Wednesday, March 2 2016 16:13 EET
New challenges for NATO: adaptation through flexibility
NATO, Russia, Poland, war, Europe, border, conflict, world, USA, Jens Stoltenberg, Turkey, Syria, Syrian conflict

The military-political group of the 28 states of the Euro-Atlantic Alliance has decided to provide a serious response to the provocative challenges of a modern world that is changing, the challenges coming from outside the Bloc’s eastern and southern borders. The new threats relate primarily to the overly self-confident Russia's actions that contradict international law, the spread of terrorism, the migrant and refugee crisis caused by displacement of the huge masses of people.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg believes that, at present, there is no imminent threat to any member of the Alliance, but the system of collective security must deter any danger and ensure robust defense of each member state. He stressed that "NATO will respond as one to any aggression against any ally."

Ahead of the next NATO summit, to be held July 8-9 in Warsaw, the Allies are at their final steps in preparation for the adoption of an ambitious strategic course aimed at enhancing and strengthening the system of collective security since the end of Cold War to adapt to an increasingly complex environment, which may pose a threat to security and general democratic values.

Allies openly expressed dissatisfaction with the actions of the Russian Federation. This is not only because Russia resorts to military force to redraw the sovereign borders of independent states, as in the cases of Ukraine and Georgia, but also because it ignores deliberately the position of the international community for a political settlement in Syria, where a civil war has long moved to a global dimension, having significant consequences far beyond the Middle East. On the one hand, president incumbent Bashar al-Assad wants to use Russia’s help to stay in power, on the other – the airstrikes target not so much the Islamic State terrorists but rather the opposition forces, as well as affect civilians, which in the end leads to a previously unprecedented flow of refugees to the EU.

These issues were discussed at the ministerial meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels last week. Relevant decisions were adopted on strengthening defenses and deterrence. In particular, one of the important messages was that the defense ministers of NATO member states agreed to strengthen forward presence in the eastern European flank. This decision is important, given the long-standing debate about the practical implementation of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty for the Protection of any Ally in case of an attack a third state or party. Strengthening NATO’s eastern borders has a multi-component and should add confidence to members of the NATO from Central and Eastern Europe.

The decision regarding willingness to contribute to strengthening the military presence on the Bloc’s eastern borders has found support of many Allies. It was preceded by a statement by Washington to quadruple in 2017 the funding for the European Reassurance Initiative, up to $3.4 billion. Pentagon chief Ash Carter said the money will be allocated to counter Russia’s aggression, and to increase U.S. presence in Eastern Europe. According to him, the funds will ensure infrastructure improvements to airfields, training centers and ranges throughout Europe.

“It will expand military capability and allow for the quick deployment to the region,” Carter said.

All of these efforts will allow the United States to rapidly form a highly capable combined arms force that could respond theater-wide, if necessary, according to Carter. He urged the Allies to take more steps for building a robust defense and deterrence of potential threats. In particular, this includes combating hybrid, cyber threats and information.

Another important move is to strengthen NATO's role in joint international efforts on supervision in the Aegean Sea over the flow of illegal migrants and refugees, as well as combating illicit trafficking and criminal networks. At the organization's Brussels headquarters, a NATO official noted that "assurance measures" agreed in December to help Turkey deal with the spillover from fighting in Syria and Iraq included more intelligence and surveillance in the region, including naval and air patrols in the eastern Mediterranean. However, the Greek and Turkish armed forces will not engage in military operations in each other’s territorial waters and air space.

In addition, the Alliance has announced it was considering joining the U.S.-led international coalition in the fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Thus, although the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced its intention to send a reconnaissance aircraft systems, long-range radar detection and control (AWACS) to support the efforts of the international coalition in the fight against IDIL, Pentagon chief Ash Carter went even further, saying that “we are exploring the possibility of NATO joining the coalition as a member itself.” This, in his opinion, would bring unique capacities including experience in building partner capacity, training ground forces and providing stabilization support.” However, the question of NATO joining the coalition against ISIL needs further discussion.

So, the Alliance openly declared that the world has become a more dangerous place, and that is why the system of collective security of the 28 Allies should not stand by and must respond to the full range of possible threats. The mainstay of this response will be a flexible approach, with the implementation of a modern system of deterrence and defense.

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