Values, not just interests…
Brussels, the capital of the European Union, has been under the spotlight last week because of the NATO Heads of State meeting. The meeting was not fully an official NATO summit in real terms but has nevertheless been an important episode in the history of the Alliance. The main purpose of the meeting was to bring together Donald Trump, the newly-elected president of the United States, with his European colleagues. From this point of view, the aim was achieved.
Although the end of the Cold War created the question on whether the Alliance had lost its sense of mission after 1991, NATO has been tremendously successful in adapting itself to the post-Cold War risks and challenges emerging in the world. This was the time when the concepts of “clash of civilizations” as well as “the end of history” came into discussions. NATO responded to Samuel Huntington and Francis Fukuyama first by extending its hand to the former Warsaw Pact countries through the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. Afterwards, Partnership for Peace, NATO-Russia Founding Act and the subsequent NATO-Russia Council, Mediterranean Dialogue and several other initiatives followed. This has shown how NATO was still needed as a strong and reliable political and military organization in Europe.
Since 1991, the last 25 years have caused NATO to introduce its “non-Article V” missions, namely those operations beyond the NATO territory. As a collective defense organization, NATO’s mechanism to stand together against an aggression toward any of its members is depicted in Article V of the Washington Treaty of 1949. After the Cold War, however, NATO has taken over missions beyond its collective defense obligations. The war in former Yugoslavia and the intervention in Afghanistan are cases in point.
Today, NATO is going through an interesting time yet again in its history. Although the post-Cold War environment was supposed to produce a relatively calm and less confrontational set of relations between Russia and the West, the incidents of 2008 between Georgia and Russia and of 2014 between Ukraine and Russia have proven the opposite. Today, many new members of NATO, particularly in the Baltic region and in Central Europe are concerned about Russia’s intentions. They show the Georgian and Ukrainian examples as a justification of their concerns.
The meeting between Trump and European NATO leaders was important because Europe feels that a different understanding prevails on the other side of the Atlantic. As the contacts of Trump’s campaign managers with Russians are being seriously investigated to explore whether they have breached the requirements of state confidentiality, Trump’s favorable approach toward Russia appears to be disturbing for the old continent.
European leaders do not look at relations with Russia solely as a set of economic relations and of national interests. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, has particularly underlined this understanding of Europe to Trump in their meeting. With such a principled approach, Tusk emphasized the universal values that Europe and the U.S. should jointly uphold.
Tusk followed the same attitude in his meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and reminded Turkey the importance attributed by the EU to the universal values of the free world. Erdoğan’s meeting with the president of the European Council as well as with Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the Commission, has shown that Turkey and the EU are now going to follow a new road map for the next 12 months. Obviously, Turkey’s compliance with the values underlined by Tusk will be an essential element in this new road map. Let us hope that we will not need all of those 12 months to see the full implementation of EU’s expectations.