Biden travels to Europe to ensure West ‘stays together’

As a war on European soil puts to rest decades of questions about NATO’s relevance, US President Joe Biden travels to Brussels to meet with world leaders.

Biden will fly to the European Union capital for Thursday’s NATO summit and European Council summit, both of which are expected to address the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has killed more than 900 civilians and forced more than 3.5 million people to leave the country. He will then fly to Poland, where he is expected to meet Polish President Andrzej Duda on Saturday.

At NATO, Biden is expected to announce more sanctions and tougher enforcement of those already imposed on Russia, as well as additional U.S. humanitarian aid contributions, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday. . He will also coordinate with allies to send more military assistance to Ukraine, and potential changes to alliance troop presence in Eastern Europe.

“This war will not end easily or quickly,” Sullivan said. “For the past few months, the West has been united. The President is traveling to Europe to ensure that we remain united, to cement our collective resolve, to send a powerful message that we are prepared and committed to this for as long as it will be necessary.

Biden should use his time at NATO to build consensus and ensure the West acts as a united front, demonstrating that the alliance is as important as it has ever been, experts have said.

“What the crisis did… highlighted what would have happened had we not had a NATO where we cooperated every day on very routine days to prepare for a crisis of this magnitude,” said Christopher Skaluba, director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. “NATO is a key tool of international power, but the crisis has certainly made” that clearer.

NATO was created in 1948 to deter the Soviet Union. But after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the members found themselves without a common enemy, and experts began to question whether the alliance was still necessary. Some argued that NATO should “get out of the way or cease operations”, and for a time members undertook missions outside Europe, including years of combat in Afghanistan justified as a Article 5 response to the September 11 attacks.

But President Donald Trump called NATO “obsolete” in 2016, demanding members increase defense spending and describing it as no big deal if the alliance were to fall apart instead.

Questions about the relevance of NATO were asked long before Trump. In 2003, the New York Times published an opinion piece with the title: “NATO is irrelevant: a bureaucracy whose time is over”. In 2010, Stephen Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard University, wrote in a Foreign Police column that “NATO doesn’t have much of a future.” Reason, a libertarian monthly magazine, ran an article in 2019 that said, “No number of NATO summits will reinvigorate an alliance against an enemy that went bankrupt nearly 30 years ago.”

Those criticisms have been valid, said Sean Monaghan, visiting scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, but they are no longer relevant to today’s global threat.

“NATO was invented for one purpose and that was to deter Soviet aggression in Europe,” Monaghan said. “These have all been relevant issues for several decades…but now we find ourselves firmly in a more Hobbesian reality where Russia is clearly willing to use force in an incredibly brutal way against international law…and NATO must step in to deal with this.”

Other critics of NATO have argued that the financial burden of collective defense is shared unequally and blamed some members for not spending enough on national security. Monaghan called these criticisms increasingly irrelevant. Members have slowly increased their defense spending since the NATO summit in Wales in 2014, where allies pledged to reach 2% of gross domestic product by 2024. But Russia’s invasion is accelerating this schedule and leads to an increase in investments. Three days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Germany, which currently spends less than 1.5% of its GDP on defence, announced its intention to raise it above the 2% threshold . Denmark this month made similar pledges to increase defense spending, while Lithuania will increase defense spending this year to 2.5% of GDP.

All of this makes NATO’s value “clear”, said Lauren Speranza, director of the transatlantic defense and security program at the Center for European Policy and Analysis. But NATO’s quick response and protection of member states is not enough as Russia is still actively attacking Ukraine despite the alliance’s condemnation, strengthening its borders and sending aid to kyiv, said she declared.

“He failed to deter Russia,” she said. “We cannot congratulate ourselves and be so proud of this response because, yes, of course, NATO has done a lot to support Ukraine…[but] we need to be realistic with ourselves that right now we are walking into a place where we are more afraid of potential escalation.

NATO’s reaction to Russia’s war could have implications for Ukraine, Georgia and Bosnia and Herzegovina who are vying for membership, since kyiv’s bid to join the alliance has been a point of contention. key stumbling block in the invasion of Russia.

“There is now a bit of fatigue as to what value NATO can be for them, if that door is really open and if [NATO] is really willing to welcome them,” Speranza said.

The fact, however, that Russia has never invaded a NATO member is a huge achievement that is likely to spur more countries to apply for membership, regardless of the assistance provided to Ukraine, said Bradley Bowman, senior director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“Who did Putin invade and occupy? This is Georgia, a non-NATO member. It’s Ukraine, not a NATO member,” Bowman said. “It’s the most persuasive billboard possible for NATO membership.”