The Summit Meeting of the NATO Alliance held in the Polish capital on 8th and 9th July 2016 unfortunately justified the pessimistic forecasts of many analysts.
An analysis of the final documents shows they have been prepared based on an assessment of the current state of the military-political situation in the world, which has been qualified as “more dangerous”. This has been backed by provocative language and policies and gross distortions of Russian policy in the international arena.
These actions were founded on the claim of “projecting stability” and “of responding to crises” outside the borders of the states that are members of the Alliance. The areas of “strategic importance” NATO has highlighted are the North Atlantic, the Baltic, the Mediterranean and the Black Seas.
In order to realise these objectives the Alliance confirmed its previous decisions to establish a division sized rapid reaction force (the “NATO Joint Response Force”) and the so-called “Very High Readiness Joint Task Force”, which will be capable of deployment within two to three days. These forces are to be set up with the participation of seven Member States of the Alliance (the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Turkey and France). Permanent operational liaison connections between these forces and NATO’s Naval Forces (the “NATO Standing Naval Forces”) in these Seas are to be created, tasked with coordinating naval support for these Joint Rapid Reaction Forces in these areas.
In terms of its military capabilities NATO declared its readiness to strengthen its military power in general and its nuclear power in particular. The documents repeat the wording of declarations made by previous summits that NATO will remain a nuclear alliance as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world. For the first time the final documents however say that the policy of nuclear deterrence of the Alliance will be based, amongst other things, on US nuclear facilities “forward deployed” in Europe – in other words on US strategic and tactical nuclear weapons based in Europe.
NATO’s nuclear powers (the UK, US and France) are to strengthen their offensive nuclear doctrine by lowering the threshold for using nuclear weapons. They expressed the hope that other states of the Alliance will be involved “in the division of nuclear burden through appropriate arrangements,” which can be interpreted as Washington’s call to expand the range of non-nuclear states who might sign an agreement with the US “on the division of nuclear liability” (nuclear sharing agreements; also known agreements on “joint nuclear missions”). Although NATO recognised that the circumstances that might cause the Alliance to use nuclear weapons remain “very remote” the Alliance still reserves the right to use nuclear weapons at any time.
The final communique repeated the fairly imprecise formula carried over from previous summits that the Alliance is ready to “contribute to creating the conditions” for further reductions of nuclear weapons in the future on a reciprocal basis. However no guidance is provided as to the sort of nuclear weapons – strategic or tactical – this might involve. Note that the language in the communique only speaks of a willingness “to contribute to creating the conditions” for nuclear disarmament. No answer is given to the question implicit in this phrase: what is lacking in “the conditions” today that prevents reaching agreements on nuclear disarmament now? This wording in fact confirms that there is no desire to commit “transatlantic solidarity” to the goal of creating a world free of nuclear weapons.
In the final documents NATO has also confirmed the existence of the “Chicago triad” – created at the NATO summit in Chicago in May 2012. As previously discussed, US nuclear-missile forces of a strategic and tactical nature, as well as anti-missile systems conventional forms of US weapons are being pushed closer to Russia’s territory, posing a direct military threat to Russia, compromising its national security and those of its allies, as well as thoroughly destabilising the global military-political situation.
Missile issues were in fact given an inordinate amount of attention at the Warsaw Summit. The final communiqué devotes fully eight paragraphs to them.
The Summit committed the Alliance to continuing with the deployment of the US and European segment of the global missile defence infrastructure. The Alliance announced the creation of “initial operational capability” of NATO ’s missile defence system, which means (according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg) that four US Navy warships providing Aegis “combat information control systems” (CICS) are now permanently based at the Roth naval base in Spain, as well as a US missile early warning radar located at Kyurechikom in Turkey (delivered there in May) to provide operational depth to the US land based missile defence system located in Romania which has been “transferred to the command and control of NATO.”
By way of comparison, the NATO Summit in Chicago in May 2012 merely announced that the level of “pre-missile defence capacity” had been reached as of March 2011 following the permanent deployment of US naval forces equipped with CICS “Aegis” around the European continent.
At the Warsaw Summit it was announced that a number of NATO allies had declared their willingness to participate in the creation of a multinational missile defence system under the leadership of the USA (NATO members Denmark, Spain, Norway and Germany, as well as the non-NATO states Australia Israel, South Korea and Japan). There is to be enhanced coordination and operational cooperation in the management of the US global missile defence system and NATO. NATO allies are expected to participate in the development of combat missile equipment and intelligence information and early warning systems, to make their territory available for the construction of US missile bases, and to participate in the subsequent deployment of a global “missile shield”.
The stock justification for strengthening this anti-missile capacity used previously – defence against Iranian and North Korean missile threats – has now been dropped and no longer appears in the documents. Instead development of anti-missile defences is now justified by the need to confront unspecified “missile threats” emanating from zones “outside the Euro-Atlantic space.”
The Warsaw Summit reiterated that the NATO anti-missile system is defensive in nature. However, as discussed previously, there is no fundamental obstacle to using the missile defence infrastructure being created in Romania and Poland to install offensive cruise missiles designed to carry out disabling strikes on Russian territory and on the territory of other countries.
The Warsaw Summit did issue some tepid declarations concerning NATO’s supposed willingness to discuss missile problems with Russia. These announcements were however extremely vague, providing no details of any real offer or mandate to engage Russia in serious negotiations.
As part of the strategy for strengthening the means of “forward deployment” in the eastern part of Europe it was decided to send to the Eastern European countries of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Estonia four battalions from the four countries of the transatlantic alliance (the UK, Canada, USA and Germany).
Early deployment of naval forces in the Mediterranean Sea under the code-named “Sea Guardian” was also announced. These will interact with the naval forces of the EU operating under the code-name “Sofia” in the same area.
The Summit also announced a new operational military sphere in cyberspace.
The Summit highlighted the need “to strengthen the nuclear deterrence and defence capability” of the Alliance, including by reversing the tendency for budget spending for military purposes to fall. The meeting recalled that only five of the 28 states that make up the Alliance had reached the 2% of GDP level of military expenditure Alliance membership commits them to. However it announced that what is already the world’s largest military alliance accounting for more spending on defence than the rest of the world combined was increasing defence spending by 3% (in absolute terms $8 billion).
In relation to Russia the Warsaw Summit fell back on the stock clichés of the Cold War. The Russian Federation, as stated in the final communiqué, performs “aggressive actions, including provocative activity along the periphery of the territory of NATO member countries” and “manifests a desire to achieve political goals by means of threats and use of force.”
Russia is groundlessly accused of all mortal sins: of increasing the level of instability, of violating the Russia-NATO Founding Act of 1997, of the “illegal annexation of Crimea” etc.
In relation to Crimea, the Summit reaffirmed that NATO does not recognise this step. Thus the situation in Crimea is blithely described in the Summit documents from the perspective of people who have never been there, either before Crimea’s reunification in March 2014 with Russia – Crimea’s historical and spiritual home – or after the event.
Moscow is again charged with unproven involvement in the “destabilisation” of the situation in eastern Ukraine, although the situation there has long been destabilised by the Kiev regime’s armed force and by the economic blockade imposed on the area by the Kiev regime acting with the moral and material support of many countries of the NATO Alliance. The Summit documents refer to Russian “aggression against Ukraine”, but again without indicating the place and time when this aggression is supposed to have taken place.
The final communique refers to the importance of implementing the Minsk agreement on the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, but does not recognise that it is the Kiev regime, not the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, who are not implementing it. Without any logic or evidence it states that only Russia is responsible for carrying out the terms of the Minsk agreement, but for some reason says nothing about the responsibilities of the current regime in Kiev and of Germany and France as guarantor States of the Minsk agreements. Nor does it say anything concerning the need to implement fully all of the Minsk agreements’ 13 points.
The Summit rightly identified the need to reduce the number of civilian casualties in Ukraine. (According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs at the beginning of July this year the total number of those killed in the east of Ukraine amounted to 9,470 persons, and the number of those wounded was 21,880). However nowhere in any of the documents is it anywhere said that these are overwhelmingly the victims of the illegal actions of the armed forces and ultra-right wing militias doing the Kiev regime’s bidding, who have used and are still using heavy weapons against residents of the Donbass in violation of the agreements reached in Minsk last year. According to the UN, as a result of shelling by of the armed forces of Ukraine, in just the month of June this year, 12 civilians were killed and 57 people were injured in the Donbass.
The Warsaw Summit heard a great deal about the large-scale exercises of the Russian Armed Forces on Russia’s own territory. However NATO has openly admitted that in 2015 it conducted a total of 300 military exercises and manoeuvres, half with a pronounced anti-Russian flavour, which were carried out in close proximity to Russia’s borders.
The documents also condemn Russia’s “aggressive nuclear rhetoric” even though the US has been engaged in such rhetoric for years and also in the sort of practices that go hand in hand with it. By way of example, the US has never given up its policy of a first use of nuclear weapons and has not removed its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe. By contrast Russia for a long time did have a no policy of no first use of nuclear weapons and withdrew all its tactical nuclear weapons from the territories of the three European states of the former Soviet Union way back in 1994.
The documents call on Russia to respect the provisions of the inoperative Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, implying a wish to revive it. However there is no hint anywhere that none of the NATO countries ever ratified this Treaty or showed any interest in doing so whilst Russia was observing it.
In order to lull Russia and cause it to lower its guard, the Warsaw summit declared its readiness to seek a “constructive” political dialogue with Russia. This was backed by a statement that the Alliance “does not seek confrontation and does not pose a threat to Russia.” What I would say about that is that I remember all too well the talk at previous Summits of the Alliance seeking “partnership” between Russia and NATO and what all those fine words in the end came to.
In the event at the same time the Summit was making these seemingly positive pronouncements about seeking dialogue with Russia it left unchanged its April 2014 decision to suspend all forms of military and civilian cooperation with Russia. It announced that the next meeting of the Russia-NATO Council would be held at the ambassadorial level in Brussels on July 13 this year. I wonder how the NATO leadership intends to conduct “constructive” dialogue with Russia when it has already pronounced against Russia the guilty verdict I set out above?
The Summit once again reaffirmed the policy of expanding NATO by confirming its previously announced policy of an “open door” to the accession of other states. To that end the Warsaw Summit invited Sweden and Finland to participate in the discussion of “security challenges” and to participate in joint military exercises. It also reaffirmed its course of expanding its operational cooperation with the armed forces of Ukraine and Georgia.
NATO’s next summit will take place not in two years, as was the case previously, but next year in 2017 in its new building in Brussels.
What is the sum total of the Warsaw Summit? It can be summarised as follows:
(1) From the point of view of political, the Alliance has preserved and even enhanced its aggressive military posture which it seeks to project on a global scale over the long term;
(2) In terms of the military, the Alliance has committed itself to building up its military power far beyond the territories of its member states;
(3) From the standpoint of arms control, it offered nothing concrete or constructive;
(4) In terms of unfreezing the NATO-Russia relationship, the Summit resulted in no new initiatives such as could elicit a positive response from Moscow. The next meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, to be held on 13th July 2016 at ambassadors’ level, will most likely witness another accusatory tirade from the NATO delegation directed at Russia, with shrill condemnations of Russia’s foreign and defence policy;
(5) From the perspective of the global military-political situation, the Summit cemented the dangerous trend towards a qualitatively new phase of the Cold War (“Cold War 2.0”), which was initiated by the US – the Alliance’s leader – in April 2014, and for the outbreak of which the Russian Federation bears no responsibility.
In the prevailing circumstances Russia can do no other than decide the future course of its foreign and defence policy based on these findings, guided at all times by its sacred duty to ensure, consistently and effectively the protection of its own independence and sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Russian state as well as that of its allies and friends; doing so on the basis of the principles of reasonable sufficiency of military means and making best use of asymmetric technical responses to the growing challenges posed by NATO.
The Warsaw Summit showed once again that the aggressive and militaristic North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is the major destabilising factor in the world today, as well as the key player in dissipating a huge part of humanity’s material and intellectual resources on a renewed arms race.
One thing the Warsaw Summit has once again made clear. Current and future generations must be freed once and for all from the block system, which emerged after the Second World War. Until and unless that happens – with coercive military blocks like NATO being once and for all consigned to past – there can be no secure peace in the world.
The author is Chief Adviser, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, a Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, a Professor, of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences, a Member of the Scientific Board of the National Institute of Global Security Research, a Member of the Gorchakov’s Foundation Club and a Global Senior Fellow National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Global Think Tank Network (GTTN) in Islamabad Pakistan. He is also a Ph.D., Senior Researcher (Academic Rank)