24 February 2022: A TURNING POINT IN EURO-ATLANTIC SECURITY ARCHITECTURE
THE NECESSITY TO SIGNIFICANTLY STRENGTHEN THE DETERRENCE AND DEFENSE POSTURE ON NATO’S EASTERN FLANK
Analysis by Claudiu Butnaru
MOSCOW DOES NOT BELIEVE IN TEARS: A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people
In order to understand Russian history and culture you must first comprehend Russian literature (Brinkhof, 2022). War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov, and Fathers and Sons, to mention a few, are among Russia's most famous books. They investigate human psychology and socioeconomic difficulties in order to determine how individuals should conduct their lives.
According to Tim Brinkhof (2022), it would be an understatement to claim that Russian literature had a significant impact on the organization of Russian society. Russian schoolchildren are being introduced to their country's literary canon as early as fifth grade, with classics being examined for their global wisdom as well as contributions to the present sense of Russia's national identity.
Russian literature has influenced the worldview of Russian leaders in the same way that it has influenced the daily lives of ordinary individuals. Given that Russia's obsession with the security of its national territory is well known, the Putin regime's propaganda about the danger from Europe has turned into a national ideology. Napoleon's invasion in 1812 or the invasion of the Third Reich in 1941 are periodically used in propaganda to demonstrate to Russian citizens the danger from the West.
This idea provides geographical justification in this scenario. The more the Western boundary is pushed away from Moscow, the more concerned people get about security. Simultaneously, the “historical basis” for the invasion of Ukraine comes from the Russian Empire's past. Moscow does not recognize the surrounding peoples' right to exist. Small nations could only be happy under the control of a large power, according to popular belief in the 18th century. That is why the Russian Empire's (and later the USSR's) lands are part of the 'living space' and must be returned to the “Motherland”.
As a result, Ukrainians are considered an intrinsic component of the Russian population and cannot be considered a distinct group by Moscow. According to this idea, it is the right of the last great dominant force that matters, not the identity of a nation. Because most of the lands of modern-day Ukraine were ruled by the Russian Empire in the nineteenth century, they would have no historical right to join another political-military formula. As a result, NATO is a significant opponent for the Russian Federation's security, and the ultimate integration of Ukraine's area into an alliance viewed as unfriendly to Moscow would spell the end of Russia as a major European power (Bruja, 2022).
At the same time, it should not be forgotten that the Russian Federation is a prisoner of its own history. In nation-building, nostalgia for the greatness of the past is embedded in the consciousness of the nation.
After WWII, Moscow created a national ideology of claiming victory on its own (without the support of the other allies, especially the US). On the other hand, neither during the Soviet Union nor in the post-Soviet era did the Kremlin have a clear continuity of historical discourse about its collaborators and adversaries during the years of World War II.
The glorification of war thus became a hallmark of Russian identity construction. The theory of the “struggle of the whole people” against the Nazi aggressor was used ambivalently. Once to attract Ukrainians, for example, to a unitary conception of identity, in the name of class solidarity in the Soviet era or of pan-Slavism later on.
On the other hand, it was a pillar for denigrating those who collaborated with the Nazi occupiers and had a distinct identity. These were identified as Nazis. Now Ukrainian nationalism has been fascised with collaboration with the Third Reich, giving Moscow today the argument for denazification (Bruja, 2022).
THE GENERAL SECURITY FRAMEWORK. ARMED AGGRESSION OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION IN UKRAINE - A KINETIC EFFECT OF PUTINISM?
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God Matthew 5:3-10
The unprovoked, deliberate invasion of Ukraine by Russia (February 24) poses the gravest challenge to Euro-Atlantic security in decades. Russia's ambition to redraw international borders by force clearly threatens the international order's values of sovereignty and territorial integrity, which serve to keep peace in Europe (Brussels NATO Summit Statement, 2022).
Russia is gravely breaching international law and the values of the UN Charter by launching illegal military action against Ukraine, jeopardizing global peace and stability. This comes after Georgia's 2008 military assault, as well as the unlawful annexation of Crimea (2014) and the military incursion in Eastern Ukraine.
According to the risks identified in the Strategic Compass (2022), the Russian government is actively attempting to establish so-called spheres of influence through armed interference in Georgia and Ukraine, de facto control over Belarus, and the continued presence of Russian troops in frozen conflicts (e.g. Ossetia, Transnistria).
Armed aggression against Ukraine demonstrates a willingness to employ lethal force, regardless of legal or humanitarian concerns, in combination with hybrid tactics, cyber-attacks, foreign information manipulation and intervention, economic and energy pressure, and hostile nuclear rhetoric. These aggressive and revisionist measures, for which Putin's administration is solely accountable, together with its collaborator Belarus, pose a serious and direct danger to the Euro-Atlantic security order.
Putin’s Russia is clearly not interested in being seen as a responsible neighbor and could not care less about crossing supposed red lines – at home and abroad (Wolters, 2022). Deeply dissatisfied with the post-Cold War developments in Europe, which meant a loss of status for Moscow, Putin and his government demonstrate that they do not want to play by the rules that they believe were imposed by the West when Russia was weak (Munich Security Report, 2022).
Putin's dictatorship is based not merely on a tyrant's whim, but also on a nation's readiness, the Russian nation's, to accept autocracy as an inevitable cost of imperial grandeur. The Russians' devotion to Putinism is explained not just by propaganda, but also by Soviet nostalgia, which arose from the love for the successful Tsarism (Stanomir, 2022).
Putinism plays on this layer of resentment: the predatory and hungry Russian state, guarantor of arbitrariness, grounds its internal and exterior aggression on this historical responsibility to maintain Russia's grandeur. Furthermore, Putinism's mythologies opportunistically recycle the Empire's and the USSR's collective imaginary.
Putinism is not an outlier in the evolution of Russia as a state, but it does demonstrate the persistence of autocracy as a style of power management. With the exception of a brief era of revolutionary experimentation (1905 – 1917), the Russian state has never stopped exercising autocratic arbitrariness. The post-1991 era was characterized by the collapse of unrealistic rebirth promises.
As a result, Putinism is not reduced to the bad nature of a tyrant, but rather feeds on the foundations of imperial history. Putinism, like previous dictatorial administrations, keeps the country it professes to represent prisoner (Applebaum, 2013). The official ideology fails to conceal the circle of power's unscrupulous avarice. In Russia, tyranny is a constant that guides the government's actions.
The imperial Russian regime is putting Europe's future in jeopardy. As long as Russia's entire raison d'être is expansion and tyranny, an act of aggression will inevitably occur (Foulon & Thompson, 2021). The cease-fire reached with imperial Russia is not a long-term agreement, but rather a pretext for a strategic retreat.
Russia cannot unshackle itself from its secular destiny while wearing the imperial trappings. Beyond Putinism, another avatar with the same dominance aims will emerge. Russia's history as an empire gave birth to the regime attacking Ukraine. Only another Russian state can see a new destiny for its country: the Russians must leap the Rubicon of independence from imperialism (Stanomir, 2022).
PROPOSALS REGARDING THE ADAPTION OF NATO'S DEFENSE AND DETERRENCE POSTURE IN THE NATO 2030 STRATEGIC CONCEPT
To keep our people safe in today’s unpredictable world, we must continue to strengthen and modernize our deterrence and defense
Since the publication of the NATO Strategic Concept in 2010, the external security situation has altered considerably. NATO needs a revamped strategy that simultaneously reflects real-world metamorphoses and drives the Alliance toward better levels of preparation and resilience for future challenges, given fast-paced developments, new vulnerabilities and traps, and a larger variety of participants in the international system.
"The Euro-Atlantic area is at peace" according to the 2010 Strategic Concept, but we can no longer take our peace and security for granted (Stoltenberg, 2021). To remain the most relevant security and defense player in the Euro-Atlantic zone, NATO should continue to focus on its existing core tasks: collective defense, cooperative security and crisis management (Blessing et al, 2021, pg. 8) and adopt resilience as a fourth core task to formalize its efforts to withstand, recover from, and adapt in the wake of these complex dynamics.
The next Strategic Concept, which NATO leaders will endorse at the Madrid Summit in June 2022, will outline how the Alliance will deal with a more unpredictable and competitive world. It will also provide an opportunity to establish clear priorities, strengthen cohesion by leading the Alliance to confront new strategic realities, and bring together the various strands of adaptation already underway into a single coherent strategic picture.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed his opinions on NATO's future Strategic Concept at the Riga Public Diplomacy Conference (30 November 2021) and outlined five components that should be at the core of the new Strategic Concept: (1) protecting our values, (2) reinforcing our military power, (3) strengthening our societies, (4) taking a global outlook and (5) building NATO as the institutional link between Europe and North America.
Given the current security context, one of the fifth elements mentioned by the NATO SG that needs immediate development is the one related to reinforcing our military power.
The NATO’s current approach, by which prioritized the Baltic Sea Region by deploying an enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in the Baltics & Poland and a tailored Forward Presence (tFP) in the Black Sea Region, created a high incoherence level along the Eastern Flank after the illegal annexation of Crimea, in 2014 (Hodges et al., 2020).
In this setting, NATO has favored aggressive Russian activity in the region, complicating the establishment of swift political and military responses to dissuade these manifestations.
The anti-Western and revisionist Russian Federation is attempting to achieve by force what it has failed to achieve diplomatically: the establishment of a sphere of influence and a distinct status in Eastern Europe while undermining the USA and the North Atlantic Alliance, including by labeling NATO members who joined after 1997 as second-tier members and relying on weak security arrangements (by bolstering its offensive position IVO Romania).
At the same time, in the long-term, NATO needs to adopt a complex strategy against the Russian Federation, even declaring it as the main threat to Alliance security into the NATO’s 2030 Strategic Concept (Aurescu, 2022). The strategic concept should also describe how Russia’s rising willingness to use unconventional warfare needs to be countered with additional resilience and deterrence measures (Simakovsky & Williams, 2021, pg. 34).
NATO will need to retain its unity and remove any barriers to collective action in order to adapt to this evolving security environment. Overall, a fundamental rethink of the concept, structure and fundaments of NATO's posture - especially on the Eastern Flank - is becoming necessary, given that current circumstances are substantially different from when the current approach on the Eastern Flank was designed (Iohannis, 2022).
Given that these challenges are only one stage of the Russian Federation's approach toward NATO Eastern Flank states, and in light of the region's rapidly deteriorating security situation, NATO leaders should input into the NATO 2030 Strategic Concept the following elements regarding the strengthening of Alliance’s deterrence and defense: