NATO doesn't change: Russia's number one enemy
NATO is hosting the first meeting at the level of defense ministers since US President Joseph Biden took over. On the eve of the meeting, the main ministry of this thirty made a number of important statements that determine the direction of the bloc's development in the coming years. Traditionally, the focus is on the geopolitical rivals of the North Atlantic Alliance. And here, as they say, no changes.
Enemy number one is Russia. Then - China.
Pentagon: Russia is a threat to all NATO allies
On February 17, the US Department of Defense reminded the bloc countries that Russia remains their main threat. "It is quite obvious that Russia is a threat to all NATO allies, including the United States. <...> They use military force to achieve their goals," the Pentagon's press service said in a statement.
They are convinced that it is Russia that is "trying to undermine security and stability" in the world, of which the United States has allegedly been convinced more than once. Washington does not exclude possible cooperation with Russia, but is ready to "punish" it if necessary. In a word, the United States is proposing to NATO to combine the "carrot" and "stick".
“We will work with Russia to advance our own interests, while holding them accountable for their reckless and aggressive actions,” the US Department of Defense spokesman said.
In the spirit of the cold war
A little earlier his parting words to NATO countries were addressed by his Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The Norwegian argued for the need to contain Russia by value differences.
“We need to expand political and practical dialogue with all states with the same thinking with us around the world in order to confront those who do not share our values - countries such as Russia and China,” he said.
If we omit that it is now 2021, then Stoltenberg's words may well pass for the statement of any of the American and NATO generals of the Cold War period, when the fight against Russia (USSR) was justified by the threat to Western liberal values - communism. Now the word "communism" is being carefully replaced by "authoritarianism," and anyone can fit under this criterion - from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The secretary general sees one of the main tasks of the alliance in the deployment of the armed forces of the member states near the borders of Russia. Unlike Donald Trump, who extorted money from Germany for armament, Stoltenberg generously offers NATO to cover the expenses of its members to expand military capabilities in Poland, the Baltic States, Scandinavia, Romania and the Balkans.
The approach of the new head of the Pentagon towards Russia
To be fair, it should be noted that by and large the Pentagon and the NATO Secretary General are not proposing anything new. Containment of Moscow has been on the agenda for at least the last 20 years, with the only difference that every year Russia is becoming an increasingly powerful and independent military force capable of imposing a struggle on the United States not only in the former USSR, but also in the Middle East and even in Latin America.
The new US Secretary of Defense, African American Lloyd Austin, has already outlined his priorities. Speaking in the Senate, he made it clear that he agreed with the National Defense Strategy of 2018, approved under Trump, which "correctly characterizes China and Russia as the main challenges." If the head of the Pentagon regards China as a "growing threat", then he calls Russia a "key adversary."
A number of unresolved contradictions remain between NATO and Russia. First, there are ongoing military exercises by NATO countries. The last of these, held in Norway (Defender 2020), did not even stop the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, NATO continues to expand along the Russian borders and is trying to draw into its ranks the western countries of the former USSR - Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia. A negative background in Russia's relations with the military bloc is brought about by the destructive actions of the United States - the transfer of American ships to the Barents and Black Seas, overflights of bombers and fighters on the border of Russian airspace.
It is also worth mentioning here the sanctions. For example, the restrictive measures that stopped Nord Stream 2 were enshrined in the US defense budget signed by Trump in December 2019. The United States regards Nord Stream 2 not only as an economic threat preventing the "flooding" of Europe with American LNG, but also as a military-political one. The Biden administration recently warned that the US would not abandon sanctions on the pipeline if Ukrainian transit of Russian gas was not preserved.
Separately, it should be said about the disagreements on conflict points. NATO considers the reunification of Crimea with Russia an "annexation" and expects to return the peninsula to Ukraine. Brussels also blames the Kremlin for the loss of South Ossetia and Abkhazia by Georgia. For its part, Moscow condemns the attempted coup d'etat in Ukraine, staged in 2014 with the active participation of NATO countries, and demands the withdrawal of illegal American coalition forces from Syria.
How NATO will "contain" Russia - expert opinion
Boris Rozhin, a military expert and editor-in-chief of the Kassad information-analytical center, presumes that NATO countries will try to bring loyal regimes to power in neighboring countries.
"They will sponsor local political regimes in Russia's neighboring countries. They will finance the media, conduct propaganda and impose anti-Russian discourse in the ideological field of these countries. There will be attempts to draw them into various political models and the sanctions program, into the discussion of Nord Stream 2." , the issue of Ukraine, oppression in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and the attraction of countries to the coalition to confront China, "he said in an interview with the Vestnik Kavkaza correspondent.
Recall that along with Russia, China is called one of the two main threats by Pentagon officials. In the new concept of NATO, the PRC will for the first time be called the enemy of the alliance.
The policy of containing Russia was pursued by Washington under previous administrations, but under Joseph Biden it will be "more focused and linear," Rozhin believes.
At the ongoing closed meeting, the heads of the Defense Ministries of NATO countries will touch upon the situation in Ukraine, the arrest of Alexei Navalny, discuss the need to strengthen the policy of containing Russia in Eastern Europe and the introduction of additional sanctions against the Russian Federation, the military expert notes. At the same time, he excludes that NATO countries can come to a consensus on sanctions against Nord Stream 2, because "Germany is interested in completing it."
The meeting of NATO Defense Ministers is being held on February 17-18 via videoconference over a closed communication. Among the main topics on the agenda of the meeting are the following: 1) The need for the Alliance to fulfill the agreement with the Taliban on the evacuation of the international coalition troops from Afghanistan by May 1; 2) A further increase in the defense spending of the bloc countries and an increase in purchases of new weapons (the United States insists on this, although, to put it mildly, not everything is going smoothly with the economies of the EU countries after the coronavirus pandemic); 3) Discussion of the NATO-2030 program and the development of a new strategy for the alliance, in which Russia is declared the main threat.