NATO’s 70th Anniversary Summit: Divided Leaders Attempt United Front

Written by | Thursday, December 5th, 2019

The meeting of NATO leaders in London, celebrating 70 years of the military alliance, has revealed deep wounds. In an attempt to overcome the birthday blues and put on a united front, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, standing alongside host UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, stressed yesterday (4 December) that “whatever our differences, we will continue to unite to defend each other, all for one and one for all.” Johnson then echoed Stoltenberg’s words by saying that “we are rock solid in our commitment to NATO … History shows that peace cannot be taken for granted … We must never shy away from discussing new realities, particularly NATO’s response to emerging threats like hybrid warfare and disruptive technologies including space and cyber.”
A day earlier, US President Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron clashed over the role and future of NATO. Trump slammed Macron during a press conference, rallying against European tax policies and rebuking the French leader over his comment that NATO was “brain dead” that he had made in an interview with The Economist last month. Moreover, several NATO members were opposed to Turkey’s operation in Syria, with some suspending arms sales to Ankara. Most prominent among these was the French leader who has long complained that Turkey increasingly acted in a freelance way, carrying out incursions into Syria, attacking the West-allied Kurdish YPG militia, and buying the S-400 missile defense system from Russia. Erdogan has hit back, warning that if NATO does not recognize groups that Turkey deems terrorists, including the YPG, Turkey would retaliate by opposing the alliance’s plan for the defense of Baltic countries.
At a previous meeting, one and a half year ago in Brussels, Trump called on other allies to boost their contributions, claiming the US was overpaying for defense. Now in London, NATO leaders sought to assure the US president they are spending billions more dollars on their militaries in the hope that he pares back his attacks on the Western alliance. Europe, Turkey and Canada also put the message across that they would spend $400bn collectively on defense by 2024, which will also allow for the broadening of NATO’s political influence to consider a bigger role for the alliance in the Middle East and possibly Africa. In a final communiqué, NATO allies recommitted their pledge to defend each other and warned China for the first time that the alliance was closely monitoring its growing military might.

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