Look East?
Look East?
Pavel Tarasenko and Sergey Strokanj

-OpEd-

MOSCOW — Despite the predictions before this past week's NATO summit of a major split in the alliance, and some awkward moments among its respective leaders, the meeting itself concluded without any real substantive complications. Even traditional anti-globalist clashes we've come to expect from these kinds of gatherings were absent. As for Russia, it turns out, our country was not high on the (public) agenda.

A month before the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron had said the alliance is facing "brain death" — to which alliance's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg replied that NATO is the most successful military alliance in history: "We have just carried out the largest increase in our military capabilities in many years, created the presence of our forces on the eastern borders of NATO. Alliance countries are now increasing defense spending, and we see an increase in the presence of American forces in Europe."

The alliance is falling apart.

At the Summit's conclusion, when Stoltenberg reported on the results, he said nothing about the conflict in Donbass nor anything on Crimea. In speaking about the Russian Federation, he only underlined the need for negotiations on issues related to arms control. As for Ukraine, it didn't even get a mention at the final press conference — which can be counted as at least strange, given that it is the only real live military conflict today in Europe.

In her post-Summit comments, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made her priority clear: "We are facing a challenge: Russia. Russia, on the one hand, is known for the measures characterizing it as our enemy, for example, waging a hybrid war; on the other hand, it is our neighbor."

NATO, viewed from Russia? — Photo: White House/ZUMA

Emmanuel Macron called for "rethinking relations with Russia," in particular, to begin a substantive dialogue on arms control. "When the alliance was formed, the answer was simple: Russia, the Soviet Union. But 30 years after the situation has changed. Does everyone at the table consider Russia an enemy? I do not think so."

The "Russian threat" will continue to remain a crucial talking point.

Indeed, the alliance itself was created as a response to the Soviet military threat and now is falling apart as some of its members look to establish friendly relations with Moscow. They prefer not to talk about this out loud, but the idea of ​​collective defense against possible Russian aggression is becoming more and more blurred, turning into some kind of spell-like ritual.

Of course, the "Russian threat" will continue to remain a crucial talking point for NATO members, even if nobody is really scared at all. In its longstanding habit of standing guard against Russia, the alliance increasingly resembles a hunched, elderly gentleman who's come to visit his mistress and forgotten why. And, it seems, he will never remember.

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