The revival of a new security order
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine marches on, and the attack of Russian forces are intensifying over Ukrainian towns, as civilians are caught in the middle, the past three weeks have been a series of unprecedented acts after another.
The unprovoked attack of a sovereign country has left the Western alliance, and the world, in awe with the state of the world, as war was meant to be something that modern society associated only with history books.
However, as Russian president Vladimir Putin has continued to change his discourse – it ranged from a “special military operation” focused on the Eastern self-proclaimed regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, to a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and now threats of Ukraine losing its statehood – Western allies have not stood and waited for the conflict to escalate.
In a show of unprecedented unity, Europe, the US and other Western allies, have managed to impose a list of harsh sanctions against Russia, the likes of which no country has never seen before.
Through the means of economic, social, cultural and political isolation, the West hopes that Russia will back down and put an end to this invasion. However, as the conflict continues to escalate and the prospect of further sanctions is on the table, it is quite extraordinary to observe how the Western alliance has managed to mobilise, when a crisis of this proportion has risen.
As Europe is facing its greatest security threat and refugee crisis in decades, Russia has become the world’s public enemy number one. With the prospect of the conflict expanding, the West is extremely fearful that Russia may escalate, resulting in a potential armed conflict between Russia and NATO, and, effectively a third world war.
In the context of this wider security and geopolitical threat, it has dawned on European countries that the importance of one’s defence cannot be understated, especially in today’s climate. Therefore, numerous countries have started to revaluate their own policies and agenda with respect to defence spending and national security.
The most flagrant case comes in the context of Germany. In the run-up to the Russian invasion, which started on February 24th, Germany had been heavily criticised for being one of the more silent and appeasing Western actors, given its complex and overly dependent relation to Russia.
Since then, Germany has not only disavowed Putin’s acts, but the country’ Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has been one of the first to announce, following the invasion, that Nord Stream 2 – the pipeline that would have delivered Russian gas directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine, would be suspended.
The shock over the Russian invasion has left many countries speechless, and more open and able to re-evaluate and discuss more sensitive matters, that otherwise, in times of peace, would never have been addressed.
A few days after the start of the conflict, in a speech in front of the Bundestag, German Chancellor Scholz announced that it would embark on a mammoth $110 billion rearming program at home, “discarding six decades of military-averse policy rooted in its own wartime experience”, states the New York Times.
In addition, while Germany had been hesitant to send weapons and military resources to Ukraine, which would ultimately be used to kill Russian soldiers – another historical reticence stemming from World War II – after the invasion, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the Germans would ship Ukraine 1,000 shoulder-launched antitank rockets, 500 surface-to-air Stinger missiles and 2,700 Soviet-era shoulder-fired missiles, in what could only be described as a foreign policy U-turn.
Countries all over Europe have used Russia’s invasion as a time to reflect on their own security and defence preparedness, in case the conflict in Eastern Europe might escalate. The Russian aggression have brought Sweden and Finland, which share a border with Russia (Sweden shares a maritime border with Russia), closer than ever to the transatlantic security alliance. The two countries are part of the EU, but not of NATO.
According to a poll published last week, a narrow majority of Swedes now supports joining the transatlantic alliance, up from 41 percent in late February, according to Politico. And in Finland, public support for joining NATO has never been higher. A poll this week showed 53 percent of Finns supported joining NATO. That number went up to 66 percent if Sweden were to join too.
These past few days, the Finnish president has met with US president Joe Biden, most probably to discuss the prospect of Finland joining the US-led security alliance.
Another controversial debate within the NATO alliance, which has been revived following the invasion of Ukraine, is the infamous 2% debate. This discussion entails that all NATO members must commit to have at least 2% of their countries’ GDP diverted towards defence.
While in 2014, all NATO members promised to reach this goal by 2025, many have fallen short from doing so. In 2020, ten NATO countries (in addition to the US) reached or exceeded the 2% target – two more than in 2019 including for the first time, France and Norway.
The US spends 3,5% of its GDP and spends more on defence than any other NATO country. According to the 2021 estimates, U.S. defence spending will be close to $811 billion this year. On the other hand, the defence spending of all other NATO countries combined is projected to be $363 billion, meaning the U.S. will outspend all other countries by a whopping $448 billion, according to a Visual Capitalist graphic.
This 2% debate among the NATO alliance has been a contentious one, especially under the Trump administration, when, in an effort to decrease US interventionism and spending abroad, criticised NATO members for relying on US funding and troops in a disproportionate manner and called for all allies to increase their defence spending to 4% of their GDP.
Since Russia’s invasion on Ukraine, other NATO members committed to increasing their defence spending, including Romania.
Last week, Romanian president, Klaus Iohannis, said that Romania will set two important strategic objectives – increasing its spending from 2% to 2.5% of GDP and ensuring energy security through renewable and civil nuclear – another vital step that Western leaders, and Europe in particular, are working on, in order to decrease their dependence on Russian oil, gas and other natural resources.
Photo source: Reuters