Just a few hours before the NATO Summit Meeting 2019 begins today, US President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met for a bilateral discussion early this morning. In a media briefing, both politicians strongly rejected the criticism made by French President Emmanuel Macron, who believes that NATO is “brain-dead.”
The US President emphasised that these remarks were “a nasty statement” and “very disrespectful” to all other NATO allies. He tried to defend the Alliance, saying “Nobody needs NATO more than France.” Talking about burden sharing, he criticized Germany for its defence spending. According to the latest figures, the US spends about 3.4% of GDP on defence, whereas Germany only spends 1.38%. “That’s not fair,” he said clearly.
Mr Stoltenberg confessed to political differences among the 29 allies, all of whom have different cultures. Despite these differences, the Alliance manages to unite and stand together. NATO will be agile and will adapt to a rapidly-changing security environment, becoming stronger today than ever before.
On 3 December, high-ranking representatives of the NATO member states will attend an international conference entitled “NATO Engages: Innovating the Alliance” in London. The Secretary General and other senior leaders are expected to join this event and praise the achievements of the Alliance since its foundation on 4 April 1949.
The same evening, Queen Elizabeth II will host a reception for the Heads of State and Government at Buckingham Palace to mark the 70th anniversary of the Atlantic Alliance. In 1949, the United Kingdom was one of NATO’s twelve founding members and London was the home of NATO’s first headquarters.
On 4 December, the Heads of State and Government will meet at a location north of London. It is expected that they will take decisions about NATO’s ongoing adaptation, including more improvements in the readiness of Allied forces; recognizing space as the fifth operational domain (in addition to air, land, sea and cyber) as well as updating NATO’s action plan countering international terrorism. The leaders will also discuss the geopolitical and military challenges posed by Russia, the future of arms control and disarmament, and China’s rising ambitions.
Political observers assume that President Macron will use the international gathering to explain his critical diagnosis – that NATO is brain-dead and why he suggests reforms in political decision-making, internal processes and the strategic debate within the Alliance, for example. The military conflict in northern Syria and the future threats of cyber warfare will also be hot topics on the agenda.
Ahead of the meetings in London, NATO’s Secretary General published details of the increases in defence spending. He announced that in 2019, defence spending across European Allies and Canada increased in real terms by 4.6%, making this the fifth consecutive year of growth. He also revealed that by the end of 2020, those Allies will have invested $130 billion more since 2016. The Secretary General confirmed that more Allies are meeting the guideline of spending 2% of GDP on defence. This year, nine Allies will meet the guideline, up from only three just a few years ago. He highlighted that NATO continues to be the bedrock of peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area, saying “Our Alliance is active, agile and adapting for the future. In uncertain times, we need strong multinational institutions like NATO.”