Don’t Pull NATO into the Middle East

Donald Trump James Mattis
American president Donald Trump and his defense secretary, James Mattis, arrive for a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12, 2018 (NATO)

American president Donald Trump has called on NATO to get more involved in the Middle East.

Speaking a day after Iran retaliated for the assassination of its top general, Qasem Soleimani, in Iraq by attacking American military bases in the country, Trump pointed out that the United States are no longer dependent on Middle Eastern oil.

He didn’t elaborate, but I can think of at least four problems with the idea. Read more “Don’t Pull NATO into the Middle East”

Turkey’s Purchase of a Russian Missile System, Explained

Russia sent Turkey a seventh batch of components for the S-400 missile defense system over the weekend. According to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, all S-400 missiles will be deployed by April 2020.

Erdoğan has also said he is planning to send specialists to Russia for training on how to operate the S-400s.

The deal has met stiff resistance from NATO allies, who are threatening to kick Turkey out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. So why is it going ahead with the purchase? Read more “Turkey’s Purchase of a Russian Missile System, Explained”

Russian Missile Treaty Violation Is a Wake-up Call for Europe

Edgars Rinkēvičs Jens Stoltenberg
Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs speaks with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, April 4 (NATO)

Last month, NATO allies issued a warning to Russia, urging it to destroy a new missile system that could threaten Europe or face a “defensive” response.

The warning is a final opportunity for Russia to respect the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which banned land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. If it doesn’t — and Russia claims the system in question has a range of only 480 kilometers — it will be another wake-up call for Europe. Read more “Russian Missile Treaty Violation Is a Wake-up Call for Europe”

German Policymakers Worry About Losing Afghan Gains

American transport aircraft Afghanistan
An American C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, March 7, 2014 (USAF/Brian Wagner)

Despite American president Donald Trump earlier ruling out negotiations with the Taliban, recent talks in Qatar could pave the way for a Western withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The prospect is welcomed by many here in Germany, although policymakers worry about the impact on civilian engagement and developmental assistance. Read more “German Policymakers Worry About Losing Afghan Gains”

With German Support, A European Army Looks More Likely

German soldiers
A German soldier salutes the flag in Bonn, January 29, 2013 (Bundeswehr/Alexander Linden)

It looks like a European army might really happen.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, endorsed the call of French president Emmanuel Macron for an EU fighting force.

She praised the 25 member states — Denmark, Malta and the United Kingdom are not participating — that committed last year to enhance interoperability, pool their defense procurement and improve military logistics under the so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

But a proper army, she said, would make war in Europe impossible and “complement” the NATO alliance. Read more “With German Support, A European Army Looks More Likely”

Locating the “Real” Country, Putting Germany First and NATO Solidarity

Andrew Sullivan is always worth reading, but, in the case of his latest column, I do think Noah Smith has a point and Sullivan falls into the trap of conflating Brexit and Donald Trump voters with “real England” and “real America”.

This is a mistake conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic make. The small towns and countryside aren’t the “real” country. They’re half the country. Or, in the case of Trumpists, a third of the country. Their views deserve to be taken seriously, but so do those of big-city liberals.

Or as Smith puts it:

What we should NOT do is elevate one segment of the populace to Special Real American status, simply because they fit a certain classic stereotype or because they are more intolerant and angry than the rest.

Related to this discussion is Nabila Ramdani’s argument in UnHerd for retiring the label “Gaullist” in France. (Charles de Gaulle is to French politics what Ronald Reagan is to American conservatism.)

de Gaulle’s base consisted of white, Roman Catholic conservatives who had a quasi-mystical faith in their rural nation. There was no place in Gaullism for the millions of immigrants from France’s former colonies, nor did it adapt to globalization and the spread of Anglo-Saxon culture.

Emmanuel Macron’s project is a belated attempt to reconcile these facets of modern France and it meets strong resistance in La France profonde. Read more “Locating the “Real” Country, Putting Germany First and NATO Solidarity”

EU Defense Union Worries Americans, Social Democrats Rally the Troops

Americans continue to worry that closer defense cooperation in Europe might compromise NATO.

Echoing Madeleine Albright’s “three Ds” — no duplication, no decoupling, no discrimination against non-EU NATO states — Kay Bailey Hutchison, the United States ambassador to NATO, warned on Wednesday that European efforts shouldn’t be “protectionist, duplicative of NATO work or distracting from their alliance responsibilities.”

“In Texas we say, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,'” the former senator added.

But transatlantic solidarity goes two ways. On the same day Hutchison cautioned European allies against weakening NATO, Defense Secretary James Mattis hectored them for failing to meet their defense spending targets.

Their boss, Donald Trump, has in the past declared NATO “obsolete”. Little wonder Europe is making its own plans.

Many of which complement NATO, from improving mobility by creating a “military Schengen” to developing a European infantry fighting vehicle.

Also read Tobias Buck in the Financial Times, who reports that Germany still has a long way to go before it can lead a European army. Read more “EU Defense Union Worries Americans, Social Democrats Rally the Troops”

Brexiteers Without a Plan, Republican Big Spenders

Politico reports that American businesses are unconvinced by Theresa May’s post-Brexit vision. She has promised to turn the island into a “beacon for technology and innovation,” but a lack of detail about what kind of country the United Kingdom wants to be once it leaves the EU is hurting her case.

Janan Ganesh calls on Brexiteers to provide such detail:

Voters are being urged to brave a hard exit that would tug at the seams of the kingdom, disrupt the economic life of the Irish republic and risk some material cost to themselves. The least they should expect in return is an impressionistic picture of Britain’s post-EU economic model from the people who are keenest on the idea. Instead, they have to make do with generalities about sovereignty.

There are two possible explanations:

  1. Twenty months after winning the referendum, Brexiteers still have not through through the consequences of leaving the EU.
  2. They fear the popular reaction to proposals for dramatic liberalization.

Britain is already one of the most lightly-regulated, low-taxed economies in Europe. A post-Brexit backlash to attempts to transform it into Singapore-on-Thames might put the Labour Party back in power. Read more “Brexiteers Without a Plan, Republican Big Spenders”

Time Looks Ripe for Japan-NATO Cooperation

American Japanese ships
American and Japanese ships conduct a joint naval exercise in the Pacific Ocean, November 19, 2014 (USN/Chris Cavagnaro)

Strategic thinkers have proposed closer cooperation between Japan and NATO for more than a decade. The circumstances are now such that this could become a reality.

Japan has surprised many by weakening its post-World War II pacifist posture, increasing defense spending and investing in fifth-generation warplane technology. These reforms are an invitation to NATO to engage more seriously.

Part of the work is being done for it. Japan’s security pivot brings the island nation in closer alignment with the United States. This, in turn, brings Japan closer to NATO.

Japan’s reinterpretation of its constitutional self-defense clause could be a stepping stone to collective self-defense. It has already taken part in multinational military exercises and contributes to peace and stability missions around the world. Its security doctrine is well in line with NATO’s. Both sides are committed to upholding democracy and the rule of law and advancing the cause of international security.

Areas of cooperation could include counterterrorism, cybersecurity and peacekeeping. Both sides would benefit from an open exchange of experiences, ideas and technologies in these regards.

Japan also holds a wealth of experience when it comes to responding to and managing human crises, like natural disasters. NATO’s civil response capacities, in turn, can serve as an example for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the two can be mutually reinforcing. Read more “Time Looks Ripe for Japan-NATO Cooperation”

Trump Hectors NATO Allies at 9/11 Memorial

Jens Stoltenberg Donald Trump Theresa May
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, American president Donald Trump and British prime minister Theresa May attend a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25 (NATO)

NATO officials had hoped inviting Donald Trump to speak at the dedication of a 9/11 memorial in Brussels would remind of the value of the transatlantic relationship.

The only time the Western alliance’s mutual-defense clause was invoked was after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

But Trump used the ceremony at NATO headquarters to berate his allies for not paying “what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense.”

He pointed out that few countries meet the 2-percent spending target they committed to in 2014.

“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States,” said Trump. Read more “Trump Hectors NATO Allies at 9/11 Memorial”