Five years ago, on May 21, 2012, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) concluded its summit in Chicago, which began on May 20.
Analyst Vladimir Socor noted how with the exception of Georgia, NATO basically ignored its own immediate Eastern neighborhood, including countries bordering on NATO and the European Union, which faced a deepened security vacuum amid Russian re-expansion.
Areas of protracted conflict with Russia included Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and now Ukraine. The aforementioned conflicts resulted in territorial occupations, ethnic cleansing, massive Russian military bases, and failing tests of NATO’s open-door and partnership policies.
“Benign neglect,” Mr. Socor said, “tends to grow deeper and even becomes institutionalized with the passage of time. In this region, it takes the form of conceding primary authority on peacekeeping and conflict-mediation to Russia, which acts within institutional formats that constrain the West and exclude NATO outright.”
In Moldova it was the 5+2 format, in Georgia it was the Geneva format, the “Minsk Group” in Armenia-Azerbaijan, and in the case of Ukraine, the Normandy format, with each one being rather ineffective at persuading Russia to change course, Mr. Socor noted. Armenia and Russia declined to attend the summit in Chicago.
The NATO summit issued a communiqué that called on “all parties to engage constructively and with reinforced political will in peaceful conflict resolution.” The statement expressed concern, but not much more than at the declaratory level, and Mr. Socor added, the summit confirmed that NATO lacked the collective inclination to provide a security solution for its Eastern neighborhood.
However, the Chicago Summit Declaration, dated May 20, endorsed the “territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty” of Azerbaijan, Moldova and Georgia.
Ukraine’s role at the summit, as a non-bloc country under President Viktor Yanukovych, was of a business nature for Ukraine to lease Soviet-era heavy-duty transport aircraft for NATO’s announced withdrawal from Afghanistan as well as repair services for Soviet-made military equipment for the Afghan army.
During the summit, the presidents of Lithuania and Romania expressed concern over arms sales by Western European countries to Russia. Presidents Dalia Grybauskaite and Traian Basescu noted that such arms sales could generate security risks to NATO allies and partners and that regulations should be put in place to prohibit arms sales by NATO member countries to non-members, especially Russia.
France had planned to sell Mistral-class amphibious warships to Russia (the sale was scrapped after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), while Italy had delivered samples of Centauro tanks and Iveco armored vehicles to Russia for testing and possible procurement.
Since the NATO Summit in Warsaw in 2016 and the ongoing war in Ukraine’s Donbas region, NATO has taken a more assertive stance against the threat of Russian re-expansionism with the stationing of troops and military hardware in Poland and the Baltics, in addition to joint military training and exercises. NATO is hosting a summit this year in Brussels on May 24-25. Montenegro’s accession to NATO was approved by the United States this year, and the ratification process by the other member-states is scheduled to be completed by June 5.
Source: “Chicago summit: NATO remains AWOL from Europe’s East,” by Vladimir Socor (Eurasia Daily Monitor), The Ukrainian Weekly, June 3, 2012.