NATO turns 70: A tough anniversary

NATO turns 70: A tough anniversary

The gathering of NATO leaders in London on Dec. 3 and 4 will not just be a symbolic celebratory summit on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic alliance. 

Leaders from the prominent allied countries have long been preparing for the summit as they see it as a very good and important opportunity for pushing the 70-year-old security body to adapt itself to address the new challenges. The rise of China, alleged Russian interference in the democratic environment of the West, cyberterrorism and continued jihadist terrorist threat are among those that complicate the security climate in the north Atlantic zone. 

What further complicates the picture is the fact that there are deep fractures among the allies when it comes to compromise over the security priorities of the NATO. It was not long ago that United States President 

Donald Trump had described NATO as obsolete, while French President Emmanuel Macron argued that the alliance was suffering a brain death, drawing reaction from Germany-led eastern Europeans. 

The Baltic states and Poland slam NATO for not doing more to deter Russia, particularly after Turkey blocked the release of a defense plan for the Baltic region. Turkey, for its part, calls on the NATO partners to lend more support in its fight against terrorism, namely the 

PYD/YPG in Syria. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had announced that he will call on NATO to step into Syria in a bid to support Turkey’s efforts to create a peace corridor for the re-settlement of the Syrian refugees. 

As expected, Russia will continue to be the top issue the allies will discuss during the summit, although France and Germany are looking for ways to engage in more dialogue and cooperation with Moscow. Turkey’s close ties with Russia will come to the fore given the fact that it has already deployed and tested Russian-made S-400 air defense systems despite sanctions threats from the U.S. 

The host, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hardly devote himself to the NATO gathering as it comes just a week before the general elections and a few days after a deadly terror attack on London Bridge.    

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is exerting enormous efforts to turn the London Summit into a success given all these differences and divergences. In fact, the celebratory meeting will just include a reception at the Buckingham Palace given by the Queen Elizabeth on Dec. 3 and one plenary session in the morning of Dec. 4. 

Under these conditions, it will be hard for NATO to resolve all differences and come to a drastic conclusion for a drastic change on its threat perception and therefore amendments on its military postures. 

In the meantime, the London Summit will offer a good opportunity for Turkey, France, Germany and the U.K to have their leaders come around the same table to launch a discussion on mainly Syria, prompted by the Turkish army’s “Operation Peace Spring.”

The composition of the group is rather telling: France and Germany, two engines of the Europe, Turkey and the U.K., on the south and north end of the European continent. 

Turkey, a candidate with no hope to join the EU, and the U.K. poised to leave the EU by Jan. 31, if there is no new postponement. 

The diplomats say it will be a permanent four-way body with the regular meetings of the leaders once a year and the foreign ministers twice a year. 

But there are two important hurdles before this first meeting of these four leaders. First, the problem over Turkey’s veto on the Baltic defense plan has not yet been compromised although Stoltenberg is actively working on it. Second, the disturbance on the French side because of Erdoğan’s strong-worded criticisms against Emmanuel Macron. France has summoned the Turkish ambassador on the grounds that these words were not statements but insults. 

One thing is pretty common. There is still a need for NATO, but how this need will be transformed into concrete measures as a result of new policies will remain to be seen in the coming period. For the moment, let’s just hope that the London Summit will not produce more internal arguments and differences between the allies.