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  Reasons of worsened relations between NATO and Eastern European countries

Aivaras Bagdonas, VU TSPMI doktorantas
2009 10 06

The recent several months increased the doubts of Eastern European states (members of NATO) on the Alliance’s readiness to defend them from external threats.

In July of this year a group of former Eastern European politicians and intellectuals (among them Valdas Adamkus, the former President of Lithuania) wrote an open letter to the United States President B.Obama. Beside other international policy issues authors of the letter wanted to attract B.Obama‘s attention to the increasing doubts of the Region’s countries concerning NATO‘s readiness to come to the defense of Eastern European countries.

According to E.Lukas, a journalist of „The Economist“, during the NATO conference in Brussels on 7 July, representatives of Eastern European countries were overwhelmed by a German scientist, who said that Article 5 of the NATO Treaty on collective security was only a „fiction“. In view of this, the Region‘s states seek to revise the issue on reliability of the Alliance. NATO could further expect the support of these states in the „far from home“ operations given that they are provided with  the additional security guarantees concerning possible aggression both from the close neighbors, and other potential aggressors.

One of the reasons of the decline of trust in NATO could be a softened policy of the Alliance and especially the United States toward Russia without creating additional security guarantees for the Region's countries.

The most recent argument confirming the above could be the statement of the NATO Secretary General A.F.Rasmussen on 18 September. He said that Russia, the United States and NATO could cooperate in the development of a joint missile defense system. A.F.Rasmussen has also supported the proposal of the Russian president D.Medvedev on the development of a new security system which could extend from Russia‘s Far East to North America’s western coast etc.

Such an Alliance‘s policy demonstrates that security interests of the Eastern Europe are no longer at the heart of NATO or/and United States’ foreign policy. This makes the Eastern European countries concerned about a possible reduction of the Alliance‘s influence in the Region and, at the same time, a new possibility for Russia to increase its military power in the Region.

On the other hand, it is necessary to highlight Russia‘s efforts to pursue a strict policy towards NATO. On 21 September D.Medvedev urged NATO „not to enlarge the Alliance just for the sake of making Russia angry“, revise its security policy, and added that today the Alliance needs Russia‘s support. By using the „gaps“ in NATO‘s policy toward Russia, the latter has been constantly increasing its influence in the Eastern Europe.

Insufficient regulation of the Alliance’s legal security could also be considered as one of the main obstacles for the development of security in Eastern European countries (members of NATO). Today the main security guarantee for NATO members is Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, however, in the middle of the year public doubts on its practical application were expressed. So far there are no alternatives for this measure; members of NATO in Eastern Europe have no extensive defense plans; moreover, these plans have not yet been elaborated for Lithuania,Latvia and Estonia. In view of this, a divide between old NATO members and new Member States on security matters is probable.

Suggestions on a possibility to apply an independent security policy in Eastern Europe are heard even today. When the United States refused to deploy missile defense shield elements in Poland, the Polish „Bumar“ company suggested building its own missile defense system to protect not only Poland but also the neighboring countries.

In the short-term perspective both Russia and the Alliance (or its members) might get involved into new security policy games which might result in the increased tension inside NATO and lack of trust of Eastern European countries in the Alliance.

Today the situation in Eastern European countries (members of NATO) could be considered as the end of an „artificial euphoria“ on security guarantees which prevailed during the recent years. The end of euphoria makes the disappointment in the Alliance more and more apparent.  Nevertheless, one could hardly expect major changes in the relationship between NATO and EEC (members of NATO). Eastern European countries realize the significance of good relations with NATO, and, hopefully, the countries would pursue their commitments to the Alliance.

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