NATO’s Warsaw Summit: A Refreshed Alliance for Troubled Times

NATO Heads of State at Warsaw Summit, July 8, 2016 (photo: NATO)

NATO Heads of State at Warsaw Summit, July 8, 2016 (photo: NATO)[L]ast week in Warsaw, the alliance held a gathering for a new era – one in which Europe’s collective security and territorial defence are once again Nato’s core mission, and with new resources to fulfil it.

This is an important shift, and in uncertain times it will be important that dangers and threats, as well as the policies and means put forward to confront them, are finely assessed….

David Cameron went to great pains to reassure his Nato colleagues that the UK would remain engaged in the security of allies….

Russia’s sudden violation of Ukraine, in 2014, breaching some of the key principles of Europe’s security architecture by unilaterally changing borders through use of force, has dramatically modified the strategic landscape. And lingering doubts about the strength of America’s commitments to Europe’s defence, at a time when there was much talk of a US “rebalancing” to Asia, needed to be dispelled.

Nato leaders have now made important decisions intended to bolster the defence of the alliance’s eastern members, with new means to do it. Initial reactions from Moscow have been hostile, but with some hedging. There have been recent Russian calls for renewed dialogue with the west. Some point to its economic weakness – partly because of low oil prices – others point to Putin’s need for confrontation with the west to boost his domestic political narrative. But whatever one may think of Nato’s record, it is hard not to see that the alliance has taken several years to draw comprehensive, concrete conclusions from Russia’s behaviour in Ukraine and, before that, Georgia. If recent Nato military exercises in central Europe risk seeming provocative, it is worth remembering that Russian military exercises in neighbouring regions have involved up to three times more troops. Nato is now gearing for the long haul. In Warsaw, the 28-member alliance has underlined its willingness to pursue dialogue with Moscow, and a revival of confidence-building measures. But a show of strength had to come before the outstretched hand.