Has war in Ukraine revived NATO

French President said in 2019 famously that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was in a state of “brain death”. But the alliance has formed a united front since invaded on February 24. Can Russia’s war mark the start of NATO’s lasting revival?

In a first for the organization, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg deployed his rapid reaction force of 40,000 soldiers to fortify European borders in response to the war in Ukraine. Operationally since 2004, NATO troops – including land, air, naval and special operations forces – have only previously been used to respond to natural disasters and to coordinate the departure from Afghanistan in 2021.

In Romania, 500 French troops are now expected near a NATO base in the country, while 1,000 troops have been sent to strengthen deterrent forces in Poland and the Baltic states. Fighter jets have also been deployed to ensure air safety in countries bordering Ukraine and Russia.

NATO’s firm and comprehensive response to the crisis has encouraged Finland and Sweden, two countries that have never joined the alliance, to reconsider whether they want to join. This unexpected announcement highlights the central role the organization is playing in the war in Ukraine.

“NATO returns to its original purpose”

Shared, discredited by Macron and former US President Donald Trump, and destabilized by the chaos of US withdrawal from Afghanistan, a short time ago, the alliance seemed weaker than ever.

“Vladimir Putin’s actions have enabled NATO to strengthen its ties and re-launch itself,” Jenny Rafik, a researcher and specialist in NATO history at the University of Nantes, told FRANCE 24. “With the Russian invasion, NATO has returned to its original purpose , which also causes the least conflict between Member States. “

NATO was founded in 1949 during the to defend countries in Western Europe against the Soviet bloc in the east. Today, it rediscovers this call with “unsurpassed” fervor, said Samantha de Bendern, a researcher at the think tank Chatham House to FRANCE 24. “NATO is a defensive organization that aims to put Western countries under the US ‘nuclear umbrella.’ it has been divided for several years, the threat from Russia has now swept away the main points of the disagreement. “

The end of the divisions

This has resolved long-standing differences between NATO’s eastern and western members. After the fall of the Soviet Union, countries in the former Soviet bloc, such as and Poland, joined NATO to defend themselves against their powerful Russian neighbor. Recent events have motivated their fear of France, and the United States, which wanted to see the alliance shift its focus to the Mediterranean, China and the risks of terrorism.

It has also resolved criticism from the United States over the lack of investment from European countries, and Germany in particular. On February 27, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a historic face for German military policy. In addition to a € 100 billion defense budget, Berlin will now spend more than 2% of its GDP on the armed forces until 2024, something the United States has been demanding for several years.

Doubts about the loyalty of some members have also been raised. US President Joe Biden said on February 24 that he would defend “every inch” of NATO territory against Russia. “For a few years, Europe has been worried that the United States would not fulfill its obligations to NATO,” de Bendern said. Smaller countries in particular have doubted that the United States would respond with force if attacked.

“The position of Joe Biden [over Ukraine] has taken has dampened this fear, although Europeans will only be completely reassured once the United States has proven its loyalty by defending them in armed conflict. “

Turkey has also joined NATO, with some worried that it would not do so. “ Tayyip Erdogan has maintained a fairly close relationship with Vladimir Putin,” Bendern said. “The decision of the Turkish President to supply arms to Ukraine and to close the Bosphorus and Dardanelles [between the Mediterranean and the ] to warships have dispelled all doubt. “

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Nuclear weapons threat

However, there is no guarantee that the current united front will lead to a long-term consensus with Russia. Although Ukraine is not a NATO member, its push against the alliance was the motivation for the Russian invasion. As such, it is still unlikely that Finland and Sweden will risk joining the group and finding out whether Russian threats against them will be realized in retaliation.

After World War II, Finland declared a form of neutrality towards that favored neither the East nor the West. Sweden has also previously refrained from sending weapons to conflict areas.

Both have now broken with tradition and said they will send weapons to Ukraine. Nevertheless, “the neutralization of Finland was one of the great issues during the Cold War,” Raflik said. “There is no guarantee that NATO members would accept the risk of provoking Russian anger by letting Finland in.”

Efforts have increased since Putin announced on February 27 that he had placed Russia’s nuclear arsenal on high alert. In an attempt to reduce the situation, the United States publicly reiterated that it would not send troops to Ukraine.

This means that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s request to NATO for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which would need to be maintained by the US military, has so far been rejected.

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The EU has sent fighter jets to Ukraine and the air force is “the best chance that Ukraine has to win the military conflict”, says de Bendern. But Biden has been clear: there will be no NATO air operation in Ukraine to avoid a direct confrontation with Russia.

As such, the future of NATO, and its potential to expand its influence, remains uncertain following the conflict in Ukraine. “It is difficult to predict how the situation could develop in the midst of the current high emotions in war contexts,” Raflik said. “Currently, public opinion in Europe is for defense spending and support for the development of NATO operations. But when the situation calms down, will people feel the same way?”

Originally published on France24

Has war in Ukraine revived NATO

Source: sn.dk

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