We have previously talked about the failed Turkish Coup being the “Archduke Ferdinand” moment for NATO. What subsequently happened was that we saw Erdogan do a complete u-turn with Russia, as witnessed by the ongoing normalisation of relations between the two nations, cooperation over Syria and the impending recommencement of the construction of the Turkish stream gas pipeline
In further measures we have seen French, Italian, Bulgarian and Greek leaderships distance themselves from the rhetoric coming out of the July NATO summit in Warsaw, were they all stated that they consider Russia a partner rather than an enemy.
Much of the EU has expressed continued scepticism about provoking conflict with Russia. At the same NATO summit, Greek leader Alexis Tsipras said that it was time to end the impasse with Moscow. In further developments, Sweden’s Government has refused to join NATO with their Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström, claiming: “Our non-alignment policy serves us well” and she felt that NATO would expose Sweden to risks, both political and otherwise, and “we don’t think that’s the right direction”.
In the UK, the Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for NATO to be closed down, with France’s Marine Le Pen and Italy’s Beppe Grillo also calling for the withdrawal, of their respective nations, from NATO.
Greece and Italy have signed bilateral trade agreements with Russia as well as strengthening political ties in a clear signal of further moves towards Russia by these nations and a further erosion in confidence in NATO’s influence in Europe.
Germany appears split with Merkel unsurprisingly siding with Washington, however the SPD and CSU coalition government parties have expressed concerns about NATO policy, principally relating to NATO enlargement and the strategic missile defence system.
In further moves, there has been talk that the formation of an EU army is another cabalist move to centralise control, but nothing could be further from the reality of what is unfolding.
A side-effect of BREXIT has seen the acceleration of calls for the formation of an EU army because Britain has continually vetoed such a move, because it would crucially undermine NATO. There is no doubt that such a force would probably end up competing with NATO and ultimately replace it.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported that it had obtained a copy of a six-page report, jointly written by the French and German Defence Ministers. The goal is to create the establishment of a “common and permanent” European military headquarters, as well as the creation of EU military structures, including an EU Logistics Command and an EU Medical Command.
The document calls on EU member states to integrate logistics and procurement, coordinate military R&D and synchronise policies in matters of financing and military planning. Furthermore, it suggests that EU intelligence gathering would be improved through a common EU military academy to promote a unified approach.
According to the newspaper, the document will be distributed to European leaders at an informal summit in Bratislava, Slovakia, on September 16. France and Germany will ask the leaders of the other EU member states not only to approve the measures, but also to “discuss a fast implementation.”
EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, called for the establishment of a permanent EU military headquarters in Brussels that would manage all current and future EU military operations. Mogherini insisted that “we are not talking about a European army but about European defence: something we can really do, concretely, starting now.” She also stressed that EU defence policy would remain under the control of European governments rather than the European Commission.
Now we will turn our attention to Eastern Europe’s attitudes towards NATO. Hungary continues to adopt a cautionary approach towards NATO policies. It has moved closer to Russia and has argued that Russia is no threat to Europe, even in the face of the Ukraine coup. The blossoming relationship with Moscow is pragmatic because it helps Hungary secure Russian energy and the diversification of bilateral trade relations, but also because Orban shares Putin’s vision of democracy. Despite Orban’s numerous run-ins with the European Union, he has also backed the creation of an EU army. Perhaps Orban fears isolation in the wake of Trump’s comments, were he remarked that perhaps the US should withdraw from NATO and that the US should only protect allies who pay their fair share of the financial burden.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia have joined Hungary in calling for the lifting of European sanctions against Russia. In 2014 both countries also ruled out the presence of NATO troops in their countries. Bulgaria also continues to tread a fine line between implementing its NATO membership fully and its close relationship with Russia. This summer it refused to participate in a NATO fleet exercise designed to counter Russian influence in the Black Sea.
In ongoing developments we have seen Russia and Qatar sign military cooperation agreements, with both nations noting the positive dynamics of bilateral military and military-technical cooperation. “Russia and Qatar are united by the common desire to maintain active political dialogue and build up mutually beneficial ties in various spheres,” the Russian defense minister, Sergey Shoigu, said. According to him, bilateral defense cooperation fully meets the interests of the states and peoples of Russia and Qatar and contributes to the general stability in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East.
Qatar’s state minister for defense, Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, said, in turn, that a joint political dialogue with friends in Russia had proven that the leaders of the two states wanted to establish cooperation and consolidate bilateral relations between the two countries. Crucially this is set against the backdrop were the US has traditionally seen Qatar as a strategic ally in that region. In addition, Russia has recently signed military cooperation agreements with Egypt, Bolivia and Tanzania representing a further shift towards the East and probably future alignment with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which is seen as the East’s alternative to NATO.
It is quite clear that Europe now realises and regards Russia as a partner and not an enemy and that despite all the mindless rhetoric coming out of Washington, the need for NATO with its borders is rapidly becoming an irrelevance. Russia in itself by its actions in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the military cooperation agreements that it has signed with many nations is also undermining NATO’s influence in the world. When we factor in Trump’s remarks about NATO it faces a very uncertain future and unless it is prepared to radically reform, it will become extinct in relatively short order.