The number of processes testifying to the aggravation of geopolitical tensions on the global scale is on the rise. The big nations of the West (mainly the U.S.) more frequently accuse Russia of taking belligerent steps. The need for NATO to boost its military potential is also among the most debated subjects. It is fascinating that NATO-Russia rivalry encompasses an enormous geography; from Europe to the Asia-Pacific. All of this can be regarded as a sign of emerging threats around the world. With the big powers having entered a phase of contradictions in the military domain and the situation on this front deteriorating rapidly, it is certainly an unwelcomed development. What’s the world coming to?
Confrontation and Arming: Increasing Risks
The tension between the West and Russia is far from subsiding. The U.S. and the big countries within the European Union are continuing to accuse Moscow. Those accusations are associated mainly with the security issue. According to Washington, Kremlin poses a threat to some of its neighbors. Namely, it cites a lingering threat towards Georgia and Ukraine, known incidents in the Baltic Sea and bullying of the Scandinavian countries (see: Эксперты CNN не считают случайными инциденты между флотами России и США / “Rns.online”, 6 July 2016).
The Western experts are convinced that recent standoffs between the U.S. and Russian navy vessels were no coincidence. Moreover, they argue that those incidents are equal to “throwing down a gauntlet” by Russia and serve the purpose of intimidating Washington’s European allies (see: previous reference). According to Wesley Clark, one-time NATO Supreme Allied Commander, “The Russians believe that if they do a show of force, that they achieve results that promote their interests. In this case, it is a certain degree of intimidation… It shows that they are willing to stand up to the United States” (see: previous reference).
This is a sentiment shared not just by the military people but also by the political leaders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel made it clear that Russia’s actions frighten the NATO countries (see: Меркель: Действия России “глубочайшим образом испугали” страны НАТО / “EADaily”, 7 July 2016). In her statement in Bundestag she blamed Moscow for shattering trust between Europe and Russia. That it was the Kremlin that “through declarations and actions has questioned the fundamental principle of inviolability of borders” (see: previous reference). Prior to NATO’s Warsaw Summit, President Barack Obama placed Russia in the same category with ISIS and Brexit as factors posing threat to the Northern Alliance (see: Barack Obama. America’s alliance with Britain and Europe will endure / “The Financial Times”, 8 July 2016).
As President Obama puts it, “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine threatens our vision of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace” (see: previous reference). Secretary of State John Kerry backed that statement during his visits to Tbilisi and Kiev. In the Georgia’s capital he reiterated the need for Russia to withdraw from the occupied territories and return to pre-2008 war positions. He also pledged to do whatever necessary to defend Georgia (see: Джон Керри в Грузии / “Голос Америки”, 6 July 2016). In Ukraine, Kerry referred to the issue of restoration of the latter’s territorial integrity a special agenda item in the U.S.-Russia relationship. According to Kerry, as long as Russia maintained troops in the eastern Ukraine imposing of sanctions would continue (see: Татьяна Ивженко. Керри подготовил Порошенко к саммиту НАТО / “Независимая газета”, 8 July 2016).
Mutual Accusations: Weakest Links of Global Security
The official Moscow rejects all the accusations. Furthermore, Russia blames the West for antagonizing the relationship. Russia’s envoy to NATO Aleksandr Grushko stated that, “Steps taken by the Northern Alliance in the eastern direction exacerbate the situation” (see: Грушко пригрозил НАТО военно-техническим ответом со стороны России / “Vzgliad.ru”, 6 July 2016). That it is all about drawing new division lines across the European continent, hampering the realization of the unified Europe project and solidifying EU’s dependence on the U.S. (see: previous reference).
However, NATO must be aware that all of that could backfire, as Russia stands ready to put its entire military/technical prowess to use. Moscow will do whatever it takes to defend itself. Vladimir Putin has been unequivocally clear on that matter. Kremlin has issued instructions to take additional military measures. Russia’s armed forces are conducting new exercises and drills, while military is being reequipped and resupplied.
In the meantime, Moscow is accusing the Western countries of the military buildup, in terms of both hardware and troops, along its borders. From the Baltic Sea to the Central Asia, NATO is expanding its military presence across a vast geography. NATO is taking additional military precaution measures in the Baltic countries as well as in Poland, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia and the Central Asian states. Thus, the Alliance is provoking an arms race. President Putin stated that he recognized that yet he had no option other than to reciprocate.
All of this is a testimony that West-Russia relationship is entering another strenuous phase. The parties are moving towards a military standoff that could potentially involve a vast geography, possibly to engulf the Asia-Pacific basin. Russia is reportedly launching a construction of a naval base on the Matua Island, part of the Kuril Islands archipelago. It is due to commence this year (see: Алексей Верхоянцев. Курильский “аэродром подскока” – головная боль Америки / “Свободная пресса”, 30 June 2016).
It is no secret that America has long been beefing up its navy presence in that region, and rendering military assistance to its allies there. Thus, the geopolitical and military standoff between these two big powers involves multiple geographies and has already acquired a perilous substance. Such a rivalry engenders serious risks to the international security. Some politicians even compare the current situation with the landscape that prevailed prior to the WWII. At the time, it was also about an arms race and mutual accusations. The U.S., Europe and Russia were unable to find common ground. The current situation however, is more dramatic. First – there are number of unresolved conflicts in different parts of the world. Second – the military capabilities of today put to shame those of the 1940s.
That is the reason why any war at a present phase could jeopardize the humankind’s very existence. Acknowledgement of this fact does not stop the superpowers from heading to confrontation. It may appear illogical but apparently the geopolitical interests outweigh the common sense and therefore, the big powers are willing to challenge one another, even in the face of a possibly fatal outcome. Yet there is no happy ending to this story.
It is extremely important to eliminate all the threats to humanity. The politicians and the military should combine their efforts and address patiently the urgent problems of today. However, both the NATO and the CSTO have their own agenda. Although the world is not made up of just the countries members to those two organizations, there is a lacking international regulating mechanism that could be put to use. The might is right, even if the greatest injustice occurs. The world is home to so many nations and we must be aware that if anything befalls, we will all be buried under the ruins of its collapsing walls.