NATO, Russia and European security

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“Countries in Europe’s east and north worry that Moscow is blundering into a confrontation with NATO” and they have good reason to be concerned, argues Tomas Valasek, director of foreign policy and defence at the Centre for European Reform (CER), in a November paper.

“Allies in Europe’s north and east have solid reasons to want added protection,” Valasek claims. 

“As long as the North and Central Europeans fear Moscow, they will not support much-needed efforts to bring Russia into a more constructive relationship with NATO,” the author notes. 

“If countries on Russia’s borders do not feel protected, they will also increasingly look for bilateral deals with the US to ensure their security. This threatens to divide NATO and weaken the security of the rest of the alliance,” Valasek writes. 

“Fears of Russia also indirectly threaten NATO’s operations in Afghanistan. The less support the North and Central Europeans feel from the rest of the allies over Russia, the more difficult it becomes to explain to their publics why they should keep forces in Afghanistan,” he claims. 

“NATO should put in place a two-track approach to Russia: it should adopt ‘reassurance’ measures such as exercises to rehearse the defence of Central Europe, which would lessen the allies’ sense of insecurity, and at the same time, NATO needs to re-engage Russia: listen to its ideas on European security architecture and look for other ways to reduce its sense of isolation,” the author writes. 

“Those two tracks are closely related: allies concerned about Russia will never secure the support of all NATO governments for new defensive measures unless they are willing to support attempts to reduce tensions with Russia through co-operation,” Valasek concludes. 

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