Friday, July 08, 2016

The Russian Cannibal

"It could be one of the biggest deliverables at Warsaw [what deterrence means in an age where the biggest threat isn't necessarily nuclear]." 
"What does it look like to shift from reassurance to deterrence? What does it take?"
"I think there will be an interesting conversation about what does deterrence mean in the south."
Philip Breedlove (retired) Supreme Allied Commander Europe 
Polish security officers walk in front of the venue of the NATO Summit at the PGE National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland
The venue of the NATO Summit at the PGE National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland
"[The European project—held together economically by the E.U. and militarily by NATO—] was this large idea stemming out of World War II that, if we cooperated among Europeans, then they probably wouldn’t kill each other. [The British vote to leave the E.U. represents a leading stakeholder in the project deciding to break off, placing its national interests above European cohesion and stability.]" "And once you go down that path, the logic of what I call the renationalization of European politics can take over."
"We know how that ends, because that’s how we got into two world wars."
Ivo Daalder, former American ambassador to NATO; currently head, Chicago Council on Global Affairs 

"[That kind of deterrent] looks a bit funny."
"When it comes to the Baltics, we don’t have the strength, the resources or the will to do anything there. 
"We have nothing to gain in the Baltics."
Konstantin Sivkov, Moscow military strategist, formerly with the Russian General Staff

Bulgarian and NATO navy ships take part in a joint military navy exercise in the Black sea, east of the Bulgarian capital Sofia [Getty]

Representing a collective population of roughly one billion people, leaders from the 28 countries belonging to NATO will be meeting in Warsaw, Poland on Friday and Saturday to map the near future for the military alliance. They will be feeling rather discomfited and roiled at the impending exit of Great Britain from the European Union, because there are close ties between NATO and the EU, particularly of late in a global alliance to meet the exigencies of a fraught world.

Aside from security challenges around the Globe there is Moscow and Vladimir Putin's penchant for 'adventures' to be considered. What might be considered is the reality that on earlier occasions when both Georgia and Moldova encountered Russia's determination to cannibalize a bit of territory here and there to enhance Greater Russia to make it even greater, there was a horrified collective intake of breath, but no noticeable action/reaction beyond polite condemnation.

Similarly with Moscow's annexation of Crimea, and the ongoing conflict supported by Russia, training and equipping ethnic Russian Ukrainians in their rebellion against Kyiv for autonomy in eastern Ukraine. Russian aspirations to further enlarge its territory was made manifest enough by its troops entering Ukraine, by its full military presence at the border between the two countries and the military hardware deployed, including a missile that shot down a Malaysian passenger jet.

Barack Obama is seated with Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko at the 2014 Nato summit (AP)

Surely, there was opportunity at the 2014 NATO summit in Wales to confer amply and with the strength of conviction relating to a reaction from NATO to Russia's latest exploits in Ukraine? Since then, Moscow has flexed its naval, air and land muscles, puzzling and concerning its neighbours no end, and vehemently accusing Europe of sanctimony in its crippling sanctions imposed on Russia. A game of harassment has since given the Baltic states ample reason to invoke NATO's protective clause and NATO has responded.

Many of those central and eastern European countries, are, after all, NATO members, and Ukraine certainly aspires to be, while Vladimir Putin gnashes his teeth and pressures Ukraine through trade strictures and implied military threats; implied since Russia is busy now in Syria, as well. A Rand Corp. report warned that NATO would do well to deploy seven brigades in the Baltic states as a deterrent to a Russian force capable of reaching Riga, Latvia and Tallinn, Estonia in several days' time.

Russia, despite its reduced financial status thanks to the sanctions and a drop in the price per barrel of oil that has been close to catastrophic for its economy, has still increased its state spending on defence by a whopping 80 percent. At the same time, NATO member-countries have decreased their spending significantly on defence. The United States is carrying fully two thirds of total NATO defence budgeting, a fact that grates on the U.S. administration for obvious reasons; the typical free ride enjoyed by the rest of the world since the end of WWII.

"The reality is there is little U.S. leaders can do to force European leaders to spend more on defense, but that doesn’t mean we should absolve them of their treaty obligations. We also lead by example. We’ve been cutting our own defense budget and telling allies they shouldn’t", said Luke Coffey, director of the foreign policy center at The Heritage Foundation in a telephone interview with a news source.

The summit venue will be the site of an announcement, a formality only, since it has long been in the news, that one of the measures NATO is set to embark upon to give Vladimir Putin second thoughts should he think seriously of invading eastern Europe, is the deployment of four new battalions. The United Kingdom, United States, Germany and Canada have all pledged to provide a thousand military personnel each, rotating them in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Defence capabilities will be boosted for  Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, as a rather belated response to historical piracy on the part of Russia. NATO plans to continue working closely with Finland and Sweden -- as well as enhancing security in the Baltic and Black Sea areas.

And then there is the Islamic State issue. While the summit will be used by NATO to reconfigure its response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, rededicate its cooperation with the European Union, discuss the additional issue on actions beyond member state borders, there is ISIL to contend with, for it is a situation that demands attention. 

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