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Moore writes chapter on NATO enlargement, Russia-Ukraine war

A vast and complex field, political science encompasses an array of academic subjects, from political theory to globalization, policy analysis, and social change.

Dr. Rebecca Moore, professor of political science, primarily teaches international relations and international security-related courses at Concordia. Her principal research interest is NATO, the Euro-Atlantic military alliance focused on collective defense, crisis prevention and management, and cooperative security.

That’s why she was asked to use her expertise on NATO partnership policy to contribute to a book, “Evaluating NATO Enlargement: From Cold War Victory to the Russia-Ukraine War,” focusing on NATO enlargement, the process through which 20 additional countries have joined the original 12 in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Moore’s chapter examines Ukraine’s partnership with NATO beginning in 1994, when Ukraine first joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace. The former Soviet republic later declared its interest in joining the alliance.

Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014, occupying Crimea and parts of southeast Ukraine. In December 2021, just prior to Russia’s second invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that NATO issue a guarantee that Ukraine would never join NATO.

The alliance rejected his demand.

“I want Americans to recognize that what’s happening in Ukraine has the potential to affect their lives,” Moore said. “What’s really at stake is a way of life — liberal democratic values. The peace and prosperity that we’ve enjoyed is a product of American engagement in the world.”

Moore’s chapter in the book, which was edited by James Goldgeier and Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson, chronicles the relationship between Ukraine and NATO, and provides an analysis of NATO’s impact on Ukraine.

Since the book was published in February 2023, many of the specifics of the situation have changed, but Moore’s work remains relevant as the war continues.

Even NATO itself has changed, with Finland joining the alliance in 2023, followed by Sweden in 2024. Both nations have sophisticated militaries, and are geographically well-situated to be of assistance to the NATO allies as concerns mount regarding Russia’s intentions in Ukraine and the possibility that it might yet attack a NATO member, Moore said.

In her chapter, “Ukraine’s Bid to Join NATO: Re-evaluating Enlargement in a New Strategic Context,” Moore also devotes brief attention to the question of whether the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO through the Alliance’s enlargement process was a factor in Russia’s two invasions of Ukraine in 2014 and 2022.

Moore argues that it was not. 

Rather, she suggests that Russian aggression was more likely influenced by NATO’s failure to offer Ukraine a clear path to membership, as well as Russia’s perception that NATO was weak and divided after former President Donald Trump’s statements suggesting that the U.S. might not make good on its collective defense commitment to the NATO allies — the bedrock of the NATO alliance.

Moore points out that “If Putin has fears related to Ukraine, it’s more likely that they stem from concern that an independent, economically stable, liberal democratic state on Russia’s border casts his own authoritarian rule in a bad light, potentially fueling greater dissent.”

That’s part of why Americans should see the ongoing war, and the fate of Ukraine, as important.

“It’s not just about the territory of Ukraine,” Moore said. “What’s at stake is a set of principles. That’s what is at risk. Our identity is centered around these liberal democratic principles.”

If NATO were to abandon Ukraine, which though not yet a member of NATO, has consistently partnered with the alliance, it would send a signal to the rest of the world.

Indeed, Moore explained that NATO’s partners in the Indo-Pacific, in particular, fear that the alliance’s failure to respond to acts of aggression in Europe would send a dangerous signal to North Korea and China, both of which have engaged in increasingly provocative behavior in the region.

“The credibility of U.S. alliance commitments is also at stake in Ukraine,” Moore said. “U.S. allies in Asia, like Japan and South Korea, are likely to think twice about whether they are going to continue to rely on the U.S. for their security.”

While none of Moore’s classes focus primarily on NATO, the organization is relevant to most of them, and she frequently uses NATO-related examples to illustrate key concepts and trends in international politics.

“We desperately need politically well-informed, engaged citizens, not just in the U.S., but in a more global context,” Moore said. “That’s why I aim in all of my courses to provide students with a theoretically- and historically-informed framework for making sense of what’s going on today.”