comment on NATO “Unity” against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is misplaced. NATO is at odds over defeating Moscow, and Kiev’s memory of the vile Minsk accords, enforced with French and German participation, remains strong. Ukraine remains in the fight largely out of its own determination.
The Alliance’s performance on sanctions has been scattered, with mixed results so far and an uncertain future. Military aid has been patchy, although responses from Britain and Eastern Europe have been lacking. The biggest mistake is Joe Biden‘s unequal political leadership: weak, often late, reluctant and strategically incoherent. Germany, France and others lag behind.
This war is not over yet, and the negotiations that will eventually follow will be arduous. Now is not the time for NATO members to pat themselves on the back. Nevertheless, now is exactly the moment for politicians to think about the future of the alliance.
We should not forget that Henry Kissinger’s classic 1965 study was called The Troubled Partnership; it still is and will be, albeit for radically different reasons. First the good news. Finland and Sweden seem ready to apply for membership. Public opinion in both countries has shifted dramatically in favor of NATO membership since the Moscow aggression. These additions would strengthen Western dominance in the Baltic Sea, further isolate the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, and eliminate an ambiguous gray area between NATO’s eastern and western borders.
Other “neutrals” could also rise now. Here’s looking at you, Ireland.
On the negative side are Turkey and France. Turkish President Recep Erdogan is the least ally of the NATO allies. Notwithstanding Kyiv’s effective use of Turkey-supplied drones, Ankara’s acquisition of Russian S-400 air defense systems risked jeopardizing the critical F-35 program and thereby endangering other NATO allies.
If Turkey’s 2023 elections are free and fair, Mr Erdogan’s very possible defeat would greatly repair the damage he has done. If he wins, his neo-Ottoman ambitions in the Middle East (and other troublesome behaviors) will remain menacing.
France, which faces a potentially close runoff for the presidency, is problematic, especially given this Emmanuel Macronthe persistent efforts of the European Union to improve the European Union’s military capabilities in a way that undercuts NATO. Marine Le Pen goes even further and explicitly calls for a second French withdrawal from NATO’s integrated military command. None of this is constructive.
Most important is the German question. The pledge by Chancellor Olaf Scholz to invest 100 billion euros in defense, including the purchase of 35 nuclear-capable F-35s, is helpful.
However, much more is needed to improve Germany’s inadequate military capabilities and ensure that Scholz’s dramatic commitment is sustained over the long term. Will Germany return to its Cold War determination to maintain adequate national defenses, or will it again pretend it’s too dangerous to entrust arms?
Appropriate division of labor with the EU is central to the future of NATO. For Mr. Macron and others, increased EU political integration is the ultimate goal, leading them to endorse increased EU military capabilities and related programs that impact NATO responsibilities.
For example, the EU made its first-ever budgetary spending on military aid to Ukraine, despite NATO making exactly the same allocation decisions. That was no coincidence.
Do these integration-obsessed leaders think the EU has no other issues worthy of attention? Is that why they are concentrating on expanding the EU mission into NATO territory?
For America, such efforts are daggers aimed at the heart of NATO.
If anyone believes that the EU treaty’s mutual defense clause is equivalent to Article 5 of NATO, good luck to them. Remember, the EU has only one nuclear weapon state while NATO has three.
Insisting that Europe is responsible for its defense risks undermining American support for NATO and leaving Europe primarily protected by politicians’ rhetoric.
Better leadership in Washington, new allies, renewed German (and even Turkey after the elections) NATO commitments, and a significantly strengthened British role, exemplified by its current performance, would all be big pluses.
In addition, the growing threat from China should prepare every NATO country for global threats to its security. History holds much more for NATO if it can be justified by a successful performance in today’s Ukraine crisis.
John Bolton is a former US National Security Advisor
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/new-members-german-commitment-and-better-us-leadership-key-to-natos-future-41562673.html New members, German commitment and better US leadership are key to NATO’s future