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Editorial: Rebuild NATO unity between U.S., Europe to deal with security threats

  • April 7, 2019
  • , The Japan News , 9:22 p.m.
  • English Press

In addition to the military threat posed by Russia, there is a mountain of issues — from possible terrorist and cyber-attacks to China’s military expansion — that need to be addressed. The United States and Europe must mend the discord in their alliance and deal with the deteriorating security environment.


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization recently held a meeting of foreign ministers from its member states in Washington to mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation, and released a statement to reaffirm the significance of the alliance.


An initially scheduled summit-level meeting was canceled due to the rift that has been expanding between the United States and European countries as a result of U.S. President Donald Trump’s criticisms of NATO. It is a grave situation.


NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that NATO must maintain the unity between Europe and North America. Such remarks suggest a sense of crisis over mutual distrust between them.


Trump has blamed NATO’s European member states for not paying an appropriate share of their defense budgets, thereby making the United States shoulder a disproportionate share. The president has so far declined to say whether the United States should fulfill responsibilities for collective defense. There have even been reports saying that he had mentioned the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal from the organization.


Some European countries have said Europe should build its own defense system, as the region can no longer rely on the United States. The leaders of France and Germany are both positive toward the idea of establishing a “European army.”


In reality, it would be difficult for Europe alone to execute its operations without gaining the U.S. military’s support in the fields of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Can France and Germany guarantee security to Eastern European countries that are confronting Russian threats? The idea of creating an European army that excludes the United States seems unrealistic.


What is important is to review and enhance the functions of NATO while responding to changes in the times.


Understand current situation


Established in 1949, NATO served as a bulwark against Communism during the years of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, becoming the foundation for peace and stability in the United States and Europe.


After the end of the Cold War, NATO intervened in regional conflicts in such places as Yugoslavia. In its counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan, it trains and supports the operations of Afghan security forces. The number of NATO member states has increased to 29 from 12 at the time of its founding.


An imminent threat is Russia. It has been pressing ahead with changing the status quo by force, such as the annexation of Crimea, violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty and building up its missile capabilities. Friction between the United States and Europe only benefits Russia.


European countries are urged to explain to their peoples the current security situation, which is different from the time when the Cold War ended, and appropriately increase defense spending. It is also imperative for European nations to make efforts to fill the gap between them and the United States over vigilance toward China.


At the same time, Trump’s administration should strive to recognize the importance of solidarity with U.S. allies. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo skipped a recent meeting of foreign ministers of the Group of Seven advanced nations. The U.S. administration should never repeat such a thoughtless act.

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