NATO in the New Post-Ukraine Era by Rubin Rothler LLB, LLM

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has somewhat lacked the resolute raison d’etre for its continuation that it once had. It was supposed to be an alliance to protect Europe against potential Soviet aggression.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, NATO transitioned to play a de facto role of securing American energy shipping lanes and pipelines. It has constructively become a guarantor of energy supplies for the West. It has expanded into a global US military intervention force with missions in the Balkans, and as far afield as Afghanistan. There is no other military alliance remotely comparable in either strength or scope of mission. However, NATO has faced a looming budgetary crisis. Under Trump the mainland European members encountered vociferous condemnation for not pulling their weight in terms of funding their fair share of the alliance. Indeed, the US foots a proportion of the bill to the order of 75% of expenditure. This inequitable distribution of costs has pervaded NATO’s history. Trump said ‘no more’, and his European counterparts seemed to begin taking his admonishment seriously. That was until the change of administration with Biden. His feeble, dithering leadership has wrought scorn amongst the talking shop in Brussels.

A sign of the seismic realignment of geo-politics resulting from the war in Ukraine is Sweden and Finland’s application to join NATO. A unanimous vote of approval is required for their successful admission. All of the NATO member countries, except for Turkey, enthusiastically support the admission of Sweden and Finland to the military alliance, which will substantially improve the defense capacity of the organization – as they have incredibly capable militaries. “Having two new Nato members in the high north will enhance the security of our alliances and deepen our security cooperation across the board,” the US president said. “Today there is no question Nato is relevant, that it’s effective and that it’s more needed now than ever.” Finland has the largest reserve force in Europe. Finland’s decision to replace its squadrons of F-18 fighters with F-35’s will make it one of Europe’s most formidable air forces. Sweden’s military industry is closely integrated with the US. Both Finland and Sweden have close relations with the US and NATO. They participated in ‘outer area operations’ in Afghanistan and in NATO exercises. Turkey is opposed to their entry because they are harboring Kurdish dissidents. Turkey’s definition of enemies of the state is very broad, as it includes human rights advocates and ’problematic’ journalists. Erdogan insisted: “We will continue our policy in a determined way. We have told allies that we will say no to Finland and Sweden’s Nato membership”.

Turkey has been at the helm of supporting Ukraine in the current war against Russia. Notably it has provided Ukraine with sophisticated, efficient drones and closed the Bosphorus Strait to Russian naval vessels. Erdogan is a transactional president. He wants his ‘pound of flesh’ in exchange for the robust assistance he has been providing to Ukraine on behalf of NATO. Sweden and Finland will have to recalibrate their support for Kurdish asylum seekers in light of Turkey’s demands. Although unlikely to outrightly extradite those Kurdish individuals, they will probably realign their immigration policy in a way that appeases Erdogan. “Finland has always had proud and good bilateral relations with Turkey. As NATO allies, we will commit to Turkey’s security, just as Turkey will commit to our security,” the Finnish president said. “We take terrorism seriously. We condemn terrorism in all its forms and we are actively engaged in combating it. We are open to discussing all the concerns Turkey may have concerning our membership in an open and constructive manner. These discussions have already taken place and they will continue in the next days.”For his part, the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters: “When the president met … the president of Finland and the prime minister of Sweden, he indicated that they’re both intending to speak directly to President Erdoğan and their teams are going to engage directly with senior Turkish officials.” “We’re there to support that effort in any way but we think they can work through this and ultimately Finland and Sweden will be admitted as members,” Sullivan added.

The premature NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan certainly demoralized member states, and sent shock waves to allies across the globe. There is nothing to show for squandering so much blood and treasure. Biden handed back Afghanistan to the Taliban on a silver platter. Undoubtedly, the virtual proxy war with Russia has reinvigorated and emboldened NATO’s resolve and sense of purpose. We are living in a new era. So far Russia’s military has demonstrated that it is incapable of even conquering cities a few miles from its border, that are defended by an unprofessional citizens’ army. It has been exposed as an entirely incompetent military fighting force. But the war in Ukraine is now entering a protracted phase, with the Russians digging in. NATO’s long term commitment to back Ukraine is being put to the test. As always, the US is supplying the lion’s share of monetary and military support. Congress recently pledged $40 billion to Ukraine. With the Ukraine conflict, NATO has gained a new lease of life to integrate Europe into the US dominated military system. However, France and Germany are hampering efforts in this regard as they continue their energy dependence on Moscow. To be sure, NATO’S core military component remains the US and UK.

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