The NATO summit has ended with leaders uniting behind common commitments - notwithstanding the gathering featuring unpleasant divisions on a few significant issues. Leaders figured out how to concede on issues, for example, Russia and China, and settled a significant hindrance when Turkey dropped its issue with NATO's Baltic protection plan. But behind the public display of unity, cracks were on show.
In this backdrop, clearly from the way the leaders have approached various problems, they don’t seem to be optimistic themselves. That’s why the entire 70th anniversary was in fact downgraded from Summit to something we don’t know ----- it is actually like a meeting or something. The fact the 70th anniversary of presumably the most successful military alliance in modern history would not be celebrated as in a Summit that it really is doesn’t bode well for the alliance.
Now, let’s remember a number of things that are sort of underlying factors here. Each one of the main leaders of the NATO alliance has an issue at home. President Trump the starkest example has an impeachment started already. President Macron here faces one of the probably greatest strikes in the modern history of France in a couple of days. Boris Johnson is facing elections and an uphill battle in those elections. Merkel, of course, is leaving the scene for a conservative party that is not really finding its footing.
All of them have crises of sort and they really don’t see eye to eye on the challenges facing the West or the NATO alliance, in other words. Is it Russia or China or terror? And, what President Macron said to The Economist in Paris almost month of ago was basically that NATO had its raison d’etre, the reason for its existence. Certainly, what he’s saying is Turkey and the United States are going to act bilaterally on their own without consulting the rest of NATO members when something is important as Syria or as something else in the Middle East, then, why do we have NATO? If we don’t agree with our policy towards Russia or towards Afghanistan for that matter, then why should there be NATO.
He is basically urging either a total revamp of NATO or pressing for the French understanding of security and let’s all remember that France has always taken exception to other countries' membership in NATO until recently. France would like to see a European defence structure with European military, nuclear force, an independent one that suits the European Union.
On a different note, there’s no doubt that NATO needs a reflection once again and it needs even more than that because it needs a reshaping of its mission, structures and objectives. The threat of the Cold war is no longer what it was. The cold war is over, the Soviet Union is no more and neither is the Warsaw pact. There’s a host of international challenges whether it is China or Russia, whether it is cyber and space and certainly terrorism is there. That requires a certain remodelling and reshaping and of course, the reflection is really important.
We talk a lot about micro issues. But, the issues facing the World are incredibly important. As a student of International Relations, it reminds me of the times after the 1929 crisis and before WWII, because what was the WWII all about? It was about a European power, Germany, trying to be a global power. Now, it’s China being an Asian power, is trying to be a global power. And, NATO is trying to grapple with this fact that China is meant through arms, economy and everything else to be a global power. Hence, NATO has to have an answer.
Let’s all remember that the Cold war was undone without a single shot being fired. But, in the process for four decades we in the rest of the World suffered from proxy wars. As China, Russia and the West builds up, it’s the rest of us that’s going to be at the receiving end of their power as they try to manoeuvre and expand their areas of influence.
What we heard from the NATO today is not 400 billion dollars to settle refugees and to invest in the immediate periphery of Europe in order to create new prosperities, to cut funds for the refugees and to create stability -----that’s not what we hear. What we hear is more arms build-up as President Trump has demanded of everyone------ have at least 2% of GDP going to defence and it is not clear how that will create a safer global security environment.
Md Sharif Hasan is a faculty at the Department of International Relations, University of Rajshahi.