There are many analyses about the war in Ukraine and evaluations of what the future of European security will be. In this article, I traced the history of the relationship between Russia and NATO in the post-Cold War era. I would recommend it for those who want to understand the long-standing tensions between the two, and how they contributed to the war in Ukraine.
In part one of this two-part analysis of current developments I will discuss NATO’s vision of its long-term role in the global security structure. In part two, I will be looking at Finland and Sweden joining the Alliance, Turkey’s conditional approval of the two countries’ membership, and the conflicting role of NATO and the EU in Ukraine.
Last June, NATO leaders converged in Madrid to discuss the military posture of the West in an increasingly unstable world, and with the war in Ukraine as a grim backdrop to the meeting, it was never going to be just a symbolic affair. What resulted from the summit was the endorsement of NATO’s ‘2022 Strategic Concept’, and it will define the West’s military strategy for the next decade.
Strategic Concepts are guiding documents that describe NATO policy over the long term: before this year, only seven of them had been issued since the birth of NATO in 1949, so this new iteration should not to be taken lightly. Representatives of 30 NATO states, partner countries, international organisations, and the private sector officially endorsed the eighth policy statement on June 29th, preparing for large-scale military engagement by strengthening forces across all sectors:
We will build on our newly enhanced posture, and significantly strengthen our deterrence and defence for the long term to ensure the security and defence of all Allies. We will do so in line with our 360-degree approach, across the land, air, maritime, cyber, and space domains, and against all threats and challenges.
Military build-up means that windows for diplomacy are closing, and this wouldn’t only apply to the war in Ukraine. There is the risk that the 2022 Strategic Concept is codifying a new view of how military action is conducted in international politics, with negotiation and dialogue increasingly being pushed to the back of the line as tools when countries are engaged in matters of critical security importance.
Since World War II, the United Nations has been the principal forum for mediating disagreements between countries, with the Security Council being the foremost body deciding the legality and legitimacy of international military action. NATO had acknowledged its position as the paramount administrator of security matters in the last Strategic Concept in Lisbon in 2010:
The Alliance is firmly committed to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and to the Washington Treaty, which affirms the primary responsibility of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Earlier Strategic Concepts also pointed back to the Washington Treaty, NATO’s founding document, which outlined the scope and limitations of the organisation’s mandate. If a NATO member were to be attacked, its allies could trigger Article 5 of the Treaty – collective armed defence – but yielding then to the UN body:
Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.
This point expresses the crux of NATO’s principle of collective defence: military action is to be taken exclusively if one member is physically attacked, with the Security Council then becoming the body that would restore order.
But the 2022 Strategic Concept makes no mention of the Washington Treaty throughout its 49 policy points. There is a second glaring absence: all references to the Security Council have been removed. This is a telling omission for a 360-degree policy statement that just 10 years earlier had referred to the Security Council as having the primary responsibility for international security. In fact, the document promises a clear reorientation from its principles and commitment to the the architecture which has governed state relations since 1945:
NATO is the unique, essential and indispensable transatlantic forum to consult, coordinate and act on all matters related to our individual and collective security.
The statement above deserves careful consideration, because NATO is muscling out the Security Council as the principal institution for both the discussion and action around security matters. It should also be noted that the principle of self-defence is a legitimate response to military aggression that does not need authorisation by the Security Council, and if NATO is truly a body of collective defence, it should find no clash of interests between them.
In 1832, Carl Von Clausewitz published On War, perhaps the greatest work of military theory. He wryly described war as “merely the continuation of policy by other means,” a form of political action set apart only by its “peculiar nature.”
This passage has become canon in military and academic circles, and NATO recently felt the need to comment directly and correct the maxim, stating that “war now means a range of possibilities.”1Arsalan Bilal, “Hybrid Warfare – New Threats, Complexity, and ‘Trust’ as the Antidote,” NATO (Nato Review, November 30, 2021), https://www.nato.int/docu/review/articles/2021/11/30/hybrid-warfare-new-threats-complexity-and-trust-as-the-antidote/index.html. Clausewitz’s militaristic vision of the world has become too restrictive for NATO as new forms of competition and conflict have emerged in a hyper-technological world.
On one hand, this isn’t surprising: NATO is a military organisation and is bound to see the world through peril-tinted glasses. On the other, however, if NATO rather than non-military institutions take centre stage and begin to set the rules of engagement for international relations, as it is posturing to do, we run the risk of turning On War on its head: politics is merely the continuation of war by other means, and dialogue and negotiation become increasingly peculiar.
An argument could be made that given that Russia and China have veto power in the Security Council, problems arise when competitors can block legitimate actions. This stance is short-sighted. If NATO were to centre itself in deciding the legitimacy of its military actions unilaterally, there should be no outrage if UN principles are flouted by others in the future.
Whether it is applied effectively or not, the foundation of domestic and international law is to regulate interactions between individuals and states in the interest of stability, even though this means restricting the movement of actors who may view their intentions as legitimate.
And if the decision-making process of the Security Council and international institutions cannot be entrusted with critical concerns, we are de facto acknowledging that they are obsolete and their function is performative. If this is the case, why have a global rules-based order at all?
It should be of great worry that NATO is now formally moving away from the foundational principles of the Alliance in positioning itself as the exclusive arbiter of military engagements. Not only does the 2022 Strategic Concept run the risk of accelerating the demise of international institutions and undermining the structures of the international order, but NATO is also taking aim at its own feet: this erosion will be taken advantage of by its adversaries in the future.
But NATO’s push to supplant other institutions isn’t the only cause for concern. A closer look into the 2022 Strategic Concept shows larger problems within the organisation, as well as the expanded powers to wage war it has now granted itself.
The Nuclear question
The strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance, particularly those of the United States, are the supreme guarantee of the security of the Alliance.
2022 Strategic Concept, Article 29
In this view nuclear weapons are, and will remain, the instruments that underpin global security, the ultimate say and guarantor of peace.
For those who disagree with this philosophy, it should be disturbing that NATO believes that its entire security apparatus ultimately revolves around nuclear weapons, and NATO’s reassurances in Article 33 of their commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should be viewed with some skepticism – or, rather, it should be understood that nuclear weapons amongst a select few are not going anywhere.
For others who believe that nuclear weapons within NATO are a necessary evil, I would propose that these statements damage non-proliferation by other states and create knock-on dangers: who, like the Alliance, doesn’t want supreme protections of their security? If NATO places nuclear weapons at the very centre of its security guarantee, what makes Alliance members more worthy to protect the lives of their own citizens? An Iranian might have the notion that their life has an equal worth to a Brit, and should have the same insurance policy in the international arena.
The subtext of Article 29 should also be made overt: The United States underwrites NATO security and is the first among equals. This is no secret. The United States contributes the most money to the organisation, and it holds a sway in the organisation of commensurate scope.
But this can become a problem in the case of legitimate disagreements. Member states have at times been at odds, especially when following the United States into military action: see French and German objections to Iraq. If NATO were structured democratically, dissenting voices could serve to temper more aggressive stances, but it is routine for their actions and opinions to hold little sway in the organisation.
Gérard Araud served as the French Ambassador to the United States, the Director General for Political and Security Affairs of the French Foreign Ministry, and France’s permanent representative to the UN from 2009-2014. He was also Deputy Permanent Representative to NATO in the 1990s, negotiating the first NATO expansion during those years, as well as the second in 2008. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine this year, he gave his thoughts on the situation:
I think the real mistake was committed in 2008, and I was actually in the summit in Bucharest, in the room where Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy were arguing against George W. Bush on the issue of Ukrainian membership. It was really a tough meeting, and after that there was a meeting between heads of state alone to reach a compromise on the wording – and as usual, you know, compromise means that we couldn’t say no to the Americans.2“European Security and France’s Election in the Shadow of Russia’s War in Ukraine,” Hold Your Fire!, podcast (International Crisis Group, April 23, 2022).
Citizens of NATO states must be aware that military engagements are, and will continue to be, steered by US interests and politics. If France and Germany have to yield to American interests, there is little hope for other NATO countries like Lithuania, Bulgaria, Slovenia – or future members Finland and Sweden.
Questions of geography
Conflict, fragility and instability in Africa and the Middle East directly affect our security and the security of our partners.
2022 Strategic Concept, Article 11
The operative word here is ‘directly’. This means that security concerns that threaten the region threaten Europe, and may trigger Article 5 and collective military action.
For years now, NATO has been posturing to extend its influence outside of its borders. In 2018 the organisation published ‘The Alliance’s evolving posture: towards a theory of everything’, where it stated it was looking for a “game changer for the South.”3Kęstutis Paulauskas, “The Alliance’s Evolving Posture: Towards a Theory of Everything,” NATO (Nato Review, July 6, 2018), https://www.nato.int/docu/review/articles/2018/07/06/the-alliances-evolving-posture-towards-a-theory-of-everything/index.html.
In the discussion, NATO went into further detail about the direct threat formula: the complex set of security problems in Africa in the Middle East “also have a direct impact on the Allies’ population and way of life, for instance, by posing a present and immediate danger of terrorist attacks anywhere on NATO territory.”4Kęstutis Paulauskas, “The Alliance’s Evolving Posture: Towards a Theory of Everything.”
Definitions of terrorism are notoriously nebulous, and this is particularly the case when apportioning blame for attacks. If a terrorist group from country X conducts an attack on a NATO member, does country X hold blame? Does this mean that NATO should legitimately be able to violate the sovereignty of that country to conduct operations against the group, with knock-on effects to the civilian population, even if the group has no links to the government?
In transnational multi-celled terrorist organisations, as most contemporary terrorism operates, this raises many questions about overt and covert operations conducted on foreign territory, and the potential harm caused to civilians.
The 2018 article also commented on the NATO’s bombing of Libya in 2011 which was absent of defensive justification. This case illustrates why NATO engagement in the region is viewed with suspicion, and why many states are wary that it is now written into policy that NATO’s remit extends to these regions.
NATO stated that it has been “blamed for intervening in Libya, which led to the fall of Ghadafi. Yet, it was also blamed for leaving Libya after the active campaign, which was followed by state failure and civil conflict.”5Kęstutis Paulauskas, “The Alliance’s Evolving Posture: Towards a Theory of Everything.” This skirts legitimate questions about that intervention.
The Libyan operation began legitimately. With Resolution 1973, the Security Council authorised the use of “all necessary measures (…) to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack,”6UN Security Council, Security Council resolution 1973 (2011) [on the situation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya], 17 March 2011, S/RES/1973(2011), available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/4d885fc42.html. and NATO took the lead to enforce the Resolution and a no-fly zone. However, what followed overstepped the Resolution’s scope.
Legal scholars Ulfstein and Christiansen, writing in Cambridge’s International and Comparative Law Quarterly, summarised this argument as follows:
NATO actions to protect civilians were clearly within the mandate. But operations aiming at overthrowing Qaddafi, including support to the rebels’ advancement (…) violated the mandate and were an illegal use of force. The overstepping of the mandate may have undermined the credibility of the responsibility to protect in future humanitarian crises.7Geir Ulfstein and Hege Føsund Christiansen, “The Legality of the NATO Bombing in Libya,” International and Comparative Law Quarterly 62, no. 1 (2013): pp. 159-171, 162.
The Security Council mandate was for the protection of civilians, not regime change.
Writing for Foreign Policy in 2016, Micah Zenko, Senior Fellow at two international policy heavyweights, the Council of Foreign Relations in the US and UK-based Chatham House, published a searing list of the “deceptions” used to intervene for the end goal of deposing Qaddafi under the guise of humanitarian action. The article is worth reading in its entirety to understand how far the intervention strayed from its stated purpose, but Zenko’s conclusions give the idea:
[The Obama administration] misled the American public, because while presidents attempt to frame their wars as narrow, limited, and essential, admitting to the honest objective in Libya — regime change — would have brought about more scrutiny and diminished public support.
Also in Foreign Policy, a 2021 article noted that regarding civilian deaths resulting from NATO airstrikes,
Those seeking an apology have instead found themselves trapped in a nightmare in which NATO itself does not make condolence payments but insists accountability must be sought from individual nations. Yet, even a decade on, countries including the United Kingdom, France, and the United States still refuse to accept public responsibility for any harm they caused.8Joe Dyke, “NATO Killed Civilians in Libya. It’s Time to Admit It.,” Foreign Policy, March 20, 2021, https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/03/20/nato-killed-civilians-in-libya-its-time-to-admit-it/.
In a campaign that was invoked under the humanitarian doctrine of Responsibility to Protect and the safeguarding of civilians, that NATO has not compensated or apologised for civilian casualties is unacceptable.
While the Security Council approved the bombing campaign, the move was met with widespread condemnation on the continent, including the ambivalent feelings of the African Union (AU) who had rejected military action, instead proposing consultations and direct negotiations.“9Geir Ulfstein and Hege Føsund Christiansen, “The Legality of the NATO Bombing in Libya,” 161. This belief in dialogue was not an idealistic, unachievable vision, nor was it aimed at propping up the Libyan dictator:
Contrary to widespread perception that the AU sought to prop up Gaddafi, it offered a credible and balanced option of a negotiated solution. United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 expressed support for the initiative, but in the event, France, Britain and the United States blocked its chances of success.10Alex De Waal, “African Roles in the Libyan Conflict of 2011,” OUP Academic (Oxford University Press, March 11, 2013).
This has undermined the credibility of humanitarian interventions in Africa as Western powers “stretched the bounds of legality, misleading the African states that voted in favour of Resolution 1973 into believing that their concerns to bring about a ceasefire, humanitarian access and a negotiated settlement would be taken seriously.”11Alex De Waal, “African Roles in the Libyan Conflict of 2011,” International Affairs 89, no. 2 (2013): pp. 365-379, 378. Such actions do not foster goodwill among African states, nor do they take into consideration the indelible colonial history Western powers have left on the continent.
One knock-on effect of the NATO operation was the sudden collapse of the delicate political patronage system held up by Qaddafi in the southern regions of the country, which was exploited by criminal and violent elements who had been laying in wait, threatening the larger region and leading to a security crisis in Mali.12Alex De Wall, “African Roles in the Libyan Conflict of 2011,” 379.
The media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) was extremely critical in a 2017 assessment of the conflict and the culpability of NATO in the rise of instability and criminality in Libya. As footage of open-air slave markets emerged along the migrant route through the country, FAIR found that
Even the few news reports that do acknowledge NATO’s complicity in the chaos in Libya do not go a step further and detail the well-documented, violent racism of the NATO-backed Libyan rebels who ushered in slavery after ethnically cleansing and committing brutal crimes against black Libyans.13Ben Norton, “Media Erase NATO Role in Bringing Slave Markets to Libya,” FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, December 1, 2017), https://fair.org/home/media-nato-regime-change-war-libya-slave-markets/.
India, Brazil China, Russia, and even Germany had abstained in the Security Council vote to set the grounds for intervention. Yet, NATO stretched its mandate of collective defence thin to the point of invisibility through its military operation in Libya, and it deserves a portion of the blame for what occurred after: close to a decade of civil war that saw the country’s infrastructure disintegrate, a sovereign nation in all but name with little institutional rule over the territory and beset by unspeakable human tragedy.
Given these issues and the longer history of the West on the African continent, it should be easy to see that the geographical remit taken in the 2022 Strategic Concept can create animosity, particularly in states who do not share a rosy view of the Western military action and their intentions on African soil.
With this in mind, it should also not come as a surprise that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was welcomed by multiple influential African countries on his tour in July of this year: he visited Egypt, Congo, Uganda, and Ethiopia, causing Western fears of a larger continental pivot towards Russia.14Elias Biryabarema, “Russia’s Lavrov Courts Africa in Quest for More Non-Western Friends,” Reuters (Thomson Reuters, July 25, 2022), https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/russias-lavrov-courts-africa-quest-more-non-western-friends-2022-07-25/. Even the historically most internationally influential African state, South Africa, offered its diplomatic support.15Abel Esterhuyse, “South Africa’s Foreign Policy: New Paper Sets the Scene, but Falls Short on Specifics,” The Conversation, August 24, 2022, https://theconversation.com/south-africas-foreign-policy-new-paper-sets-the-scene-but-falls-short-on-specifics-188253.
At the very least, this is an indication that the West is losing goodwill from countries whose tempers have been tested by Western and NATO actions, and the 2022 Strategic Concept will deepen the rift. The West must see its actions through the eyes of others if it is to understand why it is losing hearts and minds outside its borders. Aside from the moral imperative of answering for its past actions, these alliances will be crucial in an increasingly multipolar world.
Hybrid operations against Allies could reach the level of armed attack and could lead the North Atlantic Council to invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.
2022 Strategic Concept, Article 27
Here is the document’s “non-exclusive” definition of hybrid operations: “the coercive use of political, economic, energy, information and other hybrid tactics by states and non-state actors.” NATO here is stating that any of this may result in a retaliatory use of force. The latitude offered to military engagement is disturbing, especially when one breaks down the list of elements to their constituent parts.
What is economic warfare? Traditionally, sanctions have been the primary method of conducting sub-kinetic warfare, a substitute for active conflict that nonetheless can have crippling effects on the economy and stability of a country. Though they have consistently been found to be ineffective,16Dursun Peksen and A. Cooper Drury, “Economic Sanctions and Political Repression: Assessing the Impact of
Coercive Diplomacy on Political Freedoms,” Human Rights Review 10, no. 3 (2009): pp. 393-411. they are used in attempts to delegitimise governments, to incite public discontent by putting economic pressure on civilians, and to cause the collapse of the ruling regime.
Under NATO’s new policy, are we now to assume that sanctions against NATO countries may result in retaliation by force? Not only does this make the prime reason for sanctions (avoiding all-out war) obsolete, but it also opens the door to adversaries to act in the same way: if these new rules of engagement take hold, they will become a norm that is adopted not just by NATO.
Should NATO logic be used by countries like Iran or Russia, under Western sanctions, as legitimate reasons for military reprisal? Such actions until now have been unthinkable, and they should stay that way.
But there are even more troubling aspects of the question of hybrid operations when applied to the ever-changing and increasingly widespread phenomenon of cyberwarfare.
On August 4th, 2022, a cyber attack was made on Advanced, a private company providing services to the UK National Health Service. Aside from the possibility of swathes of health and personal data being stolen from the British public, this attack took a number of essential NHS services offline including patient bookings, referrals, mental health services, ambulance calls, and emergency prescriptions.17Dan Milmo, “NHS Ransomware Attack: What Happened and How Bad Is It?,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, August 11, 2022), https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/aug/11/nhs-ransomware-attack-what-happened-and-how-bad-is-it.
A wholesale disruption of emergency services has the potential to cause significant deaths. Could this example, and more serious ones, constitute an act of war to which Article 5 can be invoked, leading to NATO to conduct a military retaliation?
Possibly, and possibly not. In the case of deaths and upending the infrastructure of a country, it may well be justified. But let’s posit that this scenario does occur, and Article 5 is invoked. Two central problems emerge.
The first is the problem of attribution. Let’s say that China is identified as the culprit. How can we be certain that this is the case? In the information security sphere, it is known that identifying the source of an attack is extremely difficult: as stated by the Infosec Institute,
Attributing attacks to specific perpetrators is often difficult in cyberspace, where identities can be easily disguised. Consequently, if the attacker is misidentified, there is a great risk of harming innocent individuals or targeting the wrong place … Civilians may also inadvertently launch a cyber attack. Whereas this act will most probably not be without any legal consequences for them, they shouldn’t be a target of full-scale military attack.18Dimitar Kostadinov, “The Attribution Problem in Cyber Attacks,” Infosec Resources (Infosec Institute, November 28, 2021), https://resources.infosecinstitute.com/topic/attribution-problem-in-cyber-attacks/.
Further to this, as with terrorism, attacks can be conducted by non-state actors with or without underlying state support. In the case of a crippling attack on a government’s infrastructure of an unaffiliated non-state actor in country X, should NATO be allowed to intervene in retaliation to that country?
And if, as Infosec illustrates, an attack is misattributed, there is a very real risk of retaliatory action against one country if, say, country X masks an attack as being from country Y.
The great problem is that cyberwarfare is in its infancy, as are the systems to detect security breaches, so the problem of attribution “seems to introduce a new form of uncertainty about the very identity of the opponent [and] raises questions about how strategic bargaining works, and fails, in the digital domain,”19Jon R. Lindsay, “Tipping the Scales: The Attribution Problem and the Feasibility of Deterrence Against Cyberattack,” OUP Academic (Oxford University Press, November 28, 2015), https://academic.oup.com/cybersecurity/article/1/1/53/2354517?login=false. meaning that deterrence and military action can be ineffective or manipulated, on both sides.
To raise another theoretical possibility, in the fog of war made thicker by the anonymity and misdirection of cyberwarfare, Russia could stage a cyberattack on itself to justify military action against another country. This could be difficult or impossible to disprove without having access to Russian data, meaning that while the West might believe a priori that it has not occurred, its public and allied states might argue its legality according to new developing norms of kinetic and cyberwarfare that NATO is encoding in its new document.
The second crucial problem with kinetic responses to hybrid warfare is that of proportionality. This is another long-standing, fundamental principle of war which was also codified by Clauszewitz: extreme “conflict will not occur very often, for if the motivations are so powerful there must be a policy of proportionate magnitude.” That is, we obviously do not conduct nuclear war in retaliation for a political slight.
So when does a hybrid attack equate proportionally to military action? The Strategic Concept states that hybrid actions “could reach the level of armed attack.” How is this defined? What metrics of severity should be used?
An International Group of Experts (IGE) was convened to solve this problem and, while they “agreed that cyber operations alone may be sufficient to cross the armed attack threshold (…) after three years of discussion, the IGE could arrive at no black letter definition of a cyber use of force.”20Michael Schmitt, “International Law and Cyber Attacks: Sony v. North Korea,” Just Security, December 17, 2014, https://www.justsecurity.org/18460/international-humanitarian-law-cyber-attacks-sony-v-north-korea/. With no agreed upon definition, case-by-case assessments can be guided by political aims or contexts, justified by each party according to their interest.
And if, as we have seen, NATO then includes political, economic, energy, information – and other undefined methods – by both state and non-state actors in its list of actions triggering collective defence, we can see how far-reaching its policies are.
In a 2016 policy brief, the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs noted that “the concept [of hybrid warfare] was deduced from looking at the enemy, thus shifting its definition and meaning according to the subject of analysis,”21Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud and Patrick Cullen, “Policy Brief: What Is Hybrid Warfare?,” Norwegian Institute of International Affairs 1 (2016). and this means that under the Strategic Concept, war can be declared according to these blurry principles.
Collective defence was a straightforward mechanism aimed at deterring physical attacks, but NATO now reserves the right to counter by force a vast number of non-violent methods, tactics that states use for the explicit purpose of not entering into direct violence with each other.
If this were to create a trend, the ability of states to employ non-lethal means of action (sanctions, political blocs, etc.) lose their efficacy of tools and violence may replace them.
These developments should be worrying. NATO is preparing for large-scale military engagement by strengthening its operations across all sectors. Military spending will increase, and the language of political dialogue is becoming increasingly muted in favour of rhetoric clearly spelling out and defining enemies – the document names China overtly and, some might say, unnecessarily, by officially calling it a disruptor of the international rules-based order. This was an inflammatory move insisted upon by Biden, against the wishes of others.
In this optic, the primary way to deal with future adversaries will be through military or military defence options, and this will define the response and positioning of NATO for years to come: as stated earlier, Strategic Concepts are issued very rarely, and this signals an era which overtly departs from international political diplomacy and returns to a diplomacy of weapons, or the fear of them. NATO policy is shrinking the window for negotiations to be viable or effective and is increasing a distrust of the West in other regions of the world.
When crises erupt, there is often the tendency to see dialogue as an idealistic concept that must be set aside when critical security matters are on the table. This both a defeatist and concerning perspective. If we do not believe in negotiation and mediation in issues of critical importance, we should altogether set them aside as tools and, aside from some tokenistic concessions, this seems to be the logic of the 2022 Strategic Concept.
By believing that diplomacy is ineffective, that adversaries are irrational and always malicious – and should thus not be engaged with – and that military strength is the ultimate tool to ensure stability and protect our most important interests, we create the conditions for this to be true as mediation recedes into the distance. And how does this look to those outside the borders of the West?
Returning to Senior French diplomat Gérard Arnaud, he made thoughtful remarks at the end of his April 2022 interview by the International Crisis Group:
I am really, frankly, deeply convinced that after the collapse of the Soviet Union there was this unipolar moment of the triumph of the West, and I think we have been victims – and the Americans the first ones – victims of a sort of hubris, and also over-reliance on military instruments, the sort of militarisation of the foreign policy of the West. And, basically, we can conclude now that it has been nearly an unmitigated disaster.
Where is Libya today? Iraq? Afghanistan? And we could go also to the French intervention in the Sahel. So a lot of countries are basically reproaching us, what we have done. When you look at the conflict today you can say ‘Oh, 141 countries voted against Russia in the General Assembly of the UN,’ but you know that among the abstaining countries you have not only China but India, South Africa, Ethiopia, Senegal, Morocco.
The French Foreign Ministry is studying the press of Third-World countries and the press, contrary to what we may think, is not so much anti-Russian. In a lot of countries, of course they don’t like what Russia is doing but they like the fact that Russia is opposing the West. They like the fact that there is a sort of schadenfreude, our German friends would say (…) So I think it’s a much wider problem: the West has to see itself the way it’s seen by other countries, by the rest of the world – you know, the accusation of hypocrisy, double standard.“22European Security and France’s Election in the Shadow of Russia’s War in Ukraine,” Hold Your Fire!, podcast (International Crisis Group, April 23, 2022),
For citizens of NATO countries, for those who have been traditionally anti-war, for the left who has historically been critical of NATO’s militarism, those who have been against increases in military spending, and for analysts and academics who for years have been arguing that NATO expansion would be seen as aggressive, is this the best way forward?