NATO, Europe and world peace

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By Jean Marsia |

At the North Atlantic Council meeting in Brussels on 14 June 2021, the Heads of State or Government reaffirmed their unity, solidarity and cohesion. Given that the previous administration had raised doubts about whether the United States of America (USA) remained committed to the Washington Treaty of 1949, including the principle enshrined in Article 5 that an attack on one Ally is considered an attack on all, it was useful that Mr. Biden reaffirmed this commitment. The other Heads of State and government expressed reassurance and commitment to the rules-based international order, while Russia and China favoured authoritarianism, power politics and Realpolitik.


North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) member States face hybrid threats, including cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns and election interferences, airspace violations and the proliferation of dual-capable short-range and intermediate-range missiles, some of which are deployed in Kaliningrad. In April 2021, in response to a NATO exercise and a American exercise in Europe and in 2020, which brought together 40,000 and 28,000 soldiers respectively, the Russian army maneuvered 300,000 soldiers, 35,000 land-based weapons systems, 180 ships and 900 aircraft in the vicinity of Ukraine. NATO will thus strengthen its presence in the east of the Alliance, without seeking confrontation or representing a threat, and by maintaining a dialogue with Russia. The European Union (EU) is deploying 5,000 military and civilian personnel in 6 military missions and operations and 11 civilian missions and operations. She does not count.


While maintaining a constructive dialogue with China when possible, for example on common challenges such as climate change, NATO sees China as a threat for the security of the Atlantic area. China is challenging maritime law. It is seizing and militarizing islets in the South China Sea, where 30% of world trade and 40% of European exports pass through. Europe and the countries of South-East Asia have the duty to maintain freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. China’s maritime presence in the Pacific and Indian Oceans is perceived as a threat by many littoral states and by European states with overseas territories and areas of economic interest in these regions. Chinese coercion of opponents of communism, religious or ethnic groups is not in line with the UN Charter, the values enshrined in the Washington Treaty, or the status of Hong Kong.

China is rapidly expanding its conventional and nuclear arsenal, using emerging technologies in cyber, space, biotechnology, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. It cooperates with Russia, including by participating in Russian exercises and by buying Russian sophisticated weapons systems. This, it believes, allows it to impose itself by force. The French Navy complains that its “ships are systematically followed, sometimes forced to maneuver in front of Chinese ships to avoid a collision, in defiance of freedom of navigation”.[1]

In reaction to the NAC communiqué, Beijing recalled that “its defence policy is defensive”, that the number of Chinese nuclear weapons is much lower than the number held by NATO member States, in particular the USA, and that it prohibits any first use of nuclear weapons.

The future of NATO and NATO-EU cooperation

The NATO 2030 Agenda responds to the request made in December 2019 in London to the NATO Secretary General to strengthen its political dimension. This agenda allows the Alliance to adapt to current and future threats and challenges, to enable it to perform its three core tasks and to realise the Strategic Concept to be adopted in 2022, which requires adequate resources and sufficient national defence spending, hence the commitment made in 2014. Common funding will be increased from 2023 onwards.

NATO maintains an appropriate mix of nuclear, conventional and missile defence capabilities. It ensures that national armed forces can operate effectively in times of peace, crisis and conflict. It promotes technology cooperation to meet military needs. It will establish a civil-military defence innovation accelerator and a NATO Innovation Fund.

Both NATO and the EU welcome their cooperation which, since the 2016 Joint Declaration, covers 74 joint actions, in the fight against terrorism, hybrid threats and cyber threats, in strategic communication, in operational cooperation, including on critical infrastructure protection and maritime issues, in military mobility, as well as in the development of defence capabilities, defence industry and defence research.

The North Atlantic Council recognizes the importance of a stronger and more capable European defence. It considers it essential to develop coherent, complementary and interoperable defence capabilities, avoiding unnecessary duplication, to enhance our common security, while balancing the burden-sharing between the two sides of the Atlantic. It insists that non-EU allies should be involved in the EU’s efforts to strengthen its capabilities.

Some in the European Parliament[2] believe that the EU and NATO should strengthen their cooperation, which is the basis of our security, but also that NATO should be responsible for global security and stability.

NATO is seen as offensive by Russia because of its expansion eastwards, to North Macedonia in 2020; the decisions taken in 2008 in Bucharest to expand to Georgia and Ukraine; its support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova; and its action for freedom of navigation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. In the Western Balkans, the Mediterranean, the Levant, Libya and the Sahel, NATO is confronting the Russians. Its cooperation with Finland and Sweden, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea, Colombia and various Central Asian countries, makes it a global organisation, not just a transatlantic one.

NATO means to be defensive and dissuasive, it says against whom or what it protects its member States. When the Washington Treaty was signed in 1949, it prevented a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, which became less likely after Stalin’s death in 1953 and was deemed implausible by de Gaulle in 1964.

After the implosion of the USSR and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, NATO looked for reasons to survive. Attacked on 11 September 2001, the USA invoked Article 5 of the treaty. NATO then became involved in the war on terror, first in Afghanistan, then by contributing to the coalition against Daech in the Levant, notably with its AWACS detection and air control aircraft and its mission in Iraq.

In Afghanistan, the US has deployed a maximum of 100,000 troops and its allies a maximum of 42,000. The allies have suffered about 5,000 deaths and 50,000 Afghan civilians have been killed, largely by the Taliban. [3] The Department of Defense’s 2020 report puts the cost of the war at $815.7 billion, while Brown University evaluates it at $2,260 billion.

Today, according to the Pentagon, the Taliban control 81 of the 419 districts in Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Afghan forces claim to have regained control of two districts in the north of the country in the last two months but concede that some 30 districts have fallen to the Taliban. 26 bases are reported to have surrendered to the Taliban in May 2021 as the army has run out of ammunition and supplies. The air force is partly grounded by the loss of foreign technical and logistical support. Compared to 2020, civilian casualties have increased by 29% in the period January to March 2021. In April 2021, 1,645 deaths were linked to terrorism and 4,375 in May, including 50 schoolgirls in a Shia neighbourhood of Kabul.[4]

With Biden’s decision to end the war, by 15 June US Central Command had withdrawn 50% of its troops; more than 17,000 civilian contractors will have left by mid-July. Nevertheless, NATO says it will continue to train and financially support the Afghan armed forces and operate Kabul International Airport, which Turkey will protect. However, US Central Command has warned that even if Kabul is about to fall, its air strikes will be limited to countering terrorists who would directly threaten the USA, as the USA can no longer station armed fighter planes and drones in Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Mr. Biden instructed the evacuation of the 50.000 Afghans, including 9.000 interpreters and their families, who have been helping the USA, to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait.[5]

What kind of Europe do we want?

As Europe trades more with China and Russia than the USA does, it should not align itself with them, but seek a modus vivendi with countries that are at once strategic adversaries, technological competitors, indispensable actors for the preservation of the natural environment and economic partners. The EU, being only a commercial power, cannot reach a global agreement with China and Russia, for lack of credibility from a geopolitical point of view, which forces it to align itself with the USA, via NATO.

This is not acceptable. The values that Europe shares with the USA are enshrined in the preamble to the 1949 Washington Treaty: the Allies are “Determined to safeguard the freedom of their peoples, their common heritage and civilisation, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law” and “Desirous of promoting well-being and stability in the North Atlantic area”. Europe’s values, enshrined in Article 2 of the EU Treaty, can be summed up in three words: humanism, progressivism and universalism, which express a project for society, something NATO cannot do. Moreover, Europe’s interests and those of the USA diverge on many points, especially in trade. This is why European leaders should learn from their elders.

From 1958 to 1969, Charles de Gaulle restored France’s sovereignty while remaining loyal to the Alliance, as he demonstrated during the Cuban crisis in October 1962 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

When the USA launched the Kennedy Round negotiations,[6] they hoped to increase its exports and reduce its investments in Europe, to balance its balance of payments, while avoiding the establishment of an independent European foreign policy, in a Cold War context. For the first time, the Commission represented the Member States and negotiated on their behalf, in collaboration with them, under the 1957 Treaty of Rome. The Trade Commissioner, responsible for the negotiations and later President of the Commission of the European Communities, Jean Rey, was able to ensure that the agreement signed in 1967 was balanced and that Europe was recognised as a trading partner by the USA.

In 2003, France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg refused to take part in an unjustified invasion of Iraq intended by George W. Bush.

The Juncker Commission was able to stand up to Trump, but he then negotiated separately with the Member States, linking defence issues to economic issues, and they gave in, because they have increasingly disarmed us since the end of the Cold War, while insecurity has been growing for two decades.

It is clear that Europe’s leaders are no longer at the level of their predecessors, while Europe cannot remain prosperous and free without military capabilities. It is difficult to get the European States to agree, because they do not share a collective vision of our future.

The S€D refuses that the European heads of State and government, that the leaders of the EU institutions, maintain our States in the status of protectorates of the USA, which perpetuates the structural weakness of NATO: Mr. Putin has been standing up to it for 20 years, while the GDP of Russia barely exceeds that of Spain and the structure of the Russian economy is reminiscent of that of the least developed African countries.

The S€D calls for a Constituent Assembly of the United States of Europe (USE) to be set up, at the latest after the European elections in 2024, by a few of the most motivated States.

This Constituent Assembly would bring about a change of political model, of governance, of dimension for Europe, corresponding to the will of the European people for a federal, democratic, legitimate, transparent Europe, capable of guaranteeing our security and defence. As with the Schengen and € zones, the founding core would be called upon to expand.

Let’s create a movement of opinion, let’s mobilise the most aware citizens by 2024, let’s speak to their minds and hearts, let’s awaken their enthusiasm by highlighting our common interests and the values we share.


Jean Marsia, President of the European Society for Defence INPA (S€D)


[1] Nathalie Guibert, Elise Vincent, “Amiral Pierre Vandier : En Indo-Pacifique, « nous affrontons une logique d’étouffement »” in Le Monde,, 11/6/2021.

[2] Antonio López-Istúriz White, Rapport à la Commission des affaires étrangères du Parlement européen sur la coopération UE-OTAN dans le cadre des relations transatlantiques, Bruxelles, Parlement européen, document 2020/2257(INI),, 2.6.2021.

[3] See Jason W. Davidson, The Costs of War to United States Allies Since 9/11, Providence, Brown University,, 12/5/2021 and Julian Borger, “British troops were twice as likely to be killed in Afghanistan as US forces” in The Guardian,, 2/5/2021.

[4] See Simon Tisdall, “Catastrophe stalks Afghanistan as the US and UK dash for the exit” in The Guardian,, 20/6/2021.

[5] s.n., “Biden vows to evacuate thousands of interpreters before Afghanistan pullout” in The Guardian,, 24/6/2021.

[6] The Kennedy Round was the sixth session of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, made possible by the passage of the Trade Expansion Act by the Kennedy administration in 1962, and took place between 1964 and 1967, after his assassination.

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