The NATO-Russia Founding Act adopted in 1997 reflected the consensus within the Alliance that new security architecture in Europe should be based on three pillars: enlargement of transformed NATO, European integration and partnership with Russia. Self-limitation on the stationing and deployment of troops in the territories of new NATO members was conditioned upon Russia’s observance of the rule-based order. After the annexation of Crimea, the Allies decided to respect the spirit of the Founding Act to limit the risk of escalation and defend the security system Russia is interested in derailing. The Allies, however, should adopt a less dogmatic approach to NRFA, which would offer additional flexibility in strengthening NATO’s cohesion and influencing Russian calculations.
The Bucharest 9 (B9), a group composed of NATO’s easternmost members, has quickly earned clout as the voice of states whose security is the most undermined by the increasingly provocative Russian rhetoric and force posture and of the region that has become the focus of the Alliance’s response to this threat. Indeed, the potential of the B9 to shape the NATO agenda is significant, not least because most of its countries present a rigid commitment to common defence by taking on an increased burden in NATO by increasing defence expenditures and investing in new capabilities. Yet, the B9 also faces limits to its effectiveness because of its participating states’ differing threat perceptions, uneven commitments to beefing-up national defence capabilities, and the potential volatility of their respective military modernisation and transformation plans. More cooperation within the B9 framework, both political and military, could alleviate these problems and help make it the real voice of the Eastern Flank.
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