GP Insights

GP Insights # 197, 7 December 2019

NATO at 70: Brain Dead and Jaws Dropped
Harini Madhusudhan

What happened?
The NATO summit 2019 held in London marked 70 years of the security alliance. More than any collective action to celebrate the seven decades, the summit witnessed statements, cynicisms and gossips from the leaders, affecting its outcome. Trump called Macron’s “Brain Dead” comment, “very disrespectful.” At a reception in the Buckingham Palace with members of the royal family, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was heard mocking Trump’s extended press conferences with reporters and saying Trump staffers’ “jaws dropped to the floor,” at Trump’s decision to hold an international summit at one of his resorts. 

What is the background?
The US used to be the highest contributor to NATO; in 2019, it reduced its spending from 22 percent to 16 percent, identical to that of Germany’s spending on NATO. In a meeting in 2006, the members had set a guideline to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defence. In 2014, they agreed to move ahead with the target. 
During his 2016 election campaign, Trump alarmed the NATO allies by questioning their commitments and military spending. In the July 2018 NATO summit, Trump made a strong demand that the members must meet the 2 percent target immediately and also proposed the possibility of doubling the target to 4 per cent. 

What does it mean?
The US is reluctant to continue supporting NATO intellectually, politically and militarily. There is a mistrust in Europe about the intentions of the US role in Europe. 
NATO has also failed to address the new threats facing the alliance - China’s rise, radicalisation and migration. These issues should have been primary concerns of NATO and discussed in details, as it prepared for the eighth decade.

For the past few decades, NATO has been working to build a partnership with Russia, with practical cooperation mechanisms and dialogues. Today, NATO is divided on its approach to Russia, a cause for concern. Russia continues to be a dividing factor for the alliance. It has managed to project the security alliance as incompetent and divided, in the context of the increasing political challenges and instabilities. 

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