Has NATO Returned to a Containment Strategy?

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In the aftermath of the Russian annexation of Crimea, the clashes in Eastern Europe between the warring sides remain despite the February 12th Minsk agreement. This has caused considerable alarm among the Baltics and some of the Central and Eastern European countries of NATO. What is more important is that this conflict, in the heart of Europe has triggered crucial questions about NATO’s future stand in relation to the Russian Federation. In actuality, the warring sides in the Ukrainian crisis, namely the Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military according to Minsk 2, have pledged to abide by the conditions of truce by mutually withdrawing their military forces as well as exchanging war prisoners. Both sides have met some of these conditions but clashes on the ground have not yet ceased. Moreover, recent military exercises of both Russian and NATO forces in the Black Sea - with the US troops and tanks stationed in some of the Central-Eastern and Baltics countries - have given rise to the debate within the IR community on whether Europe has returned to another Cold War phase. This analysis will aim to answer the question as to whether NATO is back to its old containment strategy towards Russia.

 

The resurgent behavior of Russia displayed during the Crimean crisis and in its aftermath led to the rise of security concerns amongst the Baltics states and Poland as regards the future of NATO’s collective defense mechanism. These countries were primarily concerned about the credibility of the security assurances made by NATO at the time of their accession. The strained NATO-Russian relationship which emerged after the Crimean crisis was the result of a deadlock wherein the Allies at NATO’S Summit in Wales made it clear that Russia had breached all of the responsibilities under the 1997 NATO-Russian Founding Act. As a consequence they have suspended relations with Moscow until it acts in accordance with the rules of international Law. Also, the sudden discovery of a covert Russia’s presence in Eastern Ukraine in a new hybrid war, led NATO to focus on this issue at the Wales Summit. The Alliance in this regard is developing a plan for immediate and future reprisals including stationing troops in the Baltics and Poland on a rotating basis and the convening of future military exercises that will boost the speed at which forces respond in the face of future conflicts -including that of a hybrid war.

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