NATO divisions risk bringing whole alliance down, former Secretary General warns | World | News


Nato banners at the Nato headquarters in Brussels, Belgium

Nato banners at the Nato headquarters in Brussels, Belgium (Image: Getty Images)

Writing for the Sunday Express ahead of this week’s London summit, Anders Rasmussen insisted that Europe has no viable alternative to Nato for its defence, adding: “Nato is our insurance policy. When the global house is on fire we’d be insane to tear it up.”

Thirty leaders will come to Britain this week to mark the alliance’s 70th anniversary. London was the seat of its first headquarters when it was established in 1949. 

The hope was that it would present a show of unity and focus on “new business”, such as future threats by China, hypersonic missiles, cyber war and Nato’s new readiness initiative – the ability to deploy 30 battalions by land, 30 air squadrons and 30 naval vessels in just 30 days. 

But Wednesday’s main leaders’ meeting – a three-hour discussion in which each will get only three minutes – risks being overshadowed by divisions. 

Issues include Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile defence system and a threat to veto a Baltic defence plan until allies support its controversial incursion into Syria.

The member states of NATO highlighted on the World map

The main leaders’ discussion will take place on Wednesday (Image: Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s role in that incursion, and claims – denied by the US – that he would not support Europe in the event of attack are also a sore point. 

Anti-Trumpism has led to the beginning of rapprochement with Russia, officially Nato’s biggest threat since the invasion of Crimea and the Salisbury poisonings. 

A recent German poll saw 66 per cent wanting closer ties with Putin while, in France, French President Emmanuel Macron has invited the Russian premier to discuss ways in which the EU can put the Crimean invasion behind it.

Trump is expected to repeat calls for more and faster spending, though recent figures show Nato is on track to boost spending by £310bn before 2024.

US president Donald Trump

Claims that Donald Trump would not support Europe in the event of attack have been denied by the US (Image: Getty Images)

If every European member honoured its pledge to spend 2pc of GDP on defence, it would mean an extra £100bn. 

And on Friday Macron, whose troops are mired in a bloody jhadi war in Mali, stood by his claims that Nato was  “brain dead” because it wasn’t focussing enough on counter- terrorism.  He has called for a “council of experts” and for Europe to defend itself. 

British officials say his comments unified other members, including Germany, in rallying support of Nato. They also insisted that  Nato would look into how better supporting counter terror operations.

Last night Fabrice Pothier, Nato’s former director of planning and policy, said: “We’re hearing strong rhetoric supporting Nato but that’s not enough to cover the cracks in the most divided summit for 70 years.

French President Emmanuel Macron and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (Image: Getty Images)

“Will they translate into greater commitment? 

“The Irony of Macron calling for more counter-terrorism operations cannot be lost on those who know that Nato has tried and tried to be more involved in the Middle East and North Africa – only to be blocked by France, which sees it as a territorial issue. “

He said allies would have no powers to sanction problematic Turkey by, for instance, excluding it from operations. 

“Nato cannot cast a member aside. Every member has an equal say, from the toilet paper to planning an operation,” he said. “It’s the way Nato works.”

On Tuesday leaders will be hosted by the Queen at a reception at Buckingham Palace to honour the 70th anniversary.

COMMENT 

by Anders Fogh Rasmussen

THE last time Nato leaders met, President Trump derailed the planned agenda with an outburst on Europe’s defence spending. The London meeting’s intention is to display a show of unity as Nato enters its seventh decade; and the location delivers an important demonstration of post-Brexit Britain’s commitment to the Western Alliance. Unfortunately, a growing list of disputes between Allies could undermine the carefully choreographed meeting this week.

Nato has two pillars: the military and the political. The military story is a broadly positive one in recent years. Defence spending has been rising across Europe and Canada since 2015, in part thanks to US Presidential tweets. Our militaries work well together, including in protecting Eastern Europe from Russian aggression.

Nato flag

Nato flag (Image: Getty Images)

However, Nato is made up of more than tanks and troops: it is a political alliance underpinned by the mantra of ‘one for all and all for one’. President Trump has previously created an air of doubt around that core principle, reinforced by French President Macron’s recent comment that Nato is ‘brain dead’. I disagree with the doubters who say the United States would refuse to defend Europe if push came to shove – Congress would insist on US action. However, when leading Nato Allies lament the brain death of Nato, it risks turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

President Macron’s remarks make it impossible to brush some of the Allies’ differences under the carpet this week. From how to handle China, to Turkey’s actions in Syria and the Alliance’s posture on Russia. On Russia in particular, we have begun to see a slow drift back towards a ‘business as usual’ approach creeping into Western European political conversations. For me, Putin’s only path to better relations with Nato is by changing his aggressive and undermining behaviour.

President of the United States Donald Trump

President of the United States Donald Trump (Image: Getty Images)

Disagreements between allies are hardly new in NATO’s 70-year history and should also not be overblown. However, keeping the Nato summit on the straight and narrow will be a test, not least for the British hosts. Undoubtedly PM Johnson will seek to use this gathering for party political gain. A dig at Jeremy Corbyn is to be expected given his past statements on NATO, but I also hope that the hosts will prevent the domestic attacks from polluting the important discussions in the room.

All Nato Allies should not lose sight of the wider picture. While Europe can and should cooperate more on security matters, after Brexit, 80 percent of NATO defence spending will come from outside the EU. Meanwhile, the USA’s role at the head of the world’s alliance of democracies is what has made America rich, powerful, and kept the Atlantic free. Put simply, there is no alternative to Nato.

Whatever our differences, we should never forget that Nato is our insurance policy. When the global house is on fire we’d be insane to tear it up.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato Secretary General 2009- 2014



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