Kyiv commentator: Seven signs NATO has ‘finally come out of its coma’

NATO Warsaw Summit, July 2016 (Image: social media)

NATO Warsaw Summit, July 2016 (Image: social media) 

Analysis & Opinion, Military analysis, Russia, War in the Donbas

Some Ukrainians were disappointed that NATO’s Warsaw Summit did not move further toward integrating Ukraine and Georgia into the Western alliance, Maksym Mykhailenko says. But they should take heart from seven signs NATO did give at that meeting which show that it has “finally come out of its coma.”

First of all, he writes in a commentary in Kyiv’s “Delovaya stolitsa,” the alliance agreed to base troops in Poland and the Baltic states, and the countries that agreed to put troops there included many Vladimir Putin had been counting on to slow the recovery of NATO. He thus suffered a defeat.

But this is “only the tip of the iceberg” into which the Kremlin’s ship ran: it also now must cope with the fact that the Western alliance again “views Russia as a threat and has begun to officially apply the principles of containment to it, Mykhailenko says.

Second, the Kyiv commentator says, the fact that the alliance said it was open to dialogue with Moscow was a defeat for the Kremlin as well because it undercuts the Kremlin’s repeated propagandistic claims that the West won’t talk and therefore Russia has to proceed without talking to NATO. That alliance position puts the ball in the Kremlin’s court.

Third, Mykhailenko continues, the Western alliance has made it clear that it is going to be more involved in Ukrainian affairs not only by overseeing the Minsk Accords but also by forming a group of countries that is ready to provide arms to Kyiv. Moreover, NATO has demonstrated that both these policies have the approval of all the countries of the alliance.

Petro Porosheko, Barak Obama, Justin Trudeau, Barbara Merkel, and David Cameron at NATO's Warsaw Summit in July 2016 (Image: Svyatoslav Tseholko/Facebook)

Petro Porosheko, Barak Obama, Justin Trudeau, Barbara Merkel, and David Cameron at NATO’s Warsaw Summit in July 2016 (Image: Svyatoslav Tseholko/Facebook)

Fourth, simple content analysis of the Warsaw summit documents highlights the new centrality of Ukraine in the thinking of NATO countries. In the final communique, NATO mentioned Ukraine 32 times, far more than it did even at the Bucharest Summit in the early 1990s. And it mentioned containing Russia 56 times, far more than it said the same about ISIS.

Fifth and perhaps most important, the alliance declared that “Russia is a mortal threat to the world,” a declaration that is symbolically extremely important give the alliance’s Article 5 guarantees.

Sixth, the alliance specified that NATO is concerned not only about its member states but about the region around them, a region that includes Ukraine, and that intends to be “a global player in the military-political sphere” rather than a regional one with a geographically limited purview.

These six things give Ukraine important support:

  • NATO now recognizes that Russia is responsible for the war in Ukraine,
  • Moscow is thus a side in the conflict and not an observer as the Kremlin insists,
  • There is no possibility of conducting elections in the occupied areas at the present time,
  • Sanctions can only be lifted after Moscow withdraws from eastern Ukraine,
  • And the alliance wants to work with all countries at risk of Russian aggression.

And seventh, NATO at Warsaw defined its relationship as “a distinctive partnership,” a term it had not used before, and thus set the stage for movement toward a membership action plan (MAP). The ball, Mykhailenko says, is thus in Kyiv’s court. To move toward an MAP will require that Ukraine conduct reforms and bring its military into correspondence with NATO standards.

It will also require that NATO carry out the package of policy declarations that it made in Warsaw, something Kyiv should do everything it can to make easier and more likely in the coming months.


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Edited by: A. N.

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