23.09.2020 Author: Valery Kulikov

NATO in Danger of Falling Apart with an Identity Crisis


After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the objective need for NATO to exist vanished. However, instead of dissolving itself, the alliance is strenuously turning Europe into a target for a nuclear strike, wrote Contra Magazin. Already very tired of Anglo-Saxon hegemony, Italy, Germany and France are talking more and more about a potential threat from the United States, while at the same time considering creation of a European army free of NATO control.

After the 1990s, NATO began to unify Eastern European countries under the auspices of Washington, becoming an instrument for conducting military actions outside the territories of its members in the interests of the United States. However, not everyone unquestioningly agrees with the alliance’s strategy, which hurts the unity of this military alliance and deepens contradictions between its members. Also, political elites of the leading member countries have become increasingly aware that their interests often not only fail to coincide with the interests of their partners in the military bloc, but sometimes go directly against them, which results in yesterday’s allies increasingly interfering with each other. And this is confirmed not only by the situation off the coast of Libya and the support of the opposing participants in the Libyan conflict by individual NATO members, but also by the Syrian conflict, where Washington and Ankara often come into confrontation with each other, and in some cases behave like outright enemies.

Experts and politicians have been talking about the crisis of the North Atlantic Alliance for several dozen years by now. The first surge of such assessments is associated with the decision of Charles de Gaulle to withdraw France from the military integrated structures of the Alliance in 1966 and to transfer NATO headquarters from Paris to Brussels. During the global financial and economic crisis of 2008, against the background of cuts in government spending, NATO countries had to tackle a very difficult task of maintaining adequate military forces and means. In this light, most Alliance member states were forced to cut defense spending, an excessive disproportion arose between the military spending of the United States and European allies (in 2012 – 72% to 28%), the gap between the military capabilities of European NATO members increased (Great Britain – 6.9% of total expenses, Germany – 4.6%, Italy – 2%).

Over time, these problems have only intensified, in particular by the addition of new ones. For example, in late June this year, at a press conference at the White House with Polish President Andrzej Duda, US President Donald Trump called the level of military spending at 2% of the GDP of NATO member countries “insufficient”, urging all countries that are part the alliance to “pay a fair share.” On August 27, at the Assembly of the US Republican Party, President Trump once again declared himself the main advocate for increasing defense spending by NATO member states.

However, a significant number of European politicians today are more inclined to reduce the military budget of their countries, especially given the current financial and economic problems. In addition, an increasing number of politicians (especially in the Baltics) who recently started to actively offer their countries for the deployment of American troops, naturally at the expense of “American security guarantees”, see in this an opportunity to reduce their national military spending and to transfer budget funds to other domestic expenses instead. Thus, according to err.ee., an Estonian information resource, the Minister of Finance of the country Martin Helme (Conservative People’s Party, EKRE) recently proposed to cut the state’s military spending by € 50 million.

Alliances and security guarantees were once viewed as the most serious obligations a state can undertake. Today, however, Washington is handing out security guarantees like a hotel administrator – candy to its guests: everybody gets one, plus an extra piece to anyone who asks for it. However, it is believed that such obligations are worthless, notes The National Interest.

And this circumstance was confirmed in light of recent events in the Eastern Mediterranean and the attitude of the alliance countries to the policies and actions of Turkey. As a result of Ankara’s recent actions, Turkey has made its presence felt from the Middle East to the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, which has increased the risk of confrontation and friction within NATO.

Since early summer, after the contradictions arose in relation to the conflict in Libya, which reached the level of aggressive actions undertaken by the crews of the warships of the Turkish and French navies, mutual claims of the two countries intensified. They then escalated further over the maneuvers that the French undertook jointly with the Greeks and Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean. As a result, Ankara accused Paris of violating the agreements on military presence in Cyprus, stepping up its maneuvers in the Eastern Mediterranean region in response. After that, the French President, commenting on the situation, said that the actions of Turkey “are not like the actions of a NATO ally,” and added that Turkey has been acting this way for several years, ignoring allied relations within the framework of the North Atlantic Alliance.

Recently, a sharp deterioration in relations between Turkey and another NATO member, Greece, due to gas deposits in the disputed Mediterranean region, has been added to the contradictions between Turkey and France. The conflict continues to escalate, dividing Europe into two camps.

But it turned out to be difficult for the alliance to resolve the internal crisis, as it always withdrew from solving Turkish problems. Against the backdrop of the risk of a military escalation between NATO members, its Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has so far limited himself to calls for “dialogue” and “de-escalation.” And the members of the alliance do not show unity in assessing Ankara’s actions, which, in particular, is evidenced by the refusal of 22 out of 30 NATO members to support France’s demand to take a more firm position on Ankara.

A potential conflict, the likelihood of which at the moment is high enough, indicates that NATO is going through far from the best times. One can get the impression that the NATO leadership is either openly disregarding the interests of the European allies, who are already ready to take up arms, or Brussels is following the secret instructions of Washington, which intends to benefit from Europe weakened by a potential war.

Vice-dean of the Turkish Kadir Has University, lecturer at the Department of International Relations, Professor Mitat Çelikpala believes that the alliance’s relations do not work in the Eastern Mediterranean. The conflict between the three NATO countries (France, Turkey, Greece) can only be controlled by a very large player, i.e. the United States, especially since it is currently exercising control on behalf of NATO in the Mediterranean basin.

The very fact that such frictions are generally possible between allies in the alliance, threatening to escalate into armed clashes, nullifies the morale-boosting rhetoric of Brussels about some ephemeral “unity and solidarity” of the bloc members. After all, union or not, the national interests take the cake.

Valery Kulikov, a political analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Related articles: