Comment: NATO, Russia And The War Of Words

It's almost 5 years since I first went to a NATO meeting, and I happened to start with one of the really big ones.
The 2010 Lisbon summit had an air of optimism that felt remarkable to me, and seemed to surprise the old-hands just as much.
There were still important and difficult issues to tackle, NATO forces had just endured the fiercest year of fighting in Afghanistan, but the deadline was set for them to leave.
The world's biggest and oldest military alliance was looking to its future with the Cold War over and the days of it's biggest expedition outside Europe now numbered.
Some said NATO was looking for a new purpose in the world, a reason to still exist, as it worked on its new 'Strategic Concept'.
What most marked out the Lisbon summit and its air of optimism is that Russia was invited to talks at the alliance's biggest and most prestigious of meetings.
The summit declared “we are determined to build a lasting and inclusive peace, together with Russia, in the Euro-Atlantic Area. We need to share responsibility in facing up to common challenges”
It would have seemed unimaginable just a few years before, and five years on it seems hard to believe it happened.
The latest NATO defence ministers meeting raised three red-flags to Russia, on Syria, Georgia, and Eastern Europe.
There were demands for Russia to end its bombings in parts of Syria and to stop recognising the independence of breakway regions of Georgia.
While those saw just words, Eastern Europe has seen some action with the addition of British training troops to the Baltics, the creation of another two force-integration units, and the signing off of the military concept of NATO's rapid response force.
All of this comes from the Strategic Concept discussed in Lisbon, designed to face whatever threat is necessary, but Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made no attempt to disguise the fact NATO sees Russia as the biggest threat right now
“NATO’s main task, core task is to be able to defend and protect all Allies and our response to the behaviour of Russia, a more assertive Russia. And the aggressive actions of Russia which we have seen for instance in Ukraine, destabilizing Eastern Ukraine, annexing Crimea, is exactly what I’ve addressed.
"This is the biggest reinforcement to our collective defence since the end of the Cold War and by doing that we provide a deterrence which is so essential to make sure that all NATO countries are safe and that they can rely on NATO.”
Russia called the announcement of extra British training troops 'regrettable' and accused NATO of using it as 'camouflage' for expansion. It also claimed that it would increase instability in the region.
It feels a lot like that warm words of 2010 never happened, even if we're not in a new Cold War we are definitely into a war of words backed up by military movements on the ground in Eastern Europe.

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