Feb. 15th, 2017

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"FEBRUARY 15, 2017 by: Anne Applebaum
Theresa May went to Washington, met the US president and emerged with a joint declaration: “We’re 100 per cent behind Nato.” A few days later, the American president spoke to his French counterpart, François Hollande, and told him that he “wants our money back” from Nato, an organisation which he believes is ripping America off. It is not hard to figure out which of those comments — the one issued by the British prime minister at a stiff press conference, or the one blurted out in an off-the-record call — represents the real views of the White House. For nearly two decades, Donald Trump has regularly attacked the “obsolescent” transatlantic alliance. As far back as 2000, he wrote that Europe was not worth defending: “Their conflicts are not worth American lives.” Nor is this just an obsession with how much Europeans spend on defence. Mr Trump would have lifted Russian sanctions in his first week, had Senate leaders not stopped him. He is certainly is the first US president since the second world war to have never expressed any interest in democracy, the rule of law or the shared western values that have held the transatlantic alliance together for decades. Scepticism of Nato is not new in Washington. Barack Obama was famously bored by Nato summits; Robert Gates, while US defence secretary in both the Obama and Bush administrations, called for more European defence spending over and over again. But Mr Trump’s malice towards longtime US allies and his ignorance of the benefits Nato has brought to America creates a completely new level of distrust. Institutions lose credibility when they no longer reflect political reality. The US military’s commitment to Europe is still genuine, but no amount of lofty rhetoric can now conceal the fact that the American political commitment to European security is waning rapidly. The UK can join others in pretending that this is not happening. British politicians can fool themselves about the significance of their own military commitment, spending “2 per cent of the budget” that has left the UK with fewer tanks and fewer deployable brigades than Poland, as well as a single aircraft carrier but no aircraft to fly from it. Mrs May can cling to the fiction of the “special relationship” with a mercurial president who changes his mind every few hours and does not have British interests at heart. Or she can absorb the lesson, draw the conclusions, and make a radical change in British security policy while it is still possible. Europe Germany has taken itself out of the nuclear running By 2023, the country will have none of the wherewithal for a weapons option There could be no better moment. Britain is leaving the EU, but it still wants a European role. Here is a role for the taking: Britain, together with France, Germany and others — perhaps including non-Nato members like Sweden — should launch a new European security pact that actually reflects political reality. In other words, Europe’s leading defence powers should create an organisation that is compatible with Nato, but which also starts preparing coldly for the day when the US security umbrella might be withdrawn. Such a pact could take many forms, the more creative the better. Europe is at a profound political turning point, and it is time to think in completely new ways. A new organisation could involve major new armaments, shared between countries. It could include a European Legion, modelled on the French Foreign Legion, which would allow Belgians, Czechs and others with small armies the opportunity to join a large one. But the nature of warfare is changing rapidly, and not all conflict is kinetic. Cyber security and defence against information wars are at least as important as military conflict, and European countries can only gain from co-operating in these areas, which affect all of them in similar ways. Joint research, joint operations and joint counter-intelligence should all be on the table, too. Whatever its precise component, a European security pact should be designed to confront the two very different but equally real threats that now face the entire continent: terrorism and chaos in the south; and hybrid warfare from Russia — a vicious mix of political influence operations, targeted corruption, cyber threats and now a new generation of cruise missiles. Nato, as it is currently constructed, is poorly designed for this mix of challenges. A new European security pact could confront them from the start — and Britain could lead from the start as well. Historically, Britain has opposed European defence structures because they might undermine Nato. Now that the American president himself has set out to undermine Nato, maybe it is time to think again."


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