A New Way of Solidarity within NATO How it was decided at the NATO Summit in Brussels, one year ago, to adapt the Alliance to a new world. And what Romania should do
A Romanian version of this article was first published on the 18th of July 2018 in “Ziarul Financiar”.
The NATO Summit that took place in Brussels on the 11th and 12th of July 2018 – almost one year before its recently celebrated 70th anniversary – was the Euro-Atlantic event that fueled great passion from the mass-media and the general public. I was invited back then to take part to a series of important debates at the Summit, where I had the opportunity to interact with NATO high officials, heads of states or governments, ministers / parliament members. At the same time, I had a few private meetings with NATO dignitaries / statesmen (including Paolo Alli, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO, and Joseph Day, Senate Liberal Leader, from Canada), leaders of big international organizations specialized on security issues. I was also given the opportunity to publicly express my opinion on the future of the North Atlantic Alliance.
I noticed in the tone of the Summit discussions a keen desire to preserve the cohesion of the Alliance. The participants encouraged an open dialogue and consensus, even if there were some diverging opinions regarding the threats that the Alliance is facing.
All of these meetings and discussions organized by the Atlantic Council, The German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Munich Security Conference, Women in International Security Brussels and the NATO Department of Public Diplomacy have channeled my thoughts towards three major theories, which I will ponder in more depth:
- The cultural diversity of the NATO countries has generated new political leadership models, but the expression of the common values is more important than ever;
- The allies are ready to assume the costs associated to the new geopolitical threats;
- The future challenges and projects of the North-Atlantic Alliance can create numerous economic opportunities for Romania.
The expression of common values
I noticed in the tone of the Summit discussions a keen desire to preserve the cohesion of the Alliance. The participants encouraged an open dialogue and consensus, even if there were some diverging opinions regarding the threats that the Alliance is facing. Thus, Poland, the Baltic States and Romania have focused on the Russian danger and on the need to strengthen the NATO capacities in the region. There is an “Eastern Trend” that has become visible in the Alliance. I have identified this trend also in two countries that are working on NATO accession: Ukraine and Georgia. Macedonia was invited to accession talks, while the Ukrainian and Georgian Presidents were paid special attention within the Summit.
The European initiatives in the field of defense are seen by the Americans as an issue lying entirely on the shoulders of Europe. It will be interesting to see how France, the leader of the European Union in the defense domain, will position itself in the new context.
Turkey, a country that has been expecting European integration for decades, is not pleased with the role of buffer state between the Middle East and Europe… The Allies are not happy with Turkey buying Russian military equipment, while the officials from Ankara argue that they were getting closer to Moscow due to the weak response from its Western partners regarding Turkey’s security claims in the Middle East, its expectations of European integration and the need of support for the measures that followed after the attempted coup d’état in2016. Turkey is not seeking to develop good relations with a country as an alternative for the relations it might have with another country. Ankara requests that NATO should present a clearer strategy for the South, especially regarding the strategic issues from the Middle East / Syria. Even if the Allies do not seem to understand the special relation between Turkey and Russia, the Americans consider that NATO would be more efficient with Turkey as a member than as an outsider.
Germany insists that the monitoring efforts should concentrate not only on the budget growth but also on increasing the intervention capacities and the contribution of the Member States to the operational missions of the Alliance, showing that there are countries that spend 2% of the GDP without doing much for NATO. Ursula von der Leyen, the German Minister of Defence, had an interesting intervention focused on the precise ways in which the European Union gets involved with the NATO issues and how Germany is committed to increasing the military expenses in real terms by 80% until 2024. She underscored that one should not forget that Germany has been cutting down military expenses for a long time, with related costs reaching 1.1% of GDP at a certain point. The European initiatives in the field of defense are seen by the Americans as an issue lying entirely on the shoulders of Europe. It will be interesting to see how France, the leader of the European Union in the defense domain, will position itself in the new context. Given the economic interests, it will be essential for Romania to understand the positions of France and Germany within NATO.
No one should ignore that the European Union is the largest peace project ever to have been put in place. NATO played an important role in securing this project. The fact that during the debates there was a question that was asked to the participants “Who will be more likely to survive, the European Union or NATO?” shows that the path of the European Union within the Alliance is not fully clear yet.
Another interesting aspect was that the Americans clearly stated that Donald Trump does not hold exclusivity in representing the United States within NATO.
Diversity has a paramount role within the Alliance. The members have different ways of understanding the mechanisms of implementing certain projects, but the desire for consensus was visible. Another interesting aspect was that the Americans clearly stated that Donald Trump does not hold exclusivity in representing the United States within NATO. The presence of two USA Congress representatives to the debates (Jeanne Shaheen - D-NH, Co-Chair, Senate NATO Observer Group / Member, Committee on Foreign Relations, US Senate; Thom Tillis - R-NC, Co-Chair, Senate NATO Observer Group / Member, Committee on Armed Services, US Senate) was proof that the US Congress supports the Alliance and that there are no major changes regarding the strategic orientation towards NATO. The US Senators argue that the international media coverage does not correctly reflect the real situation of the majority of the country, which remains committed to NATO and its vision. For the American soldiers, the 20th century was more reactive, but the 21st century will be more proactive within NATO.
Beyond all of this, the discussions put a lot of emphasis on values. Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, delivered a resounding speech on this subject. He spoke of the determination of the NATO countries to defend their indivisible security, liberty, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Apart from these declarations and the obvious charisma of Trudeau, I saw in the way in which he was interacting with the audience and his team (he was accompanied by Chrystia Freeland, the Foreign Affairs Minister, and Harjit Singh Sajjan, the Minister of National Defense) a responsible statesman, passionate and with no preconceptions, open to diversity. Showing that NATO envisages the consolidation and protection of democratic principles, Trudeau stated that “a more democratic world is good for Canada and is good for all of us”. Displaying a total trust in NATO, he declared that the Alliance members should respond to the rising populism in the public debate area by rational, positive messages and by more involvement to alleviate fears and diminish poverty in the world.
The presence of two USA Congress representatives to the was proof that the US Congress supports the Alliance and that there are no major changes regarding the strategic orientation towards NATO.
Switching my gaze from French President Emmanuel Macron, to the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or to Katrin Jakobsdottir, the Prime Minister of Iceland, I reached the conclusion that the gloomy, rigid and self-centered politician is an endangered species. A new generation of statesmen is emerging, a lot more outspoken, down to earth and concerned about the social mission they have to accomplish at a national and international level. Security is an instrument to support such causes. It will be essential however for this new generation of political leaders to understand that the values are not to be found in what we say or write... They rely first of all on behavior, on the day-to-day actions.
Our image in NATO is generally a good one. The role played by the Romanian soldiers in the conflict theaters where the NATO troops are present, as well as the fulfillment of the obligation to spend 2% of the GDP for defense and modernization of equipment made a difference. I believe however that Romania should surpass this psychological threshold of “good student” and confirm the commitment to NATO through defending its own interests.
The costs of the new threats
Even if the Alliance is at a time of passionate debates, they succeeded however to clarify the way in which they have to cope with the challenges of an unpredictable and rapidly changing world (including the need to face and communicate with a militarily advanced China and Russia, to project stability at the borders and to alleviate threats of terrorism and state aggression), accepting the new geopolitical realities and assuming the associated costs. To do this, the Allies need supplementary funds and capacities, with a more efficient distribution. According to statistics from more than one source, the figures speak for themselves:
The United States of America represents 46% of the Alliance’s GDP and supports approximately 68% of the total defense expenditure.
I believe however that Romania should surpass this psychological threshold of “good student” and confirm the commitment to NATO through defending its own interests.
A more balanced distribution of the members’ efforts and encouraging the Allies to comply with the obligations they assumed under the 2014 Defense Investment Pledge have become top priorities. The Defense Investment Pledge is aimed at reversing the trend of lowering the defense budgets, while exploiting as efficiently as possible the funds of the Allies and better allocating the costs and responsibilities amongst the Member States. Starting with 2006, the NATO countries agreed to invest 2% of the GDP for defense purposes. The Allies have added, to this commitment to spend 2% of the GDP on defense matters, another component stating that 20% of this budget must go to the acquisition of major equipment by 2024. The acquisition of major equipment, including the related research and development programs, is an essential factor that contributes to the consolidation of NATO capacities. At this moment, part of the Member States, Romania included, fulfill these requirements. It is important to improve the quality of the expenditures by training the human resources and financing the operational capacities to maximize and render more efficient the capabilities of the allied forces. It will be however necessary that the Allies stay vigilant and avoid losing their most precious value to technology: freedom. In addition, each Member State should continue to become actively involved in maintaining the NATO capacities that are needed for the collective defense and for projecting stability – including operations for the management of crisis situations and training missions.
Opportunities for Romania
The consolidation of the deterrence measures through improvements in the reaction speed and the intervention capacity of the NATO’s conventional or nuclear forces are priorities that generate new dynamics. At the Brussels Summit, the Allies declared themselves satisfied with the progress so far. Although adopting a new nuclear strategy is a serious political challenge, the NATO Nuclear Planning Group is trying to make bigger steps in this direction also. But NATO has to stay able to command simultaneous operations on the background of serious international conflicts and operate efficiently in all environments (air, water, land, space, cyber-space, intelligence). New measures will be taken to improve the legal frameworks of the Member States, along with the command and control capacities, and also to increase the transport capacity. Discussions were also held about the need to develop the European infrastructure. The Allies committed to developing their capacities to distribute the forces and equipment within the perimeter of the Alliance and beyond its borders, through improving military mobility on land, air and sea, by no later than 2024. To this end, by the end of year 2018 the main and secondary transport option will have been identified. Here lies the biggest opportunity for Romania. Our officials have to start talks with NATO about building highways, airports, as well as about improving the logistical capacities of harbors or railways by creating synergies with the civilian infrastructure projects that are so important for Romania.
The Headquarters of the North – East Division will reach full operational capacity by December 2018, while the Multinational Corps from Romania will be charged – apart from the missions of training the land troops of the Allies – with the role of deterrence agent in the region. The Allies have accepted Romania’s proposal to host a land brigade. It remains to be seen exactly what this will entail.
The United States of America represents 46% of the Alliance’s GDP and supports approximately 68% of the total defense expenditure.
Cyber security becomes vital. The fundamental elements of the conventional non-nuclear forces must be radically improved, including by integrating more efficiently the new cybernetic technologies. NATO will continue to adapt to the new context of cyber-threats posed by state and non-state actors. For the hybrid actions, the reaction might be similar to the one triggered by an armed attack. A Cyberspace Operational Center will be set up in Belgium in order to ensure the coordination of the operational activity of NATO in this area of activity. Romania is well perceived in terms of capacities in this field, and the presence of Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, former Assistant Secretary in charge of Emerging Threats, to the Summit debates on cyber security is not accidental. The cybernetic security is one of the few domains where our country could play a bigger role in NATO than justified by its economy, army or diplomacy.
The NATO strategic policy focuses also on a better communication with Russia. NATO declares that it seeks no confrontation and poses no risk for Russia. NATO countries remain available for a periodic, concentrated and meaningful dialogue with a Russia open to discussion in order to avoid differences and mounting tensions, to increase transparency and predictability. The partnership between NATO and Russia, built on the respect of the international laws and treaties, including the NATO-Russia Founding Act and the Declaration of Rome, has a strategic value for the Allies. The only condition that NATO required is that the principles governing the functioning of the Alliance be complied with. This makes Russia be seen rather as a competitor than as an enemy, a detail that was not overlooked by the observers. At the same time, the American military analysts recognize that there is no chance that Russia would give Crimea back to Ukraine. Despite official statements, the opinions of the NATO states regarding these issues are not very similar. On the other hand, little attention has been granted to China or to a possible Chinese – Russian alliance, which would be very hard to accept by the Euro-Atlantic partners.
The Allies committed to developing their capacities to distribute the forces and equipment within the perimeter of the Alliance and beyond its borders, through improving military mobility on land, air and sea, by no later than 2024.
NATO was involved also in a series of actions to ensure stability on the Southern Flank. Thus, the Alliance will have to intensify its actions regarding the conceptual, political and military approach of the issues in the Mediterranean / MENA region. It will be of the essence to have an integrated approach of this subject, and the Mediterranean Region will have to be convinced to adopt NATO policies and good practices. However, the Member States have a different perception on the threats coming from the South. In this context, at the Brussels Summit, the NATO officials came up with a more coherent vision on the Middle East and North Africa. A few tangible examples of this vision are: extending the Afghanistan mission until 2024, creating the training unit in Iraq and commissioning the Hub of the NATO Forces from the Southern Flank with officers in Naples. The expertise of Romania with countries in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean Region could make Romania an important diplomatic factor within NATO. Accompanying these diplomatic initiatives by business projects where Romania has a big role to play (especially in the oil & gas industry and cyber security) would open for us the gates of the foreign markets that were so difficult to penetrate during the last few years.
The cooperation between NATO and the European Union for developing military capabilities will be crucial for the future. But the European States remain wedded to different systems, despite the integration. This reality becomes an obstacle when shared strategic objectives have to be agreed and it loosens the cooperation in the field of defense, common policies, industries producing military equipment, which leads to multiple redundancies. Not even OCCAR (European Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation) has improved the situation, because there is a visible competition between the large USA armament producers and OCCAR, on the one hand, and between the defense industries of some Member States of the European Union, on the other hand. Washington’s intention to let the Europeans assume a larger responsibility in their own region may stimulate European cooperation in the defense field. At the same time, the US role in the global armament markets poses pressure on the European defense industries they compete with. The recent launch of the project for the first European fighter plane is a good first step ahead.
The European Union is an increasingly important actor and partner for NATO in the field of defense and diplomacy, and the NATO-European Union strategic partnership strengthened by the Brussels Summit will be essential in the management of the Trans-Atlantic relations. The consolidation of the English – French cooperation in the sector of the military capacities and acquisitions, as well as the step made by the former French President Francois Hollande towards the consolidation of the French – German industrial integration in the space field demonstrate the importance of the bilateral initiatives and the key role played by France in the European defense policy. This is not a simple achievement at the level of the European Union, given that national actors jealously defend their roles in defense by focusing cooperation on a bilateral and regional level without orienting their military and industrial cooperation in an EU institutional framework.
To do list
We will have to activate the « diplomacy of contracts » and actively support France and Germany to build a shared European defense industry and army as part of our role in NATO. Such an initiative would allow us to partially revive the defense industry, which is currently down, to exit the "two speed" Europe and to solve the Schengen issue (YES, I do believe that this would solve the Schengen issue);
Our officials have to start talks with NATO about building highways, airports, as well as about improving the logistical capacities of harbors or railways by creating synergies with the civilian infrastructure projects that are so important for Romania.
We need to start an open dialogue with the United States to negotiate American investments in the Romanian defense industry, infrastructure, education and research in exchange for Romania purchasing military equipment from the United States; sign more serious, transparent and responsible partnerships with European Union Member States; assume within NATO a position of dialogue and negotiation of strategic projects with Russia, China or Japan, which is currently done only by the representatives of the Great Powers.
The cybernetic security is one of the few domains where our country could play a bigger role in NATO than justified by its economy, army or diplomacy.
These actions would strengthen our political role in NATO allowing us to manage major projects of the Alliance in the Black Sea area. From this perspective, a first step would be to establish a way to supplement the current security shield, military in nature, by a « capital security shield», which would be much more profitable for all actors in the Black Sea area. We need to build here large international business projects together with other nations in the European Union, Americans, Russians, Chinese, Japanese, Turks and so on, in economic sectors such as energy, infrastructure, education, research or health etc. I believe that Romania could initiate and deploy alongside the United States and the European Union such shared political and economic projects, built by parties that are currently in divergent positions as are the NATO states and Russia. Such initiatives would have a positive impact on the objective of the North Atlantic Alliance to maintain peace in the region.
To conclude, the media has done – as in the famous work of Shakespeare– much ado about nothing regarding the NATO Summit in Brussels. The outcome of the debates, the decisions and arrangements demonstrate that the North – Atlantic Alliance is as strong as ever and its projects in the medium and long term are even more ambitious. It is up to us to capitalize on these projects in order to add value to the Alliance and promote the Romanian interests.
 Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General, NATO; Paolo Alli, President, NATO Parliamentary Assembly; Rose Gottemoeller, Deputy Secretary General, NATO; Tacan Ildem, Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, NATO; Alejandro Alvargonzález, Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, NATO.
 Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister Canada; Katrin Jakobsdottir, Prime Minister Iceland; Giorgi Margvelashvili, President Georgia; Petro Poroshenko, President Ukraine; Zoran Zaev, Prime Minister Macedonia.
 Ursula von der Leyen, Minister of Defense, Germany; Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada; Harjit Singh Sajjan, Minister of Defense, Canada; Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Turkey; Jacek Czaputowicz, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Poland; Joseph Day, Senate Liberal Leader, Canada; Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Co-Chair, Senate NATO Observer Group / Member, Committee on Foreign Relations, US Senate; Thom Tillis (R-NC), Co-Chair, Senate NATO Observer Group / Member, Committee on Armed Services, US Senate.