The first point of NATO’s new strategic concept reaffirms the basic and continuing goal of the alliance, that NATO would collectively come to the defence of any member under attack. This in essence reaffirms Article 5 of NATO’s Washington agreement, the credibility of which has been under debate for years, ever since the enlargement of NATO to include Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Concern has been justified when highly placed western security experts have questioned the strategic value in coming to the aid of these “marginally important” countries when a vital relationship with Russia is at stake.
However the recent Russia-NATO summit in Lisbon put most of their effort on finding common ground on a feasible exit strategy from Afganistan and co-operation in shielding Europe from missle attack. The Alliance did not close its door to a possible future enlargement to include Ukraine and Georgia. It encouraged Georgia to continue its democratization process and accepted Ukarine’s current distancing from NATO membership ambitions.
Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet expressed satisfaction and some reservations with the summit’s results. He said that the new strategic concept helps lessen the danger of military confrontation, which still hasn’t totally disappeared. NATO must react to new security risks such cyber warfare. Estonia has experienced this directly. Paet also indicated his support for co-operation in the missile defence of Europe, but this effort will not succeed as long as a Russian suspicion of NATO persists.
Former Estonian inteligence co-ordinator and national security advisor to Georgia, Eerik-Niiles Kross has a diametrically opposite view of the the Russia-NATO summit. He stresses that Russia is not about to abandon its “privileged speheres of influence”, “countries with which Russia has historic and neighbourly relations”.
Kross insists that western states have thus swapped crown jewels for small change. He points out the the west has agreed to bargain the right of independent decision making on national security for Russian tactical co-operation on Afganistan. Russia would also be allowed to participate in European and NATO decisions.
Kross explains that Vladimir Putin’s national security programm of 2000 launched a new vision and doctrine for Russia internationally. It saw the re-establishment of Russia as a world power with full hegemony over regions on its periphery. It held the greatest dangers to be the weakening of Russia’s political, economic and military influence and the eastward expansion of NATO.
Dmitri Medvedev has expanded on Putin’s initial doctrine by emphasizing Russia’s right to defend its citizens’ safety and dignity worldwide. “Our decisions in foreign affairs will be based on this. We will react to all aggressive activity aimed at us. Our “regions of privileged spheres of influence” include neighbouring states, a large part of eastern Europe, including countries that already have NATO membership.
Germany’s “Spiegel” said that “NATO convened because old concepts failed to deal with new threats, terrorism, cyber attacks, Iran. Appropriate responses have yet to be found. How are suicide missions to be avoided? When do computer viruses justify applying a full-scale defence?” The Danish newspaper “Jyllands-Posten”suggested that NATO is presenting itself as something greater than it really is. British security expert Nick Witneyt pointed out that “NATO’s fundamental problem is the absence of an actual enemy”.
NATO-Russia summit: fodder for sceptics as well as optimists