NATO’s Southern Strategy

BRUSSELS/BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Own report) – The leading foreign policy journal of Germany is debating NATO’s utility. Today, the utility of the Alliance is “unclear,” according to the latest edition of “Internationale Politik.” Countries in Europe and North America could solve their “security” problems without NATO, whereas – this should be conceded – NATO has done great damage to relations with Russia. In light of the EU’s military policy, Washington should encourage the EU to “defend itself,” says the author, an expert in an influential US think tank. While “Internationale Politik” is raising fundamental questions, NATO is opening a debate on a new “southern strategy.” Since Russia is expanding its naval presence in the Mediterranean and establishing new military bases in Syria, the Mediterranean “is a contested space,” according to NATO circles. The deployment of drones in Sicily has been announced, along with plans to intensify cooperation with the countries of the region. “Advisers” are already active in Tunisia, Jordan and Iraq and should also be sent to Libya as soon as possible. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has announced that the debate will be continued at the meeting of NATO foreign ministers, scheduled for early December.

Dubious Popularity

“Only foreign policy elites believe” that NATO is vital “to Western security.”[1] Even though the war alliance “maintains unparalleled popularity among foreign-policy elites in member states,” their “pro-NATO rhetoric” has been greatly exaggerated. There is “little reason to believe” that the USA or the EU countries would not counter “international terrorism or other problems affecting all current members alike” even “without NATO.” Moreover, one can seriously doubt that the war alliance would play an important role “to enhance collective military capacities,” as some allege. It is sure, however, that NATO has done great damage to relationships with Russia. NATO’s eastward expansion has intensified Russia’s feeling threatened, therefore boosting “arguments of Russian nationalists,” as pro-western “Russian liberals are standing by like idiots.” “Western elites prefer to disregard this damage caused by NATO.”

Third Force

Logan particularly criticizes the United States. Washington “never” wanted to allow “European defense cooperation,” the CATO expert explained. “At every turn, Washington tried to nip these efforts in the bud” to prevent “the emergence of a West European ‘third force,’ divorced from the USA.”[2] This has been a mistake and has led to NATO’s European members paying less for their military. This is why Washington presently accounts for more than “70 percent of overall NATO military expenditures, despite comprising only roughly 56 percent of the GDP of all the NATO countries.” Logan explains, “NATO ultimately forces US tax payers to subsidize the rich European welfare states by paying for their defense.” Washington should no longer “prevent” an independent European military policy, Logan says. “The Europeans are capable of defending themselves, but won’t until Washington makes them.”

Fundamental Shift

Whereas “Internationale Politik” is questioning NATO’s utility, the western war alliance is opening a debate on a new “southern strategy,” in response to the fact that Russia has greatly expanded its military presence in the Mediterranean area. Already in February, Moscow signed an agreement with Cyprus, providing Russian warships access to its harbors,[3] and is upgrading its Mediterranean fleet. In May, joint maneuvers were carried out in the Mediterranean with Chinese warships. Besides, one has to be prepared to accept the fact that Russia will also be “a factor for a long time” in Syria, said Deputy NATO Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, with an eye on Russia’s new airbase in that Mediterranean country. We have to think “about the broader consequences” of this Russian military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. NATO is already referring to the Mediterranean in terms of being “a contested space.” Russia’s presence could complicate the US’ ability to project naval power into the Persian Gulf. It would have made a NATO decision to intervene in the Libyan conflict in 2011 far more difficult to plan. Europe is now suddenly within range of Russia’s arsenal of ship-launched cruise and ballistic missiles. “This is really a fundamental shift in Russian posture that will be long lasting,” an expert at London’s Royal United Services Institute is quoted saying.[4]

Full article: NATO’s Southern Strategy (German Foreign Policy)

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