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Turmoil in Ukraine helps NATO find much-needed enemy image

September 03, 2014, 17:15 UTC+3 Polishchuk Oksana
© EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

MOSCOW, September 03. /ITAR-TASS/. Until just recently NATO’s future had looked bleak, with no bugbears, real or illusionary, to go around. The crisis in Ukraine has come in handy for the alliance. The Ukrainian turmoil and an “aggressive” Russian policy towards a sovereign state gave NATO’s functionaries a chance to loudly declare the North Atlantic Alliance again as a safeguard of peace and of all those who feel scared by Russia’s “imperial” ambitions.

There has been much talk of late to the effect NATO needs new military bases - preferably as close to the Russian border as possible. Naturally, the three Baltic states claim they need NATO’s bases in their territory more than any other state. Officials in Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn never stop arguing that they are number one target of Russia’s malicious designs. One has the impression that those in power in the three capitals have never taken the trouble of leafing through NATO’s official documents, which unequivocally establish guarantees of military assistance to any member from all other countries of the alliance.

But this may seem so only at first sight. The Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian politicians, who keep telling their peoples scare stories about a Russian threat and demanding the emergence of NATO’s military bases in their countries, thereby inconspicuously distract attention from domestic economic problems. Latvian nationalists have been most active in campaigning for the presence of NATO bases in their territory. Parliamentary elections in that country are due soon, in October. Naturally, in their attempts to score extra political points the nationalists have been discussing in full seriousness at what speed Russian armour may be rolling into Latvia and how fast NATO’s forces will come to the rescue.

According to their estimates, the Latvian army should be able to hold firm on its own for no less than five days, which is literally impossible. Hence the conclusion: there must be a NATO base close at hand.

But the Baltic countries by no means set the tune in NATO. Decisions are made in London, Berlin and Washington. In the meantime, politicians there, however strong their statements about a Russian aggression, are in no hurry to move NATO’s bases closer to the Russian border. There is an effective agreement between Russia and NATO on that score. Judging by what Washington and Berlin have been saying officially, the West is in no mood to abuse that agreement.

In other words, calls by the Baltic countries and Poland, traditionally aggressive towards Russia, fell on the indifferent ears of their NATO partners. Also, it is obvious that the very same United States and Germany will be asked to finance creation of such bases, but in the context of the already effective sanctions in relations with Russia they may not feel enthusiastic about that at all.

In other words, the “big brothers” in NATO promised the newcomers to conduct non-stop military exercises in the Baltic region with the aim to keep Russia aware of their military might. Rotating contingents of US troops will be deployed in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. However, judging by official statements in Washington and Berlin, no forward deployment forces or bases of NATO are to emerge in the Baltic countries.

At the same time, in the run-up to the NATO summit in Wales, due on September 4-5 the Western press has carried articles quoting “sources” as saying that five NATO bases will emerge in Eastern Europe after all in defiance of agreements with Russia. They may be stationed in the three Baltic countries, and also in Romania and Poland. Moreover, London within days plans to declare creation of a new allied expeditionary rapid reaction force. Alongside British troops it will incorporate officers and men from another six member-countries of the alliance - Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Norway and the Netherlands. According to the Financial Times, creation of this new force, including no less than 10,000 troops, will be announced by British Prime Minister David Cameron at the summit in Wales. This move will be presented as a response to Russia’s stance over Ukraine.

Whatever the case, from NATO’s summit in Wales Russia will hear the harshest and most aggressive rhetoric reminiscent of the Cold War years, while Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko will be the most welcome guest.

As far as bases are concerned, the region will most probably become a scene of permanent exercises, while US and other countries’ troops will be deployed in the Baltic countries and also in Poland and Romania on partial rotation terms. This will enable the leading western countries to avoid spending on permanent military infrastructures and at the same time to formally stand by the agreements with Moscow.

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