The latest study from Pew Research Center shows that the North Alliance Treaty Organization (NATO) has started significantly losing trust in the U.S. and France, raising questions about the alliance’s relevance in dealing with complex global challenges.
The latest survey is a reminder of U.S. President Donald Trump’s criticism that NATO should spend more on the defense budget and French President Emmanuel Macron’s sharp remark that the alliance is braindead.
The image of the Brussels-based organization declined from 71 percent in 2009 and 60 percent in 2017 to 49 percent in France. Also, support from Germany (as one of the NATO members) dropped from 63 percent in 2018 to 57 percent, the Pew study revealed.
Which European Countries View NATO the Most Positively?
The study stated that 82 percent of Poles rated the alliance positively. Poland joined NATO in 1999 following the fall of the Communist regime in 1989. Sweden and Ukraine (both non-member nations) had positive views about NATO, with 63 percent and 53 percent, respectively.
A Brief History of NATO
NATO was established on April 4, 1949, aimed at maintaining security and peace among its members, politically and militarily. The alliance was a response to counter the influence of communism under then the Soviet Union (which was under the Eastern Bloc with the Warsaw Pact, set up six years later).
In World War II, countries adopting liberal democracy, such as the U.S, France, and the U.K., united with communist Soviets to contain fascism. However, they split again after the war ended, leading to the creation of the Western and the Eastern blocs.
NATO has grown significantly over the years. It once had 12 members: the U.S. Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, France, Italy, Holland, Luxemburg, Portugal, the U.K., and Norway. Now the alliance has 29 member states.
The Warsaw Pact was disbanded in 1991 following the German reunification and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Now, non-Soviet states once the Warsaw Pact’s members have joined NATO.
Post-Cold War NATO
NATO has played a role in some military interventions after the fall of communism. The first involvement was in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the former part of now-defunct Yugoslavia (now Serbia) in 1992. The collapse of communism and the death of former Serbian leader Josef Broz Tito led to the breakup of Yugoslavia and the independence of its former states such as Croatia and Slovenia. The Bosnian conflict ended after the adoption of the Dayton Agreement in 1995.
In 2001, NATO resumed its first operation outside Europe by becoming a strategic commander of the coalition under the U.N. mandate sent to Afghanistan. NATO led the military service in Afghanistan in 2003.
NATO is Facing Various Challenges
When NATO was created, communism was considered a public enemy. After the Cold Was was over, the alliance’s members experienced more complicated challenges, from terrorism to nuclear proliferation.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry agreed with Macron’s brain dead diagnosis for the alliance. While German’s Chancellor Angela Merkel slammed Macron’s harsh words, reinforcing Berlin’s support for NATO.
“We are currently experiencing the brain death of Nato,” the young president said, adding that Europe is “on the edge of a precipice” and needs to start thinking of itself as a geopolitical power.
Merkel and Macron have differed over the ideas of creating the European Union (E.U.) military alliance. The former opposed it (even though once Berlin hailed Paris’ suggestion) while the latter supported it.
“The E.U. will never be a military alliance. The E.U. is completely different,” said one of the world’s most influential women, adding that the bloc’s strengths focus on trade, development, and humanitarian assistance.
Trump also questioned NATO members over a spending budget, calling all the member states to raise their spending. In 2018, the POTUS demanded all NATO member states increased their military expenses to 4 percent of their GDPs.
The NATO data showed that Washington accounted for 70 percent of the alliance spending in 2018 (with U$ 706 billion). In 2014, NATO members were committed to allocating 2 percent of their GDPs for defense budget in 2024. Yet, only a few countries have done so.
Is NATO Still Relevant?
Such a question always leads to various answers. NATO members should settle their differences first and put aside their interests. It is also important for NATO to build its partnership with non-European nations such Japan and Australia and recognize the most current challenges faced with each member, so the alliance’s vision remains relevant.
The former head of Belgium’s Parliament, Lode Vanoost, highlighted Macron’s braindead statement, arguing that such a word puts pressure on the E.U. as France has its own agenda. However, Vanoost agreed that Europe should break away from the U.S.
“What the EU could do is find another way of dealing with the geostrategic affairs—through diplomacy, economy etc. That is what Macron is not saying because he has his own agenda. Let’s not forget what the French Army is doing in West Africa,” the former lawmaker told RT.