NATO has new sense of purpose. Not long ago, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was wondering about its relevance in a post-Cold War order. Since the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia, however, NATO has found a new mission. Or, rather, it’s re-found its old mission. After all, aren’t we back in an age of spies, murky assassination plots, constant propaganda, and nuclear brinkmanship?

At the same time, NATO has been a target for US President Donald Trump’s rhetoric. While on the campaign trail in 2016, he famously labelled the organisation “obsolete” (though, once in office, he reversed his position). Even as recently as July 2018, President Trump was blasting his NATO allies as “delinquent” for failing to meet their spending obligation of 2% of GDP on defence. Of course, Trump isn’t the first US president to criticise the Europeans for not pulling their weight militarily, but under his presidency transatlantic relations have sunk to an absolute low. Is Trump right to openly question the value of NATO? And what has NATO done for us?

On 20 September 2018, our sister think tank, Friends of Europe, is holding its annual Policy Security Summit in Brussels, the flagship event of their peace, security & defence programme. Speaking at the event will be (among many others) Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General; Jose Alberto de Azeredo Lopes, Portuguese Minister of Defence; Frank Bakke-Jensen, Norwegian Minister of Defence, and Julian King, European Commissioner for the Security Union. Debating Europe will be at the event and putting some of your comments and questions to participants!

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Jthk, who thinks the Cold War would have been lost without NATO (and the US would never have achieved the status of a superpower). Is he exaggerating its importance? What has the North Atlantic Alliance given us, and what would the world have looked like without it?

To get a response, we spoke to Rose Gottemoeller, Deputy Secretary General of NATO. How would she respond?

That’s a very good question and it is one I have reflected upon a lot since I took this job as NATO Deputy Secretary General almost 2 years ago. I believe that actually NATO played an extraordinary role in consolidating the gains in security that were achieved by the end of the Second World War and then was able to adapt as an organisation to carry this forward in tackling the challenges of the Cold War. So, I do think that the unity of the alliance, the resolve, the way that we were able to develop defence over time but also, again, adapt to new threats and challenges, was also extraordinarily important in bringing to a successful close the Cold War as well. Your question is a very good one – I hope you think my answer was as well.

To get another perspective, we put the same comment to Anders Schröder, Defence Spokesperson for the Swedish Green Party. Sweden, which follows a policy of neutrality in foreign affairs, is not a NATO Member State (though since 2016 it has been a “NATO Affiliate”, and it did deploy troops to Afghanistan to support the NATO-led mission there). So, what is his position from outside the Alliance? And would he want Sweden to consider joining?

Well, I’m sure NATO was important for a number of different countries during the Cold War. As a Swede, I’m looking at it from a Swedish perspective. Our perspective is that, while we can see the benefit for many other countries, for us it has been more beneficial to stay out of the alliance.

Next up, we had a comment Ivan, who thinks that Trump’s aggressive approach to NATO will actually save it from irrelevancy by forcing European Member States to increase their defence spending to 2% of GDP. So, in a way, is Donald Trump a good thing for NATO?

How would Deputy NATO Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller respond?

Ivan, there’s no question that President Trump’s policy of delivering a short, sharp shock to the NATO allies has been effective in getting many countries who need to be spending more on defence, and on bolstering our share defence – getting them to take their commitment to the Wales Investment Plan seriously. I do like to emphasise that the President’s very strong approach to this is one that has resonated with the leadership of the allies in their capitals. I think that has been important.

I also like to point out that the Defence Investment Pledge was reached in 2014, at the Wales Summit. It was a watershed year in the alliance because in 2014 we faced a newly aggressive Russia, with Russia seizing the Crimea and destabilising the Donbass, and the rise of ISIS in that year [with its] seizure of Mosul and the establishment of their Caliphate. So that year was a big wake-up call for the allies, so the Defence Investment Pledge came in. It was that year that the cuts stopped to defence budgets across NATO. Cuts stopped, the budgets started to turn around and increase.

But I think it’s valuable that President Trump has pushed the allies even harder and faster. So I think that there are benefits to sometimes some ‘tough love,’ as we say, but at the same time I do believe that the allies had gotten the message beforehand and that it was the geostrategic situation – the renewed challenges that NATO had to face – that started the process rolling.

We also put the same question to Amanda Sloat, Robert Bosch senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center on the United States and Europe. How would she respond?

Numerous American leaders – including Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton – encouraged Europeans to increase their defence spending. At the Wales summit in 2014, all members agreed on the need to spend two percent of their GDP on defence by 2024. Trump is right that allies must share more of the burden and take steps to improve their own capabilities. However, his bellicose rhetoric and threats against countries that don’t meet the target are unhelpful. The upward trajectory in alliance defence spending began in 2015 and has continued since Trump’s election: five members met the target last year, three more should meet the target by the end of this year, and 15 countries plan to reach two percent by the 2024 deadline. It is also worth remembering that allies contribute to NATO in many ways, while defence readiness requires smart spending that enhances capabilities (e.g., investment in equipment rather than higher pensions).

Finally, we had a comment sent in Pedro, who doubts whether Europe can still rely on US commitment to Article 5 (the “collective defence” provision in the North Atlantic Treaty). What would Rose Gottemoeller say?

Pedro, I don’t think that there is any option for NATO members but to continue to fulfil their commitments under the Washington Treaty. That goes for all NATO members, whether the United States, Canada – those are our transatlantic alliance members – or any member of the alliance here in Europe. Every member signs up to the Washington Treaty. It’s a solemn national commitment to the organisation and a country would have to decide that they wanted to withdraw from that commitment but all the members of the NATO alliance see it as really adding to their net security. Being members of the alliance, as we like to say, is that old fashioned one for all and all for one. In essence, it’s a force multiplier for every country who is a member of NATO and that goes for the United States as well.

So, the President of the United States, of course, has been somewhat critical of NATO in recent times but these are issues that many Presidents of the United States have criticised other NATO members for, not spending enough on their own defence, so I think that those critiques are well founded and have helped to push the alliance in a good direction in terms of spending more on defence but at the same time the commitment of NATO members, including the United States, to the mutual defence pact that is enshrined in the Washington treaty, I think that commitment remains and is very strong.

Is NATO worth saving? What would the world have looked like without it? And will Donald Trump’s presidency ultimately be a good thing for NATO? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – maxxyustas; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Anders Schröder, CC / Flickr – Miljöpartiet de gröna; Rose Gottemoeller, CC / Flickr – CTBTO


54 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    DE: Is NATO worth saving?

    Please, first publish a report of who is behind the “destruction” of NATO- to enable us to suggest how to save it.

    The “EU grapevine” reports a possible secrete agenda by JCJ to establish an EU army instead! Is that true?

  2. avatar
    Stadex

    The USA needs Nato so it can create a permanent wedge between Germany and Russia. It also needs Nato so it can bully and attack other Nations. Europe should have it’s own security force to separate itself from US foreign policy objectives, no more Iraq war, no more Libya, Syria etc.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Stadex
      I think Russia does a good job putting wedges between it and ALL NATO nations.

  3. avatar
    George

    It’s either NATO (and US military occupation of EU countries), or us.
    Let’s put Europe first, and ditch NATO and put it in its place – the cold war past.

    • avatar
      Mathilde

      George
      While I don’t necessarily care for the Yanks, should we combine all nations and form 1 army?
      How much should we spend towards an EU defence? Where should the bases be built?

    • avatar
      George

      Mathilde an EU military alliance would be sufficient for EU’s protection, without giving up member-countries’ sovereignty even more.
      Moving towards “1-army” is not a solution at all.

    • avatar
      Rémi

      EU is peace, they said…

    • avatar
      Rémi

      EU members are just making wars outside from Europe, you’re kindly. And what about art. 42 who places the europeans states under NATO, NATO doesn’t make wars? That’s a real new information!

  4. avatar
    Gustav

    Europe should be able to defend itself, but there is nothing wrong with alliances, as long as we’re not drawn into unnecessary conflicts by the US.

  5. avatar
    Iván

    Nato should always change towards a fair collaboration for fair objectives. Not being protectors of corporations businness but peoples rights.

  6. avatar
    Aris

    NO because NATO serves only the American interests and the American foreign policy.
    Why are European soldiers in far Afghanistan? why aren’t they in the European external borders?

  7. avatar
    Robin

    Yes.

    The sum is greater than its parts

  8. avatar
    Ivan

    Without NATO the EU would be in Russian hands within 2 days so you work it out.

    • avatar
      Erik

      Ivan
      Thats right. Thats why we need to work out a propper EU defence with one central command, to be less dependent on the US.

    • avatar
      randomguy2018

      Theresa May is that you?

  9. avatar
    Tassos

    If Europe would ever like to evolve in a Union , it needs to make it’s own defensive structures and cut the umbillical cord with NATO.

  10. avatar
    Luigi

    Europe should have its own, not be subject to US. And UK.

  11. avatar
    Pavlos

    NATO like the corrupted EU of bureaucrats and bankers is crashing down already since 2016! Those who do not aknowledge this fact, they just live with illusions or it is because they mourn for the “pocket-money” that they get from institutions and NGOs that soon will loose!

  12. avatar
    Theodore

    To maintain NATO first you have to make sure that as equal members must respect the sovereignty of other member countries and to stop hating or violating other countries borders. Without that how do you offer protection the countries . Are you selective or just don’t care . If that is true you need to dismantle . There is no need for small countries to be patsies for superpowers

  13. avatar
    Teodor

    it’s time for a strong European army! Army to keep our borders and our peoples! we do not need a Nato that will determine our people’s politics and the cost of enmity. We do not want to pay with lives for wars that we have not started! It is time for a strong, united Europe and an army!

  14. avatar
    Παυλος

    1) it’s a cold war relic
    2) it doesn’t insures the members states sovereignty
    3) how can “allies ” threatening each other with war?
    4) costs to much to be maintained
    Conclusion:
    If an alliance can protect it’s members even from other members and costs a shiton of “$”
    Why worth been saved?

  15. avatar
    Joe

    NATO is now essentially obselete…it could not even solve the Human Trafficking that is suffocating Europe. It’s a big waste of money. Europe should unite militarily to solve this human Illegal Migration itself …if it has the balls!!

  16. avatar
    Petko

    NATO is wrong paradigm.We don’t have real international laws!

  17. avatar
    randomguy2018

    EU, NATO, USSR, PESCO, all these type things are dangerous.

    Focusing on NATO its clearly an Anglo-American organization meant to keep the Americans in, Russians out, Germans down. And keep the Anglo-American military structure on top. The Cold War stopped, Warsaw Commie Pact is finished, so NATO should shrink or disappear too.

  18. avatar
    Dan

    You lot need to grow up,if it hadn’t been for the Americans and their allies the Red army would have rolled across western Europe seventy years ago and there would be no Europe today.
    And how about a more recent event, the Bosnian conflict,I remember the U.N ‘peacekeepers’ mostly made up from European countries commanded by a French general being largely ignored by the Serbs,the Dutch soldiers abandoning the men of Srebrenica to be massacred.It was only president Clinton ordering NATO to intervene with a bombing campaign that ended the genocide.

  19. avatar
    catherine benning

    Is NATO worth saving?

    NATO is a scam. Governments tell us it is to keep us safe from possible enemies.Then creates enemies in order to keep themselves in a job that pays a fortune to continue war in some part of the world. It is a big earner for those who want to have a nice never ending office job. And a big dupe on us all. They have to keep a ‘criminal power’ of some kind, even if that means intervening in the leadership of countries not wanting our system of political choice. Democracy to choose not to be part of the Western globalist view on life is unacceptable to NATO.

    Why don’t they make Presidents and leaders handsome and articulate anymore, the way this guy was.?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ToMjHgKJ4g

    And today the atitude we hear of.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyQRG4wBFT8

    The US takes the lions share of profit, but, it is spread about here and there. Again paid for by the ‘tax payer.’ As are many self perpetuating agencies we blindly fund through our taxes. Is it worth saving? What has ti done for all these years since WWII?

    This guy talks about it from another point of view.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIfS5WENuEI

  20. avatar
    Lawrence

    Actually Nato’s main contributor are the USA and it’s main target is Putin. What Trump told Merkel &co. is that EU leaders expect USA to help the most while the rest of EU gets it’s gas from Russia.
    The EU made a lot of false promises to countries surrounding Russia like Poland Hungary Ukraine etc. just so Russia borders are depleted from buffer countries like the ones mentioned above.& place arms aimed at Russia in these Countries.
    Thank God Trump came into power or world war3 would have already started.
    Clintons,Obama & Merkel all want war with Russia through NATO

  21. avatar
    Bev

    NO. .
    Nato are the aggressors.

    • avatar
      Dan

      Bev – Ukraine? Georgia?

    • avatar
      Bev

      Tragically the coup in Ukraine was a joint USA /NATO instigation. Georgia was invaded by the NATO block too.

    • avatar
      Remi

      Dan – Yougoslavia? A bit nearer…

  22. avatar
    Octavian

    NATO is our civilisation protector. It doesn’t matter if, hopefully, Europe will build its own defense system, NATO is our alliance with friends sharing same values, friends we need and cherish.

    • avatar
      Παυλος

      Octavian – friends threatening each other with war? What kind of friendship is that?

    • avatar
      Octavian

      Παυλος – are you suggesting that someone in Europe, USA or Canada threatens us ? Or Russia is expanding again?

    • avatar
      Παυλος

      Octavian – Turkey is threatening with war Greece since 1986 and as far as I know Turkey is a prominent member of NATO
      Not to mention the fact that actually Turkish troops fought against Greek ones during the Turkish invasion to Cyprus (1974) also known as operation ” Attila “

    • avatar
      Ryan

      Παυλος you won’t like it – because you’re greek but .. turkey didn’t invade. it honoured its treaty obligation as required under international law when the greek sponsored terror group led a coup on the island. Personally i don’t like Turkey – they are going to be the primary source of the coming darkness .. but i don’t like inaccurate s**t either

    • avatar
      Παυλος

      Ryan no worries 😊i known the ” coronels reign ” did terribly things at Greece in the begging and Cyprus in the end and they are responsible for what followed
      And typically yes Turkey had a legal excuse to act but if you see what followed after is obvious that they trying to annex the northern part of the island so it wasn’t really for defending the sovereignty of Cyprus..more like securing their piece of the pie..

  23. avatar
    Dimitri

    Let’s first EE become united snd then will see about european army..

  24. avatar
    Raymond

    Without NATO forces Russia will not hesitate to invade some countries in Europe but every one must put in their share of money for it’s upkeep

    • avatar
      Maia Alexandrova

      Why would Russia invade you, if there was no NATO??? NATO is an obstacle to a closer and mutually more beneficial economic and cultural co-operation between EU and Russia, i.e. an obstacle to peace. Why should EU be an eternal enemy of Russia? It is not a matter of upholding European principles because aggressive dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and Israel are being propped up by European countries and USA. You cannot excuse your actions towards one country with some supposed principles, but then ignore those same principles when it comes to relations with another country. This means there are no genuine reasons for the hostile attitude towards Russia in the first place, so no need for NATO, no need for additional problems around the world. NATO and USA have invaded more countries than anyone else in the world and only Hitler has killed more people than them.

  25. avatar
    Peter

    It is for USA to decide.Nobody is asking EU.

  26. avatar
    Cleo

    The EU spends a looping 342b in military which is more then China and Russia. That’s a respectable army for a democratic bloc who uses military for defensive purposes only. Eliminating nato would mean Europe will have the freedom to carve out its own policies and not providing the US with its aggressive military policy with the tools to cause wars in our turf. That means less refugees, more collaboration among neighbours and less war

    • avatar
      Remi

      EU is peace, they said, EU doesn’t need an army and NATO should die!

    • avatar
      Cleo

      Rémi every bloc needs to be able to defend itself

  27. avatar
    Wasim

    Without NATO, Europe will become the second Soviet Union in no time , can anyone of who disagree just think about the huge interest of Russia in Europe ? Can anyone imagine how weak the European countries individually right now , they didn’t heal ever from WW2, that’s why they still need the contribution of USA and Turkey which both are not members in EU and have no direct benefits like other members
    For those who worship Russia ,no worries just leave the EU and join the uprising of the new Soviet Union ,but don’t interface the decision of others who refuse to surrender to an old dictatorship system that once broke by not even a real war but a simple cold war not colder as its weather
    Stop breaking your continent , before it’s too late

  28. avatar
    Ian

    Which of the NATO member states has ever actually invoked and benefitted from it’s common defense clause?

    Answer: The USA, dragging member states into a conflict in Afghanistan.

    It did serve Europe well during the cold war, but now the USA has lost its way, and cannot be trusted with Russia, then Europe should realize it is no longer a reliable partner. For this reason NATO is impaired, a tremendous victory for Vladimir Putin.

  29. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    Many seem very enthusiastic and happy to commit & send their (dwindling) offspring’s to serve in a future grand EU army? There appears to be a growing militarization of the EU happening under our eyes!

    These are not VR war games played on IT gadgets!

    Let’s “think” & create a theory by assuming that all 28-1= 27 Member states are exposed to a three pronged militarization drive by “undemocratic forces”- all for the sake of peace and unity- instigated by:

    • Academics from the “European University Institute’s” & its “analytical arm” – https://www.eui.eu/ = DE.

    • Its sister think tank referred as “Friends of Europe” & others (“Friends of corporatism & elites” or “Foes of Europe’s” people?)

    • A disproportionate influence of the Brussels industrial arms lobbying group- who together influence and/or actually develop EU politics. (re: neo- fascism= EUism)

    https://corporateeurope.org/power-lobbies/2017/12/arms-industry-lobbying-and-militarisation-eu

    https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-leaders-launch-historic-plan-for-joint-military-force/

    A “true & proper EU army” can only be created- “step by step”- once all 27 members have finally “given up” (without a binding referendum?) all remaining competences = sovereignty- and morph into one EU national state!

    Neither a NATO Alliance nor “the EU starter army” of 25 members called the PESCO Pact will/can remain.

    https://www.dw.com/en/pesco-eu-army-one-step-closer-after-defense-pact-agreement/a-41741828

    Will Brussels dream finally come true & when? It seems it is mainly driven by the Council’s inner circle & questionable politicians (sciatica sufferer JCJ & his friend Asselborn who in another fury used some political noble words: “merde alors”) both from the dwarf & medieval Duchy of Luxembourg.
    A 580k population “city”- not bigger than any bigger European town! Very scary!

    The practical effect is:

    • the abdication & closing of all 27 national parliaments

    • to be replaced by one new parliament in Brussels

    • no more national representation in any global institution (e.g. the UN general assembly etc) by any former sovereign European States since the 27 States will shrink & dwarf to one member only

    • Europe will loose 26 votes in all UN & other global institutions & be politically and “democratically” disadvantaged

    • the necessity to cancel & redraft all international and national treaties will probably be the biggest nightmare to hit Europe this century- nothing compared to Brexit!

    • The energies, time, neglect, money & disruptions spent to achieve a singular political EU state will probably be negative for its economy and cause voters resentment throughout the EU.

    * One has seen nothing yet! The need to be subjected to binding referendums!

    All participating Europeans with their proud history will finally be able to say good bye to their National States who become history (peacefully?) & probably called USE.

    It all started very promising & harmless with “economic reason & peace”- remember?

    Has EU scheming gone too far? Is that the one & only option the majority of EU voter’s wish or will accept for their future?

    I’ll guess- many will not!

  30. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    @Stadex
    I think Russia does a good job putting wedges between it and ALL NATO nations.

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