How would you describe upcoming NATO summit?

In terms of initiatives that are on the table how would you assess the upcoming NATO summit, does it have an ambitious agenda or is it more about how NATO is mostly completing issues that we are dealing with for some time, or is it a bit of both, and why? Read few comments.

New NATO headquarter. Credit: https://www.nato.int/

Michael John Williams, Clinical Professor of International Relations, Director of the International Relations Program and Affiliate Professor of European Studies & History, New York University

This is not going to be a summit with an ambitious agenda. An ambitious agenda would require clear leadership and that leadership has often come from the United States. Currently, Washington is playing a divisive role in Europe and within NATO. President Trump has attacked allies on trade and he has lambasted them about defense expenditures, despite the fact that since the Wales Summit in 2014 allies in Europe have been improving defense spending. The summit is more likely going to be a ‘survival’ summit – focusing on existing projects, consolidation of activities and appraisal of capability acquisition – all the while attempting to avoid inflaming the President or having a very public fight.

Stanley SloanNonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council of the United States, Visiting Scholar in Political Science, Middlebury College Author of Transatlantic traumas: Has illiberalism brought the West to the brink of collapse?

Historically, NATO summits have been among the best prepared international gatherings, resulting in some of the most predictable outcomes in international affairs. Whether one was going to be disappointed or pleased could almost always be determined well in advance of the meeting itself. This all changed when Donald Trump became President of the United States and “leader” of the West.

Yes, the NATO international staff and national delegations have been working hard to produce initiatives and communiqué language. And yes, the US ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, has been publishing reassuring language for public consumption. She undoubtedly has also been working with the permanent representatives of other allies to prepare them for the storm descending onNATO headquarters next week. But it will not be the same. The predictable aspects are there to see in the summit initiatives. The unpredictable aspects, which may be the most important in the near term, are not.

The initiatives that will be agreed at the summit address important needs. The improvements cover the range of external threats facing the allies: steps to improve the ability to get military units more rapidly to the Eastern border in the case of a Russian attack; a new Cyber Control Center to combat more effectively threats in this new area of warfare; more contributions to the fight against terrorism; expansion of the NATO integrated command structure to reflect new threat profiles; and more. It is without doubt an impressive list.

Paal HildeAssociate Professor, Centre for Norwegian and European Security, Institute for Defence Studies/Norwegian Defence University College

Had it not been for the concerns over what US president Donald Trump might say or do, the 2018 Brussels NATO Summit would have attracted less attention. The many decisions expected from the Summit – deliverables in NATO jargon – are, however, worthy of attention in and of themselves. In addition to Alliance solidarity, five core issues are on the agenda. The first is deterrence and defence, an issue primarily tied to enhancingNATO’s collective defence capability. Highlights are a strengthening of the NATO Command Structure, notably in terms of cyber defence and logistics, and a renewed emphasis on the maritime domain. None of the decisions are revolutionary – they build on and reinforce the decisions made in the 2014 Wales and the 2016 Warsaw summits. Yet, they do represent important new steps.

The same is the case with the second issue, promoting stability, which including the fight against terrorism. It is primarily directed against the challenges and threats NATO faces in the South. Highlights here are likely to be a confirmation of NATO’s resolve to continue to support Afghanistan and an offer to enhance the Alliance’s engagement in Iraq. The third and fourth issues are modernising NATO and NATO-EU relations. These might not garner as much attention as the first two issues (and the last), with the exception of NATO-EU cooperation on enhancing military mobility in Europe.

The final issue, burden sharing and the Defence Investment Pledge, are likely to be dominant. This would likely have been the case even if Hillary Clinton had been president of the USA, but with Trump in that seat unpredictability is vastly greater.

Mathieu BoulègueResearch Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House

I think the meeting will simply enact what was decided the last few months and nothing more:

– Reassurance for Allies and beyond (Ukraine, Georgia)

– Four 30s, which will get a lot of comms and attention

– New NATO Command

In a way, it is a continuation of the targets identified in 2016 in Warsaw. This means that the Russia policy will keep focusing in the 3D approach (defence/deterrence + dialogue).

What could be new is a new form of rhetoric around burden-sharing and national contributions under ‘3C’ : more cash, capabilities and contributions.

Just to send a clear signal that even though there are political disagreements between Allies at the moment, there should be no doubt regarding unity in the transatlantic bond.

Michael Corgan, Associate Professor of International Relations, Boston University

Most of the agenda items are ‘housekeeping’ matters that continue previous items set forth in years past. Still trying to find a graceful way out of Afghanistan and Iraq, modest help with the refugee crisis which seems to be abating in numbers (if not in national politics), and so on.

The real issue will be burden sharing and that is where I think the action and headlines will be.

Gianluca Pastori, Associate Professor, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano

Since the Warsaw summit, NATO is trying to solve the difficult problem of keeping together its two current souls, i.e. its ‘Eastern’ and its ‘Southern’ dimension. Following the Russian annexation of Crimea, the Eastern allies have gained considerable strength, heavily shaping the Alliance’s political agenda. In Warsaw, southern members have tried to promote a rebalancing of the common posture placing a greater emphasis on the Mediterranean, but, so far, results have been poor. I think this point will be at the core of the debate in Brussels too. For this reason, I do not think it will be a ‘revolutionary’ summit. Moreover, the Alliance’s current strategic concept is now almost eight years old, and voices have already called for the elaboration of a new one. Generally speaking, the strategic concept assesses NATO’s posture and mission every ten years, and due to the time-expensive procedure adopted to draft the document adopted in 2010, time has almost come to re-start the process.

Artur GruszczakNational Security Department, Jagiellonian University in Krakow

NATO for some time has been grappling with the shrinking sense of identity and strategic purposefullness. It resembles a sailor who has lost its compass and desperately tries to reconstruct the good old ways of finding his way home. However rich and ambitious the summit agenda might be in Brussels, it would face several essential dilemmas: (1) The business defence model enforced by the Trump administration is not and will not be long viable for the majority of European allies; (2) The plans to strengthen European defence by developing PESCO are not welcome by the U.S.; (3) The former command structure did not stand the test of time and the new one should quickly recover lost momentum; (4) liberal democratic order is challenged by several allies without any substantial reaction from the rest; (5) NATO is unprepared for a war and will do everything to avoid a military escalation of conflicts in its proximity or an open confrontation with state or non-state actors. The summit in Brussels will decide what we should expect of the transatlantic alliance in the near future: a drift or a rift.

Garret MartinProfessorial Lecturer, School of International Service, American University

In my view the 2018 NATO summit is essentially a consolidation summit. The 2014 Wales summit marked a turning point, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support for separatists in Ukraine. Then, NATO committed to boost defense spending, after years of cuts, and to improve its military readiness. Many steps have been taken since 2014, such as sending battalions on the Eastern flank, and the 2018 summit will follow that line. That includes overhauling NATO’s command structure, working on military mobility, increased cooperation with the EU to combat hybrid threats, and Defense Secretary Mattis’ so called “30-30-30-30 plan”.

Raimonds RublovskisFormer Chief of the Strategic Planning Department of the Joint Headquarters of the National Armed Forces of Latvia

We cannot look on upcoming NATO Summit as separate issue taking into account sharp and growing political tensions between the US and some major European NATO Allies (Germany), on the one hand, and within EU ( Italy, Visegrad Four with EU Commission , Germany etc) on the other hand. Taking into account major political tensions in Germany, Brexit and other significant political issues within EU,  one would conclude that no NATO Summit within last 20 years  was held under such increasingly escalating political tensions among NATO and EU Allies, as well as major political instability within major political actors of NATO and EU. Therefore, I would not expect any breakthrough initiatives during the summit,and it is definitely not an ambition agenda but Summit will deal with current political and military challenges what coud impact the Alliance in the future. US side will definitely push on and press other Allies to comply with 2% of GDP treshhold on  National defense.

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