In this issue:
- OP-ED: NATO’s Enhanced forward presence is not a breach of the 1997 commitment not to permanently station substantial combat forces in Europe
- REVIEW: Facing an Unpredictable Threat: Is NATO Ideally Placed to Manage Climate Change as a Non-Traditional Threat Multiplier?
- POLEMICS: Should NATO Expand Further East?
NATO’s Enhanced forward presence is not a breach of the 1997 commitment not to permanently station substantial combat forces in Europe
As an answer to the 2014 annexation of Crimea and Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine, NATO, during the Warsaw Summit 2016, decided to deploy allied troops in Poland and the Baltic states. Russia considers this deployment a threat to national security and accused NATO of violating an alleged promise to refrain from the permanent deployment of troops in Europe, according to 1997 Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation.
However, NATO has never promised Russia not to establish military bases or station troops in its member states. Kremlin´s claim about the violation of the Founding Act seems like a deed of propaganda and misunderstanding of the deal. Besides, NATO troops are deployed on a rotational basis. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg assured that the Alliance does not plan to increase its military presence in the Baltics. Moreover, the deployment of approximately 4,000 soldiers can scarcely be called threatening. The troops were stationed to show Russia that NATO is able to support its allies. Moreover, the troop’s presence confirms the commitment to collective defence.
Secondly, the mentioned agreement was signed under different geopolitical circumstances. Since Putin´s grasp of power in the country, Russian relations with NATO have changed rapidly. Acts of aggression against Georgia, Estonia, Ukraine, violation of Baltic states´ airspace and the recent Skripal case provide a reason for NATO not to stay unconcerned and passive. Russian activities differ from those in the 1990s. Thus, the Alliance should ignore the 1997 agreement in order to protect its members effectively. Following the commitment made to Russia in different political circumstances twenty years ago could undermine the stability and security of Europe. NATO is expected to protect its members, but also prevent them from possible aggression, otherwise, there would be no meaning for NATO’s existence.
Lastly, troops were deployed to the region in response to the fear of Poland and the Baltic states from Putin´s claims. When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, president Putin issued statements that Russia did so to protect Russians living in the peninsula. Taking into consideration numerous violations of Baltic states´ airspace and the large Russian population in Poland and the Baltics, fear of such “protection” is understandable. Consequently, Poland and the Baltic states called NATO allies for help and to this day they keep this position. Recently, Poland expressed the will to establish a permanent US military base in the country, as Russian aggression has grown in the region.
Author: Ivan Iliev
Facing an Unpredictable Threat: Is NATO Ideally Placed to Manage Climate Change as a Non-Traditional Threat Multiplier?
STRATPOL Brief Review
After the end of the Cold War, the idea of security as a military-related domain has been reassessed. In the last decades, the destructive potential of environmental degradation and climate change emerged, resulting in the disappearance of arable land, periodic food shortages, recurring cyclones, wildfires, droughts, and floods. Not only does climate change act as a global security threat, but it also acts as a threat multiplier, directly affecting socio-economic and political security. Amar Causevic from the Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere Programme examines the NATO’s perception and capabilities to manage climate change as a non-traditional threat multiplier.
To begin with, the author provides an insight into the concept of realism which formerly defined NATO’s purpose and course of action. He argues that realism does not offer adequate solutions to combat climate change since it only focuses on the military induced “hard” threats among and towards states. Either due to the nature of human instincts or the anarchic structure of the international system, states are entirely interested in their own survival and the desire to acquire power. Therefore, the trans-border cooperation among states, which is the basic element for climate change mitigation, is excluded by the realistic zero-sum approach.
Outside the state-centric perspective, acknowledged sociologist Ulrich Beck introduced the risk society concept. He indicates that previous experiences with traditional threats easily shape the policies of the states, while non-traditional threats cannot be surely calculated. They are induced by the technological modernization significant for the beginning of the twenty-first century. Similarly, in the 1990s, Barry Buzan, Ole Waever and Jaap de Wilde of the Copenhagen School broadened the perception of security by the idea of referent object, upon which the character of a threat depends. They distinguished six security sectors, one of them being environmental, addressing the relationship between human civilization and the biosphere. “Unlike traditional security threats… climate change may initiate multiple chronic conditions, which could occur simultaneously on a global level.”
Referring to the Copenhagen School, Causevic considers climate change a problem closely linked to the national economic policy, strategic planning, public health, and international security. Its impacts dramatically influence government stability and trade relations. The emergence of terrorism, environmental migration, and conflicts over valuable supplies are also affected. The most vulnerable regions are sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, often struggling with the pre-existing poverty. A demonstrative example of such a country is Nigeria, experiencing long-term desertification, migration, and exponential population growth. Undersupply, together with religious differences and incompetent government, contributed to the influence of terroristic organizations such as Boko Haram.
The security environment nowadays is highly interdependent; therefore, the Alliance has been engaged not only in providing security to North America and its European member states, but also to non-member states. In 2006, NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme was established as a platform for activities within environmental security and protection. While the former provides responses to natural threats, the latter guards the impact of military activities on the environment. The 2010 Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of the Members of NATO institutionalized the non-traditional threat of climate change in the agenda of the organization. The smart energy domain has been explored by the Green Defence Framework and its operational body, Smart Energy Team.
As stated in the 2014 Wales Summit Declaration, NATO realizes that “climate change and increasing energy needs will shape the global security arena in the future” and seems to be willing to develop capabilities to respond to environmental challenges. However, Causevic points out that even though non-traditional threats have been recognized and analysed, action plans have not yet been fully integrated into the operations of the Alliance. Rather, they have been pursued on the national level by some of the member states, including Canada, the United Kingdom or Norway. Although the U.S. has made the most progress in addressing the environmental issues, future development under Trump’s administration is more than uncertain. Still, it is important to mention that the U.S. armed forces are highly capable of responding to natural disasters.
Causevic’s research provides a useful theoretical framework for the further application of environmental aspects to security operations. He emphasises the need to develop a coherent and interdisciplinary approach ranging from environmental to defence studies. The NATO members should share climate change-related knowledge since the concrete mechanisms have been implemented by a few states only. On the other hand, the suggestions of the author are slightly tendentious, leaving the impression of climate change being the essential challenge for the military structures. As a matter of fact, the realistic concept still seems to be predominant and prioritisation of non-traditional threats may come at the expense of combating traditional ones.
Author: Kristína Urbanová
Should NATO Expand Further East?
Recently, NATO-Russia relations have been complicated. Even though the hopes for mutual partnership used to be high and Russia was even thought of as a prospective member, cooperation has been suspended after 2014. More than 20 years of partnership efforts ended in response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.
Russian officials have repeatedly accused NATO of hostile behaviour and declared its open-door enlargement policy as directed against Russia. As of 2018, the Alliance officially recognises four aspiring members: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Georgia, and Ukraine. Particularly the future of the latter two cases can have a crucial impact on the Russia-NATO relations but also the NATO itself. The membership prospect for both has been laid down during the Bucharest summit in 2008, Georgia is recognised as an aspirant country since 2011 and Ukraine since 2018.
In this week`s polemics, we discuss whether NATO should or should not expand further to the East.
NATO Should Expand to the East
NATO should expand east because the enlargement process would boost the security not only of its members but also of non-members. Looking at the example of Georgia, potential membership is its foreign security policy goal for nearly two decades. Moreover, it provides Georgia with a roadmap plan for development. In its aspiration to join the Alliance, Georgia has made significant progress in reforming its armed forces. The country also substantially increased the number of its troops participating in international peacekeeping stabilisation operations, becoming the largest non-NATO contributor to the ISAF operation in Afghanistan. It shifted from a “security consumer to a provider”, contributing not only to its national security but to the security of the entire region as well.
A full-fledged NATO membership would further reinforce these qualities. Furthermore, countries interested in joining NATO are obligated to meet certain criteria among which is a functioning democratic system, commitment to peaceful conflict resolution, fair treatment of minorities, and democratic relations between military and civil institutions. Therefore, as a side benefit, the enlargement would put Georgia on a path towards further democratization and incorporation with the West.
The enlargement process would make NATO more robust, increasing its deterrence against possible external attack. Therefore, a potential membership of Finland and Sweden would be highly beneficial. Both countries are members of the EU, are active in international military peacekeeping and have highly developed defence industries. Incorporating them in the ranks of NATO would significantly boost its military capabilities. Despite Russia’s threats, it is unlikely that their potential membership would spark a conflict with Russia. The institutions of both countries are well in line with the western democratic and economic principles. It is, therefore, unlikely that Moscow could use a similar strategy as in Ukraine or Georgia.
Furthermore, the strategic location of both Finland and Sweden is vital for NATOs defence of the Baltic states. Currently, in case of a conflict with Russia, any land route to Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia can be cut off by the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Access to Swedish and Finnish coastline would provide an alternative route. Moreover, such memberships would also bolster NATO’s presence in the Arctic. Therefore, potential membership of these countries would be vital in securing NATOs northern flank.
Perhaps, rather counterintuitively, the further enlargement could even help to stabilise relations with Moscow. The current state of relations between NATO and Russia is, arguably, a result of the misunderstanding of both parties and each other’s diverging views on security in Europe, stemming from opposing worldviews. Even though the process of enlargement is not aimed at threatening or otherwise limiting the security of any third country, in Russia’s understanding it creates a security dilemma. In its view, every addition to NATO detracted from Russia’s own security, which, in turn, led to Russia seeking more security.
In the past, when Moscow voiced its objections towards the enlargements, it had little leverage to do anything about it. Its military and economy were still recovering from the dissolution of the Soviet Union while it was pressured by critical domestic issues such as the Chechen wars. This caused the West to pay little attention to Russia’s objections as well as propositions during the early enlargement rounds. In the Kremlin’s Kremlins eyes, Russia was offered an inadequate position during the enlargements. Nonetheless, Russia’s attempts to open discussions about gaining an equal relationship with NATO in 1994 and 2000 suggest that Russian attitudes have not always been anti-western. If NATO continues its current enlargement process risks similar hostilities from Russia as in the cases of Ukraine and Georgia. However, by taking Russia’s fears into account the enlargement process could be beneficial for both sides.
Ukraine needs to be stabilised both politically and economically and in order for it to happen both NATO and Russia need to cooperate. The current situation in Ukraine is hurting both sides. For NATO, Ukraine is a security vacuum which provides fertile ground for a future conflict in Europe. For Russia, the frozen conflict is seriously hurting its economy as sanctions are taking their toll. A future stabilized, and perhaps pacified, Ukraine under the supervision of NATO is a much preferable alternative for both sides as opposed to the current status quo.
The security of all countries is intertwined. It is, thus, crucial for both sides to understand that there are many common areas of interest – reaching a compromise in Syria, strategic arms control, or combating terrorism. However, none of these issues can be solved unless the big problem at their doorstep is solved first. Therefore, if done in a more inclusive rather than exclusive way towards Russia, the enlargement process might help salvage the relations between Russia and the West.
NATO Should Not Expand to the East
NATO’s expansion to the east would bring regional instability, increased risk of a direct confrontation with Russia and undesired involvement in the unresolved internal conflicts of the possible members.
The Alliance was created in 1949 to contain the aggressive Soviet Union. After the end of the Cold War, the organization redefined and expanded its purpose, activities, and membership. Former members of both the Warsaw Pact and the USSR joined NATO in the turn of the century. But this eastward expansion raised concerns in Moscow as it meant moving the Alliance’s military structure right to Russia’s border in a time when Moscow began to turn away from the West. Since then, the NATO-Russia relationship continuously deteriorated. The perception of NATO changed, in the eyes of Russians it became an anti-Russian, adversarial and confrontational organization that broke the commitments it agreed to in the past. This was especially the alleged promise to Gorbachev that NATO would not expand beyond the borders of the newly united Germany. This perception was fuelled by state-sponsored propaganda as well as statements of Russian politicians.
Of the current formally recognized aspiring members – Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia, and Ukraine – two are former USSR republics. Georgia is a connection between Russia and its strategic regional ally, Armenia, and together with Azerbaijan a buffer between Turkey (a NATO member) and the Russian oil deposits in the Caspian Sea. Ukraine, on the other hand, is close to Russia’s agricultural heartland in the Volga region.
There are also two historical aspects in the Russia-Ukraine relations. Firstly, Russians consider the Kievan Rus to be the cultural ancestor of modern Russia. Therefore, Kiev and the Ukrainian territory hold a strong symbolic value for Russia. Secondly, Russia was invaded from the west by Napoleon, Imperial Germany, and Nazi Germany. In all three cases, the territory of Ukraine and Belarus served as a “buffer zone”, allowing Russians to retreat, regroup and counterattack while the enemy outstretched its supply routes.
Therefore, it is unacceptable for Russia to allow Ukraine and Georgia to permanently leave its sphere of influence and join NATO. It would severely damage Putin’s image at home and put Russia into a strategically disadvantageous position. While one can argue that NATO does not intend to attack Russia, it is important to remember that we do not share the Russian mindset which puts emphasis on power. If NATO accepted Georgia and Ukraine as new members it would risk an escalation of the ongoing hybrid war to unprecedented levels and perhaps even large-scale interventions in these countries aiming to cause a regime change.
Another issue is that both Georgia and Ukraine contain unresolved conflicts. The former lost control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia while the latter of Donbass to Russian proxies. Russia hoped that these conflicts would destabilize the pro-western governments and prevent them from joining NATO. But what would happen if these states were granted full alliance membership?
Since the normalization of relations between NATO and Russia is unlikely and NATO does not intend to become involved in an open war with Russia, it could treat Georgia and Ukraine as a de facto buffer zone. They can continue to participate in affiliate programs such as Partnership for Peace or engage in bilateral agreements with other member states, but it should be clear that they shall receive no defence commitments.
At the same time, the United States is revaluating its relationship with NATO, it no longer wishes to guarantee the security of members who neglect their obligations. Therefore, any enlargement of NATO could be undesirable.
Authors: Denis Takács and Martin Dudáš
Responsible editors: Ondřej Zacha and Matúš Jevčák
Graphic: Ondřej Zacha
Images: U.S Department of Defence | Flickr
Resolute Support Media | Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Enhanced Forward Presence | NATO
History of NATO enlargement | Patrickneil | Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
STRATPOL ViewPoints is a project which seeks to address the most important international politics and security affairs of today. In every issue, you can find a Polemics, a controversial thought that one author supports and the other opposes, a thought-provoking opinion piece and a Brief Review of a recent study from well-known research centers and think-tanks worldwide.