MOSCOW, 09 Jul 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.
On June 14, 2021, a summit of NATO member countries was held in Belgium, and it actually turned out to be a revision in its meaning. Its main result was a demonstration of the “unequivocal return” of the United States to the leading position in the North Atlantic military bloc.
President Biden openly stated that the Alliance is still considered by Washington as an important mechanism of European and international security, which, if it did not exist in reality, America would certainly have to invent anew.
In this regard, the US president confirmed all the main elements of the agreement forming the bloc. First of all, in terms of the inviolability of American obligations to participate in ensuring the military security of Europe, including with the direct use of its armed forces in combat operations, “if a such will be needed”. The second important element was the emphasis on the key principle of the organisation – the notorious “article 5”, interpreted as “an attack on any NATO member will automatically be considered an attack on all NATO members”.
In this regard, the members of the military bloc confirmed the need to comply with the requirements of the Alliance’s Charter to abide by the level of military spending in the amount of at least 2% of their GDP. However, they stated that only 10 out of 30 participants currently allocate such amounts for national defence, and these are overwhelmingly Eastern European neighbouring countries, newly accepted by organisation, while most of its initial members spend one and a half to two times less money on military needs. But this will be corrected by 2024. It is also noted that the participants reached an agreement that at least 20% of NATO’s total budget of $1.05 trillion will have to go to the purchase of new military equipment, most of which is produced precisely by the American military-industrial complex.
Thus, the purpose of the audit should be considered the beginning of the process of mobilising the resources of the Western world for changes in the composition and nature of geopolitical challenges, the resistance to which is the main basis for the existence of this military alliance.
The above-mentioned mobilisation consists of three key elements: increasing internal discipline; turning Russia into a passive flanking threat; reorienting the military strategy of the bloc for a standoff with China.
Improving internal discipline in NATO
Joe Biden, in his speech to allies in the military bloc, carefully emphasised the principle that America is back, thereby showing that the United States has abandoned the position of the “previous administration”, which declared its desire to terminate American membership in NATO.
But at the same time, both the American leadership and the military-political command of the bloc in Brussels have carefully outlined the immutability of the global line on almost all “acute issues” of the current moment.
In particular, it was noted that the bloc still “remains open” for new participants, but it cannot name any exact dates for the admission of Georgia and Ukraine to its membership.
In fact, this means freezing the process of “NATO expansion to the East”, since both Tbilisi and Kiev are recommended to continue implementing the Action Plan for NATO Membership (MAP), previously approved by the leadership of the Alliance in 2008, at the same time ignoring two fundamental facts.
The first one is Georgia’s demand to verify the completion of its implementation of the 2008 MAP, which, according to the Georgian leadership of the country, has been fully implemented and “the ball is in Brussels’ court”. It is understood that the only obstacle to the admission of Tbilisi to the North Atlantic Alliance remains the lack of sufficient political will of its leadership.
The second one is that the official MAP was not provided to Ukraine, either in 2008 or in 2014, which is extremely annoying for the Ukrainian ruling elite. President Zelensky indignantly declares the inadmissibility of maintaining such a situation further. “Brussels is obliged to tell the Ukrainian people directly – when Ukraine will be admitted to NATO, or also officially declare the final refusal of membership,” he said.
However, Brussels recommended to Georgia to “wait until the time comes”, and Ukraine should first fulfil all the preliminary requirements (this point was emphasised three times), before the stage of providing the MAP. Namely, that “Kiev needs to continue carrying out large-scale and irreversible internal reforms, including the fight against corruption, decentralisation based on democratic values, respect for human rights, security reform and the transfer of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to the standards of the organisation”. Along this path, NATO members will maintain support for Ukraine in the field of defence and cooperation on security issues in the Black Sea region.
In fact, this means the desire of Brussels to preserve the bloc as much as possible in its current form, only creating the appearance of openness for accepting new members as a tool for projecting its military-political influence “to the east”. For this purpose, the ritual public rhetoric that has become standard “about adherence to principles” is being used, including the readiness to consider an application to join NATO even from Moldova, but without any specific deadlines and clear obligations.
It is important to note that the “Belarusian issue” is also touched upon in this vein, but only in the sense of the unacceptability of the prospect of Belarus being absorbed by Russia. Even in the case of a change of power in Minsk to a deliberately pro-Western one, there is no question of Belarus joining the Alliance.
That is, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova are positioned by the leadership of the Alliance as a buffer zone between the borders of NATO and the Russian Federation, which indirectly confirms the continuation of the preparation of conditions for the implementation of the “space of war” strategy, which RUSSTRAT has repeatedly written about earlier.
Turning Russia into a passive flanking threat
Although in the final communique of 79 paragraphs adopted at the end of the summit, Russia is mentioned 60 times, in general, Brussels has indicated an ambivalent position towards Moscow.
In the media, Russia is designated as a growing threat, and therefore the Alliance is moving in positioning it for itself from the status of a “constructive partner” adopted in 2010 to the status of a “main enemy”. With the preservation of all previously formulated military and political claims.
In particular, the bloc continues to demand from Moscow the return of Crimea to Ukraine, the withdrawal of troops from Donbass, the termination of financial and military support for paramilitary groups in eastern Ukraine, the need to ensure full and safe access of the OSCE mission throughout Ukraine, including Crimea and the Ukrainian-Russian border, the end of obstruction of free navigation in the Black and Azov Seas, and the withdrawal of recognition of the state independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, with their mandatory recognition as an integral part of Georgia.
To this is added the inadmissibility of active movements of large groups of Russian troops even on their own territory of the Russian Federation. Even more so, it also concerns the expansion of programs of bilateral and multilateral military exercises, especially with China.
Separately, the “extreme concern” of the NATO leadership is emphasised by the growing activity of Russian “nuclear rhetoric”, including related to the “advertising” of new types of strategic weapons, as well as the high rate of increase in the share of modern and advanced conventional weapons systems, both in the areas of air defence/missile defence, and in systems “based on new physical principles”.
To all the previously voiced demands, the bloc added “a call to Moscow to abandon the label of an “unfriendly country” in relation to NATO members – the United States and the Czech Republic.
Thus, the revision of the nature of the Alliance’s attitude to the Russian Federation is presented as an unconditionally forced response to the “increase in the military and geopolitical aggressiveness of the Kremlin’s behaviour.”
At the same time, Brussels sends two signals indicating its alleged desire to restore contact with Moscow.
The first one is the adoption of a collective decision by the NATO member countries, including the United States, to abandon the plans recently announced by America to deploy medium-and short-range ballistic missiles in Europe with nuclear equipment. At the same time, a return to the INF treaty is excluded.
The step itself is positioned as an act of goodwill on the part of NATO, implying some “appropriate” counter act on the part of the Russian Federation, with a hint of the expectation that the Kremlin will begin to reduce the Russian military group in Kaliningrad.
The statement of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg about the Alliance’s intention to “continue to strive for maintaining constructive relations with Russia in the form of openness to dialogue within the framework of the NATO – Russia Council (NRC)” should be considered as the second signal. The Secretary General stressed that the bloc does not seek confrontation and does not pose a threat to Russia.
However, all these “friendly gestures” are closely accompanied by a lot of associated to them mandatory conditions and reservations. For example, NATO refused to deploy its nuclear missiles in Europe, “but will be forced to respond to the expansion of the Russian arsenal.” And in terms of cooperation through the NRC, it is indicated that such cooperation is possible only in the part that does not contradict the interests of NATO and security in Europe.
From all of the above, the only conclusion follows: for the future until 2030, Brussels is striving, in its opinion, and on its terms, for a fairly stable conservation of the current state of relations between NATO and the Russian Federation, in order to localise the “Russian military and geopolitical threat” as a flank threat that could be relatively successfully stopped by small military forces.
In combination with active political statements and numerous “eternal” negotiations, which, in general, do not lead to any practical positive effect, but create the impression in the media space of the unwavering desire of the Alliance’s attempts to achieve “even more lasting peace”. Proceeding from the understanding that, despite all the numerous accusations of increasing aggressiveness, Russia, on its own initiative, especially out of aggressive expansionist aspirations, will not attack Europe first.
The purpose of these actions is to strategically reorient the North Atlantic Alliance from opposing Russia to repelling the threat of China.
Reorientation of NATO’s military strategy to confront China
The 32nd summit of the Alliance held in Belgium was marked not only by the shortest duration in twenty years – the meeting itself lasted only 2.5 hours, but also by the adoption by the member countries of the “NATO-2030″ analytical report, in which China was declared “the main systemic threat to Western society”.
Thus, for the first time in the history of its existence, a purely territorial European military bloc has declared its goal to oppose a state located on the other side of the planet.
The reason for this is the rapid progress of the People’s Republic of China in the field of aerospace technologies, the high pace of technological modernisation of its armed forces and the rapid increase in the number and combat capabilities of the Chinese navy. Beijing’s geopolitical projects, in particular, the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership (CEP) trade agreement, are not directly mentioned as an important part of the “Chinese threat”, but they are also explicitly implied. As well as the actions of China to establish control over the South China and East China Seas.
Although China is mentioned only ten times in the final communique, NATO, nevertheless, announced the development of a new Strategic Concept of the Alliance until 2023, which will be adopted at the next summit in 2022 in Spain.
At the moment, there is no more detailed information about its composition and nature in open sources. But if we rely on the numerous, albeit scattered, individual comments of the participants on the analytical report “NATO – 2030”, we can confidently say that the strategic line adopted by the US leadership is to mobilise the resources of the “collective West” to conduct a “probable war” against China, approximately at the turn of 2026-2028.
For a while it is difficult to say to what extent the European allies of the United States in NATO are able to participate in it, and to what extent they will really want to participate in reality, with their own armed forces. This will become clear after more detailed information about the content of the Strategic Concept of the Alliance until 2023 becomes available. But it is already indisputable that the military-political leadership of America considers them as a common western rear military-industrial area.
The obviousness to place the named deadlines for the adoption of the new Strategy in the common time frame presented by leading US analytical centres, for example, in the RAND reports, about the inevitability of a US-Chinese war “no later than 2026 – 2027”, and the impossibility of an American victory in it “after 2029-2030”, should also be noted.
This also fits well with the desire to turn Russia into a connected with it passive flanking threat, with the aim of trying to keep the Russian leadership from concluding a military alliance with China in any form.
Although the practical ability of NATO to simultaneously wage two large wars, albeit in the format of low-intensity conflicts, in Taiwan against China, and “in the expanse of war” (on the territory of the Baltic States, Belarus, Ukraine, the Balkans and, probably, Poland) against the Russian Federation remains doubtful at the moment, the threat of such a scenario is clearly increasing. At least, in the quality of a tool for political blocking of Russian geopolitical initiatives for rapprochement with China.
This conclusion is confirmed, albeit indirectly, by the announcement made at the recent meeting of the “Big Seven” countries on the implementation of their own version of the infrastructure development of Middle Eastern and Asian countries, aimed at countering the Chinese Belt and Road project. In other words, the collective West has openly aimed at accelerating the economic and geopolitical isolation of China within the borders of Southeast Asia, which, according to American strategists, should create economic difficulties for it and slow down growth during the period until Washington consolidates the “collective West” and the NATO bloc to a state sufficient for trying to implement the option of a “war in defence of Taiwan”.
Although the final communique, in addition to the above-mentioned issues, says a lot of traditional fashionable words about the need to create a new, more effective protection against cyber threats and the proliferation of weapons in space, about the green agenda and overcoming the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, all this serves only as a camouflage smoke screen to hide a very important fact.
All of the above seriously affects the global political and economic interests of three dozen of countries, most of which are among the ten largest economies on the planet. Moreover, on many important issues, for example, in the energy sector and the provision of raw materials, the most important of them, such as Germany, do not agree with the US policy. However, all of them reached an agreement on the future prospects of NATO and their participation in their implementation, in just 2.5 hours.
This means that large-scale strategic plans, including “against China” one by the American establishment, were discussed and pre-agreed on the sidelines in the short period between the inauguration of Joe Biden as US president on January 20, 2021 and the end of May of the same year, that is, in just five months.
This testifies to the determination of the United States and the sufficiency of America’s available (political, military, economic, and psychological) resources for the practical implementation of the radical option of “eliminating China’s systemic threat to the entire Western world”. This transfers the prospect of a US-Chinese war “for Taiwan” from the category of probable to the state of almost inevitable.