By Nadia Batok*
Washington ceremony marks 70th anniversary of NATO on April 3, 2019.
The seventieth anniversary of the Washington Treaty, the founding document of NATO, represents more than just a historical moment for commemorating NATO’s past, but also an opportunity to address the challenges facing NATO today, and to discuss its mission going forward.
NATO started as a military alliance to balance Soviet military power in Europe, but after the former Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, some experts questioned the part the Alliance would play in international security? NATO is an anachronism that has survived its original mission.
In the 1990’s NATO’s primary goal was to safeguard the freedom and security of allies by political and military means, in association with the European Union and to consolidate a Europe whole and free. The United States also wanted to maintain a presence in Europe.
It is said that collective defence is at the heart of the Alliance and creates a spirit of solidarity and cohesion among its members. NATO in the end was always the shared strategic interest of keeping the West together against Russia.
Threats to the interests of the Alliance do not come from outside, but the organisation’s vigour could easily be shaken from within. The increasing complexity of the global political environment has the potential to create disorder in the alliance’s cohesion on economic problems and distract attention from security needs.
Old rivalries could resurface, and there is a real possibility of damaging imbalance between the military contributions of some members.
Trump has said that many NATO members do not spend enough on defence for meeting their commitments fully under the agreement. NATO allies have pledged to invest more in defence, spending 2% of GDP by 2024. European NATO members allocate over US$ 2.5 billion each year to support US armies in their territories and most of the spending is from Germany, which is still is the base home of the largest US contingent in Europe. On the other hand, Germany’s neighbour Poland wants to pay two billion dollars to make the United States build its military base on Polish territory, although there is no example in Europe of a country voluntarily inviting and financing foreign troops on its territory. Japan spends US$ 1.8 billion each year for the operation of US bases on its territory.
There is no doubt that US remain at the top of military spending, last year with US$ 611 billion and the United States outpaces all other nations in military expenditure. World military spending totalled more than US$ 1.6 trillion in 2015. War spending has increased 78 % since 1986, and the arms race is continuing.
To reinforce NATO’s defence posture – both nuclear and conventional – requires continuation of the contributions of member states. In terms of force requirements, NATO will accelerate efforts to respond to the cyberattacks by its own communications and command systems, and will continue to ask the member states to invest in cyber security and key-enablers, such as intelligence and reconnaissance, networking, etc. More European cooperation in development in military equipment financed by the Union will be an important pull-factor for EU member states to participate in European equipment procurement and collaborative armament programmes.
Regardless of everything, the enormous amounts of money spent on the production of weapons, including nuclear and others, for the total destruction of humanity and not to save mankind and the planet is incomprehensible.
NATO defence spending – money can’t buy solidarity and liberty
The unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear agreement with Iran, and from the INF (an agreement with Russia on medium and long-range missiles) creates a threat to security in the world.
It opens up for Washington a whole spectrum of new possibilities, including first of all opportunities for the US military industry, not only in the production of prohibited missiles but also in the development of new generations of weapons, where there are many countries that can pay a high price for “US protection, weapons and equipment”. This will lead to increased tensions all over the world, especially in the European region.
As for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) of 1996, which Moscow signed and ratified in 2000, Washington has refused to sign it for 23 years, despite the UN General Assembly having adopted the resolution by 172 votes and calling for urgent ratification by the remaining states. The United States and China voted against the resolution, and now Washington is blaming Russia for cracking it, while Russia is appealing to the United States to ratify it.
In August 2019, Washington will officially abandon the INF Agreement, which relates to land-based rockets, allegedly due to the Chinese threat of targeting US allies, Japan and South Korea. Of course, China, Iran, North Korea are only an excuse for America to set up missile defences in Europe.
Some NATO members find it worthwhile to include China in a new arms control system, and this initiative is supported by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Next year the Russian-American START Agreement on the limitation of strategic nuclear potential – the only remaining pillar of global security – expires. The collapse of this contract would lead the entire planet into a dangerous whirl of uncertainty, without clear rules and limitations.
Europe is categorically against the unilateral steps of the United States, and the disruption of fragile security on the continent. Meanwhile, the gap between allies is widening, since countries such the Baltic Republics, Poland and Romania can agree to be a polygon for the deployment of US and NATO nuclear missiles, which will bring new divisions within the EU itself.
In particular it will Washington the possibility of “disciplining” Berlin and Paris and consolidating its influence on the continent. Hopes that Washington could voluntarily renounce the control mechanism over Europe are falling by the wayside; on the contrary, it will become even more intense with Washington intending to develop the “Advanced Hypersonic Weapon” project.
Moscow on the other hand is announcing a much more serious response, in the form of hypersonic land-based missiles using systems like the Iskander and Kinzhal hypersonic missiles.
Prospects of a permanent US military base in Poland had fuelled concerns of promoting a fixed Russian foothold in neighbouring Belarus. However, the increase of US troops has yet to warrant a reaction of Moscow to deploy additional military assets to its western borders in response to the recently announced plans of US President Donald Trump to deploy 1000 more troops, as well as a squadron of Reaper drones.
Europe and leading countries should take the danger to their security seriously and take it into their own hands for as long as they possibly can.
NATO and the European Union remain the central pillars of stability and pragmatic cooperation in the Euro-Atlantic region, unifying their views on Russia and clarifying NATO’s intentions towards Moscow.
Despite tremendous pressure, President Trump continues to speak positively about Russia, but Trump’s positive addressing of Putin is in disproportion to the real American policy towards Russia. And it is a controversial situation, where NATO continues to encircle Russia’s borders with NATO bases and complete the Balkan puzzle (from the Baltic countries to Poland, Ukraine where things are different, then Romania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Albania and now North Macedonia with the new American base in Krivolak, Greece and Turkey), which stands out as nm unequivocally dangerous fact.
NATO is continuously expanding, Brazil is invited into NATO, and India as a rival of China is called to join the Indo-Pacific Alliance.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the major powers of Japan, China, Republic of South Korea, India and Australia are generally supportive of international norms. The two primary sources of instability are the rivalry between India and Pakistan and the dangerous government of the People’s Republic of North Korea with its nuclear weapons programme.
A number of serious trouble spots remain in Africa, however, including most prominently the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sudan.
In the Middle East, significant trends will continue, including ongoing extremist violence, simmering Arab-Israeli tensions, and the policies of the government of Iran related to its nuclear programme, especially its anti-ship cruise missiles, which raise concerns about the security of critical maritime trading routes.
It should be recalled that the Middle East and South-eastern Europe are of tremendous strategic value.
In the meantime, The Eastern Europe has become a focal point of the conflicts and geo-strategical interests of the superpowers, considered and imaginary ”sanitary cordon“ or “wall” which will separate Russia from Germany and Europe.
Pressure from Washington on Russia’s political and economic allies continues, Germany and Turkey are threatened about gas pipelines and those who do business with Iran, and sanctions are increasing against Russia.
American militarism is destroying the future of humanity, and as former US president Jimmy Carter said: “We are constantly in war.”
Instead of accusing the United States over its abandonment of the nuclear agreement with Iran, the international community watches Washington put the blame on Iran, impose the most severe economic sanctions on Iran (despite these sanctions, Iran did not withdraw from the nuclear deal) and exert military pressure by sending war airplanes and aircraft carriers to the Strait of Hormuz close to the shores of Iran, citing a staged attack on an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf as the reason (there is no proof that Iran is behind the attack).
As is known, Washington has already used a similar scenario with the other countries in an attempt to find a justification for a new war and for the deployment of more arms, troops, fighter planes and marine corps in the Persian Gulf and Middle East.
While President Donald Trump has stated that he does not want to go to war with Iran, war hawks (like John R. Bolton, US National Security Adviser) in his team are pushing the United States into conflict with Iran, and the situation in the region is becoming more dangerous every day.
Moscow has repeatedly warned Washington and its allies about what they called an unthinking and reckless pumping up of tensions in an explosive region. Now what we see are unending and sustained US attempts to put political, economic, psychological and, yes, military pressure on Iran.
The U.S. Administration, Sunni-Arab regimes and Israel classify the Iranian government as the primary threat in the Middle East, and not as an element that contributes to regional stability.
The world is facing the question of whether Washington really wants a peaceful solution or is seeking an excuse for aggression against Iran.
It seems that only the United States and NATO have the right to arms while all everybody else is accused of being a military threat, while the United States and the omnipresent NATO are not. The deployment of NATO troops in distant locations, far from home, and US interference and intervention in dozens of sovereign nation states are commonplace. Meddling with functioning bodies in the world has become a familiar pattern of American supremacy in the international legal order.
The United States consistently violates the Geneva Conventions and, by not investigating the United States for war crimes, the International Criminal Court is showing that supremacy, inequality and colonialism still thrive in international law.
NATO needs new strategic concepts because the world is changing significantly and the NATO of 2020 will not be the same as that of today.
Many of the principles that should be featured in the new strategic concepts include the requirement of cohesion of the Alliance, the desirability of united command, the value of effective planning, public diplomacy, a comprehensive civilian military approach and the need to deploy forces at a strategic distance for an extended period of time.
The new era of partnerships in all their diversity, which will occupy a central place in the work of NATO, must engage with Russia on same international problems, including the future of Syria, the prevention of nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea, and rethinking of some of the most fundamental bases of their foreign policy.
Europe needs to find the right balance between dialogue, defence and deterrence, while managing troubled transatlantic relationships.
* Nadia Batok, is a specialist in international congresses