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Nordic-Baltic Integration In NATO: Model For Integration Of Western Balkans – OpEd

In July, the fourth summit that the Alliance has held since the large-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 took place in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. The heads of state and government of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) gathered there ), giving new life to the meeting of the North Atlantic Council. The meeting of this high level was organized only 20 miles from the border with Belarus, Russia’s only ally apart from Serbia, thus sending several important signals:

1. The appearance of NATO’s concerns about the course of the war in Ukraine,

2. Strengthening the unity of the Alliance for the support given to Ukraine in its just war and

3. The full extent of NATO in the Baltics, including the recent membership of Finland and consigned to history the myth of its neutrality as an intermediate path in the confrontation with Russia.

However, the week of work at the summit softened the blood between Turkey and Sweden, which brought about the conditional acceptance of the latter, since Turkey removed the objections it previously had.

Waiver of neutrality

Swedish and Finnish membership in NATO has been long-awaited, especially in the Baltics, but there is no miracle cure for the security risks facing the Eastern Flank,[1] writes in an opinion piece published in the meantime Otto Tabuns, founding director of the Baltic Security Foundation.

The governments of the two Baltic countries, known for their historic stance on maintaining neutrality, with the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, seem to have read its message correctly about the danger posed by Russian hegemony for the Baltic. However, external factors that negatively affect the security of the Baltic are evident. Those, continues Tabuns, in particular, the composition of nuclear, conventional and asymmetric security challenges created by Russia, will remain the most important threats to the Baltic area, as well as to the wider transatlantic space.[2]

See for this, Finland and Sweden give up their neutrality and join NATO.

In Article 5 of the Treaty they find greater security.

Let’s remember the text of this special article of this treaty that served and is serving as a letter of envy for the accession of the states to NATO.

“The parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against all of them; Therefore, they agree that in the event of such an armed attack, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, shall render assistance to the party or parties attacked by each of them shall take without delay, on its own and in cooperation with the other parties, such measures, including the use of armed force, as it deems necessary to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”[ 3] [Excerpted from the full text of the North Atlantic Treaty of April 4, 1949]

Changing security dynamics in Europe

The war in Ukraine and the integration of the Baltic countries into NATO are seen by different authors as two different issues, but which in the meantime affect the dynamics of security in Europe.

As is known, Russian objectives for the invasion of Ukraine began with the invasion of Crimea in 2014, and after the outbreak of the Donbas crisis, where pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces have been involved in an armed conflict in the eastern region of Ukraine. This conflict has caused great human losses and produced great international tensions.

However, at that time the West, especially the EU, did not have a real geopolitical agenda for the region and quietly supported the Russian occupation of Crimea.

The Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been members of NATO since 2004 and are included in the Alliance’s collective defense structure. Their presence in NATO is the result of their transition from a defense system used by the Soviet Union to the Western defense umbrella.

The integration of the Baltic countries into NATO has been followed closely and has served as part of NATO’s efforts to strengthen defense and stability in the Central and Eastern European region. In this context, the conflict in Ukraine is of particular importance, as it has been examined as a violation of the sovereignty of an independent European state and a challenge to the peace order in the region.

NATO has taken measures to assist Ukraine in this conflict, including supporting security reforms, training the Ukrainian military and providing humanitarian assistance. Also, the Alliance has implemented sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Baltic countries have engaged in NATO’s joint efforts to ensure stability and security in the region, including the allocation of a portion of defense resources and investments in defense capabilities.

These two issues show how such conflicts, like the one in Ukraine, influence the course of politics and change the dynamics of security in the European region. See for this integration in NATO is seen as a means to fulfill the objectives of national and regional security and stability.

The war in Ukraine in the light of the international security context

The war in Ukraine, the extension of NATO to the Baltic and the claim for the inclusion of the Balkans under the umbrella of NATO security, are three different issues in the context of international security and politics, but they have an impact on the dynamics of the Eastern European region and Southeast Europe.

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is an international military alliance created to ensure the collective defense of its members.

Many countries have joined the alliance, including most of the countries of Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

NATO has played an important role in the security of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, providing support and security to its members in these regions. The involvement of NATO in the wars that Serbia had caused during the process of the dissolution of Yugoslavia, especially in Bosnia and Kosova, was the best signal sent to Moscow about the expected changes in the spheres of geopolitical interest for this part of the old continent. .

NATO’s commitment includes, among other things, helping countries in the Western Balkans to develop their defense and security capacities.

The Balkans is a region in Southeastern Europe that includes several countries, among others: Serbia, Albania, North Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosova. This region has been involved in significant changes after the breakup of Yugoslavia and has gone through various political and security processes.

In the Western Balkans, NATO has played an important role in helping to stabilize it and to assist in the process of integrating the countries of this region into the Euro-Atlantic structures, including the Alliance and the European Union. Consequently, several countries of the Western Balkans are already members of NATO or are seeking membership, while the process of integration into NATO is an important objective for other countries in the region, excluding here Serbia, which has a further pro-Russian position.

In general, the conflict in Ukraine and the relations of the Balkan countries with NATO have affected the dynamics of security in Eastern and Southeastern Europe and are important challenges for international politics and regional security.

Kosova’s membership in NATO – an urgent need

Kosova’s membership in NATO in the circumstances where Kosova’s dialogue with Serbia has degraded and when the EU’s weak position even in relation to the Franco-German Plan transformed into a type of Basic Agreement, as it is being described by the parties, remains the decisive guarantee for peace in the region in the true sense of the word. This fact would have a positive impact on stability and security in the Western Balkans and in general in the region of Southeast Europe.

But the accelerated accession of Kosova to NATO will first of all put an end to the Russian adventure for the opening of the second war front in Europe and with this also its influence in the Balkans. Therefore, this step should be considered and treated as an urgent need.

Some reasons for this are:

1. Security force: NATO is a military alliance that has a fundamental role in the security of its members. If Kosova becomes a member of NATO, it will have the opportunity to use the support and protection of the Alliance in case of security risks.

2. The road to stability: Kosova’s integration into NATO is part of efforts to strengthen the institutions and capacities of the state of Kosova, including security and defense. This can help stabilize and strengthen the rule of law in the country, influencing the interplay of conflicts and tensions in the region.
3. Defense of the territory: In case of any potential danger to the territorial integrity of Kosova, membership in NATO can perform a higher level of security for the country. Membership in NATO would oblige the Alliance to protect Kosova’s borders according to the Alliance treaty, using military resources and technology provided by NATO partners.

The urgent pursuit of the Baltic model in the Balkans, always taking into consideration the Euro-Atlantic security of Southeast Europe as a whole, the admission of Kosova to NATO, would deepen the existing cooperation between the member countries on the one hand and the isolation of Serbia from any adventure to reopen its hegemonic appetites not only towards Kosova, but also towards Montenegro and Bosnia.

Kosova’s membership in NATO is the extreme limit of the expansion of various formats of cooperation among NATO member states, without conditioning this with the changes of the current national constitutional principles.

The real added value of Kosova’s admission to NATO lies in simplifying some of the complex ways that the US and the Western Balkans countries have worked together to provide security, regardless of Russian anger.

Serbia – Putin’s naked Trojan horse

At the NATO Summit in Vilnius, the Baltic states have managed to expand their security range, especially with the integration of Finland and Sweden into NATO.

This model should also be followed with the Western Balkans, starting with Kosova.

Both for the Baltic countries and for those of the Western Balkans, the Russian security threat remains present. Meanwhile, it would be very high, especially in the case of Kiev’s military victory in the war in Ukraine. But also in case of prolongation of the war

Russian-Ukrainian, the risk remains open. Especially when you take into account the positions of Serbia and its bloodshed for the annexation of the north of Kosova and Republika Srpska, but also its deep engagement in Montenegro.

Western diplomacy is faced with a dilemma: break taboos or taboos will break us. NATO and the EU, the German Friedrich Nauman Foundation concludes in a study,

should put “cooperation in a new orbit and the EU should not accept new members until they are members of NATO. This is especially true in the Balkans, where Serbia is Putin’s naked Trojan horse. [4]

As long as there is no internal consensus, both in NATO and in the EU, about the role of Serbia and the European security architecture in this complicated situation also as a result of the war in Ukraine, Serbian foreign policy will remain interdependent with Russia .

Even during this period, from February 2022 onwards, Belgrade has played the card of political pragmatism. In this situation, it is again seen that the issue of NATO expansion, respectively the accession of Kosova within the Alliance, takes concrete functions in the internal Serbian and Russian debate to achieve some interests on the internal and external front.

As far as internal Serbian politics is concerned, we have an appearance of a leadership that mainly makes decisions on foreign policy completely interdependent with Russian interests, without even considering Serbia’s coherent long-term strategic interests. In the current crisis that Serbia is going through as an authoritarian state, we cannot talk about an existing clearly hierarchical structure, therefore the foreign policy decision-making process is ad hoc. The foreign policy remains strongly adapted to the personality of the president and therefore it can be described as completely arbitrary. The role of the Church and the Army in this context continues to be decisive. During the last two years, the dominant worldview of the Serbian political elite has been oriented towards the completion of the national project called “Serbian World”. The war in Ukraine, this elite judges, especially its possible end that would end with the division of Ukraine, fits the Serbian strategic objective.

Despite the mostly negative attitude towards the West, and especially in relation to NATO, in the high circles of Serbian politics [be it around the government and in the mainly nationalist opposition], the attitude of cooperation with the West is gaining more and more understanding, therefore also with NATO, is essential for the prosperity of Serbia and the realization of the “Serbian World” project. The representatives of the military-industrial complex with the pyramid of power, therefore, have used the war in Ukraine for deep benefits not only in the field of economy, but also to avoid pressure in relation to the sanctions against Russia and in any case also in the dialogue with Kosova.

The impasse where the pair of EU diplomats has entered the dialogue at the September 14 meeting in Brussels is fully in line with this Serbian strategy.

Dr. Sadri Ramabaja

Dr. Sadri Ramabaja was born on October 4th, 1961 in the Village of Gollak, in the town of Dardania, Republic of Kosovo. Dr. Ramabaja has been an active member of the National Albanian Union Party for over fifteen year

Source : Eurasia Review