By Simon Pompé
Yesterday, the NATO had agreed to tackle the Arctic security issues first over the problems of North Korea. This just shows how urgent Chinese and especially Russian military maneuvers are to the North Atlantic Council.
The first working session crystallized what the main issues are.
The Russian presence in the Arctic has proven to be the main cause for disagreement. However, while the majority of states seem to agree that there needs to be a combination of military deterrence efforts and diplomacy, states disagree on the intensity with which Russia should be responded to.
The Baltic states, headed by Estonia, unsurprisingly seem to favor a heftier hand handling Putin’s fleet. But other Eastern European countries, aware of Russia’s proximity, are mindful of their reliance on Russian energy supply. They find a partner in Germany, who is in a similar position.
Germany advocates that Russia must not be brandished as an enemy per sé. It advocates efforts to strengthen diplomacy. But also recognizes, and stresses, that military deterrence must be adequate to the threat as well. This is delicate, given the fact Germany is not open to the debate on the 2%-contribution quota.
The US are confident that NATO will follow their interest suit. They stress the importance of the Arctic countries’ interests and have criticised the lack of their recognition thus far. “Of utmost importance” is a strengthened military – the reason why the US have just revived their arctic naval fleet. Norway has agreed enthusiastically, adopting a language that used ‘war’, ‘battles’ and implied an arms race. Clearly, the stakes are high.
Sanctions are explicitly on the table, too. Estonia, the US and the UK seem to be quite open towards this question but have not committed to anything yet. Eastern Europeans, like Greece and Romania, have protested this move as they point out that they cannot risk their energy supply, nor provoke aggression along the Russian borders.
Sanctions – too hard or not? Dialogue – how benevolent will NATO be? Arctic countries – how will they ensure their interests? Eastern Europe – how will they secure their reliance on Russia? It will be fun to see what direction will end up going.