Why Russia-NATO military confrontation escalates?

China Military
Zhang Tao

BEIJING, Jan. 13 (ChinaMil) -- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) recently held in countries around Russia multiple joint military exercises, which were of much larger scale than previous years, such as Lithuania and Poland, demonstrating its resolve of confrontation to Russia.

In response, Russia significantly intensified its military deployments in Kaliningrad and Crimea and along the Russia-Ukraine border and countered NATO's military provocations with exercises. The historical and realistic reasons for the escalation of Russia-NATO military confrontation are deeply intertwined.

The structural conflict between the US and Russia remains a decisive factor.

As the legacy of the Cold War, NATO was designed and established to curb the former Soviet Union. It began to "expand eastward" massively in 1996 for the simple and clear purpose of isolating Russia and depriving it of the strategic foundation for a comeback.

NATO's eastward expansion, especially the Kosovo War and the "color revolution" later that happened in such countries as Georgia and Ukraine, made Russia realize that the West doesn't wish to see it strong again, so it abandoned the unrealistic hopes for the West that it still had when the Cold War just ended.

With the change of international forces today, Russia has made a momentous comeback under the leadership of its "tough" president Putin, took resolute steps in the Russia-Georgia war, Ukraine crisis and Syrian war, and threatened America's leadership in Europe and the Middle East.

The strategic opposition between the two countries forced the US to attach more importance to NATO and pressure Russia with force, trying to secure its domination in Europe and the Middle East.

NATO's eastward expansion has its percussions.

2017 is the 20th anniversary of the official beginning of NATO's eastward expansion, and NATO has launched four rounds of expansion during 20 years.

The first round mainly concerned East Europe, the second round shifted to the Baltic Sea region while taking in East European countries at the same time, the third round focused on countries in the Balkan region, and the fourth round eyed the Commonwealth of the Independent States (CIS) while taking in Balkan countries too.

The continuous expansion squeezed the strategic space for Russia and also saw enormous changes in the composition of NATO members. A lot of "new European" countries that had "feud" with Russia, including Poland and the three Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), joined NATO and made its aggressions toward Russia, especially military development, highly hostile and vigilant.

After the Russia-Georgia war and Crimea crisis, those countries had more fear for Russia. It's worth noting that Finland and Sweden, which are traditionally neutral, also began to seek NATO's protection. If the "Russia-phobia" spreads without check, the "Berlin wall" that was overthrown after the Cold War may reappear in the hinterland of East Europe.

The EU and NATO jointly deal with a survival crisis.

Britain's referendum for Brexit and the rise of right-wing populist parties in Europe that call for exiting the EU put Europe in face of an unprecedented wave of "re-nationalization", and EU is looking at an increasingly severe survival crisis.

Against the background of mounting debt risks and weak economic recovery, whether European countries will successfully cope with the double impacts from traditional security threats like Russia and untraditional ones like terrorism will be a touchstone to test the European integration.

Meanwhile, NATO has met countless difficulties in the transformation that it started soon after the Cold War ended. Its internal organization is increasingly looser and there was a "de-militarization" trend after the financial crisis.

Therefore, containing Russia became the common choice of both EU and NATO as it gave European countries a reason for unity and gave NATO members a common rival. As a result, NATO's military forces and EU's civilian forces can complement each other and jointly deal with threats from Russia.

The article is written in Chinese by Fang Ming from the PLA Academy of Military Sciences.


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