HAS NATO LOST ITS TEETH?

In December 2014 Ukraine took an historic step towards NATO membership by dropping their non-aligned status – a classification given to states such as Switzerland which refuse to join military alliances and thus play no part in wars.  In doing this and vowing to put Ukraine under Western military protection President Petro Poroshenko has made those in the West sit up even more and pay attention to the events in Eastern Europe.

“In essence, an application for Nato membership will turn Ukraine into a potential military opponent for Russia,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned”

But… are people over-estimating NATO.  It is without doubt a shadow of the force it once was at the height of The Cold War.  Of course warfare has changed since those tense days and now huge forces facing of across battlefields seem a thing of the past.  Guerilla warfare, insurgencies, cyber warfare are phrases we have heard uttered again and again over the last decade.

Since the so called ‘end’ of the Cold War NATO members have been cutting down their military.  The huge cuts in defence spending have led to a boom for the Governments with them being able to re-allocate these funds to different areas of society.  This year, only five of Nato’s 28 members reached the target of spending 2% of GDP on defence.  Belgium for example use only 1% of their Defence spending to renew contracts and purchase new equipment.  Short term this reaps dividends in other areas but their lack of vision in the long term will see them having to renovate and re-equip their entire military.

This is the story across the majority of NATO members.  If Ukraine gained NATO membership and Russia did attack I don’t believe NATO would have the stomach to invoke Article 5 which states “an attack on one NATO member would be treated as an attack on all?”.

So has President Petro Poroshenko got it wrong by siding with NATO and the West… would Ukraine be better served remaining a neutral state or is there still protection to be found within NATO despite it getting dragged into the War on Terror and not really having the military or financial capability to fight on two fronts.  Or… has warfare changed so much that the battle for Ukraine will be fought in the boardrooms and not the battlefields?

  1. Interesting piece Bootie.

    I agree with you that NATO is dragging its heals and playing a cautious game over Ukraine – no doubt the collapse in support amongst western voters for foreign interventions post Iraq and Afghanistan has something to do with it. The only thing I would say in NATO’s defence though is that even at the height of the Cold War it would never get directly involved in the Soviet “interventions” in Eastern Europe.

    NATO’s response aside (or lack of), the only explanation I can fathom for Putin’s aggressive foreign policy is that he is trying to redirect domestic attention away from Russia’s flagging economy by rekindling old nationalist desires. In doing so, he is conducting a 1930s totalitarian style foreign policy in the 21st century, at a time when most of his western counterpart governments are more worried about their trade relations than their military power .

    Despite the prior warning with Georgia, I think most in the west chose to believe that that Putin would not be a long term problem. It’s only now that western leaders are starting to recognise that he has very different values to their own. I believe he will continue to test the west and NATO for a long as most Russians put up with the hardships that the sanctions bring, and accept his propaganda about the reasons for getting involved in the Ukraine.

    I hope economic sanctions will be enough to bring Russia back into line and make it realise that it can no longer behave like a Cold War superpower – in the same way that Britain and France were made to realise their limitations in the post imperial era over the Suez Crisis when American sanctions forced them to withdraw from Egypt. However, I suspect the situation will worsen before it gets better, a wounded bear is a dangerous beast.

    • Excellently put indeed. I agree with your sentiment over Putins stance in regards to deflecting attention away from his countries economic woes and trying to instil some nationalist fervour…. in footballing terms its Man Utd supporters singing ‘Nobody likes us but we don’t care’. That siege mentality is exactly what Putin is relying on in this instance. Its not just timed with his countries economic woes… nope… he has timed it when the West is war weary and stretched just a little too far to want to get involved in conflict a little closer to home. The ‘War on Terror’ is another reason Russia has chosen now to do some sabre rattling.

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