North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) remains the single most important contributor to security, stability and peace in Europe and North America. NATO provides the umbrella defending Europe from conventional and nuclear attack and a secure geopolitical landscape for the world’s two largest economies–the Europe Union and the United States.
NATO members contain Russian aggression and protect over 100 million East Europeans who now live in democracy and freedom after the fall of communism. NATO remains vital for the more than 900 million Europeans and North Americans who benefit from it every day. The NATO allies, however, are confronting daunting and complex challenges that are testing both their purpose and unity,
Challenges faced by NATO
Fading American Leadership :
- NATO’s single greatest challenge is the absence of strong, principled American presidential leadership for the first time in its history. For example, in 2019 NATO leaders considered not holding a 2019 summit to mark the seventieth anniversary as they feared President Trump would blow up a meeting in controversy as he had done each time he has met with NATO leaders.
- President Trump was the first U.S. president to view the European Union as an economic competitor rather than a vital partner of both the U.S. and NATO. His troubling anti-NATO and anti-Europe bias had caused European governments to question the credibility of the U.S. as the leader of the West for the first time since the Second World War.
Reduced European Defence Spending:
- NATO’s European members and Canada pose their own challenge to the Alliance-the weakness of their collective defense spending for NATO’s common defense. Only five of the twenty-nine allies are currently spending at least 2 percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on their military budgets.
- Germany, the largest and wealthiest of the European allies, has a major shortfall as it is currently spending only 1.24 percent of its budget on defense. Italy, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands and other allies are also spending well below the agreed 2 percent level.
Eroding Democratic Values:
- Three allied governments-Poland, Hungary and Turkey-have undermined their own democracies in varying degrees by suppressing free speech and a free press and limiting the independence of the courts. As NATO is, first and foremost, an alliance of democracies, the actions of these governments threaten the core values of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.
Crumbling Decision Making:
- There is a tendency of some allies to bring into the Alliance bilateral issues that impede progress on collective issues of the Alliance. As an example, an ally might hold up agreement on the entire NATO military exercise program because of an unrelated bilateral dispute with a NATO partner who wishes to participate in an exercise. This practice erodes Alliance’s cohesion.
Reduced Focus on Partnerships :
- NATO’s partnership programs suffer from two inter-related limitations: too few resources and too little focus. NATO invests insufficient resources to promote stability and effect meaningful change even among priority partners.
Some Specific Events
Turkey’s Acquisition of S-400 :
- Turkey acquired and deployed the Russian S-400 system in July 2019 and has been testing it ever since in defiance of NATO objections and US sanctions. This behavior of Turkey is problematic to the unity of the alliance
If you want to know how Russia snatching Turkey from NATO , click here.
Aegean Sea Tensions:
- For the first time in its long history, NATO’s unity is under threat as a result of the rift between two of its members; Turkey and Greece and their maneuvers in the Aegean Sea. The latest crisis between the two began in August when Turkey accused its neighbor of locking onto Turkish fighter jets with its Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems deployed on the island of Crete.
Divergence Amid Ukraine War:
- Amid Ukraine war, there has emerged a patchwork of individual security interests among NATO members, laying bare the fault lines within the alliance. Germany and France – two of key partners of the NATO alliance – are proving unwilling to provide support.
Ukraine War: An opportunity to overhaul NATO
- Russia’s war on Ukraine has given an urgent new relevance to the NATO’s core mission of territorial defense. NATO members appear to have found a new unity of purpose, supplying Ukraine with weapons, reassessing the threat from Russia, hiking defense budgets, and bolstering the security of the alliance’s eastern frontier.
- Since Russia’s first attack on Ukraine in 2014, NATO plans and deployments have become more serious. There are 1,000-strong tripwire forces in the three Baltic states and a larger U.S. force in Poland which has increased sharply since the start of the invasion in February.
NATO faces a crisis, with severe challenges from both within and beyond. The fundamental question now is whether the Alliance can adapt to contend with the dramatic changes in the security environment and remain relevant.
Renewing U.S. presidential leadership is a crucial requirement. U.S. congressional support for protecting and extending NATO as a vital U.S. national interest is key. Allies, too, must step up to provide the resources required, share in Alliance leadership and commitment and sustain Alliance cohesion.