NATO Update 20180720 – Provided below is a selection of recent media stories with news, analysis, and commentary about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. With the recently held Brussels Summit 2018 now in the wraps and Trump’s visits to the UK, Helsinki conference with Putin, and SECDEF Mattis making the rounds there is an abundance of news about NATO.
“Keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down”
NATO’s first Secretary General, Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay
New Baltic Region Command. NATO plans to establish a new command HQs called the Multinational Division Headquarters North. Latvia will be the host nation for the command. To be established in 2019, it will have the responsibility of planning and coordinating the defense of the Baltic region. The group will manage two to four brigades under its command and coordinate exercises, training, and operations n the region. Another part of the command will be located in Karup, Denmark. Read “Latvia will host new NATO northern headquarters from 2019”, Latvian Public Broadcasting, July 12, 2018.
Could ‘Hybrid Warfare’ Instigate a Major Conflict? On Thursday, during the occasion of the Brussels Summit 2018 NATO stated that Russian hybrid warfare aimed at a member state could trigger Article 5. This is a provision that requires all member nations to come to the aid on a member nation that is attacked. Some observers worry that this could lead to a major conflict with Russia. Read more in “How NATO Says Russian Hybrid Warfare Could Start a Real War”, Popular Mechanics, July 13, 2018. SECDEF Mattis also made some comments about hybrid warfare threats in the Balkans – See an article by Paul McLeary on this topic in Breaking Defense (July 13, 2018).
Russia’s Trump Card – Hybrid Warfare. Richard Bitzinger, associated with the Military Transformations Program of a university in Singapore, has a dim view of Russia’s military power. He says that while it does have a significant nuclear threat the rest of its military is a little behind the curve. Bitzinger believes that the threat from Russia is not from its tanks and motorized rifle regiments but from its ability to use unconventional warfare – fighting its conflicts “. . . in the informational, moral, psychological, ideological, diplomatic, and economic battlefields.” Moscow has been most successful in the influence operations area.
“Trump seems to have fallen for this already. And all the new military spending and state-of-the-art weapons acquisitions by NATO is not going to have any impact if Moscow keeps racking up victory after victory in the arena of hybrid warfare”.
Read “Russia’s trump card: hybrid warfare”, Asia Times, July 18, 2018.
Make NATO Great Again. Clifford D. May, the founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says NATO’s mission needs to be updated to ensure that the jihadists are kept in check, the Americans remain in NATO, and the Russians stay within their borders. (FDD, July 18, 2018).
NATO Getting Bigger?
Georgia – Joining NATO? Georgia has been persisting in its efforts to join the Atlantic defense alliance. It is a big troop contributor to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. NATO considers Georgia an important partner and a potential NATO member in the future. Read “Georgia Remains on Path to NATO”, Eurasia Daily Monitor – The Jamestown Foundation, July 16, 2018.
Macedonia – joining NATO? If a voter referendum to approve the proposed name change for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia goes the right way then it would clear path towards Macedonia’s membership in NATO. The name, if approved in the voter referendum scheduled for this fall, would be the Republic of North Macedonia. This could make Macedonia the 30th member of the alliance. “Macedonia formally welcomed by NATO – but with a warning”, Defense News, July 12, 2018.
NATO and Maritime Conflict
Exercise Sea Breeze 2018. The annual exercise in the Ukraine region was once again held with U.S., Ukrainian, and other NATO military units participating. The multinational maritime exercise is designed to enhance interoperability and capabilities among participating forces. Read more in “Exercise Sea Breeze 2018 Kicks Off in Ukraine”, Department of Defense, July 13, 2018.
Out with GIUK and in with High North. Steve Wills, an analyst with the Center for International Maritime Security, has penned an analysis of the naval power contest between Russia and the NATO countries in the ‘north’ waters. He says the iconic Greenland, Iceland, United Kingdom (GIUK) gap is old news – a relic of the early and middle years of the first ‘cold war’. Read “A New Gap in the High North and Forward Defense Against Russian Naval Power”, CIMSEC.org, July 17, 2018.
Trump, NATO, Brussels, Helsinki, and More
President Trump covered a lot of ground in one week. He managed to upstage the NATO summit held in Brussels, caused discontent in the United Kingdom, and had quite a meeting and post-meeting with Putin in Finland. Read more about it below.
Suspend NATO Summits? The Brussels Summit held in July 2018 should have been a huge success for NATO. Instead it turned into a reality show with the heads of state reacting to one member nation’s leader who hijacked the summit. Some are advocating putting the summits on hold for the next few years. Read “Should NATO even hold summits under Trump?”, Brookings Institute, July 13, 2018.
Trump and SAS. President Trump departed the Brussels Summit 2018 and made his way to the UK where he continued his ‘presidential style’ of diplomacy. In addition to the usual meetings and golf session he also viewed a demonstration by the UK’s Special Air Service (SAS). Read “Trump visit: President all fired up by SAS hostage rescue display”, The Sunday Times, July 14, 2018.
Helsinki Meeting. President Trump and Russian President Putin met in Finland on Monday, July 16th. The two leaders have met before – both occurring on the sidelines – at the G-20 summit and APEC summit. Many observers say that Putin had everything to gain and nothing to lose. What was Trumps agenda going into the meeting? Hard telling not knowing. Some topics that might have popped up on the agenda include ending military exercises in the Baltics, global energy policy, Russian interference in U.S. elections, Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria.
Mattis Making the Rounds. SECDEF Jim Mattis followed up his attendance at the Brussels Summit 2018 with visits and sideline meetings with NATO counterparts. In a meeting with Frank Bakke-Jensen (Norway Minister of Defense) several topics were discussed including Norway’s commitment to increase defense spending to 2% of GNP by 2024 and the continuation of winter warfare training in Norway for hundreds of U.S. Marines.
President Trump says he forced the NATO European members to up their spending on defense during the Brussels Summit held this month (July 2018). Defenders of Trump say his disruptive manner was instrumental in achieving this goal. But the facts kind of get in the way. The Europeans had already agreed to this goal in 2014 with the Wales Summit Declaration – to reach the 2% of GNP by 2024. Nothing in the Brussels Summit 2018 communique changes that 2014 agreement – it is still 2%.
Dollars or Value? Kathleen H. Hicks et al provide some insight on how to assess NATO’s defense expenditures. Read Counting Dollars or Measuring Value, Center for Strategic & International Studies, July 3, 2018.
2% – Magic Number? It would seem that an important question / discussion should be is 2% of GNP a meaningful number? Marcus Hellyer explores this question in “NATO defence spending: is 2% the magic number?”, The Strategist – Australian Strategic Policy Institute, July 19, 2018.
Denmark – A Case Study for NATO Contributions. Two military researchers (scholars?) with universities in Copenhagen examine Denmark’s defense expenditures and contributions to NATO expeditionary adventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Denmark has been a loyal ally to the United States and has been a long-time participant in the Afghan conflict where it has suffered numerous casualties. Read “Denmark in NATO: Paying for Protection, Bleeding for Prestige”, War on the Rocks, July 17, 2018.
Photo: U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, conduct safety checks and prepare their UH-60 Blackhawk for air assault training at Mihail Koglniceanu Air Base, Romania, July 10, 2018. The Soldiers of 2nd GSAB are conducting similar training in multiple locations throughout Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve, a U.S. endeavor to fulfill NATO commitments by rotating U.S.-based units throughout the European theater to deter aggression against NATO allies and partners in Europe. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew McNeil / 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)