In an article published in NYT more than one week ago (June 1), entitled “Tested by Russia, NATO Struggles to Stay Credible”, the American analyst Steven Erlanger enumerated the growing threats to the European security – from Russia’s assertiveness in the East of the continent, to its direct involvement in the Syrian civil war; from the crisis of the migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea and the neighbor seas, to the North, to the unfortunate possibility of Brexit – recording a different reality.
It’s a penetrating, but sad enough reality to be cited even in the author’s words: “Despite the growing threats, many European countries still resist strong measures to strengthen NATO. Many remain reluctant to increase military spending, despite past pledges. Some, like Italy, are cutting back. France is reverting to its traditional skepticism toward the alliance, which it sees as an instrument of American policy and an infringement on its sovereignty”.
In addition to these circumstances, he mentioned significant statements for another political orientation towards the alliance, belonging to the American candidate to the presidency, Donald J. Trump. He said that the North-Atlantic Alliance is “obsolete”, and that the allies are “ripping off” America and that, given that USA is bearing a disproportional quota from the military and financial NATO asset, he wouldn’t care if this military and political organization would cease to exist. The analysis is a cruel, relentless and probably excessively negative one, as well as grounded on indisputable circumstances. It’s possible that the concern and simultaneously the brutality of the diagnostic were caused by the fact that at that moment was registered a certain reluctance of some great NATO allies, in answering to a pressing request, namely the offer of leading one of the four battalions which NATO intends to place in the Eastern Europe on rotation, but permanently, according to a decision which is going to be taken at the Warsaw summit.
More exactly, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that “the biggest reinforcement of collective defense since the end of the Cold War” will be the dislocation of four battalions of around 1,000 soldiers in the states placed to the Eastern border of the alliance. USA, Germany and UK offered themselves to ensure the command of three of the battalions – formed by soldiers of all the allies states -, but for the fourth one the command remained untaken. France and Italy rejected the possibility to take the command, arguing that they are already bringing their contribution to the NATO’s rapid response force, designed to be dislocated in case of an immediate crisis – decided at the Wales Summit in September 2014 – as in the case of Italy, or that they are pressed by peace-keeping missions in Africa and by the internal anti-terrorist emergency (France).
Of course, the problem of strengthening the Alliance is much more complex, therefore we have to mention, for instance, the stopping of the military budget’s decline in the Member States (done with some exceptions), which was a request of the previous Summit, the installation of the first terrestrial base of the missile shield of the Alliance (Romania) and the beginning of the works for the second one (Poland), as well as the dislocation of a new heavy brigade (armored combat brigade) in Europe – thus reaching a total of three such units, of course totally insufficient – dedicated to support the four battalions designed to be dislocated in East, if needed, or to strengthen the possible action of the rapid response force of the Alliance. Although there is an optimistic ambiance at the NATO headquarters that, actually, an ally nation to take over the command of the fourth battalion in East will be identified until the Warsaw Summit, we cannot ignore the profound and critical analysis of S. Erlanger, which we have quoted above.
On this multifunctional background, the news that Germany decided to amplify its military tool – even if it seems to be modest in a certain extent -, resuscitated the trust in the NATO’s capacity to strengthen the collective defense, to ensure the implementation of the Article No.5 of the founding treaty and to ensure the military discouragement which is necessary to stop other possible aggressive actions, like the ones performed in 2014 against its own members. As it is mentioned in the article signed by Alison Smale, published in NYT on June 5: “As a July NATO summit meeting in Warsaw approaches, Germany, Europe’s largest economy, is now key to how the alliance will face the twin perils that have transformed the strategic situation in Europe: a more menacing Russia and the Islamic State’s expansion beyond individual acts of terrorism like executions to seizing territory”.
We have to mention that statements of intent of the German leadership were registered in this regard since the beginning of 2014, only that in the time that passed from that moment it was noticed a syncope in the implementation of the related issues, which has to be connected to a certain “uncomfortable feeling” caused by the military dimension of the country, found in the polls performed among people in Germany (a German reader of the above mentioned article commented: „We are hosting over a million refugees, this is our kind of political engagement beyond our border. And maybe in time people will learn that this may be a much better investment than in bombs and guns”).
German experts in defense matters are not hiding that they would like to see a more alert rhythm for purchasing an efficient military vector, also corresponding to the European growing needs subsequent to the increasing threats coming from East and South. Some politicians within the governmental coalition stated that the process of acquiring such a vector of defense must be speeded-up, especially because of the danger that the defense budget could not reach 2 percent of the country’s GDP, as the NATO Member States agreed to request, even in the circumstances of implementing the announced increase of the number of soldiers and of the expenses dedicated to military armament and equipment. Other German experts in defense matter – according to the quoted article – appreciate that the right measures were taken in order to give an adequate response to a possible aggression coming from East (on of them stated that “More is being decided than Putin could ever have imagined”), but there are also important difficulties in accomplishing them.
According to the same German expert, the most significant obstacle would be „the fact that we have these anti-establishment movements on both sides of the Atlantic — we have the Alternative for Germany, we have the National Front in France and in the U.S.A. we have Trump”. The anti-establishment movements (we add) developing in the student campuses, where the pacifist ideas, which are understandable, against the preparations of defense, become visible in the detriment of the healthy reaction towards the terrorist danger and the violation of the international law, which is actually challenging to war.
The coming moment of the historical Warsaw NATO Summit (July 8 and 9), an event which will undoubtedly affect the developments in the security matter in Europe, especially regarding the strategic stability and the respect of the international law, highlights a high activity in the Member States. They are called according to their own strategic interests that they have to promote, to bring their support to the full success of the meeting.