NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that “NATO countries have invested additional funds in the purchase of air defense systems and fighters to contain Russia,” RBC reported. Meanwhile, almost all members of the Western defense alliance are facing a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Against the background of new threats, the agenda of the North Atlantic Alliance looks less and less adequate and increasingly outdated.
As of the end of October, six NATO countries make the top ten world nations with the largest number of confirmed cases of coronavirus infection. The pandemic poses an immediate threat to the life and wellbeing of the people living in the countries – members of the organization, which for the past seven decades has called itself a key element of Western security. At the same time, in June, Jens Stoltenberg called the preparation of an operational plan of action in the event of a second wave of the epidemic “a litmus test of the alliance’s reliability.”
Signs of a growing crisis within NATO began to emerge already 30 years ago, in the wake of the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. All of a sudden, the Alliance lost both key elements that had long justified its existence – the enemy and mission. Indeed, by the close of the 1990s, the very cornerstone of “collective defense” had actually become history. The degree of degradation of NATO’s military component was particularly evident after September 11, 2001. Launching its anti-terrorist campaign in Afghanistan, the United States almost demonstrably made do without using much of NATO’s military potential. Germany and France then spoke out against the invasion of Iraq.
Apart from enlargement – its only formal success – NATO has demonstrated either the ineptness or inability of its numerous structures to respond to the challenges of our time, primarily posed by organized crime and international terrorism. Officially touted as a “protector of Europe,” the alliance has been of little help to Europeans when an influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees left the European Union teetering precariously on the verge of a split, if not total collapse.
The financial crisis of 2007-2009 showed the West once again that the main threats to its stability are of a non-military nature. The scope of negative socio-economic consequences made Washington increasingly doubtful about the need to maintain the current level of America’s military obligations to Europe. Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House reflected the growing public concern in the United States about the critical overextension of the country’s resources. Even though Trump has since ramped up Washington’s military presence in Europe to the maximum level since the end of the Cold War, in practice, the issue of America’s participation in NATO’s affairs has become the main threat to the existence not only of this organization, but of the entire current model of the “West” as a whole.
Just a few days ago, President Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, suggested that if the current occupant of the White House is re-elected for a new term, the United States may exit NATO. He added that this would bring about the collapse of the alliance – an assumption that doesn’t look very surprising, given the following factors.
First, the pandemic has thrown in doubt NATO’s capability as a military organization. The Defender 2020 wargames, slated for March, were the main “victim” of the coronavirus pandemic. The exercises – one of NATO’s biggest since 1991 – were supposed to test the United States’ ability to speedily move to the European theater a whole division of 20,000 men and deploy them in close vicinity of the Russian border. Much to the Western observers’ disappointment, however, the epidemic easily nixed those plans, just like most of other such drills.
Simultaneously, the Europeans started downsizing their participation in NATO’s overseas missions, explaining this by the need to concentrate all resources on battling COVID-19. And also out of fear that troops stationed in regions with poor sanitary conditions could spread the disease elsewhere. The pandemic necessitates a large-scale readjustment of government spending in NATO member countries, including within their defense budgets. The released funds were channeled to the implementation of quarantine measures, mobilization of military doctors, internal security measures and strengthening border protection.
Second, amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the futility of allied expectations regarding Washington’s readiness and ability to assume its leadership role has become “painfully obvious.” Rather than spearheading the fight against the pandemic, at least in the West, the United States imposed a unilateral ban on the entry of people from Europe, its “closest allies.” Moreover, Washington “shamelessly” tried to acquire for itself and itself only a potentially effective vaccine against the coronavirus, being developed in Germany.
And finally, for NATO, the current crisis differs from all previous ones in that the dynamics of the pandemic are “unpredictable.” In addition, the bloc’s European flank has already been severely weakened by the crises of the past decade. In the United States, the ongoing presidential election is putting to the hard test what Henry Kissinger described as “public confidence in the Americans’ ability to govern themselves.”
The pandemic also demonstrated the unconditional priority of sovereign states, both in terms of legitimacy and of resources that can be used to tackle a catastrophic security threat. The EU has been trying to agree a package of recovery measures for several months now. In an effort to shore up the economy, spending on common foreign and security policies, including programs of wider military interaction between the EU countries has been cut. In such circumstances, NATO will find it extremely hard to secure the Europeans’ agreement to increase their defense spending by another notch.
Meanwhile, the uneven burden of military spending has become a major sticking point souring relations between the NATO member states. Trump is firmly on course to “monetize” America’s allies. However, the Europeans fear that bigger military outlays will necessitate an increase in public debt or higher taxes, which will hardly sit well with the populace. This is also undermining Europe’s economic competitiveness. Thus, Trump’s policies weaken the position of Europeans in the global competition. Washington, for its part, sees any delays in hiking defense outlays as a deliberate policy of the Europeans, who consider the United States as a reliable guarantor of their security.
In the broader geopolitical context, during its last year’s summit in London, NATO for the first time included China in the list of its strategic priorities. Now, the coronavirus epidemic has demonstrated a clear watershed between countries, including China, which have been able to quickly and effectively respond to the epidemic by mobilizing a well-trained military and civilian state apparatus to fight the coronavirus, “and the Western countries that were unprepared,” as the former French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Pierre Lellouche, pointed out in an interview with Le Figaro.
Right now, Beijing is clearly better at keeping the epidemic under control, than the West. In economic terms, Beijing is also on top of it, boasting the world’s largest reserves, significant liquid assets and industrial capacities, which not only can quickly make up for the losses of the recent months, but are also giving a new powerful boost to the expansion of Beijing’s geopolitical presence worldwide… As for Europe and the United States, while repeating as a mantra their resolve to “resist China,” they are becoming economically “weakened,” financially “debt-ladened” and teetering on the brink of a major crisis that a new shutdown of their economies could provoke. The West is facing a dilemma of which is more important, “guns” or “butter,” previously characteristic of the Third World countries.
For all its ambitions as one of the leading centers of global power, NATO’s European wing, “today has become a buffer zone for confrontation between China and the United States.” Weakened by the coronavirus crisis, Europe has already been forced to cut much of its foreign policy activity down to mere political rhetoric. Chances are that the Europeans may have to “withdraw into themselves” for the entire period of recovery from the humanitarian, financial and economic consequences of the epidemic.
Amid massive failures in healthcare and the economic damage that is simply impossible to assess today, European politicians may find it extremely hard to convince their voters of the need for increased defense spending any time soon. US politicians will find themselves in a similar fix, especially after this year’s election campaign, whose incredible political intensity, coupled with the COVID-19 epidemic, has only exacerbated the deep rift between Democrats and Republicans.
It will be even more difficult to justify maintaining NATO’s old political priorities. The changing nature and scale of threats are becoming increasingly evident even to ordinary people. The increased assertiveness of Russia and China has traditionally been presented by many in NATO as “a “challenge” and “growing pressure.” However, even in Europe, “threats from Moscow” are now “obvious” only to Poland and the Baltic states, while the rest of Europeans see the situation in a much more realistic light, and are calling for a change of priorities when it comes to ensuring security on NATO’s southern flank.
Meanwhile, Russia, which is allegedly “threatening” NATO, has consistently advocated preserving the INF treaty. On October 26, President Vladimir Putin reiterated his call on NATO to declare a joint “moratorium on the deployment of ground-based intermediate and shorter-range missiles in Europe.” The Russian leadership is also working hard coming up with new constructive proposals to preserve the START-3 accord. Finally, Russia has for many years been urging its European neighbors to consider the security of the continent in keeping with the principles of “indivisibility of security” and the equality of all participants.
Overall, the main efforts to tackle both the current coronacrisis and potential threats to the future have little to do with the concerns of a military organization, and even lie outside its realm altogether. In addition, America and Europe are increasingly at odds about the future of NATO. A number of Central and Eastern European countries are increasingly relying on closer military-strategic cooperation with the United States. At the same time, some in the American elite already view NATO as almost a possible replacement for the EU as a new “unifier” of the continent. Other experts, however, believe that “the best way to move forward is a reorganization of NATO, where greater burden will be shifted to Europe.”
It must be admitted that the coronavirus crisis has dealt a powerful blow to the reputation of almost all supranational institutions, which may eventually push them into the background of world politics. NATO is no exception here, since its bloated bureaucracy, with its plans for accelerated and costly modernization of the existing weapons systems, clearly contrasts with the goal of strengthening national self-sufficiency and economic autonomy. Therefore, by the time the pandemic is over, the perception of the alliance by its members may have become even more uncertain than it is today.
From our partner International Affairs
A pig in a poke of Lithuanian Armed Forces
The proverb “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” perfectly reflects the situation in the Lithuanian armed forces. It is it unclear how the army will carry out its tasks, if everything that happens there runs counter to common sense.
The conscription took place in Lithuania. The recruits once again were revealed by an electronic lottery on January 7, 2021. 3,828 recruits were selected from the list of 38 thousand conscripts aged 18 to 23.
The idea of using electronic lottery in such a serious procedure arises a lot of questions among Lithuanians. Young people are suspicious of this method and fully admit the possibility of corruption. Nobody could check the results and so nobody could be blamed for random selection. The more so, the armed forces could get weaker recruits than in case of using usual ways of choosing among candidates. So, the army buys a pig in a poke.
This approach to recruitment in Lithuania results in presence of those with criminal intents and inclinations. Сases of crimes committed by Lithuanian military personnel have increased. Incidents with the involvement of military regularly occurred in Lithuania in 2020.
Thus, a soldier of the Lithuanian army was detained in Jurbarkas in October. He was driving under the influence of alcohol. A Lithuanian soldier suspected of drunk driving was detained also in Siauliai in December. Panevėžys County Chief Police Commissariat was looking for a soldier who deserted from the Lithuanian Armed Forces and so forth.
Such behaviour poses serious risks to public safety and leads to loss of confidence in the Lithuanian army in society.
Lithuanian military officials have chosen a new way to discourage young people from serving in the army, which is already not popular.
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The ministry of defence decided to run a photo contest that would reflect service in the country’s armed forces. It is doubtful that such pictures will attract to the army, but the real situation is provided.
Usually, popularization is the act of making something attractive to the general public. This contest served the opposite goal. Look at the pictures and make conclusions.
Fatah-1: A New Security and Technological Development About Pakistan’s Indigenous GMLRS
Islamabad: It seems like 2021 has been a good start for Pakistan specifically with regard to stepping up its missile testing. On the 7th of January, the Pakistan military has successfully conducted a purely indigenously developed missile test flight known to be Fatah-1. As stated by various reports, Fatah-1 is an extended-range Guided Multi-Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) which itself is a developed variant of the guided MLRS family.
According to the recent statement given by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) about the newly developed rocket, it was stated: “The weapon system will give Pakistan Army capability of a precision target deep in the enemy territory.” Director-General of Pakistan Army, Media Wing, major general Babar Iftikhar on 7th January tweeted: “Pakistan today conducted a successful; test flight of indigenously developed Fatah-1, Guided Multi Launch Rocket System, capable of delivering a conventional Warhead up to a range of 140 km.”
Defense analyst Mr. Syed Muhammad Ali also stated in his capacity: “the new system was very fast, accurate, survivable, and difficult to intercept”. A video was also shared by ISPR on their official website, in which the missile launch can be seen while being fired from the launcher however, the details on when and where the test flight has taken place, along with the specification of the rocket system are yet to be announced.
Currently, Pakistan Army owns a wide range of Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM), Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM), Battlefield Ballistic Missiles (BBM), Rocket Artillery, and Surface to Surface Cruise Missile (SSCM). In the previous year, Pakistan had also maintained prime success in conducting the Ra’ad-II cruise missile and Ghaznavi surface-to-surface ballistic missile (SSBM). Besides, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on 30thDecember made apt progress when it comes to the national air defense arsenal as it was announced that PAF is beginning the production of the State-of-the-art JF-17 Thunder Block 3 fighter jets, at the same time acquiring the 14 dual-seat Jf-17 aircraft.
According to various reports, the JF-17 Thunder Block 3 will be said to have a new radar operational capability which will be far better in the practical domain as compared to the Raphael aircraft acquired by India. Whereas, the exchange of 14 dual-seat aircraft, manufactured with Pak-China cooperation were also given to the PAF which will be used for extensive training.
The recent successful testing of Fatah-1 has been considered to be another milestone for Pakistan as it tends to be a fitting response to the recent developments in the conventional capabilities carried out by India and also to India’s Cold Start Doctrine.
Aspects of the American maritime strategy
Let’s start from a premise that should be completely obvious from a strategic point of view: Any maritime strategy, whether the English one – from the eighteenth century to the Second World War – or the American one, is necessarily a long-term strategy and therefore requires long-term investments by looking for where it is possible to anticipate future challenges. We think in this regard of the nuclear aircraft carriers of the Gerald Ford class whose first series should be put into place next year. If the United States has decided to invest substantial resources in the context of the projection of maritime power this depends on the need to consolidate its naval power, consolidation possible both thanks to the economic and financial power they have at least until today and thanks to technological innovation. (let’s think both of the fact for example that the USA is the only nation that builds catapults for flat deck aircraft carriers and to the fact that with the new class of Ford aircraft carriers the Navy will equip itself with electromagnetic catapults that will be able to increase by about one third the current capabilities of the catapults).
Of course, such large investments on the aircraft carrier front are certainly not accidental since these play a fundamental role of traditional deterrence – both in the sense of being able to threaten armed intervention in the event of a crisis – and of nuclear deterrence as long as the aircraft departing from the aircraft carriers being equipped with nuclear weapons, albeit with low potential, they play a very important deterrent role. In short, the aircraft carrier allows the use of gradual or flexible deterrence.
But in order for the US naval power to be effectively consolidated – especially in the context of the Indo-Pacific and therefore as a function of anti-Chinese containment – today as yesterday (we allude to the cold war) the American military infrastructures present in key strategic junctions on a global level allows it to exercise its naval power effectively: the strengthening of the military partnership with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines must be read just as a renewed interest on the part of the American in the fundamental role of naval power. all these reasons together can only lead us to define the United States as a real modern thalassocracy.
It is no coincidence, on the other hand, that the Obama administration has turned its attention to East and South Asia starting from the realization that the future of the world is at stake in these geopolitical contexts.
In fact, on the front of economic competition with China, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was signed in 2016, a treaty to which – among others – Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, excluding China. Barack Obama has spelled out his foreign policy program, called The Obama Doctrine, rejecting isolationism and supporting multilateralism. In other words Obama has explicitly pursued the tradition of realism embodied by “senior” Bush and by Scowcroft military interventions, too often supported by the State Department, the Pentagon, and think tanks, should only be used where America is under imminent and direct threat. In an environment where the greatest dangers are now climate, financial or nuclear, it is up to US allies to shoulder their share of the common burden. While agreeing that the relationship with China will be the most critical of all, his political program emphasizes that everything will depend on Beijing’s ability to take on its international responsibilities in a peaceful environment. If it did not do so and allowed itself to be conquered by nationalism, America will have to be resolute and take all initiatives aimed at strengthening its multilateralism in the function of anti-Chinese containment. It is therefore very likely that the current US president Biden will carry out a strategy of this nature.
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