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January 17, 2022

Rediscovery of Eastern Europe (III)

There are some decisive questions worth asking at this moment. Has NATO lost its relevance as alliance that provides its members with the necessary security? Have the basic principles of the North-Atlantic Alliance become obsolete, especially the one that proclaims “one for all and all for one” at a time of danger? Why do the states of this region seek solutions in bilateral alliances or in new alliances (like that proposed by Friedman) for the security they need, faced with the military resurrection of Russia?
It is worth mentioning, in the first place, that the states of the region have complete legitimacy to be concerned with their own security in the new conditions. The annexation of Crimea by Russia was accompanied by statements of Russian leaders about how Moscow understands to protect its interests in the future.

An official doctrine has been laid out about the right of Moscow to protect the Russian minorities in neighbour states, which raised concern not just in Eastern Europe, with emphasis on Baltic States, but in other countries too, such as Belarus or Kazakhstan. Plus, an illegal referendum followed by the annexation of a region, using the model of Crimea, can be repeated under this procedure – considered as legal at Kremlin – in other cases too, such as the eastern regions of Ukraine and Transdnestria. Speaking about the situation of Ukraine, the Swedish minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt twitted on 29 March 2014, when the meeting of the heads of Russian and American diplomacies had already been decided for the next day in London: “Kremlin plan to break up Ukraine in units that could go off in different directions will create instability and disorder for decade”. The reference made by the chief of the Swedish diplomacy is to the Russian plan – actually confirmed by Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov – to federalise Ukraine, granting significant rights of international action to the federal units. Thus, not only the occupation and division of Ukraine by Russia is destabilising, but also the way it sees the diplomatic solution to the crisis.
The fact that the respective states also imagine other solutions apart from NATO represents a legitimate preoccupation, given that the alliance gave the impression of inadequacy towards the states newly accepted into its ranks, only later resorting to contingency planning in Eastern Europe or to dispatching insignificant forces to this area. As the British magazine “The Economist” commented, “For a long time before Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the alliance’s western powers pooh-poohed warnings from east of the Oder that Russia still posed a threat. NATO refrained from drawing up contingency plans against a Russian attack on its former vassals or from holding exercises to demonstrate that it knew how to defend the east. /…/ Until now, Russian aggression towards the Baltics has been met with words from the West, and little else.”
But, in the new context, the answer of the NATO alliance was the right one. And this meant that, emanating from the highest authorities of the alliance, it was affirmed that the security of its members remains the cornerstone of NATO. On March 26, 2014, present at the NATO headquarters of Brussels, the president of the USA reiterated the importance of the principle stipulated by article 5 of the NATO treaty, while the new summit of the alliance due for September this year in Wales will certify this fact. “Every one of our NATO allies has assurances that we will act in their defence against any threats”, President Obama said in reference to article 5 of NATO. The secretary general of NATO, Andres Fogh Rasmussen recently mentioned that “We see Russia speaking and behaving more as an adversary than as a partner/…/ Transdnestria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and now Crimea. What connects those crises is one big country unilaterally deciding to rewrite international rules.”  And this context shaped today is – apparently – a long-term one, because Moscow’s plans of founding the Eurasian Union, which actually target the reconstruction of the defunct USSR, will be carried on. We affirm this because one must take into consideration that Kremlin could not have ordered its firm military action in Ukraine without calculating all its large-scale systemic consequence. Many articles published recently by international media commensurate the impact of the Crimea action upon the global order, so one can suspect that Moscow calculated the consequences of its actions upon the international structures set up after World War Two. But NATO’s will to resist has convincingly increased and possible new aggressive actions decided by Russia will be met with a different response, if not being discouraged by it. This is how we should understand the latest actions of NATO states, such as that conducted in the Republic of Moldova. At the end of last week, Victoria Nuland assistant US Secretary of State for Europe, accompanied by officials from Pentagon and the American Command in Europe, paid a visit to Chisinau with the declared purpose of supporting the pro-European orientation of R. Moldova. During this visit, it was decided to grant an emergency loan of USD 10 M for securing the eastern border of R. Moldova.
Eastern Europe rediscovered itself, and was rediscovered after Crimea, and this process was concomitant with the rediscovery of the region by NATO and Western Europe. The process occurred at lightning speed in terms of historic duration and, doubtlessly, it will have huge consequences in the future. It is one of the fundamental consequences of the Russian action in Ukraine and one might suspect that Moscow did not foresee it. Founding it on “gentleman agreements” or other post-Cold War arrangements ignored the fact that, in today’s world, respecting the will of states to choose their own path cannot be stopped anymore with 19th Century methods.

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