Under the intermittent leadership of former US President Donald Trump, NATO is trying to find a way back to “normal” after four years of drama.
This will prove to be a challenging task. After Trump distorted its strategic vision and values and expressed doubts about its common destiny, NATO seems to have lost its magic, albeit in rhetoric.
But the emergence of transatlanticist Joe Biden is energizing the agreement, as the US president is trying to assure European allies that his government is serious about restoring trust and restoring harmony.
This is not the first time the alliance has recovered after an internal crisis.
In fact, in the past few decades, people have had a weird view of certain NATO crises or other crises: “deep crises”, “deepening crises”, “fundamental crises”, “general crises” “, “unprecedented crisis”, or even “real crisis.”
But NATO has been recovering.
Even before the end of the Cold War, whether it was the Suez Canal Crisis, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, or the dictatorship in its ranks, NATO was divided and discordant. Nevertheless, the fear of the Soviet Union during the Cold War helped its members to unite, regardless of their differences. The greater the threat perception, the deeper the solidarity.
When the Eastern Bloc collapsed in 1989, the alliance established in Western Europe by the Germans and the Americans, which was designed to keep the Soviets out, lost its raison d’être. Disagreements within NATO persisted, turning to eastward expansion and various military deployments in the greater Middle East.
In 2001, 24 hours after the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, NATO used Article 5 as the cornerstone of its collective defense for the first time in its history. But conducting asymmetric warfare outside of its long-defined combat zone, especially in Afghanistan, proved to be a thankless effort and a source of tension.
Over the past 30 years, NATO has remained united and has regained its vitality through multiple cosmetic and structural surgeries. Its membership has even increased from 16 to 30, almost doubled.
The alliance has repeatedly overcome internal discord through adaptation and compromise. It will do so again in Brussels on June 14th, hoping to improve its appearance and performance in an increasingly competitive world. Compared with Trump, Biden’s popularity in Europe will certainly help.
NATO will again rely on the fact that it unites its members more than divides them.
In my opinion, this is first of all to protect their common economic and financial interests. NATO has a population of nearly 1 billion, accounting for half of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). It is definitely the military power of the privileged club of Western capitalist democratic countries.
Today, the alliance faces two major strategic challenges, a rising China and a rejuvenating Russia, which constitute cyber, spatial, and geopolitical threats, including in the “Global South,” Beijing and Moscow are expanding to some extent.
All other issues raised by the public, such as climate change, human security, and development, are all in front of us. This is not because they are unimportant — they are certainly important — but because they are more like G7 than NATO materials.
But since Trump’s psychological breakdown, some Europeans are said to be worried that their safety is overly dependent on the United States, as it has in the past seven years.
Junior members of NATO are particularly traumatized by the president’s erratic behavior, while more senior continental members such as France and Germany are both cautious and shrewd in their reactions. They are using the collapse of the United States to call for greater European security autonomy and a more equal partnership with the United States.
Compared with the Biden administration, they have also adopted a more detailed and less dramatic view of the challenges posed by Russia and China. They prefer to avoid Cold War rhetoric and emphasize contact rather than confrontation with Russia and Beijing.
They make sense.
As former President Barack Obama said, Russia today is nothing more than “a regional power,” and its belligerent behavior is a manifestation of weakness rather than strength.
Instead of alienating Russia through strategic confrontation, it is better to contain Russia through political and economic engagement.
Although the rising China has brought new geopolitical problems, it is not the Soviet Union.
Despite its enormous economic power and strategic ambitions, it has no other choice for the world. Since joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, Beijing has integrated its economy into the world economic system dominated by the West, and has gained huge windfalls from its trade with the West.
Europeans see China as an economic competitor, or in the worst case, a competitor, and they are satisfied with a multipolar world. But Washington views China from a different perspective. It believes that China aspires to become Asian hegemony and insists on containing its rise before becoming the world’s leading power. The United States hopes to maintain its status as an undisputed superpower in the world.
This means that the Biden administration will have to attract and bully its divided but prosperous European partners to support it.
In fact, as Europeans are moving away from China, especially in the areas of technology and investment, as well as the United Kingdom’s demonstration of the deployment of aircraft carriers in the South China Sea, some pressure has begun to emerge.
In fact, sooner or later NATO will try to carry out a new strategic assessment based on the ideas of its 2010 strategic assessment, but the assessment puts more emphasis on political cohesion and coordination. Europeans will demand greater equality and lobby Washington to reduce unilateral actions, just like when Trump’s leadership or the Biden administration decides to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, without real consultations until the last minute.
For its part, Washington will continue to insist that, as it has done in the past few decades, Europe must pay the price for a greater voice in NATO and show greater commitment to their collective security. committed to. It may also involve Asian powers Japan and South Korea under the guise of “defending democracy” in East Asia.
easy to say, hard to do? Maybe.
But the bigger challenge lies in how to define NATO’s new role and mission, because Washington insists on using NATO to maintain US world hegemony, which will definitely lead to a new cold war with China.
Biden hopes to use the NATO meeting to unite the alliance behind the United States before the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 16, because he knows China is paying close attention.
In the future, pushing the alliance to further expand to Ukraine and Georgia, or to expand its power projection, will surely anger Moscow and Beijing, push them closer, and have a serious impact on world security.
Biden should be careful of his wish; it may come true.