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Expansion based on crisis points: directions and peculiarities of NATO’s “hybrid warfare” against Russia

The last NATO summit in Warsaw has adopted eight documents. The most important of them are the 139-point Warsaw Summit Communique, the Warsaw Declaration on Transatlantic Security and the Commitments to Enhance Resilience. As far as NATO’s conflict with Russia is concerned, also important are the Joint Statement of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at the level of Heads of State and Government and the Joint Statement of the NATO-Georgia Commission at the level of foreign ministers.

The Warsaw Declaration on Transatlantic Security urges NATO members to act together in the face of "an unprecedented range of security challenges" – first of all, Russia. “We stand together, and act together, to ensure the defense of our territory and populations, and of our common values,” the declaration says.

In the declaration, NATO’s territory is called Euro-Atlantic Area. In the Warsaw Summit Communique, it is called Euro-Atlantic Region. The declaration says that NATO remains committed to its Open Door policy. Consequently, any new member will make the Euro-Atlantic Region bigger. Both the declaration and the communique point out that collective defense is NATO’s fundamental responsibility. But in NATO’s case, collective defense implies active territorial expansion.

According to the documents, Europe is not fully part of the Euro-Atlantic Region. So, this is one more excuse for NATO’s expansion. Europe has no specific borders. The declaration says that “Russia’s actions, especially in Ukraine, undermine the rules-based order in Europe.” The communique describes this as “an arc of insecurity and instability along NATO’s periphery and beyond.” More specifically, Russia’s aggressive actions and provocative military activities are taking place in the periphery of NATO territory. The communique’s point 10 says that Russia’s destabilizing actions and policies include:

- the ongoing illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea;

- provocative military activities near NATO borders, including in the Baltic and Black Sea regions and the Eastern Mediterranean;

- irresponsible and aggressive nuclear rhetoric, military concept and underlying posture;

- repeated violations of NATO airspace.

- military intervention, significant military presence and support for the regime in Syria, and use of its military presence in the Black Sea to project power into the Eastern Mediterranean.

Thus, formally, Russia is acting beyond the borders of the Euro-Atlantic Region, in its periphery, but is still posing an immediate threat to it.

The Warsaw documents contain specific contradictions concerning Russia’s being a challenge to the security of the Euro-Atlantic Region. Point 27 of the communique says that Ukraine is part of the region even though it is not a NATO member: “We also value the OSCE’s important role in trying to bring an end to several protracted conflicts in the Euro-Atlantic area. The crisis in Ukraine has once again highlighted the significance of the OSCE...” Besides Ukraine, all the conflicts supervised by the OSCE are located in the post-Soviet area or the Balkans. The Vienna-based OSCE Conflict Prevention Center is responsible for Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Thus, geographically and politically, all of these territories are periphery, but NATO’s communique mentions “protracted conflicts” in the Euro-Atlantic Area. This proves that NATO seeks to expand into these territories based on local crisis points.

The communique urges Russia to reverse its recognition of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia as independent states and to withdraw its forces from Georgia. Likewise, it calls on Russia to stop the ongoing illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea and the deliberate destabilization of eastern Ukraine. (point 10) “Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine and its continued violation of international law and its international obligations, which have serious implications for the stability and security of the entire Euro-Atlantic area,” says the Communique’s point 16, while point 117 terms Ukraine as a long-standing and distinctive partner (point 117).

Point 23 specifies the three strategic regions where NATO is going to confront Russia – the Baltic and Black Sea regions and the North Atlantic. “In the Baltic Sea region, where the security situation has deteriorated since 2014, the Alliance has developed mutually beneficial partnership relations with Finland and Sweden on a broad range of issues... In the Black Sea region, the security situation has also deteriorated in recent years... In the North Atlantic, as elsewhere, the Alliance will be ready to deter and defend against any potential threats, including against sea lines of communication and maritime approaches of NATO territory,” says the communique. The key threat here is Russia and its Northern Navy.

During the Crimean War of 1853-1856, Great Britain attacked Russia in the same regions. The Nazi Germany acted likewise during the WWII. But in both cases, the enemies were unable to act equally well in all three directions and were forced to choose. Today NATO specifies two key directions.

Point 40 says that NATO has decided to establish an enhanced forward presence in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to unambiguously demonstrate, as part of our overall posture, allies’ solidarity, determination, and ability to act by triggering an immediate allied response to any aggression. In the southeast NATO’s ally is Romania. Between Poland and Romania, there is Ukraine – “an important part of the Alliance’s contribution to the international community’s efforts to project stability in the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond.”

So, in its wish to deter Russia, NATO is based not only on allies but also on partners, “who have served or are serving in NATO-led missions and operations and in Allies’ missions and operations that contribute to the security of the Alliance.” This system was formed long before NATO’s conflict with Russia during the United States’ wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and against Libya.

More specifically, NATO’s key anti-Russian partners in the east are Sweden, Finland and Georgia. All of them are close to becoming candidates for membership. Point 111 qualifies Georgia as “an enhanced opportunities partner,” while Point 117 calls Ukraine “a distinctive partner.” This means that NATO will actively support Ukraine and will use it for both deterring and provoking Russia. This status implies no security guarantees but just support.

Armenia is also mentioned as a partner, along with Azerbaijan, in the context of NATO’s “efforts towards a peaceful settlement of the conflicts in the South Caucasus” – though officially NATO has not relation to the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.

But partnership is a guarantee that NATO will help its partners to resolve their territorial conflicts.

And now a little about NATO’s strategy in its eastern flank. The communique’s point 44 says that NATO will not accept to be constrained by any potential adversary as regards the freedom of movement of Allied forces by land, air, or sea to and within any part of Alliance territory. This paragraph may well be about Russia’s Kaliningrad region.

The communique contains a specific warning concerning Russia’s tactical nuclear potential: “The fundamental purpose of NATO’s nuclear capability is to preserve peace, prevent coercion, and deter aggression. The circumstances in which NATO might have to use nuclear weapons are extremely remote. If the fundamental security of any of its members were to be threatened however, NATO has the capabilities and resolve to impose costs on an adversary that would be unacceptable and far outweigh the benefits that an adversary could hope to achieve. (point 54) Thus, Russia is offered the scenario of a local conflict with the use of conventional arms.

As far as “hybrid warfare” is concerned, NATO has significantly enlarged the concept of “collective defense”: “The Alliance and Allies will be prepared to counter hybrid warfare as part of collective defense. The Council could decide to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.” (point 72)

So, NATO is ready to counter any actions it qualifies as a hybrid warfare. This is a good pretext for starting a military conflict.

Despite its threats, the Warsaw documents contain certain solutions to the NATO-Russia crisis. Of course, all of them imply concessions of Russia’s part.

The future of Russia’s strategic potential is part of US-Russian rather than NATO-Russian relations;

NATO’s key mechanism for expanding to the east is based on the use of the “partners’” crisis points in the post-Soviet area;

Once the “partners” become “allies,” NATO will have to help them to settle their crises at the expense of Russia;

The point saying that the security situation in the Baltics is deteriorating implies that Russia should demilitarize its Kaliningrad region and give it a special status;

Demilitarization of the Black Sea region means return of Crimea to Ukraine and liquidation of Russia’s Black Sea navy. Return of Transnistria to Moldova means liquidation of Russian military presence near the Balkans;

Return of South Ossetia and Abkhazia means the end to Russia’s military presence in the South Caucasus;

By calling Armenia and Azerbaijan “partners,” NATO suggests resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without Russia. By attending the summit, Armenia made it clear that it does not consider the Collective Security Treaty Organization as the only guarantee of its security. This all may end in the liquidation of Russia’s military presence in Armenia and the South Caucasus, in general.

NATO’s involvement in the resolution of the old post-Soviet crises will make the United States a hegemon in the post-Soviet area, i.e. in Northern Eurasia. For NATO this is part of the Euro-Atlantic Region.

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