The splits and rancor at the NATO summit this week could not be concealed, even by strained calls for “unity”. The US-led military alliance is a dinosaur well past its extinction date.
Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, did his best to rally a sense of unity as the two-day summit hosted by Britain came to a close. The event was supposed to be a celebration, marking the 70th anniversary of NATO’s founding.
Far from being a “happy birthday” party, the NATO gathering descended into embarrassing farce with bickering and jibes. Video footage appeared to show the French, British and Canadian leaders making fun of American President Donald Trump over his rambling press conferences. Trump then hit back, accusing Canada’s Justin Trudeau of being “two-faced”.
There were other spats, between France and Turkey over Ankara’s military incursion into northern Syria against Kurdish militants, whom France and the US regard as allies. Turkey was also chided for buying the S-400 air defense system from Russia.
However, the biggest clash came between Trump and France’s Emmanuel Macron, who was taken to task by the American leader for his recent media remarks about NATO being “brain dead”. Trump said those comments were “very, very nasty” and “disrespectful”. Macron bridled at their joint press conference, saying he stood by his earlier critical comments.
It was toe-curling stuff, especially the lecture on politeness coming from Trump who himself has several times in the past disparaged NATO as “obsolete”.
Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian secretary-general, tried to smooth over the ruffled relations by claiming: “NATO is the most successful alliance in history because we’ve changed at the world has changed.” He went on to describe the 29-nation military bloc as “agile, active… adapting.”
That was after he pointed out that the combined NATO military spend was set for massive increases. An extra $400 billion will be forked out by the alliance by 2024, said Stoltenberg, on top of the current $1 trillion.
Already NATO’s total budget is 20 times that of Russia and five times that of China.
This is not about being “agile” or “adapting”. It’s about what NATO has always done: actively expand its military forces on a global scale in a way that deliberately destabilizes security and thus creates “challenges” that “need” to be responded to.
At this year’s summit, the NATO leaders have “for the first time” discussed China as a collective security challenge. They also discussed making “space an operational domain” for military technology.
And, of course, Russia featured as the time-honored “bogeyman”, with Stoltenberg talking about increasing battalions on Russia’s borders to “protect Poland and the Baltic region”.
There were also a few token statements about “fighting terrorism” thrown into the mission mix during the two-day summit near London.