On July 13th, a session of the NATO-Russia Council was held in Brussels. The meeting happened behind closed doors without press access. This can be interpreted in the context of the harsh confrontation between both sides. The tone for such was set at the NATO summit in the Polish capital of Warsaw where Russia was called a threat to global security and even more dangerous than ISIS. The main goal of this event in Brussels was holding this meeting altogether. From NATO’s side, this meeting was to appear like a scolding of a guilty schoolboy.
NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, speaking on the results of the NATO-Russia Council’s session, stated that the contradictions between the positions of both sides have not been resolved. The parties began the meeting with a discussion of the situation in Ukraine. According to the NATO general secretary, Russia and the alliance continue to disagree on the issue. The council’s participants, however, agreed that settling the conflict in Eastern Ukraine must only be done through diplomatic means. “This will allow Ukraine to develop free of violent intervention from outside,” Stoltenberg said. Of course, in NATO’s point of view “interference from the outside” is understood as only the intervention of Russia. The delivery of legal weapons to Ukraine by NATO members, such as Poland, and the presence of NATO military instructors at Ukraine’s training fields is not considered to be “interference from outside.”
Yet another resonant event took place today linked to the problem of Russia-NATO relations. For the first time since 2006, Germany presented a new defense doctrine which says that, in the foreseeable future, Russia will represent a challenge for the security of Europe if it does not change its policies. The actions of the Ministry of Defense of Germany are at odds with the policies of the German Foreign Ministry. This should come as no surprise: the defense ministers of NATO member states are not selected by their national governments, but by NATO headquarters. This is at least true for the Eastern European countries and Germany which remains under US occupation.
Both events speak to the fact that NATO has finally chosen Russia to be the main global threat. This gives sense to prolonging anti-Russian sanctions and the persistence of such archaic structures as NATO. Thus, pressure on Russia in all areas will only grow.
What is NATO counting on? Perhaps Brussels believes that Russia might go on the retreat. Indeed, some facts could be interpreted in this vein, such as Russia’s patient attitude towards Ukraine’s violations of the ceasefire, its stubborn clinging to the Minsk Agreements which are observed only by the Donbass republics; the unexpected reconciliation between Moscow and Ankara after Erdogan’s quasi-apology; and Moscow’s participation itself in today’s NATO-Russia Council meeting. After all, Moscow very well could have taken a tough stance following the alliance’s offensive declaration recognizing Russia as world threat #1.
But maybe NATO hopes to provoke a combined “revolt of the elites” and “revolt of the plebs,” a kind of Maidan in Russia. If so, then the most appropriate moment would be September 18th when elections to the State Duma of Russia will be held. This is a perfect opportunity to remind oneself of those political forces which have discredited themselves in the eyes of Russians.
And so, what NATO is striving to achieve is not so difficult to understand. But what is Russia trying to achieve? Is Moscow trying to maximally use the shrinking possibility of diplomatic dialogue? Or is Moscow trying to negotiate a maximum of reciprocal concessions from the alliance? Or is Russia just trying to save face?
Unlike the alliance which nearly increases its bets, for Russia, the matter at hand is a question of life and death. The ultimatum which NATO has put before Russia means surrendering its vital positions. Therefore, I am inclined to think that Russia is delaying the use of the “last argument of kings” (the gun) and is using any opportunity to negotiate with the collective West.
Meanwhile, the world is running out of time. The trenches of both sides are becoming all the closer to each other. If war is not approaching, then this is, in the least, a dangerous growth of the possibility of one breaking out.