NATO leaders met this week at a summit in Madrid to adopt a new Strategic Concept, a framework that sets out the alliance’s main priorities for the next decade. But the Madrid gathering was in other ways historic, ushering in a further expansion of the alliance after Turkey lifted its veto on membership bids from Sweden and Finland. The United States also pledged to deploy more troops, warplanes and warships as part of the alliance’s largest military build-up since the Cold War, in response to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
The summit’s ramifications will be most evident on NATO’s eastern flank, with the announcement of a new permanent headquarters in Poland and increased rotational deployments to the Baltic states.
The dizzying details of NATO’s rise to power in Europe mark a remarkable turnaround for an alliance that seemed listless and even close to collapse just a few years ago, when former US President Donald Trump issued doubts about Washington’s commitment to NATO and that French President Emmanuel Macron declared him “brain dead”. .” In recent years, many expected the new strategic concept to move away from NATO’s original goal of defending Europe against Russia and instead turn the alliance’s gaze towards China and international terrorism. There has also been much talk of building a European Defense Union that would give Washington’s European allies the autonomous capability to defend themselves without US help.
Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine changed all that, making it clear that in practical terms, Washington’s security umbrella is the only real defense option Europe has at the moment. In the space of a few months, NATO has gone from being a Cold War relic in need of a reboot to a vital collective defense alliance that needs to redouble its original intent.
The New strategic concept adopted yesterday by NATO leaders mentions Russia 17 times. By comparison, he mentions China 10 times and terrorism seven times, while Afghanistan is mentioned only once. The latest strategic concept, signed in 2010 in the presence of then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, called Russia a “strategic partner”. Fast forward 12 years, and the new strategic concept has reclassified Russia as a major threat to world peace. As for China, it is considered a source of “systemic challenges” with which the alliance “remains[s] open to constructive engagement”, as some members of the alliance objected to it being called a “threat”.
Nevertheless, the new enthusiasm for NATO will not mask difficult realities that the war in Ukraine has done nothing to improve. European leaders seem to know that Biden’s Atlanticism is more likely a blow to Washington that a “return to normal” as Trump or someone equally skeptical of US security commitments like NATO could win the presidency in 2024. Former Trump aides have said he planned to withdraw the United States from NATO if he had been re-elected for a second term.
For their part, the leaders of Western Europe made a point of emphasizing at the Madrid summit that the proposals for an autonomous European defense have not been abandoned and that they are not intended to compete with NATO. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen noted that NATO will become “more European” with the accession of Finland and Sweden to the alliance. If their applications are successful, only four EU member states will not also be members of the alliance: Ireland, Austria and Malta, all of which have long-standing positions of neutrality, and Cyprus, due to Turkey’s veto.
Eastern EU members, however, remain wary of a stand-alone European defense mechanism for fear it will weaken NATO. They were probably reassured by this week’s summit, which gave fresh impetus to bringing NATO back to its core mission of countering Russian aggression. For those who harbor the long-term ambition of creating an equitable alliance, rather than one that effectively functions as a US protectorate, more European defense work will be needed.
In other news
The hills weren’t alive. Before the NATO summit in Madrid, the seven leaders of the Group of seven nations meeting in the German Alpswhere by all accounts few tangible results have been achieved. The group failed to reach an agreement on an oil price cap to limit Russia’s energy revenues, with Washington rejecting a French proposal to cap prices globally rather than just for oil exports Russian. They also failed to reach a collective agreement to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, with Japan maintaining its opposition to the proposal, and made no new announcements of military assistance to Ukraine.
The group announced a collective commitment of $5 billion, half of the United States, to help ease the escalating global food security crisis, while endorsing German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s idea for a club of like-minded countries to fight change climatic. But the the final press release contained few details what that mechanism would look like or do. Now all eyes are on the G-20 summit scheduled for November in Indonesia, which Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to attend in person or virtually. Scholz said at the G-7 summit that the group’s leaders would not boycott the G-20 if Putin was there.
EU bans combustion engine from 2035. The EU Council of Ministers – the top body of the EU legislature, made up of national ministers – surprised observers by backing a proposal to ban the sale of fossil fuel cars from 2035. expected the board to water down the proposal and push for a longer elimination period. But France, which holds the rotating EU presidency until tomorrow, pushed hard to keep the 2035 deadline. By then, all new cars sold in the EU will have to be zero-emission vehicles, effectively mandating the sale of electric vehicles.
The ban will have a huge impact on automakers around the world, according to industry analysts, as around 20% of cars made in the US and 14% of those made in Japan are exported to the EU. The new law is expected to speed up the rollout of electric vehicles around the world, with automakers backing out of previous plans to increase hybrid models, which would not be allowed under EU law.
EU-New Zealand free trade is coming to an end. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is in Brussels today to finalize the EU-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement. Trade ministers from both sides announced the conclusion of the deal at a press conference in Brussels this afternoon. The EU is also negotiating a free trade agreement with Australia.
The The UK has signed a free trade agreement with New Zealand. two months ago. The deal, along with a UK-Australia free trade deal, are the only major new trade deals London has struck since leaving the EU single market last year.
Dave Keating has been an American-European journalist based in Brussels for 12 years. Hailing from the New York area, Dave has previously covered the halls of the US Congress in Washington, the courtrooms of Chicago, the boardrooms of London, the cafes of Paris and climate campaigns in Berlin.