30 June, 2022 Brief Update: Turkey Lifts Objections To NATO Membership For Sweden and Finland

Earlier this week, the prospect of Sweden and Finland becoming full North Atlantic Treaty Organization members cleared a major hurdle. Turkey lifted its veto of the two Scandinavian nations joining the alliance. The relationships between the governments of Sweden and Finland and NGOs deemed terrorist threats by Turkey threatened to derail the membership plans completely. Following weeks of debate and hours of negotiations, the three nations came to an agreement. Finland and Sweden will lift their arms embargoes on Turkey, strengthening laws against Kurdish militant activists that Ankara deems to be terrorists, and holding honest discussions over Turkish extradition requests for suspected Kurdish fighters.

Turkey won out. A statement released by President Erdogan’s office said as much. Now Erdogan is expected to push US President Joe Biden to push for a sale of F-16s to Turkey. Biden has stated the potential F-16 sale is separate from the NATO matter, but many experts believe the sale will go through for the sake of alliance unity in the aftermath of Erdogan accepting the new NATO applicants.

Ukraine Update 22 March, 2022

  • Ukrainian government and military officials claim the possibility of Belarussian involvement in the ground war is increasing by the day. On the heels of this, Western intelligence sources I’ve spoken with claim Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has been deferring deployment by 3-4 days every time Moscow has asked about it. The Belarussian military is made up largely of conscripts and there’s fear in Minsk that joining the war in Ukraine could lead to mass desertions or worse.
  • Russian warships in the Sea of Azov have started firing into Mariupol, a first in the city’s siege. The firing has been largely limited to naval gunfire support, but its not yet known if this is directed fire or indiscriminate rounds.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons if Russia perceives a threat to its very existence as a nation. “If there’s a threat to the very existence of our country, it can be used in accordance with this concept,” the spokesman said in response to a question of whether Russia’s use of nuclear weapons could be completely ruled out. Russian military doctrine, like that of its Soviet predecessor, considers the first-use of nuclear weapons if a conventional conflict is being lost. Originally, this doctrine was developed for a NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict in Europe during the Cold War. However, now it would apply to a conflict such as the one in Ukraine right now.
  • NATO has invited Volodymyr Zelenskiy to address the summit of NATO leaders on Thursday. It would be done via video format. Zelenskiy’s press secretary, Serhiy Nykyforov has stated he will take an ‘active role’ in the summit, but did not explain precisely what this means.

At 70, NATO Looks Ahead to an Uncertain Future

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The 2019 NATO Summit kicks off in London on 3 December, 2019. The alliance has a host of important discussion topics to choose from. Turkey’s pending veto of NATO defense plans for Poland and the Baltic States is likely the most urgent topic at the moment. The existing fears of US detachment from NATO through the remainder of the Trump presidency is another. It is only fair to point out, however, that those fears have thus far been unfounded. The United States has remained firmly committed to the alliance and engaged in it since 20 January, 2017.

Unfortunately, despite the position of the United States, the future of NATO is somewhat uncertain at the moment thanks in large part to its European members. Inside of NATO there is much debate about what direction the alliance needs to go in. The world in 2019 is markedly different from what it was in 1949 when NATO was founded. It was conceived as a defense against a threatening Soviet military force. The USSR is gone now, but the Russian Federation is now struggling to fill its predecessor’s shoes and challenge NATO militarily and politically. The Russian threat, which appeared so dangerous in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea has failed to materialize and it might never.

NATO has been seeking a mission beyond the boundaries of Europe for some time now, meeting limited success in Afghanistan, and even Syria. 21st Century missions outside of Europe have tested NATO unity and created bitter infighting among members though. With China’s rise, the Western Pacific could be ready for a NATO mission, but the same potential problems would arise.

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing NATO’s future at the moment is the European Union. Once heralded as the logical successor to NATO, the EU has endured a rocky last ten years or so. The unity once championed by its supporters no longer exists. Britain is leaving the EU, and there are firm indications the populations of other European nations want to follow suit. The supra-national body is rudderless right now, suffering from a lack of effective leadership at the top. In the eyes of some European politicians the question is no longer: will the EU implode? The question now is: when?

More importantly, what will be the role for NATO if the EU breaks up? Will it acrimoniously dissolve as its members choose sides, or step in to fill the void?

This week in London, NATO’s leaders need to seriously consider what the future of Europe, and the world will be like in the next decade, and then determine what the alliance’s place in that world will be.