In the second decade of the third millennium, the expansion of NATO to the East became one of the decisive challenges in the relations between Russia and the West. One of the reasons for announcing the special operations of the Russian army in Ukraine was to prevent this neighboring country from joining the Euro-Atlantic structures. However, the crisis in Ukraine has caused an unexpected request for the membership of two other Nordic countries (Finland and Norway) in the North Atlantic Treaty, which was completed in the recent Vilnius summit.
While more than 16 months have passed since the conflict in Ukraine, the meeting of the heads of the North Atlantic Treaty was held with the presence of Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, on December 21 and 22, 2022, and the leaders of Finland and Sweden also participated in this meeting as countries invited to join this organization. At the Vilnius summit, in addition to the Russia-Ukraine war, the implementation of NATO's new strategic concepts, energy security, protection of critical infrastructures, and NATO's efforts to build capacity and strengthen flexibility in the Republic of Moldova, Georgia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and its various dimensions were discussed, and at the end, a statement was issued that asked our country to stop the so-called support for Russia in the war with Ukraine.
Governments are always interested in their defense and security, because the international strategic security environment is constantly changing as a result of the complexity of interaction and interdependence of social, economic, political, military, demographic and environmental phenomena and processes over the world. Therefore, by using the human, material, financial and informational resources available to each of them collectively, the governments adopt a common security and defense policy, in which the European Union is an example, an international political-economic organization among governments that has its own security and defense policy.
In this situation, it is well known that the war between Russia and Ukraine has contributed to the cohesion of NATO, and the Eastern wing of NATO considers its security more than ever dependent on the role of the United States centered on NATO. Moreover, they regard the Vilnius summit as a new opportunity to evaluate the latest situation in Ukraine and the need to strengthen the organization's forces in the Black Sea region. Hence, the leaders of the NATO countries in this summit emphasized the unity of the alliance countries to adapt the coalition to the new realities as defined in the new strategic concept approved in Madrid, in which Russia is the most important threat to Euro-Atlantic security, and once again paid special attention to the political, security and strategic significance of the Black Sea.
It appears that Russia's special operation in Ukraine has aided the complex goals of America in Europe in the dimensions of expanding NATO to the East, the greater defense and security dependence of the green continent on America, and especially the strengthening of militarism with the development of Western military industries. Therefore, the war in Ukraine will continue with the full support of the West to Kiev until the expansionist goals of the Washington-London axis are established. Of course, the inability of NATO leaders to provide a specific timetable for Ukraine's accession to this alliance surprised Zelenskyy the most.
NATO leaders stated in a carefully worded summit statement that we would be in a position to invite Ukraine to join the coalition if allies agree and conditions are met. NATO members were satisfied with the statement, which was the lowest common denominator found by the 31 member states, as the United States and Germany wanted to avoid any responsibility or false expectations, and the only good news for Ukraine was that NATO leaders agreed to remove the annexation action plan from Ukraine's path.
In a speech in the center of Vilnius on Tuesday night, Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his disappointment to the audience that Ukraine was not invited to join NATO and asked: "Is this wish too much? Today, with faith in the decision, with faith in partners, with faith in a strong NATO, a NATO that does not hesitate, does not waste time, and does not look at any aggressors."
The Ukrainian president's shift in tone came after some of Kyiv's closest allies suggested his public criticism had gone too far. Zelenskyy, however, suppressed his anger at the lack of a timetable for accession, saying the results of the summit were generally good and welcomed the variety of announcements about new military aid from Western allies. One such announcement came from the G7, which announced that it was trying to formalize its continued support for Ukraine. And security commitments to Ukraine are part of a long-term strategy to support Kyiv.
It is well known that after the Vilnius meeting, the challenge will be to take continuous steps to fulfill the promises. In particular, NATO's Eastern bloc members want to avoid making the same mistake they made after the Bucharest summit in 2008, when it was first announced that Ukraine would join NATO and not followed through on. However, there is a fear that at the moment when the negotiations with Russia begin and NATO is posed as reconciliation in negotiations between Russia, Ukraine and the West, a new follow-up will not take place.
Of course, Jens Stoltenberg- Secretary General of NATO reiterated that negotiations to resolve the conflict in Ukraine will take place only when Ukraine is ready to negotiate, and as I have said many times - nothing occurs about this crisis without Ukraine.
In any case, Russia's special operation in Ukraine should be considered the end of the dream of European defense and security autonomy, which decisively changed the scales among European leaders in favor of the pro-Atlantic faction. Today, the eastern wing of NATO has forced at least the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and even the completely neutral Nordic countries to strengthen their interaction with NATO, with America leading the way. The emphasis and serious tendency of these countries to modernize military equipment with American equipment is tangible, and Moscow's action in Ukraine was the best option to throw Europe into America's lap in terms of defense and security, and saved NATO from brain death.
The evaluation in this field mostly is based on how the Ukraine crisis ends and Russia's return to reviving and rebuilding relations with the West and Europe.
Ali Beman Iqbali Zarch, Senior expert in Eurasia
(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)