NATO’s Washington summit

Hussein Haridy
Tuesday 9 Jul 2024

A summit meeting of NATO members took place in Washington this week with a view to celebrating 75 years of the Western Alliance and evaluating future threats, writes Hussein Haridy

 

The US hosted a NATO Summit meeting from 9 to 11 July in Washington to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Atlantic Alliance in April 1949. The Biden administration looked at the summit as a defining moment for the future of this Euro-Atlantic Alliance as well as an occasion on which to laud the role it has played through more than seven decades in the defence of the Western world.

It has been preparing for the summit since the last NATO Summit meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 11 July 2023. US President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have all been deeply involved in preparing for the Washington summit meeting from the vantage point of how the Biden administration sees the challenges and the threats, whether at present or in the future, that are and will be facing the West and particularly the US.

These threats include a coalition of international powers and smaller nations that aspires to defy what NATO leaders have called the “rules-based international order” and that includes China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran.

The coordination between the US administration and outgoing Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg in preparing for the Washinton summit has lasted for almost a year from the conclusion of the Vilnius summit last July. Its aim has been to set NATO’s goals and priorities for the next decades, focusing on Russia and China and how to contain their “friendship without limits” or each of them separately.

The top priority at the NATO Summit in Washington was Ukraine and how to provide it with military, political, economic, and financial assistance to resist and defeat the Russian military offensive, particularly after the failure of the Ukrainian counteroffensive last year. This raised alarm bells in the member countries of the Atlantic Alliance and caused some of them to take their indirect confrontation with Russia to a new and critical level that has seen the US give the green light to providing Ukraine with long-range missiles that can target military and logistical installations on Russian territory.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in February that the option of deploying NATO troops in Ukraine should be on the table, though later he backtracked and hinted that NATO could send “military instructors” to help the Ukrainian army on the ground.

Regarding Russia and its war in Ukraine, the ultimate NATO objective is to turn this into a strategic failure for Moscow. It should be noted that the amount of assistance provided to Ukraine from February 2022 until last winter and before the US Congress approved supplemental assistance worth $65 billion to Ukraine stood at $77 billion from the US and a combined $110 billion from other member countries of NATO.

The second priority at this week’s NATO Summit was the Chinese challenge and the growing cooperation between China and Russia in fields that help Russia withstand US and Western pressures.

The countries present at last year’s Vilnius summit accused China of striving “to subvert the rules-based international order,” while giving an assurance that NATO would remain open to “constructive engagement” with Beijing and work towards more reciprocal transparency arrangements with the objective of safeguarding the alliance’s security interests in the context of joint efforts to deal with the “systemic” challenges China poses for Euro-Atlantic security.

For the first time since 1949, the year of its foundation, NATO named China as a rival at its Madrid summit meeting in June 2022 in what was a significant strategic shift that expanded the alliance’s geographical mandate and served the US strategy in containing the rise of China particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

Before this week’s Washington summit, the Atlantic Council agreed to appoint former Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte as the next Secretary-General of NATO, effective next October, to succeed Stoltenberg, who occupied the post for the last ten years and oversaw the expansion of NATO from 27 countries to 32, the last two being Finland and Sweden. As a result of Finland becoming a member, NATO now has direct borders with Russia, a first since 1949.

Over the last three and a half years since Biden entered the White House in January 2021, NATO as a military alliance has scored successes in terms of increasing its members, expanding its geographical mandate to the Asia-Pacific region, and increasing the collective defence spending of its members.

The essential question remains, however, of whether these successes will lead to a safer world.

Adding to the uncertainty, four days after the summit in Washington would be concluded, the Republican National Committee Convention would take place to nominate its candidate to the presidential elections, former president Donald Trump, whose doubts with regards to NATO and how useful it is for American security are well-known. Regardless of the diplomatic speak and that NATO’s commitments to Ukraine are ironclad, many member countries wouldn’t be that sure for the next four years in case the former American president returns to the White House. He said during his campaign that he would end the war in Ukraine in 24 hours, and if he had been president the war wouldn’t have broken out in the first place. Maybe this would have been the case, in fact.

 

The writer is former assistant foreign minister.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 11 July, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Short link: