By Harun Yahya
''''Why is NATO expanding? We can't see real reasons for that. We all know that the competitor who is the reason behind the establishment of NATO no longer exists''. These words belong to Sergey Yastrzhembsky, the presidential aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin back in 2004. Yastrzhembsky felt the need to make these remarks because NATO seemed to be expanding by incorporating former Soviet states while seemingly isolating Russia in the process. Surely there are reasons that make Russia's concerns well-grounded. It is fair to say that the goodwill and conciliatory efforts by Russia under the leadership of Putin in the aftermath of the Cold War were not reciprocated in kind, on the part of the US and the EU countries. The process, which first began and included former Soviet states into NATO and the EU, was exacerbated with the Syrian civil war and became an undeniable rift with the Ukrainian crisis. The Western world seems to be pursuing an agenda to isolate Russia, which brings to mind the possibility of a revival of the Cold War mentality.
Let's look at the factors in the Syrian and Ukrainian crises. No one could deny that the Syrian civil war could have ended easily enough with a reconciliation between Russia and the Western world after Russia had been assured of its continued presence and its interests in Syria would remain unharmed; yet the Western countries, led by the US, chose to ignore Russia's concerns over Syria and silently distanced themselves from the region.. They didn't acknowledge the fact that Russia wasn't going to risk losing one of its long-standing friends and allies, or that the increasing presence of radicalism in Syria would pose a significant threat both to Russia and Syria. The West failed to recognize that Russia would most certainly not jeopardize its Eastern Mediterranean defenses. They could have eased Russia's justified concerns through an alliance and helped find a reasonable and diplomatic means to end the Syrian civil war.
The current Ukrainian crisis is a clear proof of this new policy of isolation. The importance of Ukraine as an ally for Russia is clear and the actions of the USA and the EU in pretending not to understand that, while at the same time working to isolate Russia and forming friendships with former Russian allies, could be seen as an effort to divide the world into two poles. The Western world is perfectly aware of Ukraine's position as an old friend, a trade partner and a defensive bulwark in the Black Sea for Russia, and should have been perfectly capable of foreseeing the reaction of Russia to such behavior. Realizing this fact the EU should encourage and extend a helping hand to Russia in its integration with the West. Regarding the issue of Ukraine and Crimea, the policy of isolation of Russia is completely wrong and unacceptable. I've been repeating one important fact for a long time: Putin is a wise and approachable leader with a good deal of foresight. He has made important strides in his country and is open to negotiation and reconciliation. The Russian people are also a very decent and loving people: Therefore, no one can condone leaving these beautiful people and a good leader isolated and pushing them into a mindset of insecurity and fear.
It is of paramount importance that the USA and the EU countries leave behind the traditions and the mentality of the Cold War and adopt an integrative policy that will include and reassure Russia. If NATO wishes to become stronger by maintaining its presence in the former Soviet countries, it should do so by incorporating Russia in NATO, not by cutting ties with it. This would further prove NATO's point that it is a union of peace built to protect against possible external forces, not a military alliance against Russia. Furthermore, the EU countries should be helping Russia to develop, not attempting to isolate it. Unless this is done, it would be unfair to put the entire blame on Russia for these conflicts.
The world needs unity and integration. To do this, the good people of the West and the good people of the East should come together and help each other to develop as a whole, instead of trying to destabilize and weaken each other. The current Russian, US and EU leaders are all reasonable people that are quite capable of building such an alliance; therefore, it is important that they seize this opportunity. It is crucial that the West abandons its notion of 'I only think about my own people, my own economy, and my own lands.' The West should try to empathize and work with Russia, not against it. It is high time that everyone sees the problems of the world today can be solved with unity, not with perpetual conflicts.
The author is a leading Muslim commentator from Turkey. He has written more than 300 books in 73 languages