July 6, 2016 | Factsheet on North Atlantic Treaty Organization
The July NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland, offers an important opportunity for the alliance to refocus on several key issues. The alliance should take concrete steps to reiterate the open-door policy, encourage members to commit to increased defense spending, place the Arctic on NATO’s agenda, and defend the Baltic States, among others.
Georgia is a staunch ally of the U.S. and NATO. Georgia is also undertaking a defense transformation program that is an example to all of NATO. Even with the Russian threat, Georgia has been able to implement serious defense reforms and continues to participate in security operations at a rate much higher than that of many NATO members. The Warsaw summit provides the alliance a perfect opportunity to strengthen the bilateral relationship with Tbilisi.
There is very little that the U.S. can say or do to force Europeans to spend more on defense, especially at a time when America is cutting its own budget. Remaining silent on the matter offers implicit approval, however. The Warsaw summit is a vital time for NATO members to recommit themselves to their obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty.
In the Arctic, sovereignty equals security. Respecting national sovereignty in the Arctic would ensure that the chances of armed conflict in the region remain low. NATO has a role to play in Arctic security. Without American leadership, NATO will remain mute in the Arctic. This is not good for the alliance or for the region.
NATO has underpinned Europe’s and North America’s security for more than 67 years, so it is no surprise that many countries in the transatlantic region that are not already members want to join the alliance. The U.S. should use the Warsaw summit to ensure that NATO’s open-door policy remains in place.
The end-of-2014 deadline for Western-led combat operations was not the end of the war but simply marked a continuation of the campaign led by the Afghans and supported by the international community. President Obama should announce—before the summit—that he will leave in place the 9,800 U.S. troops currently stationed in Afghanistan through the end of his presidency to show NATO partners that the U.S. remains committed to leading the international effort to stabilize Afghanistan.
The Warsaw summit in offers an opportunity to focus on one of the most complex regions the alliance is obligated to defend: the Baltic States. NATO should think strategically and take long-term measures that include the eventual permanent basing of troops in the region, the establishment of a Baltic Air Defense mission, and a commitment to regular training exercises focused on rapid troop reinforcement in the region.
With a focus on Russia’s actions in the Baltic region and Eastern Europe, the NATO summit in Warsaw offers an opportunity for NATO to re-focus on another area of recent Russian saber rattling, along Turkey’s borders. NATO needs to agree to a strategy that ensures that its southeastern flank remains secure and recognizes the vital role that Turkey plays for the security of the alliance.
Realistically, Ukraine has a long way to go before achieving NATO membership, but that does not mean that the alliance should disengage from Ukraine. On the contrary, NATO should deepen its partnership with Ukraine at the Warsaw summit. It is in NATO’s best interest to assist Ukraine in countering Russian aggression and to work toward the nation’s long-term peace and stability.