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NATO after Crimea's Annexation in 2014 - Discriminating Facts from Fabrications NATO after Crimea's Annexation in 2014 - Discriminating Facts from Fabrications
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2014-09-10 10:18:37
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 eman01_400

Geographical Map of NATO countries on both sides of the Atlantic

When George W. Bush in 2002 suggested removing U.S. troops from their bases in Germany to locations farther east, in Poland and Romania, it sounded like a very bad idea. At that time, since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there were vociferous voices asserting that NATO was an anachronism, since the reason for its existence, defense from Soviet aggression, no longer existed, it should be disbanded. Needless to say that plan, with a related missile defense system, allegedly to deter Iran, aroused suspicion and concern in Russia.

Now, in 2014, only 12 years later the idea of NATO bases in Eastern Europe seems to be a good one thanks to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policy of incremental aggression — land grabs in Georgia, Moldova, the Crimea and now eastern Ukraine. The suspicion is now on the other side, that Putin would like to re-annex those states bordering Russia that once enjoyed the status of vassals of the good old Soviet Union. Indeed, much has changed in 12 short years.

Russia claims that NATO has spent those 12 years trying to marginalize it internationally. But the reality seems to be that beginning with the the early 1990s the Alliance has consistently worked to build a cooperative relationship with Russia on areas of mutual interest, especially in the area of trade and commerce, striving towards a strategic partnership. Even before the fall of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, NATO began reaching out, offering dialogue in place of confrontation, as the London NATO Summit of July 1990 made clear. In the following years, the Alliance promoted dialogue and cooperation by creating new fora, the Partnership for Peace (PfP) and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), open to the whole of Europe, including Russia.

As a sign of Russia’s unique role in Euro-Atlantic security, in 1997 NATO and Russia signed the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security, creating the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council. In 2002 they upgraded that relationship, creating the NATO-Russia Council (NRC).

Be that as it may, since the foundation of the NRC, NATO and Russia have worked together on issues ranging from counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism to submarine rescue and civil emergency planning. No other partner has been offered a comparable relationship, nor a similar comprehensive institutional framework. Far from marginalizing Russia, NATO has treated it as a privileged partner. By contrast, Russia has referred to NATO as a threat in its strategic documents. The question arises: could it be that all this accommodation and compromise was takes as a sign of weakness by Russia? A bully, after all takes any sign of good will and compromise as a sign of weakness.

That possibility has unnerved all of Russia’s neighbors and challenged the United States and its NATO allies to act. Poland, which would like the same level of U.S. military support that West Germany received during the Cold War, has asked NATO to base two heavy combat brigades there. The request was rejected but, under the circumstances, it may be reconsidered. Romania asked for a major NATO air base and was awarded a token presence of 200 pilots, mechanics and support personnel.

The Baltic republics — Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — have also asked for a permanent NATO military presence. Instead, these nations may have to settle for the prepositioning of military supplies and logistics experts and the rotating presence of a new 4,000-man rapid response force.

 eman02_400

The former Soviet Republics of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia
on top of Poland, all current NATO members

Ukraine is not a member of NATO — although now with Russian troops on its soil, it would like to be — but the alliance should supply Kiev with enough weaponry to halt further incursions into its country and begin reversing the gains of the Russian-backed insurgents. Here another question arises: why all this concern on the part of the former soviet republics, now NATO members, and the Ukraine? Why one never hears those concerns from the right-wing parliamentarians in the EU who seems to like Putin’s tactics and methods and have even justified the illegitimate annexation of Crimea?

 eman03

Map of Ukraine with Crimea annexed by Russia

There is a certain European turn of mind that falls back on legalisms and bureaucracy to avoid hard and unpleasant decisions. And there is, in fact, a 1997 treaty in which the West committed not to base substantial combat forces near Russia’s borders. But by any measure, Putin’s actions have rendered that part of the pact almost null and void. One political leader who continues to oppose the basing of NATO troops near the Russian border is Angela Merkel. If Putin continues his antics, she too may well change her mind in this regard.

Russian leaders claim that the precedent for the so-called declaration of independence of Crimea was the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the independence of Kosovo. However, the court stated clearly that their opinion was not a precedent. The court said they had been given a “narrow and specific” question about Kosovo’s independence which would not cover the broader legal consequences of that decision. The court highlighted circumstances in which claims for independence would be illegal. This would include if “they were, or would have been, connected with the unlawful use of force”. An example of “an unlawful use of force” would be an invasion and occupation by a neighboring country – which is exactly what Russia has done. Furthermore, the process leading to Kosovo’s declaration of independence spanned years and included an extensive process led by the United Nations. Russian claims ignore all of these facts.

The other claim made by Putin is that NATO wants to drag Ukraine into NATO. How much credence should we give to such claim? Let’s see. In fact, NATO respects the right of every country to choose its own security arrangements. The Washington Treaty specifically gives Allies the right to leave. Over the past 65 years, 28 countries have chosen freely to join NATO. Not one has asked to leave. This is not exactly dragging, it’s called sovereign choice, something that seems alien to Putin.

NATO’s Open Door policy is based on the free choice of European democracies. When in 2002 under President Kuchma Ukraine decided to pursue NATO membership, the Alliance took steps to help fulfil Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations. When in 2010 Ukraine decided to pursue a “non-bloc policy”, NATO fully respected that choice. So, Russia’s long-time assertion that NATO tried to force Ukraine into its ranks was, and remains, completely false. Any decision for Ukraine to apply for membership would have to be taken by Ukraine, in line with its democratic rules. When Foreign Minister Klimkin was in Brussels in July 2014 he made clear that NATO membership is not on the agenda. The government and people of Ukraine have other priorities. NATO has respected their choices. Should not Russia do the same, given that on paper it still considers itself a democracy?

Indeed, we can thank Putin and his bully KBG tactics for having revived an alliance that is underfunded (the EU pays half as much as the US for it) and could have been dissolved in a truly peaceful and stable Europe. The re-introduction of cultural and political instability in Eastern Europe has done nothing but revive NATO and made it not only relevant but essential to the present situation. The Le Penns of the EU may not see it yet, they never lived under Russian domination, but they will with time when they realize what the alternative to NATO is the hegemony of Russia over the whole of Europe where “democracy,” “prosperity” and “freedom” will be liberally practiced,  the Russian way. Thank you Putin!

 


     
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