Russia, Brexit loom over Warsaw NATO summit

Polish police officer stands guard in front of the PGE National Stadium, the venue of the NATO Summit. [Reuters]

NATO leaders meet today (8 July) for a landmark summit in Warsaw to send an uncompromising message to a resurgent Russia while trying to contain the fallout from Britain’s dramatic vote to quit the European Union.

Britain’s divorce from the EU is set to dominate talks between US President Barack Obama, attending his last NATO summit, and EU President Donald Tusk and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

Obama schedules his last trip to Europe

US President Barack Obama will visit Poland and Spain in July, in what will likely be his final presidential trip to Europe, a continent that has often presented more problems than opportunities during his term.

The uncertainty over a key nuclear-armed ally comes as NATO prepares to green-light its biggest revamp since the end of the Cold War in the face of fears sparked by Russia’s 2014 intervention in Ukraine.

A NATO summit surrounded by Warsaw's Communist ghosts

Leaders meeting in Warsaw for a NATO summit this week will be surrounded by the ghosts of Communism as they endorse the defence alliance’s biggest military buildup since the Cold War in response to a newly resurgent Russia.

Security is tight across the Polish capital with police locking down key roads around the venue in Poland’s national stadium and helicopters flying overhead.

Charles Kupchan, who heads the Europe section in the US National Security Council, said the EU meeting would also “be an early opportunity for the president to discuss the implications of the British referendum”.

With Britain being the largest EU military contributor to NATO, Obama will “weigh in on his views about how best to handle the prospect of (a Brexit) and what its economic and geopolitical implications might be”, he said.

Obama will also meet British Prime Minister David Cameron at the summit, which gathers all 28 NATO members in Warsaw, where the Soviet Union put together the Warsaw Pact in 1955 to counter its adversary NATO.

US NATO ambassador Douglas Lute said the summit “comes at a real demarcation point, or an inflection point, in the now almost 70-year history of the Alliance”.

NATO finalises military build-up to counter Russia

NATO foreign ministers began finalising the alliance’s biggest military build-up since the end of the Cold War yesterday (19 May), in order to counter what they see as a more aggressive and unpredictable Russia.

From Warsaw Pact to NATO

The “peace dividend” years after the fall of the Berlin Wall now seems a distant memory with the two sides at loggerheads again after Russia’s shock 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The summit centrepiece is a “Readiness Action Plan” to bolster NATO resources and readiness in the face of a Russia under President Vladimir Putin that the allies now see as more aggressive and dangerously unpredictable.

NATO to send troops to deter Russia, some allies want more

Britain, Germany and the United States advanced plans on Tuesday (14 June) to spearhead a new NATO force on Russia’s border from next year, but some Eastern European allies said the alliance’s effort must go further to deter Moscow.

NATO leaders will approve rotating four battalions in Eastern Europe- in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, up to 4,000 troops in all – to act as a tripwire against any fresh Russian adventurism.

Britain announced Friday it would contribute 650 troops to Estonia and Poland.

The plan also includes a pledge to spend two percent of annual economic output on defence, ending years of cuts, and the creation of a 5,000-strong “Spearhead” force ready to deploy within days.

NATO urged to ward off 'serious' Russian challenge

NATO’s parliamentary assembly on Monday (30 May) called on members of the Western military alliance to be ready to respond to the “potential threat” of Russian aggression against them.

Outgoing British Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced his intention to resign after losing a referendum last month on EU membership, will seek to underline active commitment to Western security at his final NATO summit, to offset likely concerns about Europe’s biggest military spender leaving the EU.

Will Brexit make the EU more pro-Russian?

Asked if Brexit will make the EU more pro-Russian, international experts with different backgrounds approached by EURACTIV were not unanimous in their assessment. However all said that without the UK, the EU will be weaker internationally.

“The backdrop to this summit is the historic decision taken last month to leave the European Union but this summit will be an opportunity for us to demonstrate the enormous contribution that Britain makes to Europe’s and NATO’s security and that we will continue to do so even outside of the EU,” a British government official said.

EU-NATO cooperation

Ironically, the first agenda item at the summit is the signing of an agreement on deeper military and security cooperation between the EU and NATO. The US-led alliance is expected to announce its support for the EU’s Mediterranean interdiction operation.

US backs NATO blockade of Libya to close refugee route

The United States yesterday (25 April) offered its backing for a NATO naval operation off Libya in support of a controversial Italian plan to close the Western Mediterranean refugee route to Europe.

NATO is also supporting EU efforts to choke off a flood of refugees and migrants from Turkey into Greece in conjunction with an EU-Turkey deal to curb migration in return for benefits for Ankara.

NATO mission criticised for sending refugees back to Turkey

NATO’s new mission against illegal people-smugglers in the Mediterranean has drawn criticism from human rights activists, who have highlighted that EU border protection agency Frontex follows different principles when it comes to rescuing people. EURACTIV Germany reports.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday (7 July) that Russia’s actions in Ukraine had eroded mutual trust, adding that the summit comes “in a phase in which the security situation has significantly changed in Europe”.

But she stressed the need for “deterrence and dialogue” with Moscow, echoing the tone from the White House on how to handle Putin’s Russia.

Merkel offers olive branch to Russia ahead of NATO summit

German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered Moscow her “outstretched hand for dialogue” today (7 July), a day before NATO leaders meet in Warsaw to cement a new deterrent against what they see as an emboldened Russia.

The Ukraine crisis proved a rude wake-up for NATO and the summit is meant to convey a clear message to Moscow that it will not be caught napping again.

Russia, missile defence

Russia bitterly opposes NATO’s expansion into its Soviet-era satellites, which it sees as a threat to its own security.

However, Moscow reserves its direst warnings for the Ballistic Missile Defence system the United States is building and which the summit is due to declare has reached an initial operating level.

US activates Romanian missile defence site, angering Russia

The United States switched on an $800 million missile shield in Romania yesterday (12 May) that it sees as vital to defend itself and Europe from so-called rogue states but the Kremlin says is aimed at blunting its own nuclear arsenal.

Washington says the shield is designed to counter missile threats from Iran or the Middle East but Russia says that once the system becomes fully operational in 2018, it will undercut its strategic nuclear deterrent.

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg announced this week that the alliance would hold fresh formal talks with Russia just after the summit.

Russia’s reading of the talks in the NATO-Russia Council was uncompromising, with Russian ambassador to NATO Alexander Grushko saying the “focus will be on the military security in the wake of decisions to be taken at the NATO summit in Warsaw”.

The NATO leaders will discuss the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan where Obama on Wednesday said he would keep 8,400 troops into next year to tackle the Taliban, 15 years after allied forces invaded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

NATO approves keeping expanded Afghan basing, in nod to long fight

The NATO alliance agreed yesterday (15 June) to hold onto its broad geographic layout of bases in Afghanistan, a move that could make it easier for the United States to keep more troops there as Kabul struggles with a resurgent Taliban threat.

The summit meanwhile will also approve a NATO-EU cooperation accord, laying out how the alliance – which includes 22 of the 28 EU member states – can work with the EU.

The EU has an embryonic security policy but mass migration and new terrorist threats emerging from failing states in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond are driving the 28-nation bloc to up its game.

Polish defence minister: 'Helpless requests' don’t work with Russia

“Bon voyage” to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Russia. He should know that Moscow only understands equal partnerships from a position of strength, Polish Minister of National Defence Antoni Macierewicz told in an exclusive interview.

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