On September 4-5, Wales hosted the most recent NATO summit. But instead of addressing real issues related to the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan and the crises in Iraq, Syria and Libya, the allies obsessed over the mythical Russian threat. Moscow, which released a sensible peace plan for southeastern Ukraine the day before the summit, wasn’t invited to join the discussions, while Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was. No doubt, Poroshenko was overjoyed at the mere hint of closer ties with the West, even if it means major territorial losses, an economy in freefall and the impoverishment of his own country.
The US and Great Britain set the Russophobic tone of the summit, with the formal support of Old Europe – Germany, Italy and France – which continue to ratchet up financial and economic sanctions on Russia despite the damage to their national interests.
That said, even those European nations, despite powerful pressure from the US and their de-facto lack of political independence, refused to ramp up military spending, leaving their Transatlantic ally to carry the burden.
The nations of New Europe showed greater commitment due to their fear and panic in the face of a resurgent Russia. These countries – above all, the former Soviet Baltic states, Poland and Romania – are eager to host US military bases on their territory. However, like any other European country, they want the US to foot the bill. And they are willfully ignoring the fact that Russia will inevitably respond in kind, which will hardly enhance their security.
The modest results of the Wales summit stand in stark contrast to the bold pronouncements made by NATO leaders and the formidable 112-point declaration they adopted. The allies expressed support for a political settlement in Ukraine. But instead of devising new initiatives to end the political crisis unfolding inside Ukraine’s borders, they pledged to provide Kiev 15 million euros to pursue military reforms. And while this amount will barely cover office supplies for the Ukrainian defense ministry, the more important point is that no one even questioned the absurdity of seeking to reform the Ukrainian military instead of creating a new one from the ground up. What this tells us is that NATO is unwilling to offer Ukraine real military assistance, and would be unable to afford it in any case. To compensate for this token contribution, NATO promised Kiev a closer partnership. But what Ukrainian leaders really wanted was to secure a Membership Action Plan in the near future.
Of course, some NATO states agreed to sell Ukraine Soviet-era heavy weapons at scrap-metal prices. But these weapons have a service life of 25 years max, so it’s not clear how well they will work. This is especially true of military aircraft, which generally aren’t produced in Ukraine.
Operating such equipment requires trained personnel and a substantial stock of spare parts and equipment. Otherwise these arms are little more than a pile of useless metal.
It is also hugely significant that the 1997 NATO-Russian Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security and the Russia-NATO Council have survived this serious rift in Russia’s relations with the West. NATO clearly recognizes that strengthening the non-proliferation regime and solving numerous crises in the Middle East, North Africa, Northeast and Southeast Asia would be impossible without Moscow’s active participation.
NATO also resolved to deploy a rapid reaction force within 12 months in member states neighboring Russia. This is expected to be a 4,000-strong force, manned by Great Britain and Eastern European countries on a rotating basis, which will engage in unannounced military exercises. The US is expected to earmark one billion dollars for the training of these troops, which could be headquartered in Poland.
Russia is likely to respond by amending its military doctrine as soon as this year. The changes could include a new hierarchy of military threats and the designation of the US and NATO as military opponents whose excessive actions in the Black, Baltic and Barents seas, Poland and the Baltic States could push Russia to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Crimea and the Kaliningrad Region, as well as strengthen its naval presence in these regions.
It is hard to understand how these NATO initiatives will make European states more secure. If Russia were to open a military base in Cuba, this would directly affect US national security.
In all, the “success” of the Wales summit looks dubious. NATO allies showed themselves unwilling to allow a major rift with Russia over the Ukraine crisis. The summit was a huge blow to Kiev, which has finally realized that it must resolve the country’s territorial disputes on its own. There is no way Kiev will be offered a Membership Action Plan until NATO’s next summit, which is expected to be held in 2016 in Warsaw. For a country that is falling apart, this could be too long.
Vladimir Yevseyev is director of Public Policy Research Center.
This article was originally published in Russian on www.ria.ru
Post by Kyle Keeton
Windows to Russia…