The world is currently changing so rapidly that the term ‘new normal,’ which first appeared in the business realm and later enriched diplomatic slang, has been added to the active vocabulary of not only all those who follow the news, but even those who don’t.
The NATO summit held in Madrid, last month, was rich in information, claiming to be one of the key political events of the summer of 2022.
The gathering marked another milestone in relations between Moscow and Brussels, with the continuing conflict between Russia and the West the main focus.
First, a new Strategic Concept for the bloc was released, in which Russia was publicly declared its main security threat.
Secondly, the procedure for Sweden and Finland’s membership was officially launched, symbolically confirming the unity of the Euro-Atlantic camp. Thirdly, a number of measures and plans have been announced which are aimed at directly deterring Russia militarily.
These are all alarming signals that create a depressing impression for outsiders. The reaction of officials does not add optimism either.
For example, in commenting on NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept. The very existence of a state like Russia is recognized as a serious threat to the alliance. This is a very serious turn and a real bid to confront Moscow.
Russia’s complaints against NATO had already begun accumulating since the conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s, and noticeably escalated after the 2008 summit in Bucharest, when Ukraine and Georgia were promised membership of the bloc.
This criticism persisted, albeit implicitly, during NATO’s operation in Libya, as well as in the Syrian conflict. The NATO summits that took place in Wales and Warsaw in 2014 and 2016 following the first Ukrainian crisis, in turn, formalized the beginning of the ‘securitization’ of Russia.
In this context, the parties actually abandoned dialogue and suspended the work of the Russia-NATO Council at Brussels’ initiative. Despite attempts to revive the format and even use it in early 2022 to discuss Russian proposals for security guarantees, it became clear that the functionality and effectiveness of the Council had been reduced to zero.
In the fall of 2021, Russia’s Permanent Mission to NATO, the Information Bureau, and the bloc’s Military Liaison Mission in Moscow also suspended their work.
In the absence of these channels of communication and, in fact, any real purpose for them, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov succinctly characterized Moscow’s relations with Brussels as non-existent.
Therefore, if we compare the reality after the Madrid summit with the development of events before it, the ‘normal’ is the same… only more clearly formulated.
Finland and Sweden successfully complete the process of accessiom, the format NATO chooses to secure its borders with Russia, which remains unknown, will be key in terms of Moscow’s reaction.
There are two groups of issues here – related to conventional and strategic weapons.
In the Baltic Sea, the coexistence of both Russian and NATO fleets would be problematic (since all states with access may soon be members of the alliance) and require updating, confidence-building and incident prevention measures.
The expert community is also discussing the prospects of deploying medium- and short-range missiles, as well as nuclear weapons and anti-missile defense systems, on NATO’s new flank.
According to statements from Russia’s Foreign Ministry, any steps taken by NATO will be thoroughly analyzed by the Russian military, which means the ball is now in Russia’s court.
But one way or another, from a practical standpoint, the events currently taking place demonstrate that the ‘new normal’ in Russia-NATO relations is actually very old… one that stood the test of time in a bygone era.
When the dialogue moves from political and diplomatic arenas to the military realm, it often becomes more concrete and pragmatic.
An important point in the statement from the Madrid summit is the preservation of the 1997 Founding Act on Russia-NATO Relations, despite the fact that Russia had been accused of violating it the day before.
This indicates that the parties are not ready to completely abandon security guarantees and engage in open conflict. The same idea was expressed by NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg.
While the fighting in Ukraine is in an active phase, the parties will remain vague, determining what measures must be taken to adequately secure their borders without openly challenging the security of their opponents.
As soon as the hostilities end and a post-conflict model emerges, when new troops appear on Russia’s borders and the details of Finland’s and Sweden’s accession become clear, further dialogue will inevitably be devoted to finding ways to de-escalate, since a peak in tensions is always followed by a decline.
There is another reason it is not beneficial for NATO to engage in open conflict with Moscow or concentrate all of its resources on its border with Russia.
As was confirmed by the decisions taken during the course of the Madrid summit, the big confrontation of the future won’t be concentrated in Europe at all, but in the Asia-Pacific region.
And if the United States and its allies need resources to counter China very soon, the bloc simply cannot afford to use them all in an open conflict with Russia.
RT. com / ABC Flash Point WW III NATO Europe News 2022.