Nato Summit: Let’s go back to fundamentals

4 September 2014
Revista 22 Bucharest

Nato: “Who woke me up?”
Nato: “Who woke me up?”

The first Nato summit since the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine opens in a tense climate on 4 September, with central and eastern European countries calling on the military alliance to respond to a Russia that is increasingly brazen in its threats to the West. Excerpts.

The Nato summit to be held in Newport, Wales on 4-5 September has the potential to be historic. It is the alliance’s first large meeting since Russia broke the status quo on European security by annexing Crimea and destabilising Ukraine. Russia’s constant pressure on the eastern flank of the European Union, the forced change of European borders and the troubles in the Middle East and Northern Africa are all on the meeting’s agenda.

Will it finally be a summit of courageous decisions, such as the deployment of Nato bases and units on the eastern flank or the creation of mechanisms to ensure each member state’s accountability?

It would be desirable for Article 5 of the Washington Treaty [according to which an attack on one Nato member state constitutes an attack on all others] to be honoured and for the alliance to rediscover its founding principle: the defence of sovereign territory. But will it be yet another summit of grand declarations, ambiguous concepts (such as “intelligent defence”) and slogans devoid of substance (“do more with less”)? Will this summit be marked by the reaffirmation of the small but unattainable objective of each member spending 2 per cent of its GDP spent on defence? Or will it finally be a summit of courageous decisions, such as the deployment of Nato bases and units on the eastern flank or the creation of mechanisms to ensure each member state’s accountability?

The messages sent until now indicate the decisions to come will respect the Founding Act on Nato-Russia relations [by which Nato pledges to withhold from maintaining large forces on its members’ territories], despite pressure from the Baltic States, Poland and Romania, which would prefer symbolic measures aiming to increase the Nato response force.

Romanian president Traian Băsescu warned that, while he supports taking steps to ensure a balance of military resources on EU territory, he does not support “diminishing resources on the eastern flank [Poland and Romania] for the benefit of those in the north [the Baltic States]”. But will Romania really be able to block the North Atlantic Council if the measures favour the northern members?

In the “New Europe”, things are very clear: the era of the “end of history”, of geopolitical Woodstock, the research at any price of rebuilding relations with Moscow, has passed. Russia has violated nearly every founding principle of European security. Ukraine in 2014, like Georgia in 2008, have showed its old strategy of spheres of influence, limited sovereignty, vague agression and territorial revisionism have not been put to rest, despite twenty years of strengthening economic ties between Europe and Russia.

Nato should return to the fundamentals of collective defence upon which it was defined in April 1949. It would be wide to honour Article 5 of the Washington Treaty by increasing Nato bases and forces on the eastern flank. But that implies rethinking the Founding Act on Nato-Russia relations. Before, the compromise consisted in fortifying the flank [exposed to Russian threats] in rapidly deploying military forces. However, therein lies the problem: the alliance has no capacity to respond to a blitzkrieg.

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