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Cold War is back

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Russia pushes NATO to Cold War doctrine in Madrid after Ukraine invasion

The NATO Summit in Madrid has consecrated an epochal change. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced a fundamental change in the Atlantic Alliance’s approach to security. Russia has gone from being considered “a strategic partner” in the Strategic Concept approved at the Lisbon Summit in 2010 to being identified as “a significant and direct threat” in the new 2022 roadmap.

The Alliance regains its original mission and the partners dust off the Cold War doctrine in order to counter Russia. “Moscow has opted for confrontation,” they claim. The allies must operate with a less hypothetical and diffuse threat from Russia after four months of fierce bombardment in Ukraine. To this end, the United States is renewing its protective role with the European continent. Prolongation of the Ukrainian conflict for months or years threatens the unity of the West so Washington must ensure a high level of assistance to its partners.

For U.S. strategists eager to prioritize China as the great adversary of the 21st century, the Ukrainian war has restored Russia’s status as a destabilizing power. Allies also recognize China as a systemic rival. For NATO, the two authoritarian regimes are together in their claim to undermine the rules-based international order implemented after World War II. Any scenario that could jeopardize the territorial integrity of the allies and even outline the use of nuclear weapons – so present in Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric – represents an existential threat that must be neutralized. Europe has been the theater of two world wars (and it cannot be ruled out that it will be the theater of the third).

As a sign of American commitment to its partners, President Joe Biden has announced a military reinforcement by land, sea and air of the eastern flank. The United States will increase its troops by 20,000 to 100,000 troops. Russia concentrated 120,000 military personnel on the Ukrainian border before launching the ground incursion. The allies have pledged to obtain a rapid reaction force capable of putting 300,000 men on alert.

The Madrid Summit will also be remembered for welcoming Sweden and Finland as on the eve of the meeting President Erdogan lifted the veto for the Nordic countries’ historic accession in exchange for U.S. F-16s. Putin’s war in Ukraine has finally convinced Stockholm and Helsinki to abandon their status of neutrality, a cardinal principle of these two countries. With its forthcoming accession, NATO will share more than 1,000 kilometers of border with its direct enemy.

It also became clear at this meeting that security comes at a price. Allies with lower defense spending, such as Spain, the host country of the summit, are beginning to understand that 2% of defense spending is a rung on the ladder rather than a ceiling.

As a Finnish saying goes: “Nothing good comes from the East…except the sun”.

 

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