NATO to the Balts – don’t worry, you are safe! Really, are you sure?
Perhaps it might be a gross exaggeration but the future historians will put a date of 08-08-08 next to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 9/11 or a recent financial melt down. Those dates marked a tectonic shift in the world politics and economics. We can say, ‘yes, the world is not the same anymore’.
This date is not only about the Beijing Olympics, which mostly were pushed down because of the South Ossetian war (I don’t think that the Chinese will ever forgive the Kremlin for that!). I don’t want to argue who started the war, the most important what happened after. The nightmare scenario is unfolding in the front of our own eyes and worst predictions of the ‘Russophobe’ Balts and Poles are coming true. Far worst than that! Who could predict in August 1 that Russia’s troop will be stationed some 50km from Tbilisi?
After joining the NATO the ‘Russophobe’ Balts began to take it for granted that they are save as long as the NATO exists. Lithuanians even have the President’s G.W. Bush’s words on the wall of the Town Hall of Vilnius saying that that who will choose Lithuanian as an enemy will choose the USA as the enemy also. He said that in 2003 from steps of the same building to the thousands of Lithuanians. All of us took it for granted, like a confirmation, which we needed so badly.
The Lithuanians were so keen to join the NATO that effectively we adjusted our military to the NATO requirements to such extend that we came to realise that we don’t really have a territorial defence anylonger. We have battalions who are ready to be deployed in the NATO special operation and the peace keeping missions in far far faraway countries. There is a sad joke that those Lithuanian battalions could later be successfully deployed here for the peace-keeping mission, as the NATO peace keepers. They will be perfectly fit to monitor how Russian military comply with its obligations in Lithuanian territory after a similar Georgia style blitz Krieg.
Should we be concerned about our security? After all we are the members of the strongest military alliance, and there is an article 5, which will protect us. Perhaps this question could be addressed to our allies. According to various estimates the Russian army will need some 24 hours to take the Balts. Will the Portuguese, Spanish, Belgium Dutch, or lets say Italian or German (in that matter also the French) will start a war with Russia? What would Berlin, Paris or Rome say in that case? Well, same as now – lets be pragmatic, lets don’t annoy our neighbour.
Lets us just assume that the Russia’s army will enter the Baltic States in December, why not during Christmas! Would the above-mentioned capitals, risk retaliating in the face of the possible threat of a total Russian Gas cut? Can Russia survive without the petrodollars for lets say 5 months? Yes, it can. Could the EU survive 5 colders months without the Russian gas? It is possible but it would be extremely difficult. The mutual Russia/EU dependence is a myth lets admit that for once. This myth is based on assumption that the Kremlin became predictable and began to realise the benefits of conducting business in the Western standards. The 08/08/08 only showed that Russia us unpredictable as ever.
One of the aims to go to the war with Georgia was to undermine NATO’s reliability. First of all amongst the NATO hopefuls. Then of course amongst the new NATO members. Many questions are asked in Lithuania now. During his trip to Tallinn a NATO General confirmed that there is the NATO plan to defend the Baltic States. However, few days later in Vilnius he informs the journalists that his words in Tallinn were misinterpreted. The Lithuanian electronic media is full of the articles published in the USA and European media calling for NATO to ‘do more in the Baltics’. The German Sueddeutsche Zeitung quoted the Lithuania’s President saying, “If some out of they mind Russians planned an intrusion into our country, the occupation would be a matter of a few minutes.” Latter the President’s press office issued a statement informing that he said ‘24h’ not ‘a few minutes’. Well, 24 hours is much longer than few minutes but is it long enough to gather the top rank NATO generals for a meeting to discuss the response to the attack?
Theoretically the Article 5 has never been put in practice (post 9/11 was a different case). This article is an essence of the alliance even though it could be argued that NATO has turned into a political club. If the Article 5 would be breached that would bring NATO to its end. Is it in Russia’s interest to break NATO up? Yes, it is at least in the short term, since at the moment Russia is in peak of its strength due to the geopolitical shifts. It is now or never to correct the mistakes which brought the ‘biggest Geopolitical tragedy of the 20 Century’. The author of those words is doing just that.
Fantastic journalist and publisher Edward Lucas is calling the Balts to calm down, Russia should not attack us. Mr. President Adamkus in the same interview for the Sueddeutsche Zeitung also noted that it is very unlikely that we will be attack militarily. He noted that Russia will cut us off Lithuania the main energy supplies route, then will start interfering into our economy stronger and eventually will interfere in our politics. On October 12 Lithuania is holding a Parliamentary elections. The interesting times are ahead. Meantime I would like to agree with Mr. Philip Stephens from the FT.