As with the rain, which rarely pleases everyone, the balance of the NATO summit that has just been held in Vilnius generates very different feelings among the attendees and the most interested observers. Beyond the obligatory message of optimism and success that every organization tries to impose urbi et orbi, what Sweden extracts from what was agreed in the Lithuanian capital – nothing less than its entry into the Atlantic Alliance – is not the same as what it has obtained Ukraine – a mellifluous “invitation” that fell well short of their expectations.
As had already become clear over the past year, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was determined to turn Ankara’s essential vote in favor of Sweden’s membership into a bargaining chip from which he hoped to get a good slice. His transactional bet was initially aimed at both Stockholm and Washington, and only at the last minute did he want to add Brussels to the list. Based on the result obtained, it can be imagined that he himself will now feel reasonably satisfied.
From Sweden it has obtained the lifting of the arms embargo that had been imposed on it in 2019, the modification of national laws to increase pressure on those who Turkey considers terrorists linked to the PKK (Kurdish militia), a new mutual security mechanism; and a framework for bilateral economic cooperation.
From the United States, although it is very unlikely that he will be reinstated in the F-35 aircraft development program –from which the country was expelled after the acquisition of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft systems– or the extradition of the cleric Fethullah Gülen –author The intellectual behind the 2016 coup, according to Erdogan, has achieved the first step to unlock the transfer of new F-16s and technological and computer programs to modernize those it already owns. To this could be added the US commitment to stop supporting the Syrian Kurdish militias that cause so many headaches for Ankara.
As for the European Union, it is true that it has not achieved a definitive commitment to open its doors as a new member – it has been a candidate since 1999 – but now it is counting on the fact that it will very soon receive a new economic aid package as a controversial payment for their task of controlling the exit door to the EU for the millions of desperate people who live poorly in its territory, as well as for the Turkish aspiration to finally materialize that its nationals can enter the territory of the Twenty-seven without the need for a visa and that the customs union regime in force since 1995 be updated (improved), allowing it a broader entry into the community market.
For its part, Sweden obtains the full guarantees provided by Article 5 of the NATO Treaty and the Alliance completes the task of turning the Baltic Sea into its own lake, leaving Russia in an even more difficult position to be able to head out to the Atlantic. .
Remarkably different is the position in which Ukraine remains. Not even the physical presence of Volodimir Zelenski at the Summit served for kyiv to obtain a firm and defined commitment in time to fulfill its aspiration to join the Alliance. Playing with all the possibilities provided by diplomatic language, NATO has tried not to snub whom the majority of its members are supporting economically and militarily, but making it clear that entry will not be possible, at least, until the end of the war.
It could be said that, militarily, Ukraine is more than capable of joining the Alliance – is there currently any other Army with a more proven combat capacity? But, politically, it is NATO that is not in a position to assume the challenge that would (then yes) be at war with Russia. Consequently, the 31 allies have chosen to leave the door open for those who wish, as the G7 and other countries including Spain have done, to bilaterally establish commitments and security guarantees for Kiev, but without formally involving the NATO.
In practice, that means maintaining and reinforcing supply lines – as France is doing by announcing that it will deliver SCALP cruise missiles, after London has already gone ahead with Storm Shadows and waiting for Washington to do so with ATACMS – while the Alliance sets up a NATO-Ukraine Council similar to the one that once existed with Russia. This will allow kyiv to have a direct line of communication with the 31 for security and defense consultations.
On these occasions, the debate on the distribution of the budgetary burden is never lacking, framed since 2014 in the commitment acquired by the then 28 members to reach 2% of GDP dedicated to defense by 2024. If then only three countries met this objective , today there are 11 and another four can reach that level before the initial deadline is over.
In any case, and although it is undeniable that there has been a general increase in recent years, it is difficult to imagine how the allies of the European Union are going to be able to fulfill this commitment (let alone reach the 3% that is already proposed as a ceiling). by 2030) in the midst of a harsh economic crisis, of an energy transition that will entail a significant additional cost and on the eve of the reactivation of fiscal discipline that will force a reduction in the current high levels of public deficit.
What is certain is that all this series of measures, however limited they may seem, is bad news for Moscow, thus reaffirming the mistake made by Putin when launching the invasion. Today NATO, thanks in large part to its stubbornness, has come back to life. We’ll see how long and how far that takes us.
Jesús A. Núñez Villaverde – Co-director of the Institute for Studies on Conflicts and Humanitarian Action (IECAH)