It is time for a major transformation of the Alliance – POLITICO
Press play to listen to this article
Domènec Ruiz Devesa is a member of the European Parliament.
The Alliance’s recently agreed new Strategic Concept offers a compelling blueprint for the kind of profound transformation NATO must undergo to cope with the return of great power competition, and is the result of an inevitable compromise. However, the document adopted at this week’s Madrid summit also stands out for its completeness and balance – as well as for its ambition.
And yet it alone is not enough.
Against the backdrop of the ongoing war in Ukraine, NATO’s original mission of collective defense is now unsurprisingly back in focus as the alliance plans to increase its high-readiness force from 40,000 to over 300,000 by 2023.
In addition, transatlantic leaders have also cleverly avoided a mere back-to-basics approach, reinterpreting the other two core tasks of the 2010 Strategic Concept – crisis management and co-operative security – to reflect the changing realities of today’s competitive international environment .
As a result, Cooperative Security, which in the previous strategic document was closely linked to a “reset” in relations with Moscow, is now geared towards using NATO partnerships to identify Russia as “the most significant and imminent threat to the security of allies.” counteract”, in addition to China.
Indeed, the Strategic Concept now, for the first time, lays out how NATO can help deal with an increasingly assertive and militarily capable China – an issue that only made it into the Alliance’s internal discussions a few years ago – as Beijing’s military and technological advances require staying alert.
But while the adoption of a solid and forward-looking Strategic Concept should end recurring debates about NATO’s fading rationale, however – after all, French President Macron nearly diagnosed “brain death” in 2019 – more is needed to restore meaning to the transatlantic relationship after many recent convulsions.
So, following NATO’s new strategic document, it’s high time that transatlantic leaders also adopt a political text — another New Atlantic Charter that commits Europe and the United States to a set of goals that go well beyond the Going beyond military and security policy, and much further, is the Anglo-American agreement signed between US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year.
A broader manifesto along these lines could allay concerns about a post-war militarist trend and help restore confidence in Western principles and values - “democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law” – as enshrined in the North Atlantic Treaty.
It’s certainly not about having a piece of paper with high-sounding concepts. Rather, this document, like the historic Atlantic Charter of 1941, should pragmatically articulate a common agenda that the US and Europe can advance together despite their diminished international clout. Crucially, it identifies issues that enjoy broad transatlantic and bipartisan support, protecting future cooperation from the disruptive effects that election cycles will continue to have on the relationship.
The 1941 text was also adopted in wartime. And, as the ongoing war in Ukraine has made clear, this new charter should prepare transatlantic societies for the eventuality that at some point in the not-too-distant future, challenges to Western leadership and norms could lead to a full-scale international conflict.
Your focus should therefore be twofold: On the one hand, the new charter should update the “four freedoms” and at the same time expand the list. Besides freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear, one could imagine others, such as freedom of the seas and freedom of the internet, which have recently come under attack from authoritarians.
On the other hand, the charter should also promote the new paradigm of “transatlantic resilience” and set out principles that the US and Europe would adopt together to preserve cohesive societies and functioning governance. These principles, which have broad support on both sides of the Atlantic, include “fairness” as a corrective to free markets and free trade, and the notion of “inclusive and sustainable growth” as a response to the growing inequality threat of climate change and the increased risk of pandemic-like ones Events.
When it comes to the functioning of institutions, “accountability,” “responsiveness,” and “transparency” — along with a renewed emphasis on “integrity” and fighting “disinformation” — would also go a long way in addressing widespread distrust to counteract the rise of populist parties on both sides of the Atlantic in recent years.
Formulating a transatlantic agenda capable of garnering bipartisan support is, of course, a formidable challenge. However, it is also a compelling task given a likely Republican victory in the upcoming US midterm elections and the likelihood of future instances of policy discrepancy in the coming years.
To meet this challenge, this new charter could be drafted in an innovative way by transatlantic decision-makers, with the European Parliament playing a proactive role. Because political polarization will undoubtedly remain a challenge in the turbulent Trump years both in the USA and in Europe, On key issues – such as the need to protect NATO – there was still broad consensus among legislators across the Atlantic.
And it is precisely this kind of broad policy convergence that such a charter could translate into a renewed vision for the transatlantic partnership.