Hold on and deny Russia
NATO is clearly and definitively aware of the threat posed by an unpredictable and brutally violent Russia. The alliance’s new strategic concept document – an updated alliance strategy guide for the first time in more than a decade – warns that it “cannot rule out the possibility of an attack against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Allies” by the Kremlin and the Eastern European and Baltic alliance, the members were clear: they are worried.
This view has been echoed by leaders of big powers like the US and UK or small nations like Estonia, who all seem to be on the same page about Russia. At the summit, Ukraine was presented as a border separating the West from Russian aggression. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that if Russia wins in Ukraine, “Putin will be able to commit further acts of aggression against other parts of the former Soviet Union with more or less impunity.”
A NATO military official told reporters on the sidelines of the summit that before the invasion, “what we underestimated was Russia’s intention” in Ukraine, and it is not a mistake that they plan to do it again.
Beijing is on the agenda, but vaguely
China is a problem, but not yet a threat. “China is not our adversary,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said as he unveiled the new document on Wednesday, “but we need to be clear about the serious challenges it represents.”
Yet NATO has for the first time invited the leaders of Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia to the summit to engage in consultations, a clear sign that Brussels is looking beyond Russia. when cataloging military and economic threats.
In Madrid, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese drew parallels between Russia and China to convey the problems he faces on the other side of the world. “Just as Russia seeks to recreate a Russian or Soviet empire, the Chinese government seeks friends, whether through economic support, to build alliances to undermine what has historically been the Western alliance in places like the Indo-Pacific.”
Friends forever, at least for today
Turkey was absolutely against Finland and Sweden joining NATO, until it didn’t. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan put a smile on President Joe Biden’s lips on Wednesday after the Turkish leader surprised just about everyone by becoming the 30th and final member of the alliance to give the go-ahead for the ascension of the two Nordic countries in the NATO family.
The costs of the agreement seem minimal. Sweden and Finland agree to shun the PKK, the Kurdish terror group fighting Turkish forces for independence, and have pledged to drop military sanctions imposed on Turkey for its invasion of Syria. The White House has also publicly backed the sale of Turkish F-16 upgrade kits, a deal that has been on the rocks for months.
Biden on Thursday backed the potential F-16 deal, telling reporters he had backed the sale for months. “As I said in December, we should sell them the F-16 jets and modernize those jets as well. … I told them that I hadn’t changed my position at all since December, there was no counterpart with this, but I need congressional approval to do it, and I think I can get it.
Move fast… in a few years or so
The alliance’s vaunted NATO Response Force, a 40,000-man unit that can deploy in 30 days, is doomed to the dustbin of history. We just don’t know when. On Monday, Stoltenberg kicked off the summit with major news: 300,000 troops across the continent and beyond would be placed on high readiness as part of “the biggest overhaul of our defense and our collective deterrence since the Cold War”.
He and his aides spent the rest of the event clarifying what he meant, after several alliance members shrugged when asked what the leader meant.
In a meeting with reporters on Thursday, two NATO officials said the force would be made up of “tiers”, the first being about 100,000 troops ready to fight in 0 to 10 days, 300,000 troops ready in 30 days and 500,000 loans in 180 days. It is still unclear when the planning for these ready forces will be ready, but one official has suggested it could be as far away as 2028.
Russian started it and Trump finished it
Leaders in Brussels are still worried about arms control agreements the United States evaded under the Trump administration, but they blame Russia.
“The erosion of the arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation architecture has had a negative impact on strategic stability,” says the new Strategic Concept document. “The Russian Federation’s violations and selective implementation of its arms control obligations and commitments have contributed to the deterioration of the broader security landscape.
Russia had violated the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, for years, quietly testing banned land-launched cruise missiles that could fly between 310 and 3,400 miles. The Trump administration quit the pact in 2019, drawing criticism from Europe, which saw echoes of their exposure to such missiles at the height of the Cold War before the deal was struck in 1987 .
In 2020, the administration then left the Open Skies treaty, a 34-nation agreement that allowed the United States, Russia and other countries to fly their planes over each other’s territory to confirm military activities and maintain transparency. Russia has long denied airspace over its enclave of Kaliningrad and near its border with Georgia, leading to the US withdrawal. Russia officially left the agreement in 2021.