Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has drawn a satisfied conclusion from the first top-level talks on his “Nato 2030” reform project.
“We had a positive and stimulating discussion,”he said on Wednesday evening after a video conference with the defence ministers of the 30 alliance states. It had been a “good start” to the deliberations.
Stoltenberg’s reform initiative provides for deterrence and defence measures to be financed at least in part from the NATO common purse in future. Accordingly, alliance states would no longer have to bear all the costs themselves if, for example, they participate in the stationing of troops in the Baltic or air surveillance missions.
Stoltenberg also wants to revise NATO’s current strategic concept and introduce additional consultations to strengthen political coordination. It is about making the transatlantic alliance fit for the future, the Norwegian explained.
Whether all of Stoltenberg’s proposals will be realised, however, is questionable. According to information from Alliance circles, France, for example, clearly spoke out against further communitarisation of costs for deterrence and defence. Only Poland expressed clear support.
Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU, Germany) only made a general statement on the reform project. She said that Germany had a great interest in driving forward the processes on the future shape of NATO. The new US Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, also did not go into details of the “NATO 2030” initiative. He merely said that he supported the overarching goals of “keeping the Alliance militarily strong, politically stronger and taking a more global approach”.
A possible reason for France’s rejection is that the country is involved in international military activities, especially outside Nato – for example, in the fight against terror in countries like Mali. It would therefore probably not benefit from the new financing system. In addition, the new regulation could lead to allies having to participate comparatively heavily in missions even if they view them rather critically politically and have only given their consent for reasons of alliance loyalty.
In the meantime, Nato headquarters emphasises that it should not be a matter of financing missions like the one in Afghanistan, but only of military engagement in the territory of the alliance. Countries that are particularly active there, such as Germany, could profit from a new arrangement.
Stoltenberg’s goal is to present a coordinated reform concept at the next NATO summit. It is to take place in the course of the year. A date has not yet been set.
The meeting of NATO defence ministers on Wednesday had a special significance because it was the first after the change of power in Washington. The new US Secretary of Defence Austin promised that the time of American unilateralism is now over. “When I meet with my counterparts at the NATO defence ministers’ meeting, my message will be clear: We must coordinate, decide together and act together,” he wrote on Twitter. “I am convinced that the US is strongest when it works as a team.”
Under US President Donald Trump, the relationship between the United States and Nato has been extremely strained. Regardless of the consequences, Trump had repeatedly expressed doubts about whether the US would fulfil its obligation to provide military assistance in an emergency. This was compounded by the uncoordinated announcement of a withdrawal of US troops from Germany and other unilateral steps. To the dismay of Nato allies, Trump even threatened to leave.
Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that there is now “a unique opportunity to open a new chapter in the relationship between Europe and North America”. No country or continent can master the current global challenges alone. For example, it was a matter of protecting the rules-based order, which was being undermined by countries like Russia and China.
The new US Secretary of Defence also addressed the dangers from China. Austin said after the talks that he welcomed the fact that Nato partners were also aware that China’s growing influence and its international policy posed challenges to transatlantic security. He now looked forward to tackling the challenges together.