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Liberal democracy and capitalism have been the two commanding political and economic ideas of Western history since the 19th century. Now, however, the fate of these once-galvanizing global principles is increasingly uncertain. She discusses the core values that have shaped her approach to work and leadership: authenticity, effective use of power and persistence, acceptance of change, and commitment to the team.
She shows why good work in her field is so hard to do, and how we can learn to apply core skills of diplomacy to the challenges in our own lives. The authors gratefully acknowledge the extraordinary substantive contributions of our colleagues at Harvard who worked tirelessly on this report. It would not have been completed without them. Seth A. This report benefited from the advice and comments of experts, scholars and practitioners representing generations of experience on the trans-Atlantic relationship.
The authors are particularly grateful to these individuals for their contributions to this report. These individuals do not necessarily endorse all the recommendations in this report. The authors accept full responsibility for the contents of the report. See full PDF above for a complete list of reviewers page vii.
Approaching the seventieth anniversary of its founding in April , the North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO remains the single most important contributor to security, stability and peace in Europe and North America. NATO members comprise the largest and strongest alliance of democratic countries in the world. They contain Russian aggression and protect over million East Europeans who now live in democracy and freedom after the fall of communism.
The NATO allies, however, are confronting daunting and complex challenges that are testing both their purpose and unity. Based on extensive discussions with current European and North American leaders, former senior officials, academics and journalists during the past six months, this report argues that NATO needs to come to grips with ten major challenges this year.
Most significant is a challenge NATO has not faced before: the absence of strong American presidential leadership. NATO leaders, for example, considered not holding a summit to mark the seventieth anniversary this spring as they did in decades past.
They feared President Trump would blow up a meeting in controversy as he has done each time he has met with NATO leaders during the past two years. President Trump is the first U. Trump may well cause even greater damage to the Alliance while he remains in office. Congress, on a bipartisan basis, should reaffirm the U. Congress should pass legislation this year requiring Congressional approval should President Trump attempt to alter U. President Trump has been right to push allies to spend more on defense. He has the support of the U. Congress and many Americans in doing so.
It is simply unfair that only five of the twenty-nine allies are currently spending at least 2 percent of their Gross Domestic Product GDP on their military budgets, while the U. Germany, the largest and wealthiest of the European allies, has a major shortfall as it is currently spending only 1. Its coalition government has not summoned the strength and determination to convince the Bundestag and the German public to reach the minimum 2 percent level soon.
Germany is thus abdicating this most basic obligation as a member of NATO. Italy, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands and other allies are also spending well below the agreed 2 percent level. Having made his point, President Trump should also acknowledge that aggregate NATO defense spending trends are actually heading in the right direction, despite insufficient spending by some allies.
More than half will spend 20 percent of their defense budgets on new equipment and research and development. NATO is struggling to confront a potentially cancerous threat from within. Three allied governments—Poland, Hungary and Turkey—have undermined their own democracies in varying degrees by suppressing free speech and a free press and limiting the independence of the courts. Nearly every current and former NATO official with whom we talked for this report worried that a recommendation for NATO to discipline these anti-democratic governments would be highly problematic and divisive.
Nonetheless, we believe NATO must find a way to shine a light on these recalcitrant allies. Allies that violate basic democratic standards could be suspended from NATO military exercises or denied access to NATO training and common infrastructure funding. More than one European mentioned to us the ironic fact that the U. Nevertheless, ignoring this challenge of democratic principles will undermine the core convictions that brought NATO together seventy years ago. NATO allies have always reached critical decisions by consensus.
This continues to make sense for all allies to agree on how NATO should act on major issues. But, it is time for the Alliance to empower the Secretary General on the administrative and resource issues that impede focusing on more significant challenges.
The Secretary General must have the operational power to move an often-unwieldy Alliance forward in the way it plans and operates on a daily basis. Also important is improving decision-making in crisis scenarios. He also seeks to weaken the three Baltic allies from within.
NATO allies thus need to take much stronger measures against Moscow than they have to date by:. There is no more important external challenge for NATO. The war with the Taliban is at a stalemate. Afghan civilian and military casualties are at an all-time high. President Trump appears determined to have the U. President Trump and his advisors should proceed carefully, in close coordination with the Afghan government, to avoid a precipitous U.
The Trump administration is right to engage directly with the Taliban to explore a political process to end the war. A durable, sustainable settlement ultimately must be made among Afghans, including the elected Afghan government and the Taliban. The U. Over the next decade or two, however, NATO should keep the door open for any European democracy that meets the strict qualifications for membership.
No country outside the Alliance, most especially Russia, can have a veto over who NATO accepts as it pursues its goal of providing for a free and peaceful European continent.
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NATO faces yet another critical challenge in adapting quickly to a rapidly changing, global, military technology landscape. Its often-byzantine defense planning processes date to the Cold War, long before the extraordinary, current advances in military arms powered by artificial intelligence, cyber, robotics, quantum computing and biotechnology—perhaps the most decisive change in military technology since the start of the nuclear age.
NATO allies, led by the United States, must now commit a far greater share of their military budgets to acquiring these new military technologies, lest China and Russia gain a decisive advantage in the decade ahead. While China does not pose a direct military threat to most NATO allies, it is emerging as a global competitor politically, economically and in seeking dominance in digital military technologies.
Europe, the United States and Canada need to adopt a more cohesive approach to China. The European allies need to focus more intently on the challenge from Chinese economic and technological power and industrial espionage. NATO allies should thus tighten restrictions on Chinese investments in key technology sectors on both sides of the Atlantic. China will be the main geo-strategic competitor of the United States in the decades ahead. It is in the interest of NATO allies to take on the defense burden in the trans-Atlantic region more equitably, to enable the U.
The United States bears a special responsibility to help its allies to meet these tests. On its own, the United States is a powerful nation. United States access to European air and naval bases alone bring American forces a continent closer to the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia. There is ample evidence President Trump does not understand—and certainly does not appreciate—this basic strategic fact about NATO.
And it is also why NATO allies, on both sides of the Atlantic, must work together to narrow the growing divisions within the Alliance and to meet these historic challenges as NATO turns seventy. NATO stands once again at a crossroads, but this is different. Taken together, these challenges represent the most severe crisis in the security environment in Europe since the end of the Cold War and perhaps ever. The question is whether the Alliance can adapt to these challenges, revitalized and retooled for the decades ahead. This report aims to address the array of challenges and offer practical recommendations.
The single greatest challenge NATO faces today is the critical need for reviving strong, reliable American leadership. With American leadership, anything is possible within the Alliance; absent American leadership, progress will be slow at best. At the most basic level the next American president must reaffirm U. Given the opportunity to do so within months of his inauguration in May , President Trump refused to honor the U. Actions speak louder than words, but words still count.
NATO at Seventy: An Alliance in Crisis | Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Especially under the leadership of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, NATO made progress on readiness, mobility, cyber security and command structure reforms. Fortunately, bipartisan congressional support is unwavering: Senate and House resolutions in reaffirming U. Meeting the challenges outlined in this report begins with American leadership and American leadership begins at the top. More broadly, the U. Government—both the executive and legislative branches—is not working effectively and predictably. We recommend the Congress take specific steps this year:.
The issue of burden sharing is as old as the Alliance itself. Germany especially, the largest European ally and the strongest economy, must do much more, or its leadership position within the Alliance will be jeopardized. But 2 percent was never designed to be the sole measure of value.
The Wales Pledge itself is broader, committing allies to 20 percent of defense spending for major new equipment and research and development of new capabilities, and highlighting the importance of output measures as well. More than half of allies have made the 20 percent target. While retaining the goal of 2 percent GDP for defense spending, it is time for NATO, led by the United States, to broaden the framework by which it measures defense contributions. We recommend three possible approaches. First, NATO should be more transparent.
Alongside measuring defense spending as an input, the Alliance should make public more of its assessments of the capabilities that defense budgets acquire, that is, how the inputs are spent, or measures of output. Some will argue that this approach will reveal information that is politically sensitive for some allies, but the overall benefit for the Alliance is clear.
Focusing more on outputs also can draw attention to the potential for increased specialization, especially for smaller allies. Spending on national cyber security and intelligence, for example, could well be included as part of national defense expenditures for NATO purposes, 24 especially in this time when hybrid threats are so prominent as discussed later in this report. Investment in dual-use transportation infrastructure that facilitates movement of NATO forces across Europe is an important contribution, as NATO now relies heavily on rapid reinforcement to complement in-place forces.
Such broader measures should supplement, not replace or obscure, the Wales Pledge. We support taking a broad and holistic approach to measuring what the Alliance needs and how each ally contributes, in addition to the 2 percent pledge. Third, the United States should support, rather than criticize, European Union initiatives to promote European defense capabilities with legal, institutional and financial incentives.
This should lead to developing and delivering those mutually reinforcing capabilities, which would be available to both organizations. Avoiding duplication is the key. On the other hand, NATO already has world-class standing headquarters structures and communications capabilities, which can be made available to the EU so the Union need not invest in these.
EU initiatives will be even more important in the future as the expense of modern systems continues to increase, demanding greater efficiency, sharing and inevitably specialization. From the outset in , NATO formed around common values: democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. Yet today, as the Alliance again faces diverse challenges, there is obvious drift from these core values within some member states. The rise of authoritarian tendencies that erode democratic values is not entirely new to the Alliance.
NATO has seen military dictatorships in the past. Wherever it occurs in member states, the Alliance must confront authoritarian centralization of executive power; suppression of free press, civil society and political opposition; and interference with the judiciary. NATO needs to take a hard look at itself.
Across twenty-five indicators of democracy rated by Freedom House, the downward trend among NATO allies over the past decade is stark. The rate at which democracy is declining in Poland, Hungary and Turkey is particularly alarming. While less severe today, nationalist populism movements in other allies represent a broader, more diffuse threat to NATO and can amplify other challenges facing the Alliance.
Further, anti-democratic policies among allies open vulnerabilities for interference by competitors outside the Alliance, especially Russia that seeks to divide NATO and the EU politically using hybrid tactics. The question for allies is what must the role of the Alliance be in reinforcing its core values when they are under assault from within. NATO is both a political and a military alliance. It is not enough to be bound together by a commitment only to Article 5 collective defense. That shared commitment to values in turn makes credible the Article 5 commitment. The Washington Treaty is binding for both its political and military commitments.
In short, NATO allies should not expect that they could violate democratic values without consequences, while resting assured that NATO cohesion is intact and other commitments in the Treaty will be upheld. The Treaty is not a menu of options from which allies can select some obligations while ignoring others. As a start, the Secretary General should express concern in his bilateral meetings with the anti-democratic governments, with the support of key allies and in partnership with the European Union. To increase awareness within the Alliance and among the public, foreign ministers could review annually indicators of democracy for all twenty-nine allies, perhaps prepared by an informal high-level group of experts drawing on Freedom House data.
In severe cases, NATO infrastructure spending and even access to military schools and information sharing could be affected. An indirect way to express concern among allies is to increase the prominence of core democratic values when considering NATO enlargement decisions in the future. But the costs and risks of the gradual erosion of Alliance cohesion as member states drift from the founding values are even greater. NATO cannot expect to remain coherent and relevant and able to address the full range of challenges it faces, if it ignores the internal drift from democracy within some member states.
This drift is a fundamental issue for the Alliance. Finally, the challenges facing NATO today demand more flexibility in executive decision-making. But today with NATO enlarged to twenty-nine members and facing increasingly diverse and complex challenges, it is time to consider how other, more routine, administrative decisions can be taken more efficiently.
But this should be a management function, not derogation from the consensus principle. For example, the Secretary General should consult allies on matters such as agendas and timings of Ministerial Council meetings, but not be required to seek consensus agreement. Today, for example, the Secretary General is severely constrained from adapting the Alliance to emerging challenges by making meaningful shifts in personnel and budgetary resources. A related problem is the tendency of some allies to bring into the Alliance bilateral issues that impede progress on collective issues of the Alliance.
As an example, an ally might hold up agreement on the entire NATO military exercise program because of an unrelated bilateral dispute with a NATO partner who wishes to participate in an exercise. After appropriate consultation, we recommend the Secretary General should have the authority to exclude such external issues from consideration in the Alliance, even if it means moving forward without full consensus.
Speeding up decision-making in a crisis also deserves attention, especially considering hybrid warfare scenarios that are designed to be ambiguous, complicate attribution and delay decisions. Such delegated authorities are required, because the Alliance today relies on rapid reinforcement of modest forces based forward, and can contribute to deterrence and be overseen by political authorities. Geography still matters. NATO is most familiar with and most capable in the nuclear and conventional realms.
In these realms the Alliance has taken prudent steps since to bolster deterrence, especially with the forward deployment of ground forces to allies on the eastern flank in the Baltics and Poland, enhancements to rapid response forces, revisions to the command structure and a more robust exercise program. Deterrence of hybrid, or sub-conventional, attack demands urgent attention. Deterrence of hybrid attack, however, is vastly more complex than traditional deterrence. National capabilities required to deny hybrid objectives extend well beyond traditional defense and are dispersed among other elements of the government at multiple levels and even the private sector, complicating integration and coordination.
Cybersecurity and election security illustrate this point. Further, while the first responsibility for resilience lies with states, both NATO and the EU have a responsibility to back up member states, yet lines of authority between these multilateral institutions and member states may not be clear, common standards are not established and sharing classified information remains a persistent challenge.
Hybrid attacks, however, are designed to be ambiguous, complicate attribution and shield the attacker from punishment. As we have seen in Ukraine, ambiguity and difficulty of attribution stressed Alliance decision-making and risked paralysis while Russia established facts on the ground that are hard to reverse. Moving away from common democratic values opens vulnerabilities for Russian attacks that aim to erode the cohesion of the Alliance by exploiting political divisions within and among allies.
As a start, NATO should define standards for national resilience and clarify shared responsibilities for deterring hybrid attacks. Exercises that focus on hybrid attacks, including at the level of ministers, can illustrate the deterrence challenge and lead to refined policies. NATO could bring together ministers of defense, ministers of interior and national intelligence officials to increase the value of such exercises. NATO and the EU should coordinate common standards in member states, with priority on cybersecurity, election security and countering disinformation.
A priority should be placed on publicly disclosing the nature and source of hybrid attacks. Russia must be held to account, not allowed to deny, obfuscate and hide in the shadows. In the longer term, diversifying energy sources and fully assimilating Russian-speaking minority populations should be addressed as vulnerabilities that Russia could exploit. Allies must continue bolstering deterrence by ensuring consequences for Russian actions. Recent examples include sustaining U. These measures, however, have not changed Russian behavior.
Even less impressive are the reactions to Russian interference in elections and recent aggression in the Black Sea and denial of Ukrainian access to the Sea of Azov. Russia is a major European power that must be taken into account. Second, even in a period of increased tensions, there are topics for dialogue that serve common interests. The NATO-Russia Council should continue to meet regularly to address risk reduction measures, provide transparency on military exercises and exchange views on priority political issues, including the conflict in Ukraine.