As the bloc frag­ments, mem­ber states will be­come less com­mit­ted to col­lec­tive se­cu­rity

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE - By Kam­ran Bokhari

The ef­fect of the Euro­pean Union’s melt­down on NATO is a crit­i­cal is­sue. Al­ready in search of rel­e­vance for over a gen­er­a­tion, NATO has been ren­dered all the more in­co­her­ent given that Euro­pean nations are in­creas­ingly disil­lu­sioned with the EU. With the Con­ti­nent fac­ing the after­math of Brexit and a bank­ing cri­sis that has spread from Italy to Ger­many, hav­ing ma­jor Euro­pean pow­ers ac­tively in­volved in NATO is be­com­ing even less likely. And a NATO with de­creas­ing in­put from Euro­pean states is good news for Rus­sia.

The 2016 NATO sum­mit in War­saw took place at a time when Europe is in grow­ing dis­ar­ray. It was only a cou­ple of weeks ago that Bri­tain voted in fa­vor of leav­ing the EU. While it is try­ing to man­age the fall­out from Brexit, the EU is fac­ing ma­jor chal­lenges from the Ital­ian bank­ing cri­sis, which has spread to the fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions of Ger­many, the EU’s eco­nomic pow­er­house. We re­cently pub­lished a Deep Dive on how NATO has been slowly un­rav­el­ling – a process that is likely to gain mo­men­tum given that the po­lit­i­cal ar­chi­tec­ture of Europe is de­volv­ing back to the way it was in the days when NATO was founded.

The lack of a clear mis­sion has plagued NATO since the 1991 col­lapse of the Soviet Union. Since then, NATO’s Euro­pean mem­ber states have been less and less in­clined to bear the costs of col­lec­tive se­cu­rity. Con­sid­er­ing Europe’s cur­rent mas­sive fi­nan­cial con­straints, there is even less in­cen­tive to do so. Well be­fore the EU cri­sis reached its cur­rent alarm­ing level, Ger­many, the main­stay of the EU, was try­ing to bal­ance be­tween Rus­sia and the West, and this added to the dis­so­nance within the Western camp over how to deal with Rus­sia.

But now that the Ger­mans are not only fac­ing an ex­porters’ cri­sis but also an im­pend­ing bank cri­sis, NATO’s se­cu­rity in­ter­ests are even less of a pri­or­ity.

There are in­deed re­ports that Ger­many is try­ing to in­crease de­fense spend­ing and its se­cu­rity role in Europe. How­ever, Ber­lin’s grow­ing fi­nan­cial strain is likely to pre­vent the Ger­mans from re­al­iz­ing this ob­jec­tive. An­other way to look at this is that if the Ger­mans and the other found­ing EU mem­bers have con­ceded that the EU’s role will be more lim­ited, they are less likely to worry about the fate of NATO.

The dis­agree­ments among the Euro­peans over how to deal with the fi­nan­cial cri­sis will ex­ac­er­bate the dis­cord over NATO be­tween EU mem­ber states and be­tween the EU and the U.S. Ger­many’s un­will­ing­ness to help bail out fi­nan­cially dis­tressed south­ern Euro­pean coun­tries par­al­lels the at­ti­tude of Europe’s ma­jor play­ers to­ward pro­vid­ing for the se­cu­rity of Euro­pean states along the Rus­sian pe­riph­ery.

De­spite be­ing given some as­sur­ances, in­clud­ing troops sta­tioned in Eastern Europe and the pro­vi­sion of mil­i­tary

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