Nato at 70: beginning to show its age?

Jens Stoltenberg © Getty images
Stoltenberg is hosting “modest” celebrations

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s 70th anniversary represents a huge achievement, says The Economist. The average lifespan of collective defence alliances is 15 years. However, celebrations have been limited to a “modest” one-day gathering of foreign ministers on Thursday.

Although Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg met with US president Donald Trump on Tuesday, Nato is keen to avoid a repeat of the bruising confrontations at its summit in Brussels last July, when Trump berated allies for “not pulling their weight” (in 2014, Nato’s 29 members set a target of 2% of GDP on defence spending by 2024, which few, including Germany, have done much about). Despite Trump’s “bolshiness”, bipartisan support for Nato in Congress is strong and defence spending in Europe has risen on his watch.

Nevertheless, the idea of an EU army is now being mooted by European leaders including Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, says Peter Ricketts in The Guardian. This is unwise. The US protected European allies during the cold war, helped stop ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and after two decades of “discretionary wars” in Afghanistan and elsewhere, Nato is back home prioritising security in the face of Russian aggression. The EU “could not begin to substitute” for US military assets.

Russia’s neighbours may be enthusiastic about Nato, but their “anti-Russian zeal” is an embarrassment for Germans eager to cut energy deals with Moscow, says Walter Russell Mead in The Wall Street Journal.

The truth is, the US has been “backing away” from Nato for nearly a decade; China is a growing concern. Turkey’s plans to buy Russian missiles and Italy’s support for China’s Belt and Road initiative also signal the “diminishing value” placed on Nato. “Without a change of heart” from its most important members, the outlook for Nato is poor. In Moscow and Beijing “conclusions are being drawn”.