• NATO’s Contribution to a Europe Whole and Free

    Posted by: Anders Fogh Rasmussen May 06, 2016

    Since the end of the Cold War, NATO allies have harvested the peace dividend and reduced their classical territorial defense. In this period, Western societies have grown accustomed to peace and prosperity, as they have prioritized schools over arms, trade over embargoes. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and its ambition to revive a Cold War conflict have been stark reminders that the West needs to protect its societies and values against tyranny and oppression.

    Those in the West should hold no illusions about Russia’s intentions and willingness to apply raw force. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s new doctrine preserves the right to intervene in other countries to protect what the Kremlin considers the interests of Russian-speaking communities. Countries bordering Russia can either choose to join Russia’s so-called sphere of interest or risk military occupation if they opt for stronger ties with NATO and the EU—as seen in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

    Russia is a country in social and economic decline, but since 2008 it has spent fortunes on modernizing its military and is now capable of turning a major military exercise into an offensive attack within a few hours. That is a situation that has created many concerns in Russia’s neighboring countries, not least in the Baltic states.

    It is regrettable that the West’s relationship with Russia has turned dangerous and competitive, but the phase of mourning the deterioration of NATO-Russia relations is over. NATO now has to face the new security environment imposed by Russia and focus more on deterrence and defense. The West cannot afford to stand idly by. Inaction would be interpreted by the Kremlin as an open invitation for Russia to continue its assertive policies toward NATO members and partners—in the Baltics, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe.

    Because of Russia’s assertive behavior, NATO is now preparing for a new reality on the ground. In recent years, the alliance has reached a turning point with regard to military spending. In Central Europe alone, spending was up 13 percent in 2015, and the United States has sent an important message with its decision to quadruple the U.S. defense budget for Europe in 2017. The UK, France, and Germany have all announced plans for modest spending increases in the coming years. In total this will help deter Russian aggression.

    But more should be done. The 2010 NATO Strategic Concept defined three core tasks: territorial defense, crisis management, and cooperative security. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has dramatically changed the security environment in Europe. That’s why NATO decided to create a spearhead force—a very rapid reaction unit that can be deployed within a few hours to defend any ally that is attacked. Furthermore, NATO decided to rotate military forces in its Eastern allies on a permanent basis. These were immediate and necessary steps, but they are unlikely to be sufficient.

    Perhaps the West should establish a more permanent presence in Eastern Europe, for as long as necessary. Rotating military forces is a step in the right direction, but one could question whether NATO’s military bases would be of greater use in the Eastern than the Western part of Europe.

    The key question is: Can the present NATO deployment prevent a Russian attack on allies that border Russia? This is uncertain, and it would take a huge number of resources to liberate the alliance’s Eastern European and Baltic members again after such an attack. As is always the case, prevention is less expensive and more effective than treatment.

    Some might argue that a greater NATO presence in Eastern Europe would violate the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, which states that “the Alliance will carry out its collective defense and other missions by ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration, and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces.”

    But the same opponents should recall that the act also says “in the current and foreseeable security environment,” and that environment has dramatically changed because of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. So the conclusion is clear: it wouldn’t violate the Founding Act to deploy—for as long as necessary—combat forces on the Eastern flank sufficient to deter any attack on NATO allies.

    Territorial defense is important but not sufficient if the West is to effectively counter Russia’s hybrid warfare. At their July 2016 summit in Warsaw, NATO allies should therefore revive some of the Cold War instruments to counter Russian propaganda—and apply new types of communication in a more sophisticated way.

    The Warsaw summit should also signal strong support for NATO partners bordering Russia and should stress that every nation is free to choose its own alliances. Any gradual normalization with Russia starts with Ukraine. A lack of Russian compliance with the Minsk agreement aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine would further destabilize the country and encourage Putin to pursue a similar strategy elsewhere.

    Russia will play a long game, and NATO allies and partners in cooperation with the EU and key international players should be ready to do the same thing. In this endeavor, NATO needs to use the full spectrum of tools at its disposal to create effective deterrence, in defense of a Europe whole and free.

    Anders Fogh Rasmussen is the founder and chairman of Rasmussen Global. He is a former prime minister of Denmark and a former secretary general of NATO.


  • Climate, Oil, and the Shifting Strategic Landscape

    Posted by: David Livingston Wednesday, May 04, 2016

    The Paris climate deal will help to usher in a “new normal” of low oil prices, bringing with it a number of strategic opportunities—and challenges—for the EU and its allies.

  • A World in Which Only Three Things Matter?

    Posted by: Jan Techau Tuesday, May 03, 2016 1

    The pace and complexity of international politics has become truly dizzying. Is it possible to boil the world’s priorities down to just three big issues?

  • Toward a European Defense Union

    Posted by: Roderich Kiesewetter Friday, April 29, 2016 4

    The creation of a common European army is a long way off, but it is a strategic necessity to start paving the way toward it now.

  • The Looming EU-Turkey Visa Drama

    Posted by: Marc Pierini Thursday, April 28, 2016 4

    A major deal between the EU and Turkey on refugee exchanges and visa liberalization is in imminent danger of coming apart at the seams.

  • That Enduring German-Russian Complex

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Thursday, April 28, 2016 2

    Two important surveys show that half of Germans no longer believe Russia belongs to Europe and that almost a majority sees Russia as a threat.

  • Judy Asks: Will TTIP Happen?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, April 27, 2016 5

    A selection of experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • Honoring Turkey’s Voice of the Voiceless

    Posted by: Thomas de Waal Tuesday, April 26, 2016 3

    A new English-language biography offers a fresh insight into the inspiring life of the assassinated Armenian-Turkish editor and civil rights leader Hrant Dink.

  • Obama’s Push for a New Transatlantic Relationship

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, April 25, 2016 1

    A wide-ranging trade deal between the United States and Europe is needed to revive, if not rescue, the West’s liberal order.

  • A Northern Perspective on Europe’s Security Challenges

    Posted by: Børge Brende Friday, April 22, 2016

    Unity and cooperation based on common norms are Europe’s most important assets when it comes to reducing vulnerabilities and enhancing resilience to security threats.

  • Time for an EU Counterterrorism Agency

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Thursday, April 21, 2016 4

    Recent terrorist attacks in Belgium and France should finally push EU states to establish a counterterrorism agency with real clout and real cooperation from all EU governments.

  • Judy Asks: Will the Eurozone Crisis Come Back?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, April 20, 2016 1

    A selection of experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • The Fundamental Flaws of Brexit Backers

    Posted by: Jan Techau Tuesday, April 19, 2016 5

    Campaigners who want Britain to leave the European Union misunderstand the basic mechanics of globalization.

  • Georgia—Waiting for NATO, Waiting for the EU

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, April 18, 2016 3

    Georgia’s defense minister spoke candidly about her expectations for the July 2016 NATO summit and about the security vacuum in Eastern Europe.

  • The Refugee Policy the EU Needs Today

    Posted by: Gerald Knaus Friday, April 15, 2016 2

    The current priorities in EU asylum policy are all about implementing the March 2016 refugee deal with Turkey in good faith.

  • Erdoğan Brings His Media Policies to Germany

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Thursday, April 14, 2016 3

    The EU’s refugee agreement with Turkey that Angela Merkel helped secure is becoming embroiled in a struggle between Berlin and Ankara over media freedom in Germany.

  • Judy Asks: Is It Possible to Reform France?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, April 13, 2016 2

    A selection of experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • How to Fill Ukraine’s Security Vacuum

    Posted by: Andreas Umland Tuesday, April 12, 2016 5

    The most feasible way to solve Ukraine’s mounting security challenge is to establish an alliance of nations stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

  • Ukraine From Revolution of Dignity to Government of Shame

    Posted by: Mikhail Minakov Monday, April 11, 2016

    The resignation of Ukraine’s prime minister will make constitutional reform in the country impossible and will delay reforms in many other areas.

  • Trump, NATO, and Europe’s Security

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, April 11, 2016 3

    Donald Trump’s criticism of Europeans’ unwillingness to invest in NATO is misplaced. What he should have questioned is Europe’s reluctance to take its own security seriously.


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Judy Dempsey’s Strategic Europe offers insightful analysis, fresh commentary, and concrete policy recommendations from some of Europe’s keenest international affairs observers.

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