From the Financial Times: The perception of a continuing Russian threat to its near-abroad – not just to former Soviet republics such as Georgia and the Baltic states but also to former Warsaw Pact members such as Poland – motivates Nato’s new members. They pay lip service to its expeditionary role, but really they want protection as defined by article 5 of the founding treaty: that an armed attack against one member will be considered an attack against all. In eastern Europe, that means Russia…

But what about new threats to Nato members, such as cyber warfare? Two countries have been hit by cyber attacks: Estonia and Georgia. Both coincided with a confrontation with Moscow. It seemed that Russia must have been the source of the attacks. Yet in spite of the clear threat to national security, Nato was powerless to respond. In the case of Estonia, a Nato member, no one dared to invoke article 5.

Barack Obama’s administration wants it both ways in Europe: Nato solidarity, and re-engagement with Russia. Joe Biden, the US vice- president, has just toured eastern Europe trying to sell a new missile defence system that will protect all Nato allies, without offending Moscow. Russia wants limits to missile defence written into the replacement strategic arms reduction treaty set to be finalised by December 5. Russia also wants it recognised that it has a “sphere of influence” in eastern Europe.

The two ambitions will be very hard to reconcile, as long as Russia is determined to flex its muscles and bully its near-abroad neighbours. (photo: AP)