The NATO Warsaw Summit will Deliver a clear Message to Russia

  • By defencematters

According to Political Advisor at the U.S. Mission to NATO Tamir G. Waser the fundamental problem with Russia is their lack of transparency.

Edgars Skvariks

The most important message that the NATO Warsaw Summit will send to the Baltic but also to the countries of the South is that the Alliance is united and committed fully to the security of these countries and that any attack on them would resolve in a full Alliance response, says Political Advisor at the U.S. Mission to NATO Tamir G. Waser in an interview to Latvian News agency LETA and Defence Matters.

Waser explains how Russia most probably will say that NATO is being provocative and that NATO has caused a crisis, but "this simply is not an accurate reflection of what NATO has done. It was Russia that illegally annexed Crimea. It was Russia that sent troops in the Donbass and supported the separatists there”. According to Waser the fundamental problem with Russia is their lack of transparency.



What can the Baltic States expect from the NATO summit in Warsaw?

I think that the most important thing the Baltic states can expect from the Warsaw Summit is, first of all, the reaffirmation that the Alliance is unified in facing the new security challenges. From the standpoint of the Baltic States that's most relevant to Russia but also, when it comes to the “Daesh” threat and from instability to the south of the Alliance it is also in the interests of the other countries. In concrete terms I expect that we will be able to announce the details of a forward presence, enhanced rotational presence of allied troops in the Baltic States and in Poland. This will move us from just the assurance measures that we immediately implemented after Crimea to actual deterrence. This will send a clear signal to Russia or any other potential advisory that the Alliance is committed fully to the security of these countries and that any attack on them would resolve in full Alliance response.


But still, Russia knows that, even without extra allied troops here.

 I do think that there is important effect of sending the troops to the Baltic States to reduce any suggestion that some might have in their heads that we actually are not fully committed to the security of the Baltic States.


Do you really think that's what they believe in the Kremlin?

I don't know what they believe in the Kremlin, but I want to make sure, we want, that there is a very clear message about our commitment to our common security and our common defence.


I'm asking this because German Brigadier General Reiner Schwalb recently has said that NATO doesn't view Russia as an enemy.

 That's true. We don't view them as an enemy. We are not seeking a confrontation with Russia, but Russia's behaviour in Ukraine, in particular, raises concerns for us about Russia's intentions. As I said, I don't know what they think in the Kremlin, that's true, and so we hope that it will still be possible in the long term to return to the kind of strategic partnership with Russia that we set out to have in the 1997 NATO - Russia Founding Act, as well as the 2002 Rome Declaration. But we can't do that right now and we have to be prepared for all contingencies. We are taking responsible, defensive moves to ensure that if Russia decides to make a move on the Baltic States that there's a clear sense for them that the cost of that would be very high.


We can already see some actions taking place close to the borders, so what would be Russia's answer to all of this?

 It is likely that Russia will say that we are violating the NATO - Russia Founding Act. We would say that it is not correct. The Founding Act says that there will be no permanent stationing of a significant number of combat forces in the territories of new allies. We are planning to station forces that are on a rotational basis, not permanent, and we believe that the numbers being proposed fall below the level of significant forces as foreseen in that act. But they will also say that we are being provocative, they will say that NATO has caused this crisis and that simply is not an accurate reflection of what NATO has done. It was Russia that illegally annexed Crimea. It was Russia that sent troops in the Donbass and supported the separatists there. What we are doing is in response to all of this. And we are fully transparent about this. We are totally clear. We have taken steps along the way to build the NATO force integration units in Latvia and five other countries. We have invited the press to visit those centres, we have been transparent about what we are doing. When we do exercises we invite the observers, we announce them in advance. You can go to the NATO website and see a list of major NATO exercises. The Russian response is not transparency. They don't announce their exercises, they don't invite the observers, they make vague statements that they are going to put more troops on their border, but provide no details. That is a fundamental problem. I think that NATO has a good story to tell about what it is doing to respond, clearly and transparently, with Russia.


Could this be one of the main reasons why there will be a NATO - Russia Council Meeting Ahead of the NATO summit?

We have said that we are open to a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council before the Summit and that's being discussed. Russia has also agreed to come to that. But we believe, yes, that the question of transparency is one of the fundamental questions that we have to discuss. As we say in 2014 any meeting between NATO and Russia is also going to discuss Ukraine until that issue is resolved. But we think that there are a lot of things we can talk about in terms of what we said in Wales, what we are going to do, and how it has been done since then to reinforce our transparency.


Will Russia be informed about what kind of forces will be moved to the Baltic States?

During the meeting we would detail what has been done in the two years since Wales. What was the Readiness Action Plan, what are we doing with the high readiness task force. Those are the kind of things we hope to be able to discuss with Russia, but it has to be based on some reciprocity. It's not a meeting of transparency if we walk in and say – ‘here's all the things we are doing’ and the Russians say – ‘well, that's very interesting, thank you’ and then leave. This has to be a dialogue. That's the main issue that has to be made out between now and such a Council.

Why doesn't Russia seem interested?

 You have to ask the Russians about that.


NATO will also stand for closer cooperation with the EU. At the upcoming NATO summit this issue will be on the agenda, right?

 NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg quite recently said that there is need for political declaration. That may not sound like a big deal, but it's been a long time since NATO and the EU have been able to say that we share common values and that we face a common threat and common solutions in addressing them. That's an important message, particularly for countries like Latvia who literally can't afford for those two large organizations to run off in separate directions. He also talked about hybrid – looking to develop the playbook. How in a case of a hybrid incident each organization would respond, making sure that each organization has this information. The third thing is to look for some opportunities for some joint or parallel exercises.


What kind of exercises?

 Where you simulate a hybrid incident – how would you react, what do you actually do. If we have these going on at the same time we could get the same briefings and some independent discussions about what to do. That would be really significant.


But don't you think that would be really hard to achieve, knowing that some countries are now divided on the question on whether or not to extend the sanctions against Russia?

 Well, 22 countries are members of both organisations and it would be hard for me to imagine that some of them would say – ‘not an issue we would want to be involved in’. That's why the question of unity is so important.


So is cyber security going to be discussed at the NATO summit?

Absolutely. The central theme of the summit we think will be the topic of resilience – making sure that a country is ready to meet a range of challenges from a military attack to a natural disaster. It is also important because you want to make sure that the government is capable of responding to more than one issue at a time. If you have a government that looses two or three ministers in a terrorist attack – it can't function. A cyber attack, which comes from hackers that have no affiliation to a government or terrorist group, could then make a country more susceptible. We will declare that cyber is a domain for military planning. Right now we say that we undertake military planning on land, air and sea, but we are going to add cyberspace to that. It's a technical issue, but a really important one.


And how is NATO prepared for these kind of threats now?

 Individual NATO nations have a baseline standard of cyber to work on, NATO has good defenses on its networks, but cyber is a threat that changes if not by the hour then by the day. It is difficult for any nation to say that it is 100% prepared. We have a good story to tell, but we could do more.