What does NATO say?

By: BERİL DEDEOĞLU

NATO leaders will attend an important summit this autumn in Wales, UK. It’s easy to guess that because of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, the Atlantic alliance will take important decisions during this meeting.

An interview published last weekend in the French newspaper Le Figaro has given some clues about it.

We know that Moscow has managed to annex the Crimean Peninsula to the Russian Federation without many complications, but it will probably not try to do the same for Ukraine’s eastern provinces. Russia knows that if it pushes ahead with the country’s dismemberment, Ukraine (or at least what’s left of it) will soon join NATO. Russia would prefer, however, to keep Ukraine as a troubled buffer zone. As long as there are millions of pro-Russians in the country, Ukraine cannot turn into a real threat to Russia anyway.

Since the 2008 war in Georgia, NATO had predicted that Russia was gradually becoming a foe. The Syrian crisis has become the straw that broke the camel’s back, and we saw the first consequences in Crimea. When he became president, Barack Obama had the intention of cooperating with Russia, as China was the US’s main rival, according to him. That’s why NATO couldn’t immediately take an anti-Russian position following the war between Russia and Georgia. The US has now changed its policy, however, and it now encourages its European allies to do the same.

In the Le Figaro interview, NATO’s two top military commanders stated that the Atlantic alliance has already adopted a number of measures against Russia, especially in the Baltic countries, Poland and Romania. By the way, NATO’s cooperation with Ukraine will apparently be reinforced in the coming days. In other words, while NATO is reducing its presence in Afghanistan, it is doing exactly the opposite in Eastern Europe. This is only normal, when you consider that Russia is sending its troops to the Ukrainian border. NATO underlines that one shouldn’t underestimate Russia’s military capacity and has kept in mind that it has a powerful rival.

To be able to face this powerful foe, NATO members should naturally act with better coordination and adapt their policies to the new international security paradigm imposed by Russia. The US says it is willing to leave Europe’s defense to the Europeans, but in order to do so, the European Union countries must devote more money to military purposes.

This interview is quite interesting, not only because we are not used to seeing two top military commanders of NATO speaking so openly, but also because it gives us a clearer picture about the level of tension between Western powers and Russia. If we return to a security environment similar to that during the Cold War, we can expect international terrorist activity, civil wars and ethnic or religious conflicts to become less frequent, while the number of classic wars between states and attempts at regime change, such as the recent coup d’état in Egypt, will increase. In such an international environment, it will be hard to talk much about universal rights and freedoms, as every superpower will have its own values that one will have to adopt in order to become a part of its group.

Who knows, maybe Turkey will benefit from such international conditions. Once upon a time, Turkey was admitted to the European Council, despite its weak record on democracy, simply because it was a member of the Western bloc. Maybe this time international circumstances will push Turkey closer to the West as well. However, once we get closer to the West, we will have to be uncomplicated about our identity. In other words, are we going to implement EU standards or change our bloc and adopt the standards of Russian President Vladimir Putin?

Those who fail to make a choice quickly and act accordingly will have to face hard times.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN