Post Wales Summit: Can NATO Cope with Rising Security Problems?

Nurşin ATEŞOĞLU GÜNEY
26 September 2014
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The NATO Summit in Wales has emerged as the most important to be convened so far for the Alliance in the post-Cold War era. Due to numerous security issues that have unexpectedly developed in its near vicinity, the Alliance is now obliged to focus on reinvigorating existing NATO capabilities (in order that it may both assuage some of its Allies’ specific security concerns) and to function as a credible deterrent in the face of today’s traditional and non-traditional threats emanating from both state and non-state actors. In truth, the Wales summit was supposed to have focused on the aftermath of the Alliance’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. However, given the current complex situation in Afghanistan, at the time of writing this article, the election process of the president has yet to be completed. Hence, the situation has naturally delayed the proposal to sign certain agreements with the new Afghan president, proposals that aim to secure the diminishing and eventual disappearance of NATO’s presence in the country.

 

Due to the imminent nature of the issues related to its eastern and southern flanks, such as the continuing Ukrainian crisis and the growing threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to the countries in the Middle East, NATO decided to give them priority at the summit. Although the Allies at the end of the summit came up with numerous important decisions related to NATO’s main areas of interest and concern, the main emphasis of this summit focused on the serious question of how the allies, together with the contribution of the Alliance’s non-member states, can succeed in countering both today’s frozen and hybrid conflicts in the alliance’s environs as well as the newly emerging asymmetric threats in NATO’s immediate vicinity and beyond. Two important decisions in this regard were taken by the leaders at the Wales summit. In the first instance, the allies, with the objective of avoiding any likely challenge to Russia’s further violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and political unity, decided to create a new rapid reaction force and maintain a military presence in Eastern Europe. This issue was noted at in detail at the end of the Wales Summit Declaration. The allies which were present in Wales were confident that at the end of their negotiations, Russia, with its aggressive actions against Ukraine, had fundamentally challenged the Euro-Atlantic vision of a Europe that would be territorially stable, free and at peace. Hence, the NATO countries at the Summit decided to openly condemn Russia in the strongest terms for its illegal and escalating military intervention in Ukraine and also demanded that Moscow withdraw its forces both from the eastern part of Ukraine as well as from the Russian side of the Ukrainian border. The NATO allies came to the conclusion that Russia had broken the rules of engagement and its partnership with the West by disregarding several aspects of international law as well as by denying and violating fundamental European security arrangements and commitments. For this reason, the NATO allies made it clear that the Alliance would suspend all practical civil and military cooperative relations between NATO and Russia until Moscow’s approach underwent a dramatic alteration. Despite this rift between Moscow and the Alliance, the Summit decided to keep the diplomatic channels open. A decision that was a natural outcome of the existing conditions of mutual interdependency that still persists between the USA and Russia as well as the EU and Russia (the latter an interdependency based on European energy requirements). Relationships that need to be maintained in the face of the 21st century’s continuous security problems.

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