Benign neglect tends to grow deeper and even becomes institutionalized with the passage of time. In this region, it takes the form of conceding primary authority on peacekeeping and conflict-mediation to Russia, which acts within institutional formats that constrain the West and exclude NATO outright. Except for a fleeting moment in 2002, NATO has recused itself from a peacekeeping role in its eastern neighborhood.
At the Chicago summit, NATO again urged all parties to the protracted conflicts to respect those same institutional formats (meaning: 5+2 in Moldova, the Geneva format in the case of Georgia, the “Minsk Group” in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict) despite their ineffectiveness. This summit’s communiqué called on “all parties to engage constructively and with reinforced political will in peaceful conflict resolution.” Repeating a phrase from earlier communiqués, it declared that “the persistence of protracted conflicts in [the] South Caucasus and Moldova continues to be a matter of great concern for the Alliance.” But the concern seems to remain at the declaratory level (Chicago Summit Declaration, May 20).
Overcommitted to failed expeditionary operations in distant theaters, NATO has no security solution to offer in its eastern neighborhood; and – as the Chicago summit confirmed – NATO lacks the collective inclination to provide one. While some NATO partners become security providers in the region, the Alliance itself has missed the chance to become an effective security actor in Europe’s East.