Donald Trump gone, NATO is preparing its future
“OVER LE over the past four years we have encountered challenges in the transatlantic relationship, âsays Jens Stoltenberg, NATO, alluding dryly to the diplomatic pandemonium of the Trump years. Today, he said, âwe have a unique opportunity to open a new chapter in the relationship between North America and Europe. Â»But will be NATOleaders take it?
On June 14, the leaders of the 30 NATO members will gather for a meeting in Brussels, sandwiched between the g7th summit in Great Britain and one EU–we Mountain peak. They will discuss the future of the alliance. The mood will be lighter than at previous rallies, when Mr. Trump physically shoved a prime minister, threatened to pull out of the alliance, and barged in early after being mocked by his fellow leaders. Yet the challenges facing NATO did not dissipate with the arrival of Mr. Biden.
In recent months, Russia has massed troops around Ukraine, Belarus has forced a European airliner to seize a dissident, and America has announced the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan – a process more than half completed on June 8 – forcing NATO follow suit. Yet the summit’s goal is to reorient the alliance in a more fundamental way.
NATOstrategic concept of, a document setting out its because ofÃªbe, was last updated over a decade ago, at a time when Russia was seen as a potential partner and China was irrelevant. In Brussels, leaders will direct Mr Stoltenberg to produce a new version, a process that can take around a year. It will reflect an enlargement of NATOopening up of China, embracing new challenges such as climate change, technological threats and the rise of China.
Things are already changing. Mr Stoltenberg underlines the increase in European defense spending (see graph) and more exercises. The alliance is also busy rethinking the basics of military might. It is drafting a new strategy for artificial intelligence and has finalized its first new cyber defense policy in seven years. At the summit, leaders will establish a “transatlantic technology accelerator” to connect providers of advanced military technologies to investors.
One of NATOThe motivations behind this technological rejuvenation, says Stoltenberg, are the fear that China – “a country that does not share our values” – will take the lead in key areas such as artificial intelligence. âIt is not clear that we will keep the technological leadâ¦ which never was the case with the Soviet Union during the Cold War,â he adds. The discussion on China is a pivotal moment, says Tim Sayle, author of “Enduring Alliance,” A History of NATO, marking “a fundamental break with what the alliance has done in its first 70 years”.
Yet the bigger question is whether the transatlantic split under Mr. Trump was a temporary break or something more lasting. Mr. Biden made the right noises, speaking warmly of NATO and reverse Mr. Trump’s troop cuts in Germany. His eight-day trip to Europe will end with a summit with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, in Geneva on June 16. This in theory allows Mr Biden to form a common front with allies before facing Mr Putin, who raised the bar on June 9 by outlawing groups linked to his main political rival, incarcerated Alexei Navalny.
Mr. Biden cannot appease all of his friends at once, however. Take the example of Nord Stream 2 (BORN.2), an almost completed gas pipeline connecting Russia to Germany that will bypass Ukraine and increase European dependence on Mr Putin. The Biden administration had opposed the project, but said on May 19 that it would waive the sanctions nonetheless. This pleased the German government, but alarmed those in favor of a tougher approach to Russia. âThe atmosphere in Central Europe deteriorated after the BORN.2 â, notes Michal Baranowski, expert in the Warsaw office of the German Marshall Fund, an American think tank. âThe feeling is one of betrayal. “
Then there is the fact that the European defense landscape has changed irreparably in recent years. The shock of Mr. Trump’s election and Britain’s departure from the EU catalyzed an increase in bloc activity, from joint defense projects to a common fund for the defense industry.
Many European officials, aware of the radical turn of the American Republican Party and the prospect of Mr. Biden’s populist successors, are keen that such projects retain the momentum they have gained during the Trump years. Many are complementary to NATO, like a EU to facilitate the movement of military forces across the continent. In practice, an element of competition is inevitable. In response to Mr. Stoltenberg’s request to increase the common financing fund for NATOâUnchanged since 2014 â Florence Parly, French Defense Minister, replied: âAll this money is money that will not be used to increase national budgets and a European defense effort.
What’s more, European officials know that all American presidents, including Mr. Biden, have cause for concern. The US military presence in Europe remains significant, but its most recent weapons are now generally sent to the Pacific first. Civil servants too. The first overseas trips of Anthony Blinken, US Secretary of State, and Lloyd Austin, his Secretary of Defense, were in Asia. âThere is great skepticism in Washington that a divided and interested Europe will one day achieve great support for we against China, âargues Jeremy Shapiro of the European Council on Foreign Relations, another think tank.
Despite this, the geopolitics of Europe and Asia are inevitably linked, not least because the United States’ national defense strategy in 2018 explicitly rejected the requirement for the country to be able to wage two wars at the same time. âWe urgently need Europe NATO to be able to handle more of the burden of conventional deterrence in Europe, “said Wess Mitchell, a former U.S. official who co-chaired an expert panel for Mr. Stoltenberg last year,” so that in in the event of a major crisis, the United States can focus on China without jeopardizing the stability of the European theater. After dismissing Mr. Trump, NATO does not have time to rest on its laurels. â
This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the title “Season of the Summits”