It’s a new NATO

Europe is be­gin­ning to pay a fair share for its own de­fense

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

The North Amer­i­can Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion (NATO), con­sid­ered by many his­to­ri­ans as the most suc­cess­ful mil­i­tary al­liance in his­tory, has a new lease on re­al­ity.

NATO’s largest war game in more than 16 years, called Tri­dent Junc­ture, will be held in Nor­way over two weeks this month and in Novem­ber, with more than 45,000 troops par­tic­i­pat­ing, com­bin­ing land, air and sea el­e­ments. The ex­er­cise will in­clude 150 war­planes, more than 60 ships and 10,000 rolling or tracked ve­hi­cles. The USS Harry S. Tru­man air­craft car­rier strike group and its 6,000 of­fi­cers and men will join. The United States has in­creased its mil­i­tary pres­ence in Nor­way in re­cent years by adding a per­ma­nent force of 300 Marines, and that is to be dou­bled soon.

Al­though the ex­er­cise will take place more than 600 miles from Rus­sia, and the NATO war­planes won’t fly within 300 miles of the old Soviet Union, it’s no se­cret why the ex­er­cise is planned so close to the Rus­sians. Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea in 2014, his con­tin­ued sup­port for armed dis­si­dents in eastern Ukraine and his pro­pa­ganda against the three Baltic states the Sovi­ets once ruled have once more raised the threat of Rus­sian ag­gres­sion.

Tri­dent Junc­ture comes af­ter a con­tentious NATO sum­mit in the sum­mer, when Pres­i­dent Trump threat­ened to with­draw Amer­i­can mem­ber­ship in NATO un­less other na­tions raised their an­nual con­tri­bu­tions. “I let them know that I was ex­tremely un­happy with what was hap­pen­ing [about] de­fense spend­ing,” he said. “And as a re­sult, they are go­ing to be rais­ing con­tri­bu­tions to lev­els they never thought pos­si­ble. What they are do­ing is spend­ing at a much faster clip.”

NATO was es­tab­lished in 1949 to pro­vide col­lec­tive se­cu­rity against Soviet ex­pan­sion. Ten Euro­pean na­tions signed the orig­i­nal agree­ment along with the United States and Canada. In sign­ing the treaty, the orig­i­nal mem­bers agreed that “an armed at­tack against one or more of them … shall be con­sid­ered an at­tack against them all,” and to which each mem­ber would re­spond by tak­ing “such ac­tion as it deems nec­es­sary, in­clud­ing the use of armed force.”

The col­lec­tive agree­ment in­structed mem­ber coun­tries to spend 2 per­cent of their gross do­mes­tic prod­uct on de­fense by 2024. Ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent de­tail­ing of de­fense ex­pen­di­tures, only five coun­tries do that, the United States, Greece, Bri­tain, Es­to­nia and Latvia.

Pres­i­dent Trump, in a heated closed-door ses­sion warned: “I can do what­ever I want be­cause this al­liance has no le­git­i­macy.” He told the other del­e­gates that “spend­ing must be raised by Jan­uary 2019, or the United States would go it alone.”

But in later pub­lic state­ments in the months af­ter, he said “… the United States had not been treated fairly but now we are. I be­lieve in NATO. NATO is now a fine-tuned ma­chine.” Still, fine tun­ing con­tin­ues. Mr. Trump had de­manded that mem­bers dou­ble their de­fense spend­ing to 4 per­cent of GDP. Last year mem­bers raised their de­fense spend­ing by $33 bil­lion.

Mr. Trump tan­gled with Ger­many’s Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, ar­gu­ing that she was be­holden to Rus­sia over Ger­many’s in­volve­ment in the Nord Stream gas pipe­line pro­ject, aimed at dou­bling Rus­sia en­ergy im­ports. The is­sue has be­come more com­pli­cated with the United States again an en­ergy ex­porter with the dra­matic break­through in the pro­duc­tion of Amer­i­can shale oil and nat­u­ral gas.

The United States had for so long been re­garded by Europe as its per­ma­nent daddy that the idea of pay­ing a fair share for its own de­fense seemed im­pos­si­ble, or at least highly im­prob­a­ble. But Pres­i­dent Trump, with undiplo­matic and rough-hewn ways, showed that he could change those ex­pec­ta­tions to ev­ery­one’s ben­e­fit.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.