Like a traditional Thanksgiving family get-together, NATO’s 70th-anniversary meeting in the UK ended with a lot of smiles and some sighs of relief.
Rabat – A few tense moments, a couple terse remarks, but family is family and the alliance has generally earned the title of the most successful military alliance to date.
Just prior to Wednesday’s NATO executive meeting of the 29-member security alliance an exasperated French President Emmanuel Macron declared that the organization was experiencing “brain death” due to a lack of coherent strategic goals. U.S. President Donald Trump responded by calling Macron’s diagnosis “very nasty”.
It’s likely, though, that Macron’s comments served as a valuable pressure release valve for several alliance leaders, breaking the ice so that criticisms (real and imagined) could be voiced amidst tension that had been building since last year’s rocky summit in Brussels.
And like a good therapist, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg guided Trump, Macron, German Chancellor Merkel and others toward mutually agreed upon goals: importantly, the alliance will begin a multi-year rethink of key strategic priorities and doctrine.
That self-reflection is likely to emphasize both organizational agility (a Trump priority), the ability to respond to new developing threats like transnational terrorism, regional instability outside NATO, nuclear proliferation and cyber warfare, as well as core values that were forged decades ago like protecting the stability and prosperity of NATO’s eastern flank against a resurgent Russian foreign policy.
A common Trump complaint since becoming president has been military spending burden-sharing among individual alliance members. A NATO status report released this spring noted that just six European allies have met the 2% national defense spending (percentage of national GDP) threshold sought by Trump: Estonia, Greece, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and the UK.
Two more members—Bulgaria and Romania—will meet the threshold with current spending projections for 2019. It’s worth noting that in 2014, following the annexation of Crimea by Russia, NATO members pledged to spend 2% or more of their GDP on defense spending by 2024. The subject is not new and U.S. leaders have raised the issue for decades.
NATO has proved its operational effectiveness, from the Balkans in the 1990s to post-9/11 Afghanistan security assistance collaboration. Numerous challenges remain, from Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missiles to the demise of the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. But amidst the recent tension, the European security umbrella still works—70 years later. Beyond Trump’s sometimes abrasive tone, the issues that he has raised represent a much-needed reimagining of key definitions: conflict, collective defense, and security.
The wisdom of John Foster Dulles, the American Secretary of State during the 1950s, finds meaning in NATO’s current stretch of turbulence: “The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.”
COP25: A Point of No Return?
While NATO reexamines its core principles, the planet is heating up, rapidly. A new estimate of total global carbon emissions conducted by the Global Carbon Project reveals a grime reality: Global carbon (fossil fuel) emissions are likely to reach an all-time high in 2019. The rates of emissions may be slowing in 2019 compared to the previous year, but global economic growth requires fuel sources that renewable energy sources cannot alone meet.
Officials and activists from 200 countries are in Madrid this week for the COP25 climate change conference. COP (Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change) is tasked with monitoring global progress on the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The conference meets amid more troubling data. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released its annual state of the global climate report. The 2010-2019 decade will almost certainly be the hottest decade on record.
More heat, more extreme weather, rising sea levels, retreating glaciers, more threats to coastal and low-lying areas of the globe. Weather phenomenon combining with climate change to create a perfect storm of ecological degradation, human suffering and dislocation as well as economic resource degradation. Climate research continues on the most complex phenomenon like rising sea levels and melting permafrost areas, the former likely to endanger coastal areas (and coastal maritime economies) while the latter phenomenon could result in significant amounts of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere that had long remained frozen underground.
The 2015 Paris climate agreement called upon countries to take steps to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius this century, while advocating for a more ambitious 1.5-degree limit. Since the mid-1800s when industrialization began to spread across Europe, the planet has now warmed by about 1.1 degrees Celsius, according to the WMO. The UN Environment Programme believes global CO2 emissions would have to fall by at least 25% over the coming decade or two for either of those two goals to remain obtainable. Pessimism abounds for reaching either goal and implementing a carbon trading (carbon markets) mechanism is even more contentious.
Leadership on the climate change issue can and must come from a multitude of sectors—government, academic, corporate, and even military. In the US, military leadership and defense department planners outlined the threats of climate change in a landmark July 2015 report to Congress. Climate changes can and might aggravate regional instability, political conflicts, poverty and natural resource allocation conflicts, the report said.
The past month has demonstrated the American partisan split on the climate issue. While the Trump administration submitted paperwork in November to formally withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi led a Congressional delegation to the Madrid COP gathering now underway.
The threats that the global community faces are numerous. Sometimes a strong military and a robust military alliance is the ultimate guarantor of peace and tranquility. Sometimes collaborative action is required for the common defense against global threats that—in the words of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres—have brought the planet to “the point of no return.”
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial views.
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