NATO Claims Eastward Expansion and Ballistic Missile Defense Pose no Threat to Russia

nsnbc : During the first day of NATO’s 2016 in Poland’s capital Warsaw, the leaders of the 28 member States of the Alliance agreed to take steps to bolster NATO’s “deterrence and defense”. Decisions were made to send more forces to the eastern part of the Alliance while claiming that the expansion posed no threat to Russia. Official NATO statements cover over disagreements within the alliance and the increased risk of the intended, but especially the unintended use of nuclear weapons as a consequence of a new cold-war-like situation.

NATO Summit 2016_Obama_Cameron_PoroshenkoNATO declared the first day of the summit as a milestone for Ballistic Missile Defense, and decided to recognize cyberspace as an operational domain. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the result, saying “the decisions we have taken today will help keep our nations safe in a more dangerous world.” Others would disagree and describe NATO policies as a mistake or as dangerous brinksmanship.

The leaders at the NATO summit decided to declare Initial Operational Capability of NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defense. Secretary-General Stoltenberg commented on the step, saying:

“This means that the US ships based in Spain, the radar in Turkey, and the interceptor site in Romania are now able to work together under NATO command and NATO control”.

Not all members of government in NATO member States are as convinced that the missile shield under NATO command contributes to security. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, for example, said last week that anyone who believes that deploying missiles and troops near Russia’s borders contributes to security is mistaken. However, Germany has, more than 70 years after the end of World War II not regained so much sovereignty that it openly could oppose or override NATO decisions.

NATO_LOGO_roops_NEORussia, for its part, has expressed grave concerns about the deployment of a multinational NATO battalion in Poland, Latvia and Estonia on a rotational basis. Moscow has repeatedly voiced bitter disappointment over NATO’s eastwards expansion after the reunification of Germany and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Moscow stresses that it received promises that no NATO troops would be stationed in any of the former Warsaw Pact member States. NATO and many of its constituents, for their part, noted that this was only an oral promise that never had been formalized in a treaty.

The activation of NATO’s missile shield has also been widely criticized, although most media are underreporting the dangers. At a conference last year, international experts warned that the risk of a nuclear war, especially that of an unplanned nuclear war has increased significantly since NATO and Russia, in 2014, put their nuclear forces on hair-trigger alert in response to the situation in Ukraine.



Part of the controversy between NATO and Russia is also the presence of Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko at the summit and the Ukrainian government’s recent decision to deploy NATO-trained Ukrainian forces  close to the ceasefire-line between Ukraine and its rebelling Donbas republics. The Ukraine and several NATO member States, for their part, repeatedly stressed the presence of Russian “volunteers” among the forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lughansk People’s Republics in eastern Ukraine.

A Russia-NATO council summit has been scheduled in Brussels on July 13. The meeting on Ambassador level will among others be used to discuss the outcome of the NATO summit as well as the situation in Ukraine. It will be the first Russia-NATO Council meeting since diplomacy between Russia and NATO went awry over the situation in Ukraine in 2014.

NATO leaders also decided to strengthen their cyber defense, and recognised cyberspace as a new operational domain. “This means better protecting our networks and our missions and operations, with more focus on cyber training and planning,” the Secretary General said.

Leaders also reviewed and reconfirmed the importance of spending more and spending better on defense. The Secretary General welcomed that 2015 was the first year in many with a small increase in defense spending, and that estimates for 2016 show a further increase of 3%, or US $8 billion.  “We still have a long way to go, but I believe that we have turned a corner,” he said. The decision sparked controversy in several NATO member States.

Stoltenberg_NATO_Warsaw_2016Secretary-General Stoltenberg would claim that “NATO poses no threat to any country,” and continues to seek constructive dialogue with Russia. Calling the NATO-Russia Council “an important tool to manage our relationship,” Stoltenberg recalled that a new meeting of the NATO-Russia Council will be held at ambassadorial level in Brussels on 13 July.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, for its part, would also claim that there are no aggressive intentions behind the rearmament of the Russian Army.  Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zakharova, on Wednesday said that it is “a proportionate response” to the increasing military activities of NATO, which is “moving its infrastructure toward Russia’s borders with obvious persistence.”

NATO reports that its leaders will further discuss current security challenges joined by their counterparts from Finland and Sweden, and the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission.

CH/L – nsnbc 09.07.2016

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