Stoltenberg's statements could favor Putin's propaganda

(To Antonio Li Gobbi)

On 7 May, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of Norway during an interview with the German newspaper The World, issued statements that raised concern among several commentators. In fact, the number one of the Atlantic Alliance declared, among other things, that "NATO members will never accept the illegal annexation of Crimea. We have also always opposed Russian control over parts of the Donbass in Eastern Ukraine.". In the same interview, he stated that NATO "is not a belligerent party", but which is nevertheless concentrating troops and equipment on its eastern flank to protect member states.

The two statements appear to be somewhat contradictory. The first statement aroused many perplexities as it was put in correlation (artificially in my opinion) with Zelensky's statement the previous day, which had been interpreted as a willingness to cede Crimea to Russia as a basis for discussion to start negotiations .

I don't think Stoltenberg intended to impose a halt on the Ukrainian president, but it has been interpreted in this way by many and this seems natural given the timing of the two declarations. Indeed, NATO could not claim the right to veto an agreement between two Sovereign States, neither of which is a member of the Alliance.

Furthermore, the NATO secretary general is neither a head of government nor anything comparable to the president of the European Commission. Indeed "the secretary general is the Alliance's chief international official. He is responsible for leading the consultation process and decision making within the Alliance e to ensure that decisions made by nations are implemented. The secretary general is also NATO's main spokesperson".

That is, Stoltenberg should be the "spokesperson" of the thirty member countries and would not have the authority to commit the Alliance on such a delicate point (such as the possible basis for starting negotiations between Kiev and Moscow) without having received a mandated to do so.

I would therefore reject the idea that the secretary general had intended to intervene in relation to Zelensky's tepid opening to negotiations.

Unfortunately, however, Stoltenberg's declaration, although it did not want to be related to Kiev's negotiating offer, has probably already had some negative effects and can be exploited by Russia for its own propaganda purposes. In fact, it provides Russia with further useful elements, should it be needed, to argue that NATO is to all intents and purposes a "belligerent" party and is involved in the conflict to the point of wanting to have a say in the possible negotiations between Kiev and Moscow.

Furthermore, Stoltenberg's statements may be useful to those who want to diminish the value of Zelensky's recent timid negotiation opening (which in fact did not offer real concessions) by presenting it as an initiative that both the US and NATO would have boycotted even in the unlikely event that it could encounter. favor from Moscow.

A gift to Russia, the result of perhaps overestimating one's role and certainly of a little careful handling of one's declarations.

A further damage, this time internal to an Alliance that at this moment is trying to demonstrate maximum internal cohesion, is the image that the current Secretary General seems to provide of being the megaphone of the White House rather than the "spokesperson" in the service. of the decisions of the thirty member countries. An image that in this extremely delicate phase may not be appreciated in some countries of the so-called “old Europe” (as defined by George W. Bush).

Photo: NATO