WASHINGTON, October 17 (RIA Novosti) - The European Union (EU) could strengthen economic ties with Ukraine more seamlessly if the West can resist extending NATO's shadow further eastward, a military historian and security scholar told RIA Novosti on Friday.
"If Europe really wants to help Ukraine, it should offer real and substantial economic aid. I do think as a long-term compromise, that an EU relationship at some level is possible in exchange for zero-NATO in Ukraine," said Professor Michael Vlahos from Johns Hopkins' Global Security Studies Program, who made clear during the interview that "his views are his own."
Vlahos placed the current crisis within the historical context of NATO-Russian relations since the end of the Cold War, pointing out that real evidence exists of US assurances that NATO would not reach beyond the Elbe.
"There is also of course a substantial trail of pre-crisis NATO activity around making Ukraine ultimately a full NATO member. This sort of expansion goes well beyond initial assurances of non-expansion in 1990, and even the accession of the Baltics, because the Baltic republics' incorporation into the USSR was never accepted by the US," said Vlahos.
Russia has always viewed NATO expansion as a clear breach of initial post-Cold War promises by the West, according to Vlahos, who lamented that no "sphere of influence" agreements attended the end of the Cold War which made clear that US and NATO expansion into the former USSR (minus the Baltics) would be unacceptable and not tolerated.
"I think the strategic result of this summer's petite guerre will be to make clear exactly how far the US and NATO can push strategic expansion, after nearly 25 years of ambiguity and argument," Vlahos concluded.
Relations between Russia and NATO have been especially strained since Ukraine underwent a regime change resembling a coup in February, which the Kremlin suspects the West helped support. Following Crimea's reunification with Russia in March, NATO stepped up its military presence near Russia's borders.