On May 17, when NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with President Donald Trump at the White House, part of Stoltenberg’s agenda was to insulate NATO from the political winds whipping through the transatlantic relationship. It’s too early to tell if he succeeded, but it is now entirely possible that when the United States and its allies meet at the NATO Summit in Brussels in July, transatlantic relations will be at their lowest ebb since the 2003 Iraq War. Will the NATO alliance, buffeted by disputes not directly related to its mission, feel the chill of this deep freeze in transatlantic political relations, or be insulated from it?
On July 11–12 2018, NATO’s 29 members will convene at NATO Headquarters in Brussels for the first full-length summit since Warsaw in 2016. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg has laid out the following summit goals: further strengthen the transatlantic bond, build on NATO’s work with partner nations to fight terrorism, strengthen NATO’s Black Sea presence, and step up efforts against cyberattacks and hybrid threats.
The Transatlantic Security Team at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) proposes the U.S. focus on five initiatives in these Summit areas to strengthen the Alliance.
This article was originally published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) on 14 April 2018.
Russia has mounted its anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) footprint in the Levant and also boosted the Syrian Arab Air Defense Force’s capabilities. Syrian skies now remain a heavily contested combat airspace and a dangerous flashpoint. Moreover, there is another grave threat to monitor at low altitudes. Throughout the civil war, various non-state armed groups have acquired advanced man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), which pose a menacing challenge not only to the deployed forces, but also to commercial aviation around the world. In the face of these threats, NATO needs to draw key lessons-learned from the contemporary Russian operational art, and more importantly, to develop a new understanding in order to grasp the emerging reality in Syria. Simply put, control of the Syrian airspace is becoming an extremely crucial issue, and it will be a determining factor for the war-torn country’s future status quo.
After Brexit, there is no guarantee that the major powers in NATO and the EU will agree on how to respond to future crises.
At a summit in Brussels on March 22, EU heads of government will issue a statement of solidarity with the United Kingdom following the recent nerve agent attack on double-agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. This statement of support follows similar strong declarations by NATO and the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council.
Europe has been in the news plenty recently, with the NATO Defense Ministerial, the Munich Security Conference, and senior Trump administration officials fanning out across Europe to represent the president at these august gatherings. The unifying theme in most of these meetings was allied progress in reaching the NATO goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense — the Trump administration’s litmus test in gauging an ally’s commitment to NATO and determining America’s reciprocal commitment to that ally. The 2 percent goal was agreed to in 2014 at NATO’s Wales Summit. A Trumpian twist was delivered by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis at his first NATO defense ministerial: “If your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense.” In the words of the New York Times, “… NATO Allies to Spend More, or Else.”