in the next paragraph.

80  Keohane and Nye, 2001.

81  Keohane, Robert: “International institutions and state power: essays in International Relations theory”, Boulder: Westview, 1989, p. 163.

82  Lake, David: “Beyond anarchy: the importance of security institutions”, in: International Security, vol. 26, #1, 2001, pp. 129-140, p. 136.

83  For treatises on the security dilemma problematic see: Glaser, Charles: “The security dilemma revisited”, in: World Politics, vol. 50, #1, 1997, pp. 171-201; Herz, John: “Idealist internationalism and the security dilemma”, in: World Politics, vol. 2, #2, 1950, pp. 157-180; Jervis, Robert: “Was the Cold War a security dilemma?”, in: Journal of Cold War Studies, vol. 3, #1, 2001, pp. 36-60; Jervis, Robert. “Cooperation under the security dilemma”, in: World Politics, vol. 40, #1, 1978, pp. 167–214; Snyder, Glenn: “The security dilemma in alliance politics”, in: World Politics, vol. 36, #4, 1984, pp. 461-495.

84  For the purposes of this dissertation only; it is by no means meant as a general statement.

85  Lake, 2001, p.130.

86  See Keohane and Nye, 2001.

87  E.g. Wallander, Celeste: “Mortal friends, best enemies: German-Russian cooperation after the Cold War”, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999; or Haftendorn, Keohane and Wallander, 1999.

88  Lake, 2001, p. 130.

89  Snyder, Robert: “Bridging the realist/constructivist divide: the case of the counterrevolution in Soviet foreign policy at the end of the Cold War”, in: Foreign Policy Analysis, vol. 1, #1, 2005, pp. 55-71, p. 67.

90  Ibid, p. 68

91  Thucydides: “The Melian Dialogues”, in: Viotti, Paul and Kauppi, Mark (eds.): “International Relations theory – realism, pluralism, globalism”, New York: Palgrave, 1993.

92  Machiavelli: “The Prince”, in Viotti, Paul and Kauppi, Mark (eds.): “International Relations theory – realism, pluralism, globalism”, New York: Palgrave, 1993.

93  Hobbes, Thomas: “The Leviathan”, edited by Richard Tuck, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

94  In its essence, the state of anarchy describes a state in international politics that is characterized by the absence of a world government.

95  See Grieco, Richard: “Anarchy and the limits of cooperation”, in: Kegley, Charles (ed.): “Controversies in IR theory – realism and the neoliberal challenge”, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995, pp. 151-172, p.153. Authors who have contributed to compiling these five core traits of realism include, amongst others: Waltz, Kenneth: “Man, the state, and war: a theoretical analysis”, New York: Columbia University Press, 1959; Morgenthau, Hans: “Politics among nations: the struggle for power and peace”, New York: Knopf, 1973; Gilpin, Robert: “The richness of the tradition of political realism”, in Keohane, Robert (ed.): “Neorealism and its critics”, New York: Columbia University Press, 1986, pp. 301-321.

96  Waltz, Kenneth: “Theory of international politics”, New York: McGraw Hill, 1979.

97  This is a key premise of classical realism. See: Morgenthau, Hans: “Politics among nations. the struggle for power and peace”, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948.

98  Ibid.

99  With “Theory of international politics”, Waltz sparked a whole new debate that was to define IR over the next 30 years. The neorealist/neoliberal debate continues today. First of all, critics contend that neorealism fails to predict or describe actual phenomena in IR, and is therefore inept at coming up with relevant policy prescriptions. Also, neorealism is ill suited to account for change in IR, as well as for new developments that go beyond pure power issues (see Keohane and Nye).

100  Of course, the main obstacle to reading NATO-Soviet relations as a textbook example in general is the fact that NATO is not a nation-state. In order to address this issue, I refer back to the beginning of the chapter, where this methodological issue was discussed in more detail.

101  Mearsheimer, John: “The tragedy of great power politics”, New York: Norton and Company, 2001, p. 2.

102  Ibid.

103  Usually referred to as “offensive” or “defensive” realism. States that seek to preserve the status quo out of the fear that losing their comparative advantages in strength over others might endanger their survival or peace might decide to engage in bellicose activities in order to secure their position (defensive realism). Such states will not, however, seek to expand their advantage over others (e.g. through the acquisition of new territory) by acting aggressively towards other states; such behavior would be associated with offensive realism.

104  Mearsheimer, 2001, p. 4.

105  NATO Handbook, Brussels: NATO Office of Information and Press, 2001, p. 80.

106  See chapters 3 and 4.

107  Madrid Declaration on Euro-Atlantic Security and Cooperation (Articles 6 and 8), issued by the Heads of State and Government at the Madrid Summit, July 8, 1997, http://www.nato.int/docu/pr/1997/p97-081e.htm [last accessed on 9 November, 2005].

108  Mearsheimer, 2001, p.3.

109  Waltz, 1979.

110  A thorough analysis of balancing and bandwagoning is also offered by Christinsen, Thomas and Snyder, Jack: “Chain gangs and passed bucks: predicting alliance patterns in multipolarity”, in: International Organization, vol. 44, #2, 1990, pp. 137-168. They contend that Waltz’s balance of power theory needs to be erweitert by adding Robert Jervis’ notion of offensive (chain-ganging) or defensive (buck-passing) behavior among states. A perceived offensive can result in unconditional alliance formation, whereas a perceived defensive advantage may result in free riding with regard to the balancing efforts of other states.

111  Walt, Stephen: “The origins of alliances”, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987.

112  Ibid.

113  Walt, Stephen: “Alliance formation and the balance of world power”, in: International Security, vol. 9, #4, 1985, pp. 3-43.

114  Ibid.

115  Straus, Ira: “Russia in NATO: the fourth generation of the Atlantic Alliance”, in: Thompson, Kenneth (ed.) NATO and the changing world order”, Lanham University: Press of America, 1996, pp. 139-159, p. 155.

116  Walt, Stephen: “Testing theories of alliance formation: the case of Southwest Asia”, in: International Organization, vol. 42, #2, 1988, pp. 275-316.

117  Ibid.

118  Both the actual outcomes of enlargement and the war in Kosovo will be discussed in greater detail in chapter 3.

119  Borrowing both concepts from economics, IR theory has applied game theory to issues of interaction in order to establish rules of engagement. One of the most influential conceptualizations constitutes “tit-for-tat”, a set of rules by which interaction between two players can be predicted. Tit-for-tat claims that the parameters for cooperation are defined by previous experiences. If the opponent has previously been cooperative, the actor will also be cooperative. If the opponent has been antagonistic, the actor will also be antagonistic. Tit-for-tat in political science is most commonly associated with Robert Axelrod’s book “The evolution of cooperation”, New York: Basic Books, 1984. Though Axelrod has usually been associated with institutionalism, the basis of his analysis – game theory – can also be associated with the tenets of realism.

120  Keohane and Nye, 2001.

121  Grieco, Joseph: “Understanding the problem of international cooperation: the limits of neoliberal institutionalism and the future of realist theory”, in: Baldwin, David (ed.): “Neorealism and neoliberalism: the contemporary debate”, New York: Columbia University Press, 1993, , pp. 301-338, p. 331

122  Ibid.

123  Such as enlargement etc.

124  Thucydides in: Viotti and Kauppi, 1993.

125  Path dependency is defined as a situation in which actors make decisions based on processes that have taken place in the past, or on a set of decisions that have been taken in the past. Path dependency thus stresses the historiographical component that influences developments in the social, but also the natural sciences.

126  Collier, Ruth and Collier, David: “Shaping the political arena: junctures, the labor movement and regime dynamics in Latin America”, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991.

127  Duffield, John: “Why NATO persists“, in: “NATO and the changing world order: an appraisal by scholars and policymakers“, Lanham: University Press of America, 1996, pp. 99-118, p. 106.

128  Ibid, p. 102.

129  For example, constructivists have stepped away from a state-centric view of IR. Whereas constructivists still do not contest the premises that lie at the heart of both realism and institutionalism, namely that the state is the main unit of analysis and that the most defining status quo in IR is the state of anarchy, they question whether this actually constitutes an obstacle to international cooperation.

130  Katzenstein, Peter (ed.): “The culture of national security: norms and identity in world politics”, New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

131  Ibid.

132  Wendt, Alexander: “Social theory of international politics”, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 4.

133  Ibid, p. 5.

134  Reus-Smith, Christian: “Constructivism”, in: Viotti, Paul and Kauppi, Mark: “International Relations theory – realism, pluralism, globalism”, New York: Palgrave, 1993, pp. 209-230, p. 227.

135  Linklater, Andrew: “Rationalism”, in: Viotti, Paul and Kauppi, Mark: “International Relations theory – realism, pluralism, globalism”, New York: Palgrave, 1993, pp. 103-28, p. 104.

136  Ibid.

137  Ibid, p. 105.

138  Reus-Smith, 1993, p. 209.

139  Ibid, p. 214.

140  Ibid.

141  Ibid, p.216-217.


143  Deutsch, Karl: “The nerves of government: models of political communication and control”, New York: Free Press, 1963.

144  Straus, 1996, p. 151.

145  Deutsch’s seminal work has served as point of reference since the 1960s. For an in-depth analysis of Deutsch’s work see Katzenstein, Peter: “International interdependence: some long-term trends and recent changes”, in: International Organization, vol. 29, #4, 1975, pp. 1021-1034.

146  Siedschlag, Alexander: “Der ‘kulturelle Faktor’ in der Sicherheitspolitik”, Bonn: Reader Sicherheitspolitik, Streitkräfteamt, Informations- und Medienzentrale der Bundeswehr, 2003, p. 91-92.

147  NATO Handbook, Brussels: NATO Office of Information and Press, 2001, p. 30.

148  Ruggie, John: “Constructing the world polity”, London: Routledge, 1998, p.10.

149  Mearsheimer, John: “The false promise of international institutions”, in: International Security, vol. 19, #3 1994/1995, pp. 5-49.

150  Ruggie, 1998, p. 57.

151  Ibid, p. 54.

152  Ibid, p.229-239.

153  Ibid, p. 27.

154  Risse-Kappen limits his hypothesis to liberal democracies.

155 Risse-Kappen, Thomas: “Collective identity in a democratic community: the case of NATO”, in: Katzenstein, Peter: “The culture of national security. Norms and identity in world politics”, New York: Columbia University Press, 1996, pp. 357-399.

156  Ibid.

157  Finnemore, Martha: “National interests in international society”, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996, p. 135.

158  Finnemore, Martha: “Norms, culture and world politics”, in: International Organization, 1996, vol. 50, pp. 325-347.

159  Finnemore, 1996, p. 138.

160  Ibid, p. 139.

161  Hall, Rodney: “National collective identity: social constructs and international systems”, New York: Columbia University Press, 1999, p. 27-28.

162  Ibid, p. 28.

163  The debate about what a ‘world government’ – as the answer to the issue of anarchy – should look like is one example. Whereas international institutions are largely seen as one possible answer to this issue, it remains questionable how viable the concept of ‘world government’ is.

164  Finnemore, 1996, p. 128-129.

165  Ibid, p. 129.

166  Wiener, Antje: “Social facts in world politics – the value-added of constructivism”, paper prepared for presentation at the 42nd annual convention of the International Studies Association, Chicago, 20-25 February 2001, http://www.isanet.org/archive/wiener.html [last accessed on 26 January 2006].

167  Wæver, Ole: “The rise and fall of the inter-paradigm debate”, in: Smith, Steve, Booth, Ken and Zalevski, Marysia (eds.): “International theory: positivism and beyond”, Cambridge: Cambride University Press, 1996, pp. 149-185.

168  Heikka, Henrikki: “Beyond neorealism and constructivism”, in: Hopf, Ted (ed.): “Understandings of Russian foreign policy”, University Park: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999, pp. 57-107, p. 62.

169  Hopf, Ted (ed.): “Understandings of Russian foreign policy”, University Park: University of Pennsylvania, 1999.

170  With regard to institutionalism, Hopf contends that it does not specify where actors’ preferences come from, that it does not make the distinction between individual and collective action, and that the problem of state-centrism still prevails.

171  Hopf, 1999.

172  Checkel, Jeffrey: “Ideas and international political change. Soviet/Russian behaviour and the end of the Cold War”, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.

173  Ibid.

174  Williams, Michael and Neumann, Iver: “From alliance to security community: NATO, Russia, and the power of identity”, in: Millenium, vol. 29, #2, 2000, pp. 357-387.

175  This statement is discussed in detail in chapters 1 and 5.

176  Tuschhoff, Christian: “Why NATO is still relevant”, in: International Politics, vol. 40, #1, 2003, pp. 101-120.

177  See chapter 5.

178  For a thorough analysis of the advantages and pitfalls of using qualitative interviews see: Froschauer, Ulrike and Lueger, Manfred: “Das qualitative Interview”, Weinheim: UTB, 2003.

179  King, Gary, Keohane, Robert and Verba, Sidney: “Designing social inquiry: scientific inference in qualitative research”, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

180  Van Evera, Stephen: “Guide to methods for students of political science”, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997.

181  Data gathered from European Commission officials only served as secondary and complementary information. Interviews held at NATO were of primary interest.

182  For example, the war in Kosovo and 9/11, respectively.

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