July 18, 2016

Results of the Warsaw Summit in the Context of Ukraine's National Interests

 

Ivan Sichen, Military and Political Expert

After the EU Summit of June 28-29, 2016, during which it was decided to continue the sanctions against Russia, a next crucial event in the development of the situation around Ukraine became NATO Summit on the 8-9 of July 2016, in Warsaw. This event was a logical continuation of the NATO Summit in Wales (UK) in September 2014 in the context of the Alliance's respond to Russia's military aggression against Ukraine, which undermined the whole system of collective security in Europe.

At this, while in Wales were made fundamental political decisions on amendments to the NATO strategy in terms of reorientation of the Alliance for countering Moscow's aggressive course, in Warsaw, they were transferred to a plane of practical steps to increase military presence of the North Atlantic Alliance in Central and Eastern Europe, Black Sea and Baltic regions. Thus, NATO has actually moved from political opposition to Moscow's neo-imperial policy to direct military containment of Russia with using all NATO's potential.

Thus, despite the lack of consensus among European countries on their attitude to Russia, during the NATO Summit in Warsaw they confirmed the shared vision of Moscow's aggressive actions as the greatest challenges to the security of the Alliance and the EU after the “Cold War”. At this, V. Putin's regime's policy was recognized as the main source of instability in Europe (more dangerous than Islamic extremism).

In this context, Ukraine remained in the centre of attention of the Alliance. Leaders of NATO member countries supported the territorial integrity of our country and condemned Russia's annexation of the Crimea, and laid direct responsibility on V. Putin's regime's not fulfilling the Minsk Agreements and another intensification of the armed conflict in the Donbas. In this regard, the leadership of the Alliance for the first time officially recognized Russia's providing political, financial and military support to militants and demanded to stop such actions.

At the same time, among other forms of Moscow's aggressive policy were named attempts to resolve international issues by threats and force, and increased provocations against NATO and the EU member countries in the Black Sea and Baltic regions and in the North of Europe. The Summit also pointed out the intensification of Russia's military activity on the European direction, including building up groups of the RF Armed Forces in western regions of the country and in the occupied Crimea and increased activity of offensive and provocative military maneuvers and exercises.

According to the Alliance's leadership, all this creates an “instability arch” along the eastern border of NATO and increases the threat of armed incidents with unpredictable consequences. In this context, the need was pointed out to ensure NATO's adequate reaction to direct threats to Allies' countries under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and to crises arising outside the Organization.

European security order 

Taking into consideration these circumstances, the leadership of the Alliance took all the planned decisions in the military sphere, which should strengthen the defence capabilities of the Alliance at its eastern borders. The most important the NATO member countries' achievement of the principled agreement on deployment of NATO combat forces in Poland and the Baltic States (one battalion of up to a thousand of soldiers in each country) and Romania (a Romanian-Bulgarian brigade on the basis of the existing Romanian unit).

In the past, such plans caused major controversy in NATO because of the reluctance of some member countries to worsen relations with Russia, and concerns about Moscow's possible negative reaction. However, V. Putin's regime's continuation of the armed aggression against Ukraine, as well as growth of the Kremlin's confrontation with the West, have actually resolved differences within the Alliance on these issues.

Despite the relatively small number of NATO troops to be deployed in Poland, the Baltic States and Romania, in case of a threat of an armed conflict, they can be quickly reinforced by existing reserves, transport capacity and infrastructure (including Command structures, bases of weapons and airfield network). To that end, during the NATO Summit it was decided to increase NATO Response Force three times — to 40 thousand military servicemen. Besides, in case of further deterioration of relations between Russia and NATO, at the basis of the Alliance's battalions in Poland and the Baltic States can be deployed units of brigade level on a regular basis.

A question of further expansion of NATO's military presence in the Black Sea region is planned to be considered in autumn. In particular, this applies to strengthening air and sea patrols and deployment of a permanent operational unit of NATO's Navy in the Black Sea.

Equally important was the decision of the Summit to introduce the initial operational capability of the US/NATO AD system in Europe. At the present stage, the system includes an antimissile complex in Romania and the US/NATO ships equipped with the “Aegis” system (multipurpose missile defence and air defence system) in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Besides, in the nearest future it will also include an antimissile complex in Poland.

NATO missile defence system 

According to representatives of NATO, missile defence system in Europe is not directed against Russia and must defend NATO countries against possible missile attacks from South-East (especially from Iran). However, its operational and technical capabilities ensure such defence also from a possible missile attack from Russia. This issue is of particular relevance for NATO in the presence of Russia's plans to deploy new operational-tactical missile complexes “Iskander-M” in Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation and the possibility of deploying them in the occupied Crimea.

Besides, NATO's leadership has increased attention to combating new forms and methods of the enemy's aggressions, in particular, in cyberspace. According to the decision of the NATO Summit, cyberspace is a sphere of NATO's full scope of action and defence. This step was taken due to the increasing number of cyber attacks on the computer systems of the USA and NATO from Russia and other countries (including China, Iran and North Korea) and the experience of Russia's “hybrid wars” against Ukraine and Georgia.

To ensure the implementation of these decisions, NATO's military spending will be increased by 3 % per year (8 billion US dollars). In fact, this is the first increase in spending on NATO defence needs since the collapse of the Soviet Union and it confirms the seriousness of the Alliance's intentions to counteract the growth of threats from Russia and other opponents.

In terms of weakening the unity of the EU as a result of Britain's intentions to withdraw from the Organization and growth of Euroskeptic sentiments in some European countries, a separate topic at the Summit was consolidation of the Alliance and the European Union regarding most important issues concerning their interests.

The result of these efforts was the signing of the NATO and EU's Joint Declaration on Cooperation in Security and Defence Spheres. At this, the leadership of Great Britain confirmed the intentions of the country to comply with its obligations to NATO, and to continue participating in the implementation of the European Union's security programs. In particular, the British side claimed responsibility for the formation and support of NATO's battalion in Estonia.

Besides, during the meeting of US President B. Obama, Federal Chancellor of Germany A. Merkel and President of France F. Hollande, an agreement was reached on the need to continue the joint US, NATO and EU's pressure on Russia over the Ukrainian issue. In this regard, the leaders of the three countries expressed an agreed position on the impossibility of normalizing relations with Russia, as well as the need to maintain sanctions against it until Moscow's full implementation of the Minsk Agreements and returning the Crimea to Ukraine.

At the same time, during the NATO Summit, there was the Alliance's unity on the right of each country to choose its external course, including within the framework of relations with the Alliance. They also stressed NATO's openness to new member states, including Ukraine and Georgia. However, they pointed out the need to continue reforms in Ukraine's defence sector as the main prerequisite for the country's Euro-Atlantic integration.

At this, the leadership of NATO and leading Western countries demonstrated full support to Ukraine in carrying out these reforms and enhancing the capabilities of our country in counteracting Russia's armed aggression. The importance of this issue was especially pointed out by the NATO Secretary General J. Stoltenberg. According to him, stability, independence and democratic development of Ukraine are the key to Euro-Atlantic security.

Evidence of NATO's attitude to our country was the results of the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, during which was adopted a Comprehensive Package of Assistance to Ukraine in nearly 50 areas. The main ones are: assistance to Ukraine to bring its defence sector to NATO standards; deepening military-technical cooperation between the Alliance and Ukraine; joint exercises; NATO's participation in training Ukrainian military units; funds for the implementation of a number of targeted programs, including de-mining in the Donbas; strengthening the sphere of cyber defence and rehabilitation of the injured. Besides, they approved the issue of creation of a Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian brigade.

Against this background, extremely important for Ukraine was an agreement to launch the process of our country's joining the program “advanced partnership with NATO” (in fact it is similar to the “NATO Membership Action Plan”, currently a member of the “partnership” with NATO Georgia, Finland, Sweden, Australia and Jordan). Resolving this issue will allow to begin successive steps of Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration before the occurrence of conditions which will allow our country to make a formal application to join NATO.

A separate meeting in the “G 5”+Ukraine format was devoted to discussion of the situation in the Donbas (President of Ukraine P. Poroshenko, US President B. Obama, Federal Chancellor of Germany A. Merkel, President of France F. Hollande, and Prime Minister of the UK D. Cameron and head of the Italian government M. Renzi. The main result of the negotiations was an agreement on developing a “road map” for implementation of the Minsk Agreements with the assistance of Western countries, which actually means the process of settling the crisis in the East of Ukraine. At this, they pointed out the possibility of holding elections in the Donbas solely by Ukrainian legislation and after stabilization of the situation in the conflict zone.

At the same time, along with demonstration of intentions to strengthen counteracting Russia and to continue putting pressure on it over the Ukrainian issue, the Alliance's leadership expressed readiness for dialogue with Moscow in the form of a regular meeting of the NATO-Russia Council July 13, 2016. Due to this, NATO's leaders hope to talk V. Putin's regime into constructive resolving the problems in the relationship of the parties and into political settlement of the situation around Ukraine based on the Minsk Agreements. According to a number of estimates, such an approach (“deterrence and dialogue”) was the result of a compromise between supporters of the hard pressure on Russia and those members of NATO and the EU, who speak for restoration of cooperation with it.

Along with the major issues of the NATO Summit, the situation in Afghanistan and the problem of aggravation of Islamic extremism in the Middle East and North Africa was also considered. Decisions were made to continue NATO's operations in Afghanistan (this provides for assistance in training Afghan security forces and development of the country) and to send AWACS' planes to monitor the situation in the conflict zones on the territory of these regions. At this, NATO's leadership pointed out the positive nature of Ukraine's participation in NATO operations in Afghanistan, which creates an additional basis for Ukraine's deeper cooperation with the Alliance.

The positions and decisions of NATO member countries, including regarding Ukraine, are enshrined in the Final Declaration of the Warsaw Summit and the Final Document of the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission.

Analysis of these documents and political statements of representatives of NATO member countries leads to the following conclusions.

 

In general, NATO maintains united, firm and consistent position on countering the aggressive policy of V. Putin's regime, which first of all concerns Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine. At this, due to Moscow's increasing confrontation with the West, NATO shifts the emphasis onto military containment of the V. Putin’s regime.

Defence forefront of NATO in the East is actually Ukraine, which attracts to itself Russia's attention and resources in Moscow's implementation of its neo-imperial plans. With this in mind, NATO's leadership moves from a “response to crisis” to a long-term partnership with Ukraine within the framework of comprehensive assistance to our country in strengthening the Ukrainian defence component and bringing it to the standards of the Alliance.

This is Ukraine's clear political victory, which strengthens its international positions and increases our capability for counteracting Russia. However, not being a member of the Alliance, Ukraine cannot count on receiving lethal weapons and direct military support from NATO. Although the possibility of such actions of the Alliance or its individual member countries cannot be ruled out completely.

Nevertheless, the importance of Ukraine as one of the main factors in ensuring the security of Europe opens wide opportunities for Ukraine's European and Euro-Atlantic integration based on joint with NATO and the EU deterring Moscow's neo-imperial ambitions.

This issue will retain its relevance for a long time due to the lack of real prospects to establish constructive dialogue between Russia and NATO (at least as long as Putin and his followers are in power). The Alliance's any attempts to compromise with Russia would be seen by Moscow as NATO's weakness and would trigger Russian Federation's new aggression.

Evidence of this was the intensification of Russia's armed confrontation in the Donbas during preparation and holding of the NATO Summit, and its new provocations against the Alliance. Besides, quite an exemplary is the fact of the large-scale exercises of the Strategic Missile Forces of the RF Armed Forces on July 11, 2016, immediately after the Summit of the North Atlantic Alliance.