A Break in the Trans-Atlantic Alliance

Kevin Doremus | @k_doremus

Cracks in the NATO alliance continue to appear. According to Politico new polling data shows, “69 percent of the German public want more cooperation with Russia and only 35 percent with America; a consistent German polling majority refuses to defend Poland and the Baltic states if Russia invaded them.”  Germany is also expected to miss the NATO’s requirement of at least 2 percent of GDP in defense spending.  President Donald Trump has been critical of NATO members for not paying their favor in the organization.

A Divergence of Interests

Germany in its cooperation with Russia is continuing to build the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.  According to the Washington Times, “The pipeline also will deliver a huge financial windfall for Germany, which will be transformed into a European energy hub.”  Critics argue that the pipeline is a reward for Russia’s aggressive behavior and would threaten Europe’s energy security by being reliant on Russian gas.  In a meeting with the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, President Trump said that Germany was “totally controlled by Russia.” “We’re supposed to protect you from Russia, but Germany is making pipeline deals with Russia,” Trump also said.

At NATO’s 70th anniversary, the Trump administration tried to convince Germany to increase military spending and stop the construction of the Nord Stream 2.  Vice President Mike Pence specifically called out Germany at one of many NATO gatherings:

More allies are now meeting their commitments, but too many others are falling short and as we all acknowledge, Germany is chief among them…We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on Russia.

The Germans responded to criticism by saying that they would increase military spending and that the pipeline was to reroute Russia energy and not an increase. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas gave a speech in which he repeated the usual lines of the importance of the Trans-Atlantic alliance. He adds, “We made a firm commitment to invest more money on defense, and we intend to keep our word.” Germany’s so-called commitment does not convince Daniel DePetris, a fellow at Defense Priorities.

Recent NATO Struggles

NATO is an alliance searching for its purpose. Initially, the coalition’s mission consisted of “deterring Soviet expansionism, forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and encouraging European political integration.”  The Soviet Union is no more, and war no longer exists in the Balkans. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US, NATO attempted to shift its mission to countering terrorismEuropean NATO members were not as cooperative providing minimal assistance. Over recent years the geopolitical orientation of some eastern members has moved away from NATO’s interests.

Some analysts have argued that it is time for the Europeans to defend themselves. After all, it appears Europe and the US have different interests.

The US has committed to NATO since its birth.  As the original reasons for the alliance are no longer existent, many wonder if NATO is still beneficial.  US Foreign policy restrainers ask this very question.  Only time will tell if the alliance lasts.

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