Former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana (80) prefers not to talk about a war between China and Taiwan. When asked if Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to invade Taiwan, the Spanish politician replies succinctly: “I think we have enough problems to deal with. We should focus on resolving the conflict in Ukraine and addressing its effects, including food shortages in Africa and elsewhere. There is no conflict in Taiwan at the moment, so the question can wait.”
Solana was Secretary General of NATO from 1995 to 1999, in an important post-Cold War period. In an interview with the prominent Russian-American political scientist Nina Lvovna Khrushcheva, he also talks about this time and NATO’s eastward expansion. But there is one thing the world needs the least of all right now, underlines Solana: a decoupling between Russia and China.
“With regard to China, the West must clearly offer to continue talking and cooperating,” he said in an interview published by Project Syndicate. “Indeed, avoiding such global decoupling is the greatest challenge facing the world today. A shift towards “two globalizations” – one around the US and the other around China – would be devastating because neither side could face global challenges without the other.” The eXXpress recently also reported on the enormous economic consequences.
Solana also addresses the causes of the estrangement between Moscow and Washington.
As NATO Secretary General, he tried to establish “a solid, coherent policy towards Russia,” Solana reports. The talks took place with then-President Boris Yeltsin. In January 1997, negotiations for Russia’s approval of the opening of NATO to other states began. “We agreed on the NATO-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security, and we created a NATO-Russia Council. At the same time, Russia accepted the first opening of NATO, a process that began less than two months later at the NATO summit in Madrid, when three countries – Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – started their path to join NATO.”
Solana still considers the agreement signed by both sides between Russia and NATO a “great success”. And: “I didn’t feel that the Russians didn’t want to complete it.” However, the situation would have changed afterwards.
At first, one did not have a bad impression of Yeltsin’s successor: “When Putin first became president in 2000, he seemed to be someone to negotiate with.” At the time, Vladimir Putin was also talking about Russia itself joining NATO. However, various events have led to a deterioration in relations between Russia and the West.
Regarding the continued expansion of NATO, Solana himself says: “I believe that the subsequent rounds of NATO expansion have not been conducted with the same care, the same personal negotiations, as the first one.” But the fight against terror under George W. Bush was decisive for Russia: “I also believe that Putin’s perspective has changed considerably after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which changed US foreign policy. Suddenly, fighting Osama bin Laden was all that mattered to the United States. As a result, US relations with Russia suffered, and Putin probably felt that he was no longer important to the US.”