In 2010, when it approved its latest doctrinal document, NATO inhabited a world where it played a supporting role in Afghanistan, China was a distant country and Russia was described as a strategic partner.
This Wednesday (29), 12 years later, the US-led military alliance announced its re-foundation, courtesy of the Ukrainian War initiated by Vladimir Putin, enthroned China as a potential threat and is preparing for a period of military expansion against Moscow anchored in American shares and the entry of Sweden and Finland into the club.
NATO’s new Strategic Concept goes back to the group’s founding today with 30 members in 1949 to find its raison d’être: to fight Moscow with military deterrence. The Russians want to “establish spheres of influence and direct control through coercion, subversion, aggression and annexation”, says the text that echoes renewed fears of a Third World War.
Speaking to NATO members gathered in Madrid, President Volodymyr Zelensky again called for more Western weapons, particularly artillery. In recent weeks, the military balance of the war has shifted towards the Russian side in the Donbass (east of the country), but there is also an interest in Kiev in painting an even more dramatic picture to better arm itself.
“Moscow’s military escalation, including the Baltic, Black and Mediterranean Sea regions, together with its military integration with Belarus, challenges our security and interests”, completes the Concept, which points to the continuing threats of the use of nuclear weapons. made by Putin in this crisis of 2022 and the “innovative and disruptive” development of dual-capacity weapons, atomic and conventional, such as hypersonic missiles.
To face this, more military spending: in 2021 only 8 of the 30 NATO members invested more than 2% of their GDP in defense, as the alliance advocates. That’s more than the 3 that did in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and laid the foundation for the ongoing war, but still far from the goal.
“We face a sea change,” said Norwegian NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, himself an apathetic figure who flirted with becoming the governor of his country’s central bank before the crisis. He said that in 2022 9 members will reach 2% or more and 19, in 2024. The target will be “the floor, not the ceiling” of military spending — in fact, the US leads the train with 3.57% of the largest GDP. of the world for the military area.
It is a belated revenge of Donald Trump, the mercurial American president who put NATO against the wall in his years in office, to the point of making his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, say that the alliance was “brain dead”.
In any case, the Americans are the leaders, which is why President Joe Biden made the most concrete announcement of increasing military muscle against Russia. The US will have, for the first time in the post-Cold War period, an army headquarters in Eastern Europe, in bellicose and anti-Russian Poland.
“Right now, Putin has destroyed peace in Europe. The US and its allies are mobilizing, proving that NATO is more needed now than ever,” Biden said. One of the explicit reasons for the invasion was to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO, frozen since an invitation made to it and Georgia in 2008, which was renewed without much conviction in the Strategic Concept.
The reinforcement package will include two more destroyers based in Spain (there are four today), two new squadrons with F-35 fighter jets in the UK, non-permanent brigades in the Baltic States and Romania, and additional air defense for Germany and Italy.
It is the largest European deployment of American forces since the Cold War. Today there are 100,000 Washington troops on the continent, and there are likely to be more. In all, NATO says it will increase its rapid-reaction force from 40,000 to 300,000.
In general numbers, the alliance is already far superior to Russia: it spent US$ 1 trillion in 2021, compared to Moscow’s US$ 62 billion on defense, and has 3.28 million soldiers, while there are 900,000 Russians. But that data is illusory, as the nature of the fighting in Ukraine shows, and the Kremlin commands the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.
In exchange for such a commitment, Biden saw his main strategic concern addressed by the new Concept: China. The document is careful not to call the Asian giant an adversary, but even then it also says that it would like to have dialogue with Moscow. He says, however, that it is necessary to be ready to face the “coercive tactics and efforts to divide the alliance” by Beijing.
Even more relevant is the symbolic presence of representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea as guests at the summit, which ends this Thursday (30). Beijing has responded directly to what it sees as an intrusion into its strategic backyard.
“The post-Cold War expansions not only failed to make Europe safer, but also sowed the seeds of conflict. [na Ucrânia]. We cannot allow this kind of turmoil and conflict that is affecting parts of the world to take place in Asia-Pacific,” Chinese UN Representative Zhang Jun said on Tuesday night.
Since the beginning of the war, on February 24, parallels have been drawn in the West between what happened in Ukraine and what could happen in Taiwan, although they are historically incomparable cases – the UN itself recognizes the Chinese demand on Taipei.
If anyone had any doubt that the world is more divided in the Cold War 2.0 environment, the NATO document makes the new reality clear. Indeed, Putin is the main ally of Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader who wants to be reappointed to another five years of power in November.
Turkey presents the bill for support
But the most immediate focus is on Europe, with the well-known, but no less historic, announcement of Sweden and Finland joining NATO after decades (20 in Stockholm, 7 in Helsinki) of neutrality. The process should be accelerated, not least because the Armed Forces of both countries already operate in harmony with the alliance, but there is no set date.
Stoltenberg thanked Turkey on Wednesday, which lifted its veto on the Nordics’ entry into the alliance with a US-sponsored deal the day before. The price is becoming clear: Ankara has released a list of 33 exiled opponents in both countries that it wants to see tried as terrorists. Sweden said it will study the case.
In addition, US authorities have already signaled the green light for the sale of F-16 fighter jets in more modern versions to replace the fleet of 260 Turkish-type aircraft. Ankara was kicked out of the new F-35 manufacturing program after buying Russian anti-aircraft systems, a political challenge by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Trump’s refusal to extradite the accused of masterminding the failed coup against Turkey in 2016.
With the Turkish agreement, the summit escaped a fiasco: if it did not announce the Swedish and Finnish accession, the internal dissonance in the alliance would become evident.
It has many facets: the greater caution of the major economies, Germany and France ahead, in the face of punishments against Putin, the historic rivalry between Turks and Greeks, Paris’ distrust of Washington after the loss of a billion-dollar submarine sales contract to Australia.
The central question, about who will pay the bill for the speech, will also be imposed. Increased military spending, as announced in the once pacifist Germany, is a complex issue in democracies: recent research has shown that most Europeans prefer an accommodation solution to the Ukrainian War, for example.
Russia sees expansion threat since the Cold War
From the Russian point of view, these are avenues to explore, although for foreign consumption the moment is one of unity and assertiveness on the part of the West. For the Kremlin, shared by the Chinese, it was the Westerners who started the fight, by alienating Russia from attempts at rapprochement after the defeat of communism in the Cold War.
With the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, the broken Russia that emerged from the rubble was a fragile country, recovered based on revenues from the sale of oil and gas and the boastful militarism of the Putin era, which began in 1999. there were five expansions to the east, encompassing 14 ex-communist countries.
The argument on the other hand is that Russia, despite defending neutrality in its surroundings, actually seeks to militarize it. It turned the Belarusian dictatorship rocked by a political crisis in 2020 into a military protectorate. He fought in 2008 in Georgia and, from 2014 onwards, in Ukraine, precisely in the name of this cordon. NATO members like Poland, now an American trench, say they will be next.
1949 – NATO’s 12 founding countries sign the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington
1952 – Turkey and Greece join
1955 – West Germany joins NATO after years of denazification
1956 – First internal crisis, with US opposing Franco-British intervention in the Suez crisis
1961 – The Cold War raises the bar with the construction of the Berlin Wall
1966 – France leaves NATO command structure, accusing American excess power
1982 – Spain joins NATO
1989 – Berlin Wall Falls, Beginning of the End of Soviet Communism
nineteen ninety – German reunification, East Germany leaves the Warsaw Pact
1991 – End of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact
1994 – First NATO military action: downing of four Serb planes in Bosnia
1994 – War in Chechnya exposes Russian military weakness; Moscow joins partnership program
1996 – Russians support NATO troops in former Yugoslavia
1999 – NATO attacks Yugoslavia, beginning of Russian withdrawal; Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic join
2001 – In response to 9/11, article 5 of NATO, of mutual defense in the event of aggression, is invoked for the first time
2003 – Another rift: countries led by Germany veto NATO in the Iraq War
2004 – Another expansion to the east, with seven ex-communist countries, including the Baltic States, bringing the number of members to 26
2008 – To veto NATO membership, Russia wages war with Georgia
2009 – France returns to NATO’s military command; Albania and Croatia join
2011 – With UN mandate, NATO controls Libyan airspace
2014 – Russia annexes Crimea and intervenes in eastern Ukraine to prevent Kiev from joining the West
2017 – Montenegro joins NATO
2018 – U.S. split between Trump and NATO widens as American demands for more spending
2019 – Height of the crisis with Trump. Frenchman Emmanuel Macron sees alliance with “brain dead”
2020 – North Macedonia becomes the 30th state of NATO
2021 – Without fighting in Afghanistan since 2015, alliance is caught off guard by US withdrawal in troubled evacuation of Kabul
2022 – Russia invades Ukraine, alliance renews sense of mission with increasing arms shipments to Kiev, but faces internal splits over aid intensity. Finland and Sweden are invited to join the club. Countries such as Germany are revising their military spending upwards. New military doctrine predicts reinforcement in the east and cites China as a threat.