Ahead of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) July 8–9 summit in Warsaw, commentators widely expect the Alliance to adopt a range of measures to boost security on its northeastern and eastern flanks.
Moscow, however, notes a number of “signals,” such as the movement of United States aircraft carriers into the Mediterranean Sea or the activation of the missile defense base in Romania, as sending messages to Moscow in the context of rising NATO-Russia tensions.
Yet, such moves also highlight NATO’s concern about sub-state threats from its south. Nonetheless, Moscow sees the Warsaw Summit as continuing a pattern of reinforcing the Alliance against Russia that was cemented in Wales in 2014.
Meanwhile, there is little doubt that in the aftermath of the Warsaw Summit, Moscow could choose to generate an upsurge in violence in Donbas; though, for now, the Kremlin seems content with a simmering conflict, and at least in recent months (see EDM, June 13), has generally been careful to avoid conflict escalation (Izvestia, June 10; Novaya Gazeta, June 6; RIA Novosti, May 22).
The precise contours of Russia’s response to the Warsaw Summit are open to question. However, Russian commentators note that the sources of friction with NATO go well beyond Ukraine.
According to the latest iteration (December 2015) of Russia’s National Security Strategy, the principal threat to Russian security stems from the danger of color revolutions.
NATO’s public diplomacy activities are considered tied to Alliance information strategy. These technologies, according to Russian experts and policy makers, can be harnessed to prepare color revolution and organize a coup d’état.
Consequently, Moscow sees NATO and the US actively engaging in information warfare against Russia. Therefore, the Kremlin is likely to focus on strengthening national and collective defense (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, February 26).
Much of the speculation concerning the nature of Moscow’s interpretation of the upcoming NATO summit and how Russia might react follows patterns visible over missile defense. Any strategic response is heavily tied to Russian military capability; this, in turn, raises questions as to the extent exaggerations of Russian military capability are taking root within Alliance planning.
Significant scope exists for misinterpretation, especially concerning advances made in Russia’s military modernization, or the extent to which it is achieving force integration or successfully adopting command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, June 10).
Despite the rhetoric from Moscow, its political appetite remains for limited cooperation with NATO, recognizing that Alliance members are divided over Russia, while the organization faces reorientation from “out of area operations” to return to a collective defense focus.
These challenges are internal to the Alliance, and Moscow perceives lack of unity as an impediment to devising a genuinely challenging policy toward Russia. Into this policy maelstrom fall variables such as the changing international security environment, the extent to which European unity over sanctions against Russia can hold indefinitely, or the implications for US-Russia relations of the presidential election in the United States (Regnum, December 4, 2015).
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