Arthur I. Cyr: NATO summit underscores durable alliance
The NATO summit in Brussels on May 25 has received relatively little attention, thanks to the crowded schedule of President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East and Europe.
The diplomatic whirlwind commenced with the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Leaders from 55 nations addressed the threat of terrorism. The NATO summit was followed almost immediately by a meeting of the G7, comprised of the world’s principal industrial nations, in Taormina, Italy. Main agenda item was the continuing debt problems of Greece.
The brief Brussels meeting nevertheless contained heavy symbolism. Remnants of the Berlin Wall, and World Trade Center destroyed in the 9/11 attacks, were dedicated.
The NATO meeting probably will prove the most significant, simply by confirming the solid durability of the alliance. NATO demonstrates unity, and these summits are positive for international stability, especially long-term. The media should focus on these realities.
Warsaw, Poland, was the site for the May 2016 NATO summit, which linked the present with the past. Invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in 1939 sparked World War II in Europe.
The Warsaw delegates agreed to commit troops to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania -- and Poland. Montenegro was formally invited to join NATO.
NATO also underscored commitment to Afghanistan, confirming involvement there until 2020. The senior civilian NATO representative in the country at that time was Turkey’s diplomat Ismail Aramaz. This is a particularly important point, given Turkey’s crucial front-line position against the Islamic State, and Ankara’s vexed relationship with the rest of Europe and the U.S.
British voters’ narrow but clear decision to leave the EU has generated alarm, notably among business executives as well as politicians and civil servants. They fear economic instability and even recession may result. So far, these fears have not been realized, except for the decline in value of the British pound.
One important neglected point is that Britain’s long-term role as military leader in Europe and the wider Atlantic area will probably be reinforced. Starting with World War I, Britain has encouraged United States engagement with Europe, in military and also economic terms. Creation of NATO followed a series of more limited steps, preliminary building-blocks on which the final structure was created.
Article 51 of the United Nations Charter explicitly supports collective self-defense. In March 1947, representatives of Britain and France signed the Treaty of Dunkirk. The main perceived potential threat at that time was Germany. The text of the treaty stated the signatory nations would protect one another from any threat “arising from the adoption by Germany of aggression.”
By then, severe strains were growing between the Western allies and the Soviet Union. In March 1948, the Dunkirk alliance was widened into the Brussels Pact. The resulting Western Union included Belgium, Britain, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and was a positive precursor to the European Economic Community established in the following decade.
Britain steadily fostered cross-Atlantic military cooperation as the Cold War developed. Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin kept the far left of his Labour Party at bay. He was effective in dealing with European leaders in forging the European Coal and Steel Community and forming NATO. Institutional collaboration was reinforced by interpersonal dynamics, starting with Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt in World War II.
NATO continues to provide transatlantic cooperation. The current Britain-U.S. rift over publication of Manchester bombing photos by The New York Times is especially unfortunate.
-- Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and author of “After the Cold War.” Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.