The Rendon Group Snapshot Report
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NATO’s Shifting Policy Towards Russia
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, and Romanian defense minister Mircea Dusa, left, review an honor guard in Bucharest, Romania. (AP)
This week’s snapshot focuses on NATO’s shifting policies towards Russia following President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region last year. Tensions have escalated in the region in recent weeks, with officials in several Baltic states citing Russia’s increased military activity along NATO’s borders as a growing concern.
News Summary of events during the week of 30JUN15 – 05JUL15
• 30JUN: Russia’s Ambassador to NATO Alexander Grushko said NATO is switching from a policy of partnership to one of deterrence in its relations with Russia, and said he sees no case for renewing a constructive relationship between Russia and NATO. (Tass)
• 30JUN: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stressed that it is important to activate and improve mechanisms that will prevent further misunderstandings between European countries. (Sputnik)
• 01JUL: Senior NATO commanders said NATO should beef up its maritime arm in response to rising threats from a “bold” and “aggressive” Russia. (AFP)
• 01JUL: U.S. soldiers stationed in Germany arrived in Lithuania to attend a week of military trainings and joint exercises with local soldiers. (Xinhua)
• 01JUL: Icelandic Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson said Iceland will not consider opening a new military base despite the country’s increased strategic importance in the conflict between NATO and Russia. (Sputnik)
• 01JUL: Belgian F-16s taking part in the policing of northern NATO airspace noticed over the past few weeks the increased tensions between Russia and the West as they indicated that the number of Russian aircraft cropping up unannounced above the Baltic Sea has risen considerably. (BBC)
• 02JUL: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with top Romanian officials and inspected a site where the alliance will build a facility in reaction to the crisis in Ukraine. (AP)
• 02JUL: After meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Stoltenberg said NATO sees no immediate threat against an ally. (Xinhua)
• 02JUL: The delegations of Abkhazia, the Russian Federation, and South Ossetia expressed concern about Georgia’s plans of further integration with NATO during the Geneva consultations. (Interfax)
• 02JUL: Iohannis reaffirmed Romania’s commitment to EU sanctions against Russia and welcomed NATO’s increased presence in Romania. (BBC)
• 03JUL: Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna stated that Poland’s aggressive measures didn’t start the process of reinforcing NATO’s eastern flank, although Poland will not remain idle when facing violation of international law. (BBC)
• 04JUL: Stoltenberg stated that Russia and the West are not in a new cold war. (Tass)
Sample of Twitter handles regarding NATO’s shifting policy
• @CChivvvis – Chris Chivvis, associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the Rand Corporation
• @RobbieGramer – Robbie Gramer, EU expert at the Atlantic Council
• @NATOSource – Jorge Benitez, director of NATOSource
• @ArianaGicPerry – Ariana Gic Perry, Editor of the Intersection Project
• @LukeDCoffey – Luke Coffey, research fellow at the Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation
Sample of Third Party Validators regarding NATO’s shifting policy
Igor Sutyagin, Russian military specialist at London’s Royal United Services Institute
“For NATO, the message is: ‘We will defend the Baltic states, don’t mess with us, we will defend out interests, we mean business. The messages have become more confrontational. NATO has made a mistake lagging behind Russian moves. To recapture the initiative, it has to be more aggressive. That is why it is more confrontational. It is that NATO recognizes that it is necessary to regain dominance and that means being more aggressive than its opponents. It is dangerous.”
– NATO shows its teeth to Russia with elaborate Baltic training exercise, The Guardian, 17JUN15
Pavel Felgenhauer, independent military analyst based in Moscow
“The fighting in Ukraine does not lead to any kind of NATO-Russia real encounter. But a direct clash between a Russian plane and a Western plane or between a Russian plane and a passenger Western plane? Sooner or later there’s going to be an accident.”
– Russia-NATO Tensions Threaten a Wider Regional Standoff, Voice of America, 18JUN15
Viktor Kremeniuk, deputy director of the Institute of USA-Canada Studies in Moscow
“This confrontation so far has been mostly just for show, with each side trying to demonstrate to its own people and the other guy that they are determined not to back down. Leaders on both sides are sure they can control it. But it is starting to take on a life of its own, and there is a growing danger that it can become unmanageable.”
– Cold war 2.0? Russia, NATO edge toward high-risk military standoff, The Christian Science Monitor, 19JUN15
Kier Giles, expert in Russian military and security issues at Chatham House
“What NATO is doing is a very small-scale and belated reaction to what has been happening in Russia for a long time. In terms of a strategic shift, this reduces the number of easy targets for Russian intervention, and shows NATO is willing and able to protect countries on Russia’s borders from hostile Russian intent.”
– New rules unclear as NATO and Russia resume an old game, The Irish Times, 24JUN15
Elbridge Colby, nuclear expert at the Center for a New American Security
“Putin might assume that he could force the alliance to back down…NATO does not need a total nuclear rethink. But it needs to be realistic about how it would respond and willing to show Putin that he would not get away with it.
– Nuclear deterrent on NATO agenda amid rise in Russian rhetoric, Financial Times, 25JUN15
Samples of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to NATO’s shifting policy
1. NATO-Russia Tensions Not to Result in New Military Base in Iceland
Media: Sputnik (Russia)
Byline: Leandra Bernstein
Date: 01 July 2015
WASHINGTON (Sputnik), Leandra Bernstein — Iceland will not consider opening a new military base despite the country’s increased strategic importance in the conflict between NATO and Russia, Icelandic Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson told Sputnik.
Iceland is the only NATO country that does not have traditional military forces. The country’s security is guaranteed through its membership in NATO and a special arrangement with the United States.
2. NATO navies should beef up against Russia: commanders
Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Date: 01 July 2015
NATO should beef up its maritime arm in response to the rising threat from an increasingly “bold” and “aggressive” Russia, commanders said on Wednesday.
The 28-member defence alliance’s naval forces have in recent years focused on issues such as counter-terrorism and piracy, but speakers at a London conference said the group needed to prepare more to counter Russian military ambitions.
3. We Need to Resume Political Dialogue Between Russia, NATO – Steinmeier
Media: Sputnik (Russia)
Date: 30 June 2015
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stressed that it is important to activate and improve mechanisms that will prevent further emergence of ‘gaps’ and misunderstandings between European countries.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for a resumption of political dialogue between Russia and NATO and said that political channels should remain open whenever possible.
4. Grushko sees no possibility of restoring NATO-Russia relations at present
Media: Interfax (Russia)
Date: 30 June 2015
MOSCOW. June 30 (Interfax) – Russia’s Ambassador to NATO Alexander Grushko currently sees no case for renewing a constructive relationship between Russia and NATO.
“Today there is no objective case that would allow the putting of the Russia-NATO relationship back on the constructive track with a wave of the hand,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
5. NATO shifts to policy of containing Russia – diplomat
Media: Tass (Russia)
Date: 30 June 2015
The decisions adopted at the meeting of NATO defence ministers shows that the alliance has shifted its policy towards containing Moscow, Russia’s NATO envoy Alexander Grushko said on Tuesday.
“This meeting became an evidence that NATO is shifting from the policy of partnership to the policy of containing Russia,” Grushko said during a video link-up between Moscow and Brussels.