NATO’s 70th anniversary: Op-ed
Jeffrey M. Hovenier*
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is the most successful alliance in human history. Over the past 70 years, NATO has helped to create the most secure, stable, and prosperous period in its members’ history. From deterring the Soviet Union during the Cold War to countering the hybrid threats that confront us today, NATO Allies stand shoulder-to-shoulder in protecting all our people.
When the NATO Treaty was signed on April 4, 1949, by the original 12 Allies, President Truman said its members were “not only seeking to establish freedom from aggression and from the use of force in the North Atlantic community, but we are also actively striving to promote and preserve peace throughout the world.” That remains the collective aspiration of the members of the NATO Alliance.
Turkey joined the Alliance in 1952, enhancing our collective security. Since then, NATO has played a central role in Turkey’s security and contributed to its integration with the Euro-Atlantic community. Turkey, in return, has been firmly committed and aligned with the founding principles of the Euro-Atlantic alliance, as well as its current commitments and priorities.
For decades, NATO Allies stopped the expansion of communist dictatorships in Europe and ensured that the kinds of horrors we saw in World War II would never again strike our nations. After the Cold War, the Alliance adapted to new circumstances, establishing partnerships with former Cold War adversaries and responding to conflict in the Balkans. Turkey played pivotal roles in all these campaigns.
The Cold War is over, but NATO remains as relevant today as it was in 1949, as new challenges combine with old ones to create an increasingly competitive and uncertain geopolitical environment. Instead of working with us to address new challenges, Russia is demonstrating aggression that once again threatens to erode the prosperity, stability, and peace we have built over the last 70 years. Russia remains the greatest threat to the sovereignty and independence of individual European nation-states, and to the shared values that bind the West together.
But Russia is not the only international threat NATO members face. An increasingly assertive China is aggressively seeking to build economic and political influence in Europe in order to subvert European and transatlantic unity and to rewrite international norms and standards. We also cannot ignore the challenges posed by nations like Iran and North Korea, both of which have unpredictable leaders and nuclear ambitions. And while the crisis in Syria has not been met with official NATO support, it is NATO members like Turkey that have played an essential role in the defeat of the ISIL physical caliphate and support to millions of refugees.
In the face of these challenges, the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to all our Allies. When President Trump spoke in Warsaw in 2017, he declared unequivocally, “Americans know that a strong Alliance of free, sovereign, and independent nations is the best defense for our freedoms and for our interests.” That commitment to the collective defense of our shared values and NATO member states’ sovereignty is why Allies decided in 2014 to increase investments in our national defense. We committed to spend at least two percent of GDP on defense and to invest at least 20 percent of that spending on major equipment by 2024. We welcome Turkey’s active efforts to meet these commitments.
As we increase national defense investments, together we will help NATO ensure our armies, navies, and air forces are trained, equipped, and postured ready to go when called upon in crisis or in conflict, against any threat. We will strengthen NATO’s ability to address hybrid threats. We will also ensure NATO can marshal its resources to support our partners to fight terrorism, build stability in crisis-prone areas, and reduce the likelihood of terrorist attacks on Allied territory.
NATO is an alliance of nations that have banded together because, in the words of the NATO charter, “they are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.” Since its founding, NATO has stayed true to its founding ideals and our door has remained open to new members who share our values and are committed to contributing to our collective defense. In 2019, NATO prepares to welcome North Macedonia to become NATO’s 30th Ally.
NATO Allies are committed to our collective defense and the preservation of our freedoms. Together, we will be stronger and better equipped to ensure NATO remains the safeguard of peace and prosperity for another 70 years – and beyond – whatever the threat.
* Jeffrey M. Hovenier is the Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. embassy in Ankara