On Tuesday, 11 July, the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius, hosted a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) attended by the leaders of the alliance, headed by US President Joseph Biden whose trip outside the US and personal presence reflects a great significance in the conventions of US national security.
This summit was held to discuss several issues, the most prominent of which are supporting Ukraine, establishing defence mechanisms against Russia and ratifying Sweden’s accession to the alliance. This occured amid what the White House referred to as “geopolitical and security competition.” The importance of these issues was highlighted in the summit statement, which emphasised the alliance leaders’ agreement that Ukraine’s future lies within the alliance and their commitment to closely work to confront Russian threats and challenges.
This summit came amidst escalating tensions between Ukraine and Western countries on one hand and Russia on the other, which shelled the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv shortly before the alliance leaders’ meeting, sending a message that warned against the Western military support that Ukraine will receive at this summit and its request to join the alliance. It also included a warning on enhancing the alliance’s defences in Eastern Europe on Russia’s borders in the Baltic region where the summit is being held. This region includes countries that are deeply engaged in the US agenda on Russia. The Kremlin warned that Ukraine’s accession to NATO would have severe consequences for the security structure in Europe.
In the context of exposing the intentions of the US and its insistence on deepening the military conflict and destabilising the security of the European continent, Russian diplomat Konstantin Gavrilov stated that the US announcement of plans to increase arms supplies to Ukraine indicated its lack of interest in reaching a diplomatic solution to the crisis. He added that Europe would be the first to face “catastrophic consequences” in the event of an escalation in the war. Thus, the US imposition on the summit agenda to continue supporting Ukraine and the White House’s announcement that NATO would eventually offer a path for Ukraine’s accession without specifying a “timeline”, which France and Germany have previously hindered, as well as Biden’s pressure on Erdogan to agree to Sweden’s inclusion in the alliance to activate negotiations for Turkey’s accession to the European Union, and the position of the Ukrainian President calling for “Ukraine’s deserving membership in the alliance who stated, “Not now, as we are in a state of war, but we need a clear signal, and this signal is necessary now,”.
All of this indicates the importance and priority of subjugating Europe to the American security agenda, draining Russia, provoking Putin, isolating him and making submission to America his only choice. This means prolonging the duration of the war or transforming it into a frozen crisis when necessary and in the interest of those involved, especially now that Europe has survived the winter that had disrupted the European energy sector and provided the French and Germans with an excuse to publicly criticise the US for raising energy prices.
It is clear from the above that one of America’s purposes for this summit is to affirm the reality of the Ukrainian war and deepen the crisis, after managing it in a way that forces European countries and masses to adapt to its repercussions. This is especially true, considering its attempts to attract and contain China, neutralise it, and hinder its rapprochement with Russia and Europe. This was evident through the visits of the US Secretary of State and Treasury to Beijing while China sought to approach Europe and urge it to support its peace initiative in Ukraine, and deepen its relationship with President Macron who received an exaggerated welcome during his visit to Beijing about two months ago to encourage him to continue defying the US on expanding NATO’s scope of work in the Indo-Pacific region. This was manifested in his opposition to the decision to open a NATO coordination office in Tokyo about a week ago. This coordination office aims to push Europe into confrontation with China and create a barrier between them in the future, in contrast to the declared objective of the alliance office to enhance cooperation and consultation with South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Additionally, these countries will be included through the NATO coordination office in defining the Western alliance, which the US has been calling for. In response to this, Macron warned against the danger of NATO’s expansion into the Indo-Pacific region through “bilateral cooperation agreements” with countries in that region, describing this step as a “big mistake” and citing the absence of a “strategic interest” for NATO in Asia.
As for Macron’s announcement upon his arrival in Lithuania about his decision to provide Ukraine with long-range missiles for self-defence, it does not indicate compliance with the US or a desire to prolong the conflict. Rather, it offers alternatives to address Ukraine’s security concerns which are used to justify its demand to join the alliance. It also signifies a desire to keep NATO away from the Ukrainian-Russian conflict and empower Ukrainians to defend themselves. Additionally, Macron’s decision aims to court the Baltic and Eastern European countries that strongly support NATO and Ukraine in countering Russia. This is done to win them over, considering them a significant bloc, towards France in its jostling with Germany for leadership in the European Union. Therefore, Macron called for an end to the division of Europe between the “old” and the “new,” exploiting Germany’s vulnerability resulting from its confrontation with Russia and its strained relationships with the Eastern European countries and the Baltic states regarding their relations with Russia and the Ukrainian war. This situation presented an opportunity for Macron and his efforts to attract the Eastern European countries in his favour.
As for President Erdogan’s U-turn on blocking Sweden’s accession to the alliance, which was welcomed by the European countries and the US, it was directly influenced by President Biden, as stated by US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. He said that President Joe Biden’s personal leadership was instrumental in pushing President Erdogan to stop obstructing Sweden’s attempt to join NATO. Undoubtedly, Erdogan’s change of position regarding Sweden’s NATO membership falls within the framework of exploiting the spaces, margins and approaches provided by the political game in the Ukrainian crisis and international relations to achieve political and economic gains, particularly regarding the resumption of negotiations for Turkey’s EU membership and the easing of visa restrictions for Turkish citizens, which the Swedish President Olaf Kristersson promised to support.
However, this change came after Erdogan and his party’s victory in the presidential and parliamentary elections and the failure of Western powers to overthrow him. It was also after the US and European interests aligned with Erdogan, who himself does not mind benefiting from the West based on Turkey’s interests and pragmatic logic while maintaining a good relationship with Putin. This is especially true since the latter (Putin) cannot afford to do without Erdogan, who has become his channel to the West amidst his isolation and weakened political and military position in the field, as well as Turkey’s representation of Russia’s lung in the face of suffocating Western isolation. That is why the Russian leadership’s reaction to Erdogan’s stance on Sweden’s accession to the alliance confirmed its understanding of his position and affirmed its continuing relationship with him, downplaying the value of this achievement celebrated by the West.
In this context, the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, “Ankara has obligations as a member of the alliance, and Moscow has no illusions about this matter.” He added, “There are differences between Russia and Turkey, but they also have shared interests, and Moscow intends to develop its relations with Ankara.”
In this sense, Erdogan is practising a policy of equilibrium between Russia and the West, as evidenced by his attempt during the summit to obstruct the agreement among member states regarding plans detailing how the alliance will respond to a Russian attack. This is done to mitigate the impact of his position regarding Sweden’s accession to the alliance on his relationship with Russia, which, despite understanding his stance, expressed its displeasure. The Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that no Europeans want to see Turkey in their union and that “Turkey should not have any illusions about this matter.”
As for the upshots of this summit, they undoubtedly reflect the arrogance and dominance of the US over the world, including major countries such as Russia, France and China. They also demonstrate its disregard and underestimation of influential European countries like Germany. The US managed to compel them to follow its strategy towards Russia, despite undermining their interests and encroaching on their sovereignty. They were led to acknowledge that the strength of the strategic nuclear alliance, particularly that of the US, guarantees their security. However, this affirmation admits their own weakness and recognises the United States’ entitlement to lead them. This was sought by America through the Ukrainian war, along with its efforts to force them to increase their military spending and meet their 2% commitments set at the NATO Summit in Wales in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Many European countries, including Germany, France and Spain, did not fully comply with these commitments. Additionally, the US aims to prevent Europe from deviating from its obedience and will, as France and Germany occasionally try to in the Ukrainian issue and in their relationship with Russia and China, in particular.