Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Does NATO summit signal a return to the Cold War?

By Zhou Bo (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-15 07:41

The 1949 North Atlantic treaty says NATO's area of responsibility is "the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer". Citing Russia's "continued aggressive acts" in its Wales declaration, the NATO summit looks like a massive and unprecedented effort to return to one of its core missions: collective defense and deterrence in Europe.

At the summit, NATO leaders agreed to a "Readiness Action Plan" that aims at enhancing alliance's preparedness and responsiveness. They also agreed to reverse the trend of declining defense budgets.

Rhetoric aside, the question is: How would NATO deal with Russia? Militarily? Russia and Ukraine are reported to have signed a cease-fire agreement, defusing the tension, at least for the time being. Russia has a huge nuclear arsenal. It supplies one-third of its gas output to Europe. It also provides important transit facilities for NATO in Afghanistan. It has conducted joint counter-narcotics operations with NATO. And in September 2013, Russian and NATO fighter aircraft flew together during a live counter-terrorism exercise code-named Vigilant Skies 2013.

As such, NATO has to search its soul for an answer: Is Russia its real enemy?

No matter how fearful Ukraine might be of Russia, NATO will not grant Kiev in the near future what it aspires most: NATO membership. It is easier and safer for NATO to admit the four official candidate countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Georgia, because the last thing it wants is a head-on conflict with Russia.

The Wales summit has been described as the most important summit after the fall of the Berlin Wall or a turning point for NATO. Perhaps. But it should not signal the beginning of another Cold War.

The author is an honorary fellow with the Center of China-American Defense Relations, the PLA Academy of Military Science.

The opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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