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  NATO demonstrates its firm position

Vadim Volovoj, Doctor in Political Sciences
2014 10 13

Recently the NATO Summit took place in Wales and it was an exclusive summit because of the events in Ukraine and Iraq. The Baltic States expected to hear specific security guarantees from the Alliance. NATO had to demonstrate its viability and clear position under new global policy conditions and realities.

Today the world is on the verge of a breakdown; this situation forces to reconsider national positions, break the traditional thinking patterns and find new solutions. It is not an easy task, especially for stagnant organisations with different views and interests. Therefore the immediate radical changes of NATO were highly unlikely. Yet, the decisions made in Wales are a sign that new challenges did not frighten the Alliance.

First of all, a few words about Ukraine. President Petro Poroshenko arrived to Wales for support and he did receive moral (political) support: the Alliance has no doubts that  besides the separatists fighting against Ukrainians there are Russian troops. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmusen says it openly, the others, e.g. Angela Merkel avoids sharp statements regarding Moscow.

The military support is somehow vague. According to NATO, it cannot help Ukrainians with the arms; NATO can only give EUR 15 million package of measures for logistics, rehabilitation for injured troops, cyber defence, etc. However, some countries of the Alliance are able to do this. Whereas the Ukrainian side has already informed on the agreement reached with separate countries although afterwards hurried to deny this information (e.g. Poland, Italy, and Norway). Yet, deputy defence minister of Ukraine said that supply of the arms has already commenced. Thus, it is not yet clear on whether this support is provided or not.

Or maybe NATO „doesn‘t help“ Ukraine the same as Russia „doesn‘t help“ the separatists? On the one hand, the West is not involved in these dirty games (America is not hiding support to Syria‘s opposition). On the other hand, Ukraine is probably getting assistance but avoids speaking about it in order not to loosen Moscow‘s hands. It is also probable that statements of Ukrainian Government are first of all directed to own society in order to convince it that NATO has really given a helping hand.

Ukraine is not left helpless, yet NATO doesn‘t take active steps; the West presses Russia more with economic sanctions than with guns. It is quite risky in the long-term perspective because Russia is not going to stop the arms struggle. Will defeat of Kiev mean geopolitical tragedy for the Alliance? Probably not. Otherwise Barack Obama wouldn‘t have said that „geopolitically...what happens in Ukraine does not pose a threat to the United States”.

But the Alliance is quite enthusiastic about increasing security in the Baltic States. Officially permanent military bases are not envisaged there but special rapid response forces for the enhancement of security in the Baltics (especially security of the headquarters) is a sign that NATO doesn‘t bury the head in the sand and withstands the force. In fact, some members of the Alliance don‘t want to provoke Russia which reduces the number of supporters by unpredictable actions.

Russia’s plans regarding the Baltic States are also not clear, but from now on we‘ll be better protected and less afraid of the Iskandermissiles in Kaliningrad and of Russian military aircraft in Belarus. After the NATO Summit in Wales President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitë said: „It is important, it is historic. This is something what Lithuania, all Baltic countries and Poland have been striving for, and this was confirmed today“.

But Wales is not only security of Ukraine and the Baltic States. It is also security of Iraq where immediate actions should be taken against the radical Islam capable of destabilising the entire region, and Afghanistan where the international mission is coming to an end, but there is no stability in the country.  

America highlights the importance of threat of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). The country started establishing a coalition in Wales directed against ISIL.  It is difficult to say if the support only from the air will be helpful. Iraqi army is not able to fight even with the state-of-the-art arms and often simply runs from the battle field. Therefore the decision of Canada to send to Iraq special forces seems reasonable. Maybe backed by the specialists they will not run away?  

Advisory NATO‘s mission should remain in Afghanistan. The Alliance didn‘t win the war with the Taliban because the tasks turned out to be impossible. After the withdrawal of troops, the Soviet Union supported the formerly designated authorities in Afghanistan for some time, but eventually their power led to the collapse. Thus, the future of Kabul and of the entire region is vague, and even Russia and China want to see at least American troops in Afghanistan, otherwise they will have to fight against Islam themselves not in the territory of Afghanistan but in Central Asia.

In conclusion let me quote the words of a Western defence official after the Wales Summit. „ In some ways we are solving non-existent problem because we cannot solve the existing ones“. Sounds quite pessimistic. The Alliance could be blamed for a cautious attitude and unwillingness to interfere into the dangerous and long-lasting matters. But at least it decided to take care of own security (maybe after having realised that the Kremlin is not joking). 

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