Politics Defence

NATO: The death of the west

19 November 2010
România libera Bucharest

The NATO summit to be held in Lisbon on 19 and 20 November will be marked by the rise of Russian influence in the alliance. A Romanian editorialist highlights the vital importance of the link between Eastern Europe and Washington.

Romanians should get used to the idea of living in a Europe where NATO will no be longer able to guarantee their security. The Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis has left us with only one option: the United States.

Hello and welcome to the 19th century! From now on – now being the first day of the "historic" NATO summit in Lisbon – we will be living in a new historic reality and a new geopolitical era. The summit is "historic," but not for the reasons cited by NATO officials and political leaders.

It is not a question – as promised in the promotional literature for the event – of inaugurating a more efficient and flexible alliance, but of official recognition for the death of the strategic and military concept of the “West,” and the transformation of NATO into an EU-Russian political club, with the United States as an associate member.

The “problem” of Russia

It is a development that was in many ways inevitable. The disappearance of the Cold War enemy in the shape of the Soviet Union made NATO a victim of its own success. The wars in the Balkans highlighted Europe’s military weakness, and the war in Afghanistan created a rift between the US and its European allies. Their inability to make a significant contribution to victory over the Taliban or to the stabilisation of the country, and the fact that some members of the alliance seemed to be incapable of joining in the fight while others were forced to take most of the casualties, resulted in the gradual crumbling of the alliance.

Some commentators have remarked on the historical irony of the fact that NATO should perish in Afghanistan, a country that was also responsible for the demise of the Soviet Union. But in so doing, they overlook the role played by Iraq, which triggered the first real crisis of the “West.”

Then there is also the “problem” of Russia. The arrival of Vladimir Putin and his team of former KGB operatives in the Kremlin wiped out whatever small progress Boris Yeltsin had made in terms of democracy and the rule of law. In spite of all this, Western countries have turned a blind eye to abuses and the closing of Russian society in exchange for access to natural gas and cheap raw materials. And this has resulted in a widening rift between NATO allies that came to the fore at the 2008 Bucharest summit when Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy both fought tooth and nail to defend the status quo, and reject the Membership Action Plans (MAP) of the Ukraine and Georgia – a position that amounted to an implicit recognition of Russia’s right to a veto in NATO affairs. Only a few months later, the invasion of Georgia heralded a de facto return to the 19th-century world of spheres of influence and the Concert of Europe, which had previously been wiped out by the massacre that was the First World War.

Americans are not going to disappear

The return to this world order will be made official tomorrow by the invitation extended to Russia to participate in the anti-missile shield. A study recently published by the European Council on Foreign Relations already speaks of the new architeture of European security that will be determined within the framework of a trilateral dialogue between the EU, Russia and Turkey. NATO does not enter into the equation. But the EU does not really mean Europe’s 27 member states. Merkel made promises about European policy to Medvedev  without consulting her European partners, and there is no denying the symbolic importance of the Russian President’s refusal to accept an invitation to the Lisbon summit addressed to him by the General Secretary of NATO, before finally agreeing to turn up on the behest of Sarkozy and Merkel.

Of course, the Americans are not going to disappear from the region, because they have to defend their interests in the Middle East and look after the anti-missile shield. Even if the Obama administration has wiped the slate clean and the White House is ready to give Russia the benefit of the doubt, the reinforcement of the alliance with the United States remains the best security option, better than joining the Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis.

No doubt we will be conscious of yet another historical irony when the Russian troops that were posted here in the communist era return to Romania in their new role as "advisers"  on the installation of the new anti-missile shield.

Factual or translation error? Tell us.