English auto-translation of an article in Germany’s SPIEGEL:
Militärische Alleingänge wichtiger Mitgliedstaaten, Zweifel an der Bündnistreue der USA, Dauerstreit um die Verteilung der Lasten – seit Längerem fällt die Nato vor allem durch Katastrophenmeldungen über Streit und Uneinigkeit innerhalb der Allianz auf. Vor gut einem Jahr war es der französische Präsident Emmanuel Macron, der die Krise des Bündnisses deutlich benannte.
Explosive reform proposals for NATO
There is life after “brain death”
How does NATO overcome its crisis? Experts appointed by General Secretary Stoltenberg propose a radical cure that breaks with the basic principles of the alliance.
By Matthias Gebauer and Christiane Hoffmann
11/27/2020, 8:23 p.m.
Unilateral military action by important member states, doubts about the United States’ loyalty to the alliance, ongoing dispute over the distribution of burdens – for a long time, NATO has been attracting attention primarily through disaster reports about disputes and disagreements within the alliance.
Just over a year ago , it was French President Emmanuel Macron who clearly identified the crisis in the alliance. His diagnosis of the “brain death” of the alliance, detailed in the “Economist”, prompted NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to commission a group of experts with proposals for reforming the alliance at the summit of heads of state and government last December.
The group is now presenting its final report under the heading “NATO 2030, United for a New Era”.
Break with the basic principles of the alliance
The aim is to adapt the defense alliance to the “new and very different strategic environment” in the coming decade, says the summary of the 67-page paper that is available to SPIEGEL. The alliance is to become more capable of action, faster in crisis situations and, above all, come to agreement.
In order to improve NATO’s ability to act, the experts propose a series of measures at the expense of unity that break with previous basic principles of the alliance.
“The consensus principle is a cornerstone of the alliance,” says the paper, “but NATO must diligently ensure that it remains able to make and implement decisions in good time.”
For example, the right of veto is to be restricted and the principle of unanimity to be weakened.
In addition, coalitions of willing within NATO should also be possible. This means that the alliance could become active in the future even if not all member countries approve a mission.
They are proposals which, in turn, are likely to cause contentious discussions.
The report by experts from ten NATO countries, including Germany, the USA, France and Turkey , expresses concern about the internal cohesion of the alliance quite bluntly, mentions “tensions and differences about the underlying values” of NATO as well as different perceptions of the Threat to Allies.
The experts warn that Russia and China, for example, could take advantage of the alliance’s disagreement. The »central political task« is named to strengthen the cohesion of NATO and to consolidate the transatlantic alliance.
The strategic analysis of the report focuses primarily on the external threat situation, the systemic rivals Russia and China, the terrorist threat and the instability on NATO’s southern border.
The actual background, however, is the critical developments within the alliance:
The fear that the USA could fail as a guarantor for the security of Europe in the medium term,
the discussion about the future relationship between NATO and the EU , where, with the experience of the Trump years, a debate about greater “strategic autonomy” has flared up, which in the long term should make Europe more independent of the USA in terms of security policy.
And the increasing alienation from the ally Turkey, which is putting the unity of the alliance to the test through its military solo effort in northern Syria and its special relationship with Russia.
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The experts – on the German side, the former Defense and Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, CDU, leading the group together with the American Wess Mitchell – have drawn up a 14-point catalog of recommendations, most of which are more likely to be expected.
It says, for example, that the alliance should continue the combination of deterrence and dialogue with Russia, deal more intensively with China as a strategic challenge, or maintain arms control efforts.
The proposals for closer cooperation between NATO and the EU are likely to become more controversial. “NATO,” the paper says, “should welcome efforts by the EU for a stronger and more capable European defense, insofar as they strengthen NATO, contribute to a fair transatlantic burden-sharing and fully involve allies who do not belong to the EU.”
For example, the authors propose a common format for the next NATO summit with the EU heads of state and government in order to discuss future cooperation.
The idea is likely to meet with resistance, especially in Ankara and London, where – for various reasons – closer cooperation between the Alliance and the Union is viewed critically. It is also uncertain how the US will position itself under a new President, Joe Biden .
Resistance to the idea of softening the principle of unanimity is likely to be even greater.
The paper criticizes the fact that the alliance is increasingly blocked by the veto of individual members. As a remedy, the experts suggest that such a veto should no longer be possible below the ministerial level in the future.
In order to prevent the “increasingly frequent blockades by individual countries”, the proposals say “the Alliance should consider raising the threshold for such blockades at ministerial level.”
This restriction of the right of veto should not only be viewed critically by member states like Turkey or Hungary, which had used their right of veto in the past to block decisions, often because of bilateral tensions that had nothing to do with the Alliance.
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The proposal is also viewed with skepticism in Berlin. The Federal Ministry of Defense fears that restricting the principle of unanimity could endanger the foundations of NATO as a bloc. From the German point of view, coalitions of willing within NATO would also impair the alliance’s clout.
The paper says that NATO should build a “structured mechanism” to support the formation of coalitions within the alliance and to enable faster reactions in times of crisis.
It is therefore uncertain whether these proposals will ultimately be implemented. First of all, the NATO foreign ministers are to discuss the expert paper on a video link next Tuesday, then Secretary-General Stoltenberg will have a policy paper drawn up for a not yet scheduled NATO summit next year on this basis. This in turn could become the basis for an update of NATO’s strategic concept from 2010.
What the authors of the paper could no longer consider was the election of Joe Biden as the new US president.
More than any reform, it should strengthen the unity and reliability of the alliance if, with Biden, there is again a US president in the White House who does not consider the alliance to be “obsolete” and does not question the alliance’s commitment to assistance.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.