The summit marking the 70th anniversary of NATO held at Watford near London was, quite predictably, a disappointment.
The media has already dubbed it as the shortest and least productive in the history of the Alliance, and the number of scandals during the event has broken all records. Tensions flared on the very first day of the gathering, with the leaders of the participating countries managing to thoroughly damage relations between themselves. Upon his arrival to the British capital, Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “two-faced” because of one of his anti-Trump jokes uttered behind the latter’s back. Trump’s remark about France was even more shocking; the US President hinted at the possibility of deporting radical Islamists of French descent held captive in Syria to France.
Therefore, it isn’t surprising that a number of American media outlets write that one of the distinct results of the summit was its ending with a “confused whimper” from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron, who mocked President Donald Trump during the reception in Buckingham Palace. At the London summit, almost all of his closest allies laughed at Trump and the United States as a whole, publicly expressing their disrespect towards him.
The rift between the interests of the European members of NATO and the USA has been noticeable for a long time and has only intensified since Trump took office. For one, Europeans disagree with the US Middle East strategy. The United States seeks to capture the European gas market, while EU leaders – Germany and France – are set on diversifying gas supplies. The EU needs true “military sovereignty,” as Macron said in his sensational interview with The Economist.
It is also worth noting that the summit of the leaders of NATO member-states concluded with a typical, inconsistent, scandalous meeting. The right hand hardly knew what the left was doing, and nobody understood what this was all for. NATO leaders declared their intentions to extend the Organization’s operating area to outer space, which inevitably entails additional costs. This was announced against the backdrop of the Alliance’s obvious financial problems, as well as Trump’s statement before flying to London about plans to reduce the USA’s funding of NATO from 22% to 16% of the Organization’s budget. Furthermore, strengthening efforts “to deter the growing military and geopolitical threat from Russia” with the simultaneous consideration of inviting Russia to join NATO is enough to boggle the mind of any analyst.
As the summit showed, NATO is currently going through difficult times, marked by differences not only on both sides of the Atlantic, but also within Europe. It is paralyzed by the loss of mutual trust between the allies due to the failures of political leadership and strategic coordination, the Portuguese publication Publico notes. The crisis affects not the armed forces, but political trust.
After the summit ended, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev spoke about the unfair division of the NATO countries into manufacturers and buyers. As a result, in his opinion, the poor members of the Organization are investing in the development of the economies of the rich NATO member-states.
Though neither the British politicians nor the country’s media supported Macron’s view of NATO, ordinary British citizens expressed a different opinion. The Guardian has published readers’ letters expressing support for the French president’s statement and emphasizing not only NATO’s baseless existence, but also the USA’s negative influence on Europe. The British citizens emphasize that NATO is in a crisis which will inevitably end in its demise, and therefore propose to “turn off life support and bury the corpse.” In their opinion, this should have been done a long time ago. Initially, the Alliance claimed to be a defensive power, but with the collapse of Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact about 30 years ago, the statement became baseless. NATO has no enemies left to defend itself from, and the Alliance lost the justification for its existence.
Today, NATO’s activities are being criticized not only in Britain, but also in the USA. And this, in particular, shows the attitude of Americans towards the matter of the US’ involvement in a war with Russia if the latter hypothetically attacks a “small and vulnerable” NATO member-state, for example, Estonia. Opinion polls (even accounting for their soft phrasing designed to provoke positive answers and in the absence of mentions of the potentially catastrophic risk of nuclear war) show that the American citizens stand against this. It is unreasonable to defend an ally who has nothing to do with America’s own security, writes The National Interest.
According to the Sichercheitreport survey conducted in Germany in January 2019 by the Allensbach Sociological Institute, 56% of the German citizens surveyed indicated the United States as the biggest threat to the existing world order.
In the words of the first NATO Secretary General, General Ismay, from the very beginning the Alliance was not only an instrument of collective defense, but also an opportunity to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” It was a union based on mutual values and the shared liberal model. Today, however, it no longer matches the new scale of threats. Europeans have become hostages to the USA’s race for world leadership, and they don’t wish to pay the price of security because of Washington’s unilateral decision to terminate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) to please Washington. Indeed, medium-range missiles have a very short flight time, negating the possibility of a retaliatory strike. This poses a direct threat to the continent.
In the past, the differences between the members of the Alliance were exclusively tactical in nature. Now, they are touching upon fundamental issues. And the main one isn’t the escalation of anti-Russian hysteria to falsely justify the “importance of the existence of NATO,” but finding common ground and building cooperation in the fight against the most important threats to peace, especially terrorism. The only reasonable scenario in this situation is a constructive dialogue between all key participants in this struggle for international security.
Vladimir Odintsov, expert politologist, exclusively for the online magazine ‘New Eastern Outlook’.