July 24, 2021

Brussels Summit: The NATO Plan for New Enemies

DThe protocol has been fixed for weeks: At exactly 12.20 p.m. on Monday afternoon, NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg will greet American President Joe Biden at the NATO headquarters in Brussels for the first time since he took office in January. It should be a handshake with great symbolic meaning.

The message is: At this summit, NATO wants to renew transatlantic relations after the difficult years with Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump. But of course, the three-hour meeting of the 30 heads of state and government should not only revolve around Biden.

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Because the alliance is under massive pressure: There are new enemies, numerous threats and tight budgets. “The meeting will set the tone for the next decade,” said a top diplomat. The diplomats worked on the final declaration until late Sunday afternoon. The document contains almost 50 paragraphs, written in a technocratic sound. A concrete overview of the most important NATO construction sites.

China as a new enemy

Stoltenberg avoids calling China an “enemy” because NATO never explicitly speaks of “enemies”. He just says: “China is getting closer and closer and is everywhere.” Or: “China does not share our values.” But the USA and Great Britain in particular now see Beijing as the greatest threat to the alliance.

Even if, from the American point of view, Germany and France are still slowing down the debate about a decisive course vis-à-vis China, all NATO countries agree on the Chinese threat to the free trade of goods on the oceans, the rapid military armament of Beijing and the hostile ones Acts against Pacific riparian states.

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Relaxed in Carbis Bay (from right): Chancellor Merkel, EU Council President Michel, Italian Prime Minister Draghi, French President Macron, EU Commission President von der Leyen

A debate has been simmering behind the scenes at NATO headquarters for months about the extent to which individual allies should, or even have to, support Taiwan’s protective power, the USA, if China attacks Taipei – which high-ranking US military officials expect in the next five to six years. The answer to this should not come until 2022 when a new “strategic concept” is presented. At this NATO summit, however, the allies will at least announce that they will significantly expand their cooperation with the Pacific partner countries South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

India is also set to become a partner country at some point. The heads of government in these countries should be at the NATO summit next year. In short: With its concept of deterrence and defense, the alliance is slowly moving more and more towards the Pacific region.

Perfidious threats

Autonomous weapons, artificial intelligence, increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks or the use of biological weapons such as smallpox, corona or anthrax pathogens, but also modified viruses that are only fatal to blacks or whites, for example – NATO is familiar with these new, highly complex threats emanating from states or individual terrorist groups.

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On the other hand, it wants to stay up to date technically and decide on an “innovation accelerator”. The new technology center is intended to promote cooperation between start-ups, industrial groups and universities through a NATO innovation fund in the armaments sector.

Terror in Afghanistan

NATO wants to withdraw completely from Afghanistan by September 11th at the latest. The danger that the Taliban Islamists will then regain the upper hand and that the Hindu Kush will once again become a breeding ground for international terrorist militias is immense.

What to do? The alliance wants to continue training Afghan security forces in the future – but outside the country. In addition, the Pentagon in Washington is considering flying air strikes against the Taliban in the event of a civil war or an attack on Kabul. However, this is not a sustainable solution. Afghanistan threatens to become a disaster for NATO.

Tight budgets

At the summit in Wales seven years ago, the alliance decided that each country should spend as much as two percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense by 2024. The target is already out of date with all the new threats, and defense spending should actually be much higher, experts say. In this country, armaments expenditure has risen from 35 to 53 billion euros since 2014 – with 1.53 percent of GDP, Germany is still far behind in 19th place.

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But Biden does not give up and continues to put pressure on Berlin. The joint financing of operations, exercises and the training of partner countries also remains a contentious issue within NATO.

Climate-friendly tanks

The alliance wants a “climate action plan” to reduce CO2Emissions contribute. According to NATO, the military accounts for one to two percent of emissions. A Eurofighter consumes 160 kilograms of kerosene in one minute alone. Tanks with solar cells, self-cooling uniforms for temperatures above 50 degrees, combat aircraft with biofuel in the tank – that is NATO’s vision.

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However, the alliance has so far neglected the Arctic, where the ice is melting and the competition for sea routes and resources is becoming increasingly fierce. Russia and China are jointly planning to develop new Arctic trade routes. Beijing is currently developing a nuclear-powered mega-icebreaker and has set up satellite navigation stations on Greenland and Svalbard that can also be used for military purposes.

Fight against “brain death”

In 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron attested the alliance a “brain death” because of the unilateral efforts of the Americans and Turks, but also because of the lack of political debates. The alliance wants to respond to this with the “NATO 2030” reform concept, new political discussion forums and more meetings of foreign ministers.

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