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Why Does Russia Hate NATO? | The Creation of NATO and The Containment of Russia

russia nato split

Right now, Russia and NATO are at odds with Russia's invasion of Ukraine. While NATO is not currently actively participating in the war, it is clear to everybody that the real adversaries are Russia and NATO. But where did their vendetta begin? Why do Russia and NATO hate each other?


To understand why the two powers hate each other, it's first important to understand a key part of what it takes to become a world superpower: becoming a regional superpower. And it the Monroe Doctrine is what made the United States a regional power in the Americas...



This story is part of the series "Why is Russia Invading Ukraine?"

 

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America and The Monroe Doctrine

In the 1820s, the United States was only around 50 years old. Because it was such a young country, the bigger, more powerful European empires took advantage of the US and the other American countries’ weaknesses.


After a series of revolutions in the early decades of the 1800s, European empires wanted to reestablish their control over their American colonies. The growing European influence surrounding the new US finally took a step too far when Russia claimed the entire Pacific Northwest region.


Russia had already taken modern-day Alaska and had explored and claimed more land south of their Alaskan territory. Because both the US and Britain had plans to control the region, Russia had angered both the British and the US (Britain directly controlled Canada at this time).



As a result, the British proposed to US President James Monroe that they band together to demand that other European countries not be allowed to colonize and expand their power in South America. However, future president John Quincy Adams suggested that the US shouldn’t align itself too closely with Great Britain because then the US would just be the lesser man, following what Great Britain demanded.


Monroe agreed, and they both decided that the US needed to be the dominant power in the Americas. So the Monroe Doctrine was born. Essentially, the US proclaimed that Europeans stay out of the Americas, and the US would stay out of European politics.

a political cartoon of the monroe doctrine

Reactions to the Monroe Doctrine were all over the place. Britain could care less, but overall they were fine with it; they just wanted to keep the peace. Most Europeans didn’t take it seriously.


South Americans were also divided. Most South American countries were brand new and appreciated that the US was standing up to Europe for them. However, a lot of South Americans also believed that the US was not powerful enough to actually enforce it.



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Despite all of this, the Monroe Doctrine would determine a lot of US policies for the next century. So why was the Monroe Doctrine important? Because it established the US as a regional power and told the more powerful countries to back off.



Because of this, the US was able to build power and influence in the countries around it while keeping a far enough distance from the powerful European empires to prevent them from taking over or challenging the US.


In the minds of Russians, if the US can have a sphere of influence and become a regional superpower, why can’t Russia?



The Creation of NATO and The Warsaw Pact

As the Cold War was starting to heat up, the US National Security Council sent a report to the president about the state of the world in 1948. The report detailed the structure of the Soviet Union and outlined strategies for downplaying Russian power.

According to the report, the US's main goal in peacetime was,

“to maneuver the Russians out of their position of primacy and to enable the respective governments to regain their independence of action.”

And one of the strategies suggested by the Security Council echoes the events that have been unfolding for decades…

“By forcing the Russians either to permit the satellite countries to enter into a relationship of economic collaboration with the west of Europe which would inevitably have strengthened east-west bonds and weakened the exclusive orientation of these countries toward Russia or to force them to remain outside this structure of collaboration at heavy economic sacrifice to themselves, we placed a severe strain on the relations between Moscow and the satellite countries and undoubtedly made more awkward and difficult maintenance by Moscow of its exclusive authority in the satellite capitals.”
a map of warsaw pact members, the soviet union, and the original NATO members in 1949

And a year later, in 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created (the blue countries). NATO is an alliance made up of the US and most Western European countries. The US took the lead in this new alliance as most of Europe was still rebuilding after the damage of World War II.

At its conception, NATO was strictly a defensive treaty. It was created to protect Western Europe from a possible Soviet invasion. But over the next 40 years, NATO would continue to grow until it bordered the countries of the Warsaw Pact.



What’s the Warsaw Pact? The Warsaw Pact was the Soviet Union’s response to NATO and included most of Eastern Europe (the countries in red). The countries that weren’t taken over by the Soviet Union.


And then the Soviet Union fell, and so did the Warsaw Pact. One by one, the former communist countries broke away from Russia, became free and democratic, and joined NATO. And then there’s Ukraine...


a map of current 2022 NATO members and russia





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FAQs

What's The Monroe Doctrine?

The Monroe Doctrine was a policy the newly-founded United States adopted in the early 1800s during the Monroe presidency. It came as a result of growing European imperialism on the American continent, and in response, James Monroe declared that the US would stay out of European politics and wars and in return they would stay out of the politics of the American continent.



Why Was The Monroe Doctrine Important?

The Monroe Doctrine was important because it established the United States as a regional power of the American continent and asserted American dominance over the great European empires of the time. In addition to declaring US supremacy of North and South America, it also established US neutrality in European politics, allowing the US to consolidate its power in the Americas without worrying about a European intervention.



When Was NATO Founded?

NATO was founded in 1949 in an effort by the US and Western Europe to defend itself from the growing power of the Soviet Union. NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was a defensive alliance of the US and Western Europe that was created out of fear of a Soviet invasion. It would go on to include more countries until it met at the border with nations who were a part of the Soviet Union's Warsaw Pact.



Why Does Russia Hate NATO?

So why do Russia and NATO hate each other? Simply put, NATO was born out of bad blood between the West and the Soviet Union. And when the Russia that was born out of the fallen Soviet Union believed that NATO no longer needed to exist, NATO expanded right up to Russia's borders to protect more countries from Russia. From Russia's perspective, this is considered a threat to national security. The bad blood between the West and the Soviet Union has now transferred to NATO and Russia.



 

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