NATO leaders meet across a yawning divide for 70th anniversary

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NATO leaders meet in London for the 70th birthday of the Alliance and for a summit unlikely to be marked by civility. Recent events in Syria have set the United States and Turkey on the wrong side of other NATO members.

The birthday celebration will be held at Buckingham Palace on Dec 3, and the summit of leaders will be held Dec 3-4 at the Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire.

The Alliance was created in 1949 by the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union. Since the demise of the USSR, the Alliance has expanded, but has been left without its primary purpose. President Emmanuel Macron of France has been one of the voices urging members to rethink NATO’s mission, and particularly the relationship of its European contingent with the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew U.S. forces from Syria in October, taking European NATO members by surprise and opening the way for NATO-member Turkey to push into Syria and create what it termed a security zone along its border. Kurdish forces, who had been helping the U.S. fight the Islamic State (IS) group, were expelled from the area. The BBC reports that Macron was critical at the time of NATO’s failure to respond to the Turkish offensive, and he can be counted on to challenge Trump for his abrupt decision to withdraw troops from the area.

The U.S. president, under strain from an impeachment inquiry in his own country and with a record of discord with NATO from the earliest days of his presidency, is unlikely to respond civilly to any hint of criticism. His withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty remains a sore point in the Alliance.

Washington has planted itself on one side of the yawning divide with NATO allies with vociferous demands that the partners meet their obligations to funding the Alliance, and a 2016 stated opinion that the body is obsolete. On Nov 6, 2018, Macron widened the divide with the call for the creation of a “true European army” to defend the European Union from outside threats, including China, Russia and the United States. Trump described the statement as “very insulting.” Europe should first pay “its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidizes greatly,” he countered.

The non-contentious areas also include NATO’s plans for a cyberspace operations center (CYOC), the Alliance’s continuing efforts to combat terrorism and its support and training missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Nato alliance experiencing brain death, says Macron (BBC Nov 2019)

NATO Secretary General briefs on exercise Trident Juncture (NATO Oct 2018)

Trump, Macron agree on European defense after Trump’s ‘very insulting’ comment (Reuters/CNBC Nov 2018)

Macron calls for 'real European army' to defend against Russia and US (AFP/The Local Nov 2018)

Why cyber space matters as much to Nato as land, sea and air defence (NATO Jul 2018)

Date written/update: 2019-11-10