NATO summit: West to move China to back burner, Russia and Belarus to the front
And Turkey is celebrated as key cornerstone of NATO
The secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Jens Stoltenberg, gave an online address entitled ”NATO 2030: a transatlantic agenda for the future” at an event co-sponsored by the Brookings Institution and German Council on Foreign Relations on June 4.
As the title of the presentation would indicate, his comments, addressed to organizations to which he and NATO are really beholden (as distinct from transitory, ephemeral entities like governments), were apropos the NATO summit in Brussels which will begin on June 14.
If one sentence can provide the distilled essence of his comments both during the speech and the question-and-answer session following it, it would be this one: “We have now a low point in our relationship with Russia, since the end of the Cold War.” And though generously acknowledging that Russia is “our neighbor” [that is, NATO’s neighbor; more particularly the unwelcome neighbor on NATO’s Eastern Flank), and one NATO is prepared to talk to – on NATO’s terms solely, of course – he and the moderator of the question-and-answer period, Constanze Stelzenmueller, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, delivered an unrelenting barrage of accusations against Russia on any number of fronts.
Early in his address Stoltenberg regurgitated the pablum he’s repeatedly regaled listeners with in recent months: to wit, “Russia and China are leading an authoritarian pushback against the rules-based international order.” Later he would recycle that sentiment in stating that although NATO members are permitted to discuss differences among themselves (to a degree), they must “stand together on the main messages,” particularly “when it comes to standing up for the rules based international order, when it comes to responding to the authoritarian pushback we see from authoritarian powers like China and Russia.” Had he tried harder he might have introduced the word authoritarian a few more times in the sentence.
However, though China comes in for its share of chastisement from the unelected imperial proconsul, procurator and pontifex maximus of the planet, it will have to wait its turn until Russia (and Belarus) are given their quietus. For example, although “China is asserting itself on the global stage,” nevertheless “NATO does not see China as an adversary.”
Notwithstanding which, and in preparation for when it is China’s turn (geopolitical chess masters always plan at least one move, and one war, in advance on the grand chessboard of international affairs), Stoltenberg lambasted the “authoritarian enemy of the rules-based international order” as guilty of:
- Moving toward possessing the second largest economy in the world
- Having the second largest defence budget and the biggest navy
- Seeking to control “critical infrastructure in our countries [Stoltenberg is a Norwegian] and around the world”
- Not sharing “our values”
- Having created an unprecedented system of surveillance and control over its own people
- Cracking down on peaceful dissent and religious minorities
- Threatening Taiwan
- Coercing its neighbors
- Hampering freedom of navigation in the South China Sea
Russia, however, is the real global villain and is becoming more so with each passing hour. It stands accused by NATO of:
- Continuing its pattern of dangerous behavior
- Expanding its massive military build-up from the Arctic to Africa
- Illegally annexing Crimea
- Intimidating its neighbors
- Suppressing peaceful opposition at home
- Carrying out cyber and hybrid attacks across NATO countries
After the formal presentation, Constanze Stelzenmueller of Brookings added on:
- Spreading propaganda and disinformation
- Developing hypersonic missiles
- Threatening the Mediterranean Sea area
- Conducting “three major attacks on critical infrastructure” in the U.S.
In regard to the last point Stelzenmueller said that her colleague (as she was identified) Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook, CEO of the German Council on Foreign Relations, wants to know “how should Article 5 commitments be understood with respect to violations of NATO nations’ cyberspaces?” Article 5 is NATO’s mutual military assistance – war – clause.
He also asked Stoltenberg about “tensions on NATO’s Eastern Flank” – Russia’s western border from the Arctic Ocean to the Caucasus – particularly concerning Belarus. The latter echoed his interlocutor’s accusation that Russia is conspiring with its Union State partner Belarus in regard to air defense and was complicit in the recent Ryanair incident with these inflammatory remarks:
Referring to Belarus’ “state hijacking of a civilian aircraft,” he claimed that Russia, not only not condemning the action, “has actually tried to do the opposite – to excuse an unexplained outrageous action, which was dangerous for the passengers, violating basic rules and norms when it comes to international aviation, but also a way to crackdown on democratic protest and opposition in Belarus and actually arrest an independent journalist [sic].”
In a message that won’t be lost in Minsk and Moscow, he added: “And I welcome the fact that the United States, the United Kingdom, NATO Allies, the European Union, are implementing sanctions, because it has to have consequences. And we have to impose costs on Belarus when they behave the way they did this case.”
If Belarus and Russia represent the antithesis of Euroatlantic values and the rules-based international order, NATO stalwart Turkey is an exemplar of both. NATO, Stoltenberg asserted, is not only a military but a political-military alliance (which reserves the right to intervene in “Syria, Iran, or the South China Sea”) with its core values being “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty.”
Nevertheless, Turkey – in the past year arguably the most aggressive military power in the world – is “an important NATO Ally.” Using a trope he’s employed before, Stoltenberg added: “You can just look at the map and realize the importance of these lands, the landmass of Turkey. And also the only country, the only NATO Ally that borders Iraq and Syria.” He refrained for obvious reasons from mentioning Iran and Armenia as well.
Turkish infrastructure and airports have proven valuable “in fighting ISIS or Daesh,” he said. Again, no mention of the uses of the above for the wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The NATO chief assured his audience that “we continue to work closely with the NATO Ally, Turkey, in stabilizing our southern neighbourhood.”
That Turkish military aggression in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Nagorno-Karabakh is portrayed as stabilizing NATO’s southern border says all that need be said about the military bloc.