NATO's Southern Strategy

BRUSSELS/BERLIN/WASHINGTON |

BRUSSELS/BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Own report) - The leading foreign policy journal of Germany is debating NATO's utility. Today, the utility of the Alliance is "unclear," according to the latest edition of "Internationale Politik." Countries in Europe and North America could solve their "security" problems without NATO, whereas - this should be conceded - NATO has done great damage to relations with Russia. In light of the EU's military policy, Washington should encourage the EU to "defend itself," says the author, an expert in an influential US think tank. While "Internationale Politik" is raising fundamental questions, NATO is opening a debate on a new "southern strategy." Since Russia is expanding its naval presence in the Mediterranean and establishing new military bases in Syria, the Mediterranean "is a contested space," according to NATO circles. The deployment of drones in Sicily has been announced, along with plans to intensify cooperation with the countries of the region. "Advisers" are already active in Tunisia, Jordan and Iraq and should also be sent to Libya as soon as possible. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has announced that the debate will be continued at the meeting of NATO foreign ministers, scheduled for early December.

Utility Unclear

In its latest edition, the journal "Internationale Politik," published by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) is debating NATO's utility. "Today's utility" of the war alliance is "unclear," according to the author of the article, Justin Logan, director of foreign policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington.

Dubious Popularity

"Only foreign policy elites believe" that NATO is vital "to Western security."[1] Even though the war alliance "maintains unparalleled popularity among foreign-policy elites in member states," their "pro-NATO rhetoric" has been greatly exaggerated. There is "little reason to believe" that the USA or the EU countries would not counter "international terrorism or other problems affecting all current members alike" even "without NATO." Moreover, one can seriously doubt that the war alliance would play an important role "to enhance collective military capacities," as some allege. It is sure, however, that NATO has done great damage to relationships with Russia. NATO's eastward expansion has intensified Russia's feeling threatened, therefore boosting "arguments of Russian nationalists," as pro-western "Russian liberals are standing by like idiots." "Western elites prefer to disregard this damage caused by NATO."

Third Force

Logan particularly criticizes the United States. Washington "never" wanted to allow "European defense cooperation," the CATO expert explained. "At every turn, Washington tried to nip these efforts in the bud" to prevent "the emergence of a West European 'third force,' divorced from the USA."[2] This has been a mistake and has led to NATO's European members paying less for their military. This is why Washington presently accounts for more than "70 percent of overall NATO military expenditures, despite comprising only roughly 56 percent of the GDP of all the NATO countries." Logan explains, "NATO ultimately forces US tax payers to subsidize the rich European welfare states by paying for their defense." Washington should no longer "prevent" an independent European military policy, Logan says. "The Europeans are capable of defending themselves, but won’t until Washington makes them."

Fundamental Shift

Whereas "Internationale Politik" is questioning NATO's utility, the western war alliance is opening a debate on a new "southern strategy," in response to the fact that Russia has greatly expanded its military presence in the Mediterranean area. Already in February, Moscow signed an agreement with Cyprus, providing Russian warships access to its harbors,[3] and is upgrading its Mediterranean fleet. In May, joint maneuvers were carried out in the Mediterranean with Chinese warships. Besides, one has to be prepared to accept the fact that Russia will also be "a factor for a long time" in Syria, said Deputy NATO Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, with an eye on Russia's new airbase in that Mediterranean country. We have to think "about the broader consequences" of this Russian military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. NATO is already referring to the Mediterranean in terms of being "a contested space.” Russia's presence could complicate the US' ability to project naval power into the Persian Gulf. It would have made a NATO decision to intervene in the Libyan conflict in 2011 far more difficult to plan. Europe is now suddenly within range of Russia's arsenal of ship-launched cruise and ballistic missiles. “This is really a fundamental shift in Russian posture that will be long lasting,” an expert at London's Royal United Services Institute is quoted saying.[4]

Continuum of Deterrence

According to reports, the US Navy is already considering bolstering its naval presence in Europe. More warships - including submarines - could be sent to the Mediterranean to deter "Russian adventurism," declared Admiral John Richardson of the US Navy. NATO plans to build a "continuum of deterrence" in the south, "from the tactical to the strategic," explained General Adrian Bradshaw, NATO's deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe. Therefore, five global hawk drones will shortly deployed in Sicily to give the alliance a permanent surveillance capability across the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa. The war alliance is also looking to expand its military relationships in the region. One must be "ready to deploy large combat forces" to the region, NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said.[5] In fact, NATO's major exercise, "Trident Juncture" ended last week. This maneuver was carried out in several Mediterranean riparian countries - with the Bundeswehr playing a leading role. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[6]) However, Stoltenberg called also for using "train, assist and advise missions to help partners to stabilize their own countries," along the lines of NATO's current activities in Afghanistan. NATO advisers are currently in Iraq, Jordan, and Tunisia to bolster the alliance's regional influence. According to NATO's General Secretary advisors should also be sent to Libya. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[7])

On the Agenda

Stoltenberg has confirmed that an initial report on the new "southern strategy" will be presented and thoroughly discussed at NATO's foreign ministers meeting, scheduled for December 1 and 2.[8] The "southern strategy" could already be concluded at NATO's July 8 - 9, 2016 summit in Warsaw and would complement the war alliance's new eastern presence, directed also against Russia.[9]

[1], [2] Justin Logan: Nordatlantische Allianz. Internationale Politik November/Dezember 2015, 60-65.
[3] Cyprus signs deal to allow Russian navy to use ports. www.bbc.co.uk 26.02.2015.
[4] Sam Jones: Russia's Syria strategy poses challenge to Nato in Mediterranean. www.ft.com 21.10.2015.
[5] Sam Jones: Nato to reinforce its Mediterranean presence. www.ft.com 04.11.2015.
[6] See Message to the World.
[7] See Gegen Terror und Migration.
[8] Sam Jones: Nato to reinforce its Mediterranean presence. www.ft.com 04.11.2015.
[9] See 21st Century Warfare (I) and 21st Century Warfare (II).