NATO meets amid di­vi­sions

Fric­tion among al­lies re­veals differ­ing goals

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Kim Hjelm­gaard

NATO opens a two- day meet­ing in Lon­don on Tues­day amid height­ened trans- At­lantic ten­sions. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has balked about dues, and France and Ger­many have clashed over the group’s rel­e­vance.

LON­DON – Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Joe Bi­den has warned that if Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is re- elected in 2020 “there will be no NATO.” French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron says the mil­i­tary al­liance is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing “brain death.” When Tur­key in­vaded Syria in Oc­to­ber with little co­or­di­na­tion with Europe and the United States, an­a­lysts say it il­lus­trated Ankara’s dis­or­derly and dis­cor­dant NATO mem­ber­ship.

Twenty- nine lead­ers from North Amer­i­can and Euro­pean gov­ern­ments, in­clud­ing Trump, will con­gre­gate at a lux­ury ho­tel on the out­skirts of Lon­don on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day for a NATO meet­ing. They will dis­cuss a va­ri­ety of strate­gic eco­nomic and se­cu­rity is­sues: threats from cy­berspace, ter­ror­ism, Syria’s 8- year- old civil war, China’s grow­ing mil­i­tary might, an as­sertive Rus­sia, space war­fare and more.

“NATO is needed more now than at any point since the end of the Cold War,” said An­ders Fogh Ras­mussen, a for­mer NATO sec­re­tary gen­eral who was prime min­is­ter of Den­mark, in an in­ter­view.

“Not least be­cause of Rus­sian ag­gres­sion against Ukraine,” he added, re­fer­ring to Mos­cow’s an­nex­a­tion of Crimea in 2014.

“We need NATO to strengthen the ter­ri­to­rial de­fense of our al­lies.”

But this week’s gath­er­ing in Lon­don comes amid height­ened transat­lantic fric­tions over an al­liance that was founded in 1949 in re­sponse to the threat posed by the Soviet Union and de­signed to act as a bul­wark again na­tion­al­ist mil­i­tarism through a strong U. S. pres­ence on the con­ti­nent and by en­cour­ag­ing Euro­pean po­lit­i­cal in­te­gra­tion.

Since tak­ing office, Trump has ac­cused NATO mem­bers of in­sufficiently pay­ing to sus­tain an al­liance that con­trib­utes to Europe’s safety. He has de­manded that NATO mem­bers dou­ble a de­fense spend­ing goal of 2% of eco­nomic out­put, set in 2014 as Jens Stoltenber­g took over from Ras­mussen as NATO’s sec­re­tary gen­eral.

Stoltenber­g an­nounced Thurs­day that NATO mem­bers agreed to re­duce the United States’ con­tri­bu­tion to the al­liance’s $ 2.5 bil­lion an­nual bud­get, to 16% from 22%. It cov­ers such things as staff, the head­quar­ters in Brus­sels and some joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises. The bud­get is sep­a­rate from de­fense spend­ing. It also rep­re­sents a frac­tion of the $ 700 bil­lion Wash­ing­ton spends each year on the Pen­tagon. But the move may have been an at­tempt to mol­lify Trump or ward off any dis­rup­tive com­ments from him in Lon­don.

The U. S. leader re­peat­edly has ma­ligned the ac­cord and even pushed al­lies to aban­don it, say­ing the U. S. is “get­ting raped” by NATO, ac­cord­ing to an ac­count pub­lished in “A Warn­ing,” an anony­mously au­thored book about Trump’s tur­bu­lent pres­i­dency.

Other lead­ers also have raised is­sues with the al­liance.

Macron and Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, Europe’s two most pow­er­ful and in­flu­en­tial politi­cians, have clashed in re­cent weeks over where NATO is head­ing in the longer term. In a Nov. 7 in­ter­view with The Economist mag­a­zine, Macron mused about the al­liance’s weak­nesses and made it clear that he fa­vors a far more ro­bust Euro­pean- led NATO that is more will­ing to re­act to crises on or near its bor­ders.

He also ques­tioned whether Ar­ti­cle 5, one of NATO’s cor­ner­stones – the mu­tual de­fense prin­ci­ple that an at­tack on one ally is an at­tack on all – was fit for its pur­pose.

Macron crit­i­cized NATO’s fail­ure to pre­vent Tur­key’s offen­sive in Syria, aimed at root­ing out Kur­dish fighters who Tur­key sees as ter­ror­ists but who helped bat­tle the Is­lamic State.

He also has urged NATO lead­ers to re­view the al­liance’s strat­egy of fo­cus­ing on the threat from Rus­sia. In­stead, he wants to shift its fo­cus to­ward an­titer­ror­ism.

Merkel — who has dom­i­nated Euro­pean pol­i­tics for more than a decade and built up a rep­u­ta­tion as its quiet, prag­ma­tist- in- chief tem­per­a­men­tally re­sis­tant to big, per­for­ma­tive state­ments or pol­icy changes — de­scribed Macron’s re­marks as “dras­tic.”

It was a rare, dis­sent­ing public in­ter­ven­tion from Merkel aimed at France’s leader.

“Such a sweep­ing at­tack is not nec­es­sary,” she said, stand­ing along­side Stoltenber­g in Ber­lin on Nov. 7. NATO’s Nor­we­gian chief was in the Ger­man cap­i­tal for events linked to the 30th an­niver­sary of the fall of the Ber­lin Wall.

“The re­unification of Ger­many and Europe would have been im­pos­si­ble with­out the United States’ se­cu­rity guar­an­tee,” Stoltenber­g said. “Any at­tempt to dis­tance Europe from North Amer­ica will not only weaken the transat­lantic al­liance, it also risks di­vid­ing Europe it­self.”

“NATO is needed more now than at any point since the end of the Cold War.”

An­ders Fogh Ras­mussen

For­mer NATO sec­re­tary gen­eral






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