NATO: A Western Ideal or an Expensive Idealisation?

(Photo: The Hill)

By Jessica Savery – Contributor 

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, more colloquial known as NATO, has jokingly been referred to as military branch of the otherwise economic EU. NATO is an intergovernmental body that has a main aspiration of “living in peace”, which is paradoxical considering its military and Nuclear influences.

It’s ironic that NATO has so many links to the EU, while the core of NATO is very much not conforming to the aspirations of the EU. Both bodies began around the same time – while the EU took a few decades to shape itself into the supranational body it is now known as today. NATO however, in that time, used the post-war consensus and the tense Cold War to build a reputation as a military power that had the backing of various strong military assets including the USA, France and the UK. Because of this various other European nations decided to join NATO under the pretence of nuclear deterrence, and thus a strong military alliance was formed.

But NATO has proven to be more complex than originally intended. From political rivalries; such as Turkey blocking Cyprus’s entry into NATO and in return Cyprus has stalled any plans of Turkey ascension into the EU. There are also economic rivalries; as of 2019 only 9 out of the 30 member states adhered to the monetary requirements of NATO – a two percent GDP spending on defence, but this is an improvement from 2017, when only 5 member-states made the required contribution, resulting in President Trump announcement of great dissatisfaction on the monetary agreement – and a thinly veiled threat regarding spending.

Whilst on the topic of the USA, it seems contradictory that NATO has been referenced as the military branch of the EU, considering that two of the biggest military powers within NATO are not member states of the EU. The United States and the UK are two of the biggest spenders for NATO, making up over 32% of the 2018 – 2019 military and civil budget for NATO. This means that out of 30 NATO member states, these two states specifically paid for nearly a third of the monetary resources. If the EU truly wants to be seen as both an economic power, as well as a global defence power, then they should also pay a more significant amount towards NATO. This is especially significant, considering that the EU’s own defensive ‘command and control’ structures are so small, that it had to be agreed to work in partnership with NATO in order to use the Allied Command Operations (ACO) on behalf of the EU missions.

Subsequently, when it comes to NATO – EU relations, NATO only allows the EU use of its bases and tactical forces in a relationship that is primarily surrounded by crisis management. This is because the EU can only make use of NATOs current assets and capabilities but have no authority to duplicate NATOs powers for themselves and still comply with the supranational institutional body that is the EU.

Leading on, how necessary is NATO in 2020? It was fundamental for strong security during the Cold War and it additionally allowed reassurance and strength for various humanitarian missions. Regardless of NATO indifference within its own institutional body, society will always face new perils, which is why it is argued that the additional defence measure of NATO is needed during the ever-growing uncertainty of 2020 and beyond.

Recently France’s President has been making statements surrounding the capabilities of NATO. As recently has December 2019, the President has called the body “brain-dead”, essentially saying that while the institution carries on, it no longer has a purpose. What President Macron is suggesting is, either he wants NATO to end and allow Member states more autonomy in their defence strategy, or he is off the belief that NATO needs to be revitalised so that it can be reengaged in international politics at its full potential.

This ultimately leads to the question of what is the future of NATO? Can the EU have both development and security aspirations? Who would this cost more NATO or the EU? For NATO to grow and modernise in the 21st century they would need to have a consensus that is more about non-proliferation so that they may regain support from not only the member states within NATO, who are questioning its role as a defence strategy.

With all off this in the last few years, there have been various nations who are starkly independent of one another, both economically and politically, who have disagreed on what the purpose of NATO should be. It is for peace maintenance? Or for war and terror deterrence? Regardless, the question still remains of how this once strong military defence institution, which previously prospered and thrived under a post-war consensus, should showcase its power in 2020 and the years ahead.

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