NATO does not consider any country to be its enemy. But if some country officially defines NATO to be its enemy, then I believe NATO must react appropriately and try either to change this claim by promoting openness, or prepare to undertake any means necessary in order to assure the safety of Alliance members. NATO is defined in Russia's security strategy as a danger and enemy. Despite the many changes in the world's security situation in the past 22 years, have NATO and Russia really begun to share enough common values to become partners?
Although Russia is not officially a threat since the signing of the 1997 agreement, Russia has made many gestures that require explanation, such as invasions into the Baltic states' air space and a number of cyber attacks. The same agreement cannot match with strategic military reassurances, because it necessitates actual defense planning against NATO threats, which includes Russia. NATO should avoid a policy of confronting Russia, but promoting support to its members would soften their concerns.
The Alliance is only as strong as the sense of community within it. I suggest concentrating on the Baltic states' air space defense strategy. This policy alone would promote greater support for the Alliance among the Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians. NATO cannot achieve a real sense of community while failing to show Allied nations that it is a real political and military power in their region. NATO declares itself a military alliance, but when push comes to shove, is the alliance really as tightly bound as it used to be?
People need to feel safe and being a part of the Alliance alone does not provide the substantial feeling of being protected. NATO should show that it is there for itspeople, to stand up for them, and to negotiate on their behalf. If Baltic people felt that NATO is acting for them, the credibility of the organization would gradually increase. Then, people would be in favour of increasing their participation level - in diplomatic, military and funding issues. There must be a true belief in the Alliance as a strong power. Sharing the same vision, same goals, honesty and communication builds a credible team.
NATO should further promote its values through schools by organizing contests, simulations for negotiation, sharing information, exchanging views and forging common approaches. Every member, every citizen of the Alliance, despite its newness or inexperience, must feel like it is doing something important for the common goal. As for crisis management, first NATO has to prevent crises inside the Alliance. Universities in the Baltics offer courses in crisis management. I suggest cooperation with graduates to develop this core task. Also, NATO could offer more internships. Involvement is the key in strengthening the community.
Furthermore, I believe that the Lisbon Treaty's new solidarity obligations should develop into a real members' security program against any kind of harm. Remembering how NATO was unprepared for the Georgia issue, I doubt whether Europe's greatest powers would take any possible risks involved if a Baltic state called for (military or non-military) help with Russia-provoked actions on NATO partners. I hope NATO will work seriously on Article 222 (non-military) solidarity contingencies, because the Baltics must have same sense of security as other members do.
I believe that common interests should not take dominance over values. As Russia does not work on respecting existing treaties, political commitments and institutions, NATO should wait to share its very own conceptions of security. Russia needs to reach true modernization in its own speed.By being open and cooperative, NATO can build trust between the two sides. Russia is not a European democracy and as an alliance composed of democracies, NATO should state openly that it will protect our citizens against those who violently oppose the principles and values of our societies.
Eastern European members worry that NATO would not dare to step forward if Russia decided to provoke small, military or non-military, regional conflicts. I believe that the sense of insecurity among East European countries, and even Scandinavian countries, calls NATO to refocus on its values. The ambition to reset relations with Russia made NATO administration forget its values, increased disunity among NATO members, and NATO started to be seen by the people of its member nations as "they" rather than "we".
Milda Leonaviciute is a History graduate from Vilnius University, Lithuania.