On Monday, 30 leaders and heads of state met for a NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, the seat of the 1949 security alliance.
At the first NATO summit of Joe Biden as president of the United States, he will be anxious to reassure his allies that “America is back” after four tumultuous years of former US President Donald Trump, who he declared NATO “obsolete”, called member countries “deadbeats”, and at first refused to explicitly approve of NATO’s principle of mutual defense.
A new “2030 Strategic Concept” that describes how the alliance plans to address the various challenges it currently faces is expected to be launched.
NATO’s current strategic concept dates back to 2010, but “it didn’t take as much as it needed to the prospects of Russian aggression, and it didn’t even talk about China,” said James Goldgeier, a relations professor. international at the American University and former director for Russia, Ukrainian Affairs, and Eurasian on the staff of the National Security Council.
The need to reflect the changing security landscape was raised by French President Emmanuel Macron, with his 2019 criticisms that the alliance was “dead to the brain” and was no longer fit for purpose.
NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg will propose a broader focus on topics including cyber warfare, China, Russia, strategic competition with authoritarian states and the effects of climate change on international security. , say experts.
Here are five things to know:
One of the most pressing issues on the agenda is how NATO will ensure the stability of Afghanistan while canceling its operations in the region.
U.S. troops and their NATO allies are expected to retake their 9,600-strong mission by the September 11 Biden deadline – after nearly two decades of conflict in the region.
Critics, including former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, warn that there is a risk that the Taliban could regain control.
The al-Qaeda network – which provided the U.S. foundation for the invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks – still has 400 to 600 members fighting the Taliban, according to the Security Council. the UN.
In an April interview with CNN, Al-Qaeda agents said that a “war against the United States will continue on all other fronts, except that.”
NATO plans to provide continued financial support to Afghan security forces. But questions remain about whether allies promise millions – perhaps billions – of dollars to provide equipment and serious training programs in Afghanistan.
U.S. military officials have also discussed setting up bases in neighboring countries so they can return to Afghanistan if threats arise from al-Qaeda or ISIL.
The United States wants to operate in Pakistan, but given Islamabad’s often strained relationship with Washington, it is unlikely in Biden.
The Pentagon also encourages a return to bases in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, he added, a move that would require blessings from China and Russia.
“This will be much more difficult than it was 10 years ago,” he says, since relations between the United States and the two powers have escalated.
Leaders will also discuss strengthening NATO’s collective defense, with a focus on “an increasingly aggressive Russia,” says Kristine Berzina, a senior at the United States Marshall Fund.
Last year, Russia sent 150.00 troops to its border with Ukraine in what Stoltenberg called “the largest mass of Russian troops” since Moscow’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in the 2014, urging NATO to warn Russia that renewed “aggression” would have consequences.
The rift between Western governments and Russia is also compounded by the near-fatal poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny last August, which many blamed on Moscow – a statement it denies.
At the summit, the United States will likely be asked whether it is willing to deploy more troops and tanks in Europe, position more equipment in Europe and deploy more air defenses on the continent, says Jamie Shea, senior senior at Brussels -Tank Friends of the ‘Europe and former NATO member.
“Countries like Romania, Bulgaria, definitely want to see a stronger American defense in the region.”
In a recent speech, Stoltenberg said that Beijing is not considered by NATO as an adversary, but that China’s rise has direct implications for the security of the transatlantic alliance.
“China is not perceived as a threat per se, but as something that could turn in the opposite direction,” Berzina says.
NATO allies have condemned China’s human rights abuses, including its crackdown on dissidents in Hong Kong and the internment of more than one million members of the predominantly Muslim population. to northwestern Xinjiang region.
Other concerns in NATO include China’s threats to invade Taiwan, Beijing’s growing militarization, and its approach to the Indo-Pacific region, which Dr. Kathleen Hicks, the U.S. deputy secretary of defense, described. increasingly “coercive and aggressive.”
Berzina says that under Trump, there was “some desire in Europe to maintain the equidistance between the two great powers and not to be aspired to in the American conflict, especially when relations with the United States were as poor as they were. “.
While Berzina says there is still more “foot dragging” in Europe on the China issue than the United States would like, Shea expects more alignment with Beijing.
“Europe has woken up to China’s challenge,” he says.
The European Union in March sanctioned Chinese officials for the first time in 30 years over the ugly issue.
France, Germany and the United Kingdom have recently sent warships to the Indo-Pacific region, showing that Europe has a “participation in a free and open Indo-Pacific,” says Rafael Loss, coordinator for the Pane-European Data Projects to the European Council on Foreign Relations.
“NATO can seek closer cooperation with partners such as Australia, India, Japan and South Korea. It must also think carefully about how it can contribute to protecting democracy in Taiwan,” says Loss .
NATO members decide whether to increase the organization’s common balance sheet for more common capabilities, such as training, exercises and stronger cyber defenses.
Stoltenberg called on allies to “invest more” and “better” and proposed to collectively contribute $ 20 billion in joint budgets for the next 10 years.
Today, the common pot amounts to 0.3 percent of allies ’total defense spending, or about $ 2.5 billion.
French officials have expressed opposition to the offer to raise joint funding.
Florence Parly, France’s defense minister, told Politico this month: “All this money is money that will not go towards increasing national budgets and a European defense effort that benefits NATO. And to do that “No one is able to tell.”
Berzina anticipates that spending will be a priority for some NATO members: “There have always been leaders and laggers in spending. There will be trade-offs, but I think this will be challenging, especially in the COVID-19 economic landscape. ”
And then, the EU summit
A day later, on Tuesday, Biden and top EU members will hold a summit in Brussels.
Experts have said that tariffs and trade in relation to aeronautics and metals are a key issue, as well as how to enforce a new minimum global tax rate on business according to a historic agreement made on 5 June by the Group of 7 finance ministers.
Other issues will include data transfer, pandemic recovery, climate policy and carbon tariff schemes.
While Europe is eager to welcome Biden into the region, the previous administration has shown how quickly Washington’s priorities can change.
European leaders are also unsure whether Biden’s “foreign policy strategy for the middle class” differs from Trump’s “America first” agenda, says Goldgeier.
“It will be a critical issue for Europe.”