NATO’s Warsaw Summit is, officially, not just about Russia. Except that it is still basically all about Russia. The deterioration of relations with Russia after the Ukraine crisis has posed difficult, even existential questions for the alliance. What is the nature of the Russian threat? What does Russia want? Is cooperation with Russia still possible?
The past is also under scrutiny. Some member states think that NATO enlargement was a reckless endeavour, inevitably bound to irritate Russia. Others view Russia’s slide toward authoritarianism as the root of all evil or believe that Russia is now an expansionist power. Some think that Russia can be countered only with forceful deterrence. Others think that dialogue remain necessary.
These differences matter. NATO’s strength rests on its unity. To forge an effective response to Russia, NATO needs to reach greater consensus.
This collection of essays is part of that process. They look at the most critical and most contentious aspects of the NATO-Russia relationship. First, former British Ambassador Rodric Braithwaite shares his knowledge about the assurances concerning NATO enlargement that were – or were not – given to the Soviet Union and Russia. Next, Aleksandr Golts of Russia examines his country’s recent military reforms and exercises. Jacek Dukalec from Poland looks at Russia’s nuclear posture and signalling. Merle Maigre and Kadri Liik of Estonia lay out a new agenda for the NATO-Russia Council. Finally, Gustav Gressel of Austria looks into the future and examines what kind of challenge Russia will present in a few years’ time.
How far the recent deterioration relations in Russia’s relations with the West might have been prevented if NATO had not expanded is a question for historians, but it was not the only factor.
The NATO-Russia Council has not met for two years, since the annexation of Crimea, but both sides need to discuss their differences to understand each other better.
NATO is set to enter a dangerous decade with Russia in which domestic instability coincides with a weak neighbourhood, but what can Europe do to mitigate the risk of Russian aggression?
With Russia building up its military capacity at staggering speed, it might be time to develop new rules of engagement, to avoid the worst-case scenario.
Russia and NATO have radically different approaches to nuclear deterrence, but what can the West do to persuade Russia to stop its nuclear sabre-rattling?