Covering the recent NATO summit, the international press was awash in story after story about just how much the meeting was overshadowed by the Trump-induced strife amongst member countries.
Truthfully, there were quite a few noteworthy accomplishments that came out of the recent summit in Brussels—from establishing new bases of operations in the southern periphery to new cyberinfrastructure to substantial budget pledges from a variety of countries.
With all of the noise surrounding the NATO get-together, it was easy to miss one of the lesser spoken about accomplishments of the summit that, technically should have been on the top of the list.
On July 11, the first day of the summit, NATO members formally invited Macedonia to join the treaty. Macedonia is now number 30 in a list of European nations that now extends from Norway to Turkey, from the Atlantic coast of France to the Moldavian plains of Romania.
Macedonia’s acceptance of this invite extended NATO’s reach in the Balkans - in defiance of Russia. Years ago, the ex-Yugoslavian nation was firmly under the influence of Russia. Now it has switched sides.
Macedonia was a kind of repeat of a similar incident from two years ago. In June 2016, Montenegro became the 29th member of NATO. The announcement came amid strong objections from Russia. Preceding Montenegro’s initiation to NATO, Russia had begun to step up efforts to destabilize several nations in the Western Balkans. Montenegrin officials charged 14 people in connection with an alleged Russia-backed plot to take over parliament during the October 2016 parliamentary elections and assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic. Now it's Macedonia’s turn to come under Western protection.
No doubt the steady advance of NATO collecting more and more members has made the Kremlin uneasy. Many nations that were essentially Soviet satellites decades ago are now part of an expanding Western alliance. Seven eastern European countries joined NATO in one fell swoop in 2004, including Latvia, and Estonia, both of which share a border with Russia. Five years later, Albania and Croatia joined the organization. Almost all of these countries were once part of the rival Warsaw Pact from the Cold War era.
The original deterrent of NATO may be obsolete. The famed Article 5 of the Treaty - requiring all member countries to come to the aid of any other member under attack - was never invoked during the long West vs. Communist bloc rivalry. That would have to wait until 2001 - September 11th to be precise.
However, the “soft” measures of bringing countries into the sphere of Western influence (backed by the possibility of military intervention of course) is NATO’s new tactic for keeping opponents at bay. It is a strategy that over the past 15 years has brought a complete overhaul to the geopolitical landscape of Europe—without any wars.