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WASHINGTON: In an important milestone for transatlantic security, President Joe Biden is hosting 38 heads of delegation in the US capital this week for a historic summit to mark the 75th anniversary of NATO’s founding.

The leaders of the 32 NATO members are approaching the city, with Sweden joining for the first time, as well as partners such as Ukraine, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Australia and the EU. High-ranking officials, foreign ministers, defense ministers and cabinet officials from NATO partners also show up in large numbers from around the world.

The summit commemorates the world’s most successful alliance, created in 1949 in the early days of the Cold War, whose enduring existence has defied skeptics for decades.

NATO’s importance was renewed and emphasized two and a half years ago by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which, according to analysts, thoroughly questioned the so-called order based on international rules and represents one of the most significant threats to transatlantic security in recent decades.

But beyond its officials’ assurances, NATO faces uncertainty about its future. External threats also contribute, but the primary concern is the internal turmoil that could result if NATO skeptics such as Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Assembly, take power in 2024 and 2027, respectively. .

Trump personifies the tension between European allies and the United States that has existed since the beginning. As one observer put it: Americans came from Mars, Europeans from Venus.

Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally on July 9, 2024 in Doral, Florida. (AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron recently stated that the alliance “only works if the guarantee of the final solution works like this. I would argue that we should re-evaluate the reality of NATO in light of the commitment of the United States.” In his view, the United States is showing signs of “turning its back on us,” as demonstrated by its unexpected troop withdrawal from northeastern Syria in October 2019, abandoning its Kurdish allies.

INNUMBERS

32 members of the NATO military alliance.

7 Canada’s rank in the amount of money spent on defence.

3.5% share of the US GDP for the military.

Official language from the Biden administration and NATO officials projects an alliance that is, in the words of Ambassador Michael Carpenter, special assistant to the president, “bigger, stronger, better resourced and more united than ever.”

While the U.S. press remains focused on Biden’s fitness and ability to handle an event like NATO’s 75th anniversary, both U.S. administration and NATO officials have been quick to dodge questions about the president’s health.

According to the head of NATO, the “most urgent task” of the summit will be to support Ukraine. The Allies will unveil major new measures to help the war-torn country.

These include increasing security assistance and training with a major command center in Germany; $43 billion in financial pledges; additional air defense systems and ammunition; and demonstrating support for Kyiv as it moves towards NATO membership.

“This does not make NATO a party to the conflict,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. “But it will increase Ukraine’s self-defense.”

He added: “Ukraine must win … they need our continued support.”

Carpenter, the senior US diplomat, said: “Together, the Washington summit sends a strong signal to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin that if he thinks he can survive a coalition of countries supporting Ukraine, he is dead wrong.”

NATO is using the summit to highlight significant investments in its defense and deterrence capabilities.

In 2020, only nine NATO member states spent at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, a standard set almost a decade ago. Today, a record number of 23 NATO members meet or exceed the minimum level of 2 percent of GDP in defense spending.

“Since Russia’s aggression against Ukraine began in 2014, NATO has been fundamentally transformed,” Stoltenberg said.

“Defence spending by European allies and Canada has increased by 18 percent this year alone, the largest increase in decades. Allies take burden sharing seriously.

“Today we have 500,000 troops on high alert; for the first time combat-capable battle groups in the eastern part of the alliance; more high-end capabilities, including fifth-generation aircraft; and two very committed new members, Finland and Sweden.”

What Ukraine also presented, according to Stoltenberg, was the global dimension of the alliance’s security: “Iran and North Korea (e.g., with drones and missiles) fuel Russia’s war” and “China supports Russia’s war economy.” The closer authoritarian actors get to each other, the more important it is to work closely with our friends in the Indo-Pacific.”

The third goal of the summit is to deepen NATO’s global partnerships. To this end, Stoltenberg invited the leaders of Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea to Washington.

“If we stand up to authoritarian actors with our partners, it will help maintain the rules-based international order,” he said.

Partnerships with countries in the Middle East and North Africa are also discussed in meetings and bilateral talks, including NATO’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and includes the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar; and the Mediterranean Dialogue, which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary as a partnership forum to promote security and stability in the region, involving Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

Carpenter said: “In terms of the Middle East, I’m sure there will be many discussions, including bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit, where this will be discussed.

“The Middle East is not a Euro-Atlantic area, but it obviously affects the security of the Euro-Atlantic area. So what is happening now in the Middle East naturally worries all NATO leaders.”

Luke Coffey, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, expressed his regret that neither the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative nor the Mediterranean Dialogue had used their potential.

“I’m a little disappointed that NATO didn’t make a bigger deal about the 20th anniversary of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (and) the 30th anniversary of the Mediterranean Dialogue, which includes NATO’s relations in the Levant and North Africa. ” he told Arab News.

“These are important milestones and both platforms have been useful in the past, allowing NATO to engage with the wider community in the region,” he added.

“It would be very good to hold a NATO meeting at the head of state and prime minister level in connection with the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. I know it would be very difficult to do. Someone should have thought of this earlier. But let’s make a big deal out of this anniversary.

“NATO needs to make it clear to countries, especially in the Gulf, that if you are not a member of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, the door is open. Of course, no one is talking about NATO membership or anything like that. It’s ridiculous, but I think adding new members to the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative would be a positive thing for the alliance.”

The NATO-MENA security overlap, Coffey said, includes concerns such as counterterrorism and Iran’s missile and drone proliferation. He believes that NATO should cooperate more deeply with the MENA countries, starting with missile and air defense.

“From a European point of view, many of the challenges affecting the Middle East often end up in Europe over time. So Europe, and NATO in particular, benefits from working with the countries of the Middle East to help them solve their own security concerns.”

According to Coffey, Stoltenberg’s visit to Saudi Arabia last December is a step in the right direction, “which would probably get (the Kingdom) into the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.

“Saudi Arabia is the dominant power in the Arabian Peninsula and faces the same security challenges as NATO, such as the proliferation of ballistic missiles and drones and the threat from Iran,” he said.

“So it makes sense for NATO to work with Saudi Arabia whenever possible, and we have a platform in NATO to engage with countries like Saudi Arabia. So let’s include Saudi Arabia in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.

“If they want. NATO must also take care to meet the speed and comfort level of the Gulf states’ involvement. We should not try to impose anything on the region, but we should always make it clear that NATO is open to deeper cooperation if there is a willingness.”

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