- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 23, 2008

OP-ED:

Once again, the West’s policy toward Russia and its addiction to interfering in the affairs of other countries is having dangerous effects on the rest of the world. The seeds for the current danger were sown by NATO´s expansion to Russia’s borders after the fall of the Soviet Union. That deliberate, provocative and continuing process echoes in Russia’s long memory the painful experience of the Napoleonic and German armies storming across Europe into their motherland, hellbent on conquest.

NATO’s expansion was not merely an attempt to secure Russia’s vast resources - the sole objective of those earlier adventures. Its other aim was to fill the political vacuum left by the dismantlement of the Soviet Union. It was “independence mania” being driven down the throats of the former Soviet republics. However, Russia perceives its encirclement - from Central Asia to the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea - to be a threat, the effects of which are now playing out on the regional stage, including the recent hostilities in Georgia.

The real danger lies in the fact that Russia possesses 16,000 nuclear weapons, among the largest stock in the world. Intimidating Russia and attempting to besiege it fuels nationalism and threatens the world, again, with nuclear war. A new arms race is already afoot in the wake of the West´s decision to install a missile system in Eastern Europe, just miles from the Russian border.

Interestingly, the West’s misread of Russia’s reaction to NATO expansion was a precursor of recent strategic blunders - such as the invasion of Iraq - based on misleading information and short-sighted and naive analysis. Did the West really expect that “independence mania” would stop at pro-West Kosovo and not reach Abkhazia and South Ossetia? Now NATO is considering Georgia and Ukraine for their military alliance, more geopolitical bombs at Russia´s borders.

The continuation and expansion of NATO has no justification anymore, after the dismantlement of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. And, unlike during the Cold War, Russia is not defending a political, economic or philosophical ideology; it has none. What it will defend is Russian nationalism and the integrity of the Russian nation itself. In fact, it will be defending its very existence. This makes the current situation all the more dangerous.

America, like any other country in the world, has the right to defend itself as well as to seek to live in permanent peace. Its remote geographical location - insulated by two vast oceans and with non-threatening neighbors to the north and south - has made it a safe haven for immigrants and refugees, away from the conflicts and ambitions of the old world. Such a stature makes America the worthy host of the United Nations. Such a status would also qualify it to be a neutral country.

As America reassesses its role in the world under a new president, it should consider a return to the Monroe Doctrine, which called for non-interference in problems or relations with Europe, and non-expansion by European countries of their colonial hegemony toward America. This principle of non-interference should be extended by and for all countries of the world.

Greed, stupidity, recklessness and miscalculation must not continue to implicate humanity in war. Russia is not the Soviet Union. The world has moved on, and cooperation, not intimidation, is the key to peace and progress. Will the West wake up to this fact in time?

Muammar Gaddafi, the leader of the Great Socialist People´s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, recently returned from a state visit to the Russian Federation.