Summary of the NATO Summit 2018 held in July in Brussels

By Andrei Frolov 

The regular NATO Summit held on July 11–12 in Brussels raised a keen interest not only in Western countries, but also in Russia. This event was specific one as for the first time it was held in a new building of the NATO's political structure. Also, the summit was attended by Donald Trump. It was the first time when he took part in such an event of the Alliance.



Trumps’ demonstration

Despite the fact that Donald Trump has become the key newsmaker at the summit, making his agenda with such slogans as “European NATO members must pay more” (spend about 4% of GDP for defence needs) and “buying Russian gas by Europe only makes Russia stronger”, the NATO summit's decisions left in the shadow are much more interesting, as well as Trump's invectives that, on closer examination, are valid in some way.

Thus, the appeal to the NATO members to increase defense expenditures should be interpreted not only as the next move in the course of the anti-Russian policy, but rather as an attempt to redefine the U.S. liabilities and to have an option to concentrate resources to stand off China. Although, in 2017, the U.S. budget spent about $30 bln for European security (5% approx.), the possibility to get rid of some liabilities and shift the responsibility on the European allies’ shoulder is not irrational, taking into account, that in 2017, except for the USA, only the Great Britain, Estonia and Greece (and Poland) spent over 2% of GDP for defence needs. The average figure was 1.3% (including Iceland, which does not bear defence expenditures). Meanwhile, NATO uses another less known indicator – the share of expenses for the development (i.e. repair, upgrade and new armaments procurement) in defence expenditures. NATO’s targeted indicator totals 20%. The average value for the Alliance reaches 19.27%; the number of countries which exceed this level is much higher – there are 12 such countries (the record-breaker is Luxemburg with its 35%).

In terms of defence expenditures, we should mention another peculiarity. According to its regulations, NATO takes into account expenditures for armed forces and expenditures of other military and security forces, as well as pensions (for military and civil staff, no matter which agency is responsible for payments), plus R & D expenses (it is not necessarily that these expenses should lead to a successful development of weapons), expenses for the military component of the public private partnership, and expenses for NATO’s common infrastructure. But, NATO’s defence expenditures include neither payments for destruction and damage caused by combat operations, nor expenses for civil defence agencies. NATO's financing activities is another story, by the Alliance’s budget is $1.573 bln, including 22% paid by the U.S. (followed by Germany with its 14%), this is not about an increase in expenses for bureaucracy.

Declarations and Intentions

It is necessary to mention the establishment of a corps headquarters with the staff of 400 persons in Romania. The corps headquarters will be subordinate to the command stationed in Naples and will be responsible for the NATO’s eastern flank, including coordination of troops deployment and military exercises with participation of up to 100,000 troops. This is part of the “high alert” concept announced during the latest summit, based on the 4×30 initiative: combat readiness of 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 battleships for 30 days. Moreover, they made a decision to establish two new command headquarters – in the USA and Germany (to be responsible for logistic support), as well as cyber defence units and hybrid threat response teams.

The Brussels NATO Summit’s declaration pays particular attention to Russia. For example, it states that for two decades NATO has been working on establishing the partnership with Russia, but Russia’s latest activities have led to the degradation of stability, increased the uncertainty and affected the security. It is interesting that NATO estimates its activities as compliant with its commitments, and they are not considered to be contrary to the Russia-NATO Founding Act.

Meanwhile, the Act clearly states that the member countries shall confirm the decision made at the previous NATO summits with regard to Russia and shall continue to reinforce their deterrence capabilities (“deterrence” may be referred to as nuclear deterrence) and defence capabilities, including the presence in the eastern part of the Alliance. In doing so, NATO declares that it does not want any confrontation with Russia and does not mean to pose any threat.

However, a special paragraph is allocated to define why Russia is threatening NATO. Among other reasons, Russia is threatening through the destabilization in the eastern part of Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea; controversial military activities, including operations in the regions near the NATO borders; deployment of advanced missiles in Kaliningrad Region (these missiles are able to carry both conventional and nuclear warheads); repeated air intrusions into the space of NATO member counties; constant development of military capability in the Crimea; irresponsible statements on nuclear weapons; unexpected military exercises, as well as a growing number of exercises with the presence of nuclear weapons in the exercise scenario. In addition, Russia violates requirements for control and reduction of arms, as well as confidence-building measures; interferes in the election and violates the sovereignty of other countries, implements hybrid activities; holds disinformation campaigns and improper activities in the cyberspace. This document also contains accusations in the use of chemical weapons in Salisbury. This paragraph of the declaration is evidently subjective and has been added on the insistence of the Great Britain (one of a few countries specially mentioned in the declaration).

Along with these insinuations, there is an individual paragraph relating to the former republics of the USSR such as Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia in terms of their relations with Russia. NATO calls for Russia to withdraw the armed forces “deployed in these countries without consent of [these] states”. Similarly, the document calls for the withdrawal of all armed forces and troops from the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, to stop supporting the Novorossiya republics and to return to the Normandy format. This paragraph also contains a rather interesting proposition that NATO has stated it would support democratic reforms in Moldova and the development of military capability in the republic.

There are some interesting references to the issues related to mass destruction weapons and strategic systems. For example, the declaration contains yet another statement that the anti-missile defence system in Europe does not and will not pose any threat to Russia's nuclear capability but, at the same time, Russia’s statements that it will have NATO countries in sights because these countries have anti-missile defence components have destructive features. We should pay attention to references to the use of chemical weapons. Along with Syria, NATO considers Great Britain, Iraq and Malaysia as the countries where such weapons are used.

Working on the margins of the NATO summit

During the summit, Belgium and the Netherlands signed an agreement for joint operation of the Airbus А400М military transport aircraft. This was an interesting event. The fleet of this type aircraft totals 8 aircraft for both counties' Air Force. Thus, both countries made another step in their course to unite national armed forces. For example, the Netherlands is currently responsible for Belgium’s air defence, using the Patriot РАС-3 air defence systems while both countries actually have the united Navy.

As the summit’s spin-off, Denmark, Latvia and Estonia established the Northern Multinational Division Command with Canada, Great Britain and Lithuania acting as “participating countries”. This group will tackle the issues related to the Baltic Region, operating two brigades and coordinating military exercises and operations in the region. All these activities are intended to be prepared for the potential conflict which may occur in the Baltic Sea region.

Results and prospects

Estimating the summit’s results, we should note that the USA is likely to reduce its military commitments over the longer term provided they maintain their military bases in Europe, and probably, redefine the relationship within the Alliance in favor of more evident bilateral relations. As a result, the NATO will continue to expand with tougher control over some European states and will keep restraining Russia, primarily, by applying economic methods. Such a scenario will strengthen the role of the NATO European counties in maintaining stability in Europe, as we may observe by various bilateral and multi-sided forms of activities evidently manifested in the course of the latest summit.

Meanwhile, NATO demonstrated (probably, involuntarily) that the principle of balance might be applied to the Alliance – you have to spin pedals constantly otherwise you will stop or fall. Vivid examples are the prompt to make Macedonia enter the alliance and actual intentions to let Georgia enter the Alliance. Therefore, Georgia has a chance to become the first former CIS country which enters the Alliance, although the real value of this “acquisition” for NATO over the short and medium-term periods is very questionable. This will become the precedent of accepting a country with evident unsettled territorial disputes and with potential conflicts with neighboring countries.

No doubt, the Trump's appeal to increase defense expenditures of NATO European countries will be responded. Moreover, some NATO European members had announced their plans before the summit in order to increase their defense expenditures, basically, to buy new weapons. 


New defence order. Strategy | 05 | 2018 

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