The NATO Summit that took place last week was one of the most significant meetings of the members of the Atlantic Alliance. In addition to different threats that member countries have been facing in recent years, such as terrorism, the alliance also had a challenging period because of the policies of Russia, especially since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis. Recently with the statements of newly elected U.S. President Donald Trump, this alliance entered a further period of ambiguity. Although President Trump revised his earlier statements about NATO’s “obsoleteness,” there were increasing concerns about the position that the U.S. president will take about the organization.
As the summit ended last week, several points became clear. Trump’s speech signaled not only a call for further burden sharing among NATO members, but also increasingly questioned U.S. commitment to the security of its allies under Article 5 due to the his lack of emphasis on this principle. Trump was increasingly assertive about the need for contributions by member countries to the alliance. Despite a slight increase in defense spending by the countries in the last few years, Trump apparently found it insufficient.
The Brussels summit must be a milestone for NATO to determine a road map to truly fight against worldwide terrorism
In the coming months, we will see the reactions of member countries to this call and the new direction of relations between NATO as an organization and the U.S.However, other than this ambiguity, there was improvement in NATO’s handling of current security issues. The new focus on Daesh and the decision to limit NATO involvement in the fight against Daesh as a member of the Global Coalition is an important development. Despite the limitations of this engagement, NATO’s decision demonstrates the recognition of this threat as a major security problem at an organizational level, while showing its willingness to adapt to this new security atmosphere as an organization. It is important for NATO to improve its capacity and capability to deal with such problems.
An important dimension of this new NATO mission will be cooperation among member states concerning intelligence – something that Turkey has been asking for the last few years due to increasing transnationalization of the threat of terrorism. Especially in regards to dealing with the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon, Turkish authorities stated a more comprehensive framework on intelligence cooperation. However, until now, member countries have failed to generate a process and mechanism to share important information about terrorist actions. In his speech, the NATO secretary general said: “We also decided to establish a terrorism intelligence cell within our new Intelligence Division. This will improve the sharing of information among allies, including the threat of foreign fighters.” Although the secretary general seems very determined to achieve this goal, this will be one of the hardest objectives for NATO to achieve. Of course, this cooperation may be limited at this point against Daesh, however, in the long run the expectations probably in the heads of the NATO leadership is an active intelligence cooperation in the other security problems of the treaty members.Of course, this is a welcome development, making NATO more relevant in an age of diversifying threats against member states, including cyberattacks and terrorism.
The success of this new mission against Daesh will depend on NATO’s actions as an organization. Although all 28 members of NATO are part of the global coalition the approach that NATO develops in the coming months to fight Daesh is important. For instance, what will it do with regard to be the U.S.-led coalition’s assistance and support for the terrorist PKK’s Syrian wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). In the medium and long term can NATO shape the strategy of the global coalition? What kind of framework of cooperation will NATO member countries create to fight terrorism? How will Article 5 be interpreted in the fight against terror? Can this new development of joining the fight against Daesh as an organization impact the already tense relations of NATO with Russia? Can this new threat perception and active cooperation among member states generate a new identity for NATO as an organization? These important questions must be answered in coming months. The answers will determine whether NATO can be more relevant for regional and international security or whether it will lead to the emergence of smaller pacts among some countries against different threats.
This article was first published in Daily Sabah on May 28, 2017.