NATO’s reputation as the guardian of peace on Earth is in tatters these days. Once avowedly an alliance of North America and Western Europe to fight the communist hordes of Eurasia, it morphed into something quite difference with the collapse of the socialist bloc two decades ago. It now pretends to unite all of Europe to fight the Muslim hordes wherever they be found and, of course the Russians, just for good measure …
… The EU took the credit for bringing the two sides together and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came to the signing ceremony, but it is far from clear which “side” will benefit most. Will NATO-member Turkey help usher CSTO-member Armenia into the Western fold? Or will Russia-friendly Armenia draw Turkey the other way? Will the EU’s spurning of Muslim Turkey and its desire to snag tiny Christian Armenia widen the growing rift between an increasingly independent and pro-Muslim Turkey and the West? Will Azerbaijan join NATO in a huff? Will Turkey dust off its Ottoman past and reinvent itself as a major regional power? The situation is far too complex to make any firm predictions.
Russia’s staunch defence of Iran in the face of Western threats and its increasing assertiveness in the face of NATO expansion are widely admired in the Muslim world, Turkey being no exception. Last year Moscow embraced Ankara ’s proposal for a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform as a mechanism for political dialogue, stability and crisis management in a region covering Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. Russia noted Turkey’s refusal to assist the US in invading Iraq or to allow a US warship into the Black Sea following Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia last year. Early this year, a Turkish mission visited Abkhazia.
During a state visit to Moscow by Turkish President Abdullah Gul in February, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev made a straightforward proposal to set up a Russian-Turkish axis. “The August crisis showed that we can deal with problems in the region by ourselves, without the involvement of outside powers,” Medvedev told a joint press conference. The Turkish leader effectively agreed, pointing to “substantially close or identical positions” the two countries took on “an absolute majority” of international issues.
But world politics is not all win-lose. Both Russia and the US, as members of the Minsk Group founded by the OECD to resolve the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, want to see that stand-off resolved peacefully. Making it happen would be a feather in US President and Nobel laureate Barack Obama’s cap and a concrete step in improving relations with Russia. A truly win-win situation.
As NATO continues to flounder and power continues to shift away from the US towards BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and the SCO, issues like the above will be shaped by a complex of forces, and their outcomes will not be enforced by any one diktat. Just as NATO’s Cold War nemesis unravelled with unpredicted speed, the seemingly immutable Western military alliance could find itself paralysed not only by its infamous bureaucracy, but by countervailing forces on the ascendant outside of its orbit.
All the Kosovos, Georgias and Azerbaijans, all the GCC+2s, Dialogues and Partnerships in the world won’t be able to stave off the inevitable. Indeed, they can only act as a millstone, pulling NATO deeper into the quagmire it itself created during its short post-Cold War life as world policeman. (full text).