In Disputes about 2 Percent for Defence of GDP – Potentially Ambiguous Success of Eastern Europeans

On 10 June Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General in his interview to the German daily Die Welt (11 June) instigated member states of the Alliance to comply with their commitment to increase the defence funding despite of c…

On 10 June Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General in his interview to the German daily Die Welt (11 June) instigated member states of the Alliance to comply with their commitment to increase the defence funding despite of challenges that are constituted by the coronavirus pandemic when funding has to be increased in most areas in order to take control over the economic slowdown. According to J.Stolkenberg security threats and challenges have not decreased during the pandemic – Russia continues modernization of military forces, the global balance of power is changing as a result of the emergence of China, etc.    
NATO member states have agreed to dedicate 2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) on defence. One of the most important NATO allies Germany in the recent years also is increasing its funding, however in 2019 the country dedicated 1.38 percent of the GDP for the forces. It is anticipated that in 2020 a portion on the defence will reach just a little bit over 1.5 percent, because of the decrease of GDP in Germany as a result of crisis. For comparison, the Unites States this year dedicated 730 billion US dollars or 3.4 percent of GDP on defence.
A day before the press conference about consolidation of the Alliance after COVID-19 pandemic J. Stoltenberg emphasized that the policy of NATO does not change in respect to Russia, the strategy of detention by increasing the military power in cooperation with a political dialogue. According to the Secretary General, the Alliance is dealing with a very tough Moscow that was ready to use a military power against the neighbours Georgia and Ukraine and nothing changed in this respect. Russians actively invest to modern military capabilities, including a nuclear arsenal and corrects its military doctrine. J. Stoltenberg indicated an example of introduction of new missile systems SSG-8, medium-range missiles that are capable to carry the nuclear cartridges and reach targets anywhere in Europe, including capitals, for instance, Berlin (head of NATO mentioned the capital of Germany probably not by accident). Here we can remember that this year the fifth vessel armed with missile ‘Calibr’ capable of striking objects in 2 thousand kilometres.   
There the Alliance has to invest to defence and military detention, that was involved in it so far when the answer to aggressive actions of Moscow was not repetition of its actions but by secured investments to defence and not constitute an excuse to doubt readiness of NATO to protect the allies. As long as the Alliance applies the detention policy, there will be no conflict or Russian aggression.  
According to J. Stoltenberg, the next decade the NATO will focus on strengthening the military power and political union when it is necessary to protect democracy in the most competitive world. It is important to invest in modern military capabilities, because security is the basis for survival of the democratic world in the future. Alongside the military component, NATO allies have to use open political discussions in the widest sense in order to solve problems associated with security, the ability to respond to the newest challenges in a fast and systematic way by way of consensus. J. Stoltenberg promotes complex measures – a set of military, economic and diplomatic measures for solution of any problems and indicates that NATO now is the only field for everyday cooperation bring together the North America and Europe.
30 allies of the Alliance on both sides of the Atlantic unite almost a million people and half of the economic and military power of the planet. There is no need to waste the trust as the basis of prosperity that has been earned in decades, thus Secretary General of the Alliance announces about his given recommendations in regards to security of the NATO stability in the meeting of the leaders of the member states of the Alliance that will be held next year.
And finally (which is particularly important not only in this text) to the question about plans of the United States to withdraw part of soldiers from Germany, J. Stoltenberg in the video conference told he was not able to comment speculations in the media, he just indicated that the Alliance allies constantly consult how to deploy soldiers in Europe. He also announced that a number of American soldiers in the states of the Old Continent such as Poland, Baltic States, Romania increased; the American military navy increased the contingent in Norway and Spain. Americans also supply more equipment to the trainings taking place in Europe.    
The business weekly The Wall Street Journal was the first to announce about the President’s Donald Trump scheme to withdraw some soldiers from Germany and indicated the number of 9,500. The German magazine Der Spiegel announced about a potential decrease of the contingent by 500-15,000 soldiers. 35.5 thousand of American soldiers are deployed in bases of Germany (the biggest contingent in the Old Continent), which employs 17  thousand Americans and 12 thousand of German civilians.      
What was just a gossip when the NATO Secretary General was participating in the video discussion was approved on 11 June, when Germany received an official notice of Washington of a potential withdrawal of some soldiers. A political class of the USA got anxious. Representatives of the Democratic Party called this a present to Russia. 22 Republicans from the House of Representatives of the Congress expressed their concern about military forces in an open letter. Senator Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee announced he was going to work with Republicans in the Congress in order to cancel such a decision.   
German politicians and public servants started talking about global losses. According to Annegret Kramp‑Karrenbauer, Minister of Defence of Germany in case the plan is implemented it will have adverse effect on the whole North Atlantic Alliance. Peter Beyer, who is supervising relations with the USA and Canada in Bundestag, told that the implemented decision will have impact on all relations between Germany and United States. Heiko Maas, Minister of Foreign Affairs sighed that both parties were particularly close partners of NATO and are concerned to stay like that, but it is complicated.   
The president D.Trump actually from the beginning of his term of office many times complained about avoidance of Europeans (mostly Germany) to comply with a collective obligation of NATO member states to dedicate 2 percent of GDP. Let’s say on 12 April 2017 in a common press conference with J. Stoltenberg he announced that he does not consider the Alliance as an obsolete organization (as was announced during the presidential election campaign in 2016), however its members have to pay for security of Europe in a fair manner.    
The NATO Secretary General emphasizes the necessity to reach 2 percent of the GDP for security up to 2024. For Die Welt he reminded that the contribution of the United States to security of Europe especially in the recent years, although propaganda of Russia makes use of the situation in order to confront allies. J. Stoltenberg mentioned lies of Moscow about the fact that NATO soldiers deployed in the Baltic States were massively infected with the coronavirus or his false letter as if the allies of the Alliance (Germany, too)  are withdrawing soldiers from Lithuania. However, the problem of 2 percent remains – although government of Angela Merkel has promised, most probably it will not reach 2 percent of GDP for defence even until 2030.      
J. Stoltenberg  suggests to avoid emotional solutions on the account of rationality and this can be deemed indirect critics to the current solution of the president D.Trump. According to the General Hans-Lothar Domröse, commander of the NATO forces in the Central and North-East Europe (up to 2016), if previously Washington used to consult with allies, now puts them against the fact (as the Government of the USA).     To the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine the General told he had a strong impression that solution of the American President in regards to withdrawal of soldiers from Germany was mostly ‘pushed’ by Richard Grenell, Ambassador of the US in Germany that has just been recently recalled from Berlin. D.Trump returned him to Washington as an important player in the presidential election campaign.
According to the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung (07 June), while Washington is justifying that after pressure of the President D. Trump Europeans improved their defence and participation of Americas can be reduced. Russia and states of eastern Europe would get the greatest benefit from re-dislocation of soldiers (it means us, the Baltic nations, too – A.S.). Poland has already expressed an expectation that some soldiers who withdrew from Germany will be transferred to its territory. As Mateusz Morawiecki, Prime Minister indicated that this would strengthen the eastern flange of NATO. To tell the truth, such overthrow would conflict with the treaty of Russia-NATO of 1997.     
This type of a solitaire on the topic of the protection of democratic world is not the first in recent years. It is most probable and desirable that this ‘threshold’ (or a test) of Euro-Atlantic solidarity will be overcome. It is also desirable it would not become ‘another’ test of the Euro-Atlantic solidarity even if the Baltic States and Poland would have to ‘pull together’ and do not seek a temporary tactical advantage on the account of Germany. As NATO Secretary General always repeats, Europe and the United States will not be able to resist the security challenges separately in the recent decade.     
Arūnas Spraunius

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