The US has criticised other members for their budget contributions. France has called the alliance "brain-dead". And European members have lashed out at Turkey for its operation in Syria. While Turkey has criticised everyone, especially France. And the British hosts are more worried about the general election and getting Brexit done. So the “celebrations” will be low-key.
Collective Defence = Collective Spending
Trump is expected to raise the issue of increasing defence spending at the Leaders’ Meeting. Ever since taking office POTUS has criticised NATO allies for not meeting the 2% NATO defence spending target and demanded they make greater contributions.
The US has been the biggest contributor paying around 22 percent, but last week NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced increased defence spending by allies.
He said that starting next year the United States will pay less into the military alliance’s budget, with Germany stepping up to fill the spending gap. Both the US and Germany are expected to contribute 16 percent to NATO's direct funding.
There’ve been calls from both French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to create a EU army.
Macron has been calling for a joint EU military force ever since he became president. The French politician has warned Europe that it cannot rely on the US to defend them and needs a “true, European army” administered by the EU.
Macron has insisted that while he wants to “build a real security dialogue with Russia” Europe still needs to be able to protect itself from Russia, China, and even the US.
But Trump has mocked the idea.
"In November 2018, Trump ridiculed the French President for wanting to build a European army and claimed citizens of France would all be speaking German if it wasn’t for the US in World War II", said Ali Demirdas, a professor of international relations and contributor to The National Interest.
“Europeans now believe America has become very unreliable when it comes to European defence. Therefore, they want to establish their own defence mechanism independent of the US (NATO). German Chancellor Merkel has stated: 'The times when we could rely on others are over. This means we Europeans have to take our fate fully into our own hands'”, he added.
"The European struggle to get rid of American ‘yokes’ is underway", Demirdas said.
Europeans feel that they are being "bullied" by Trump, according to the expert, and that’s why the building of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), an all-European defence initiative-alternative to NATO, is underway.
"The only problem is the Europeans lack the military capabilities that would enable them to establish a European army. The only European country that has such capability is Turkey", the scholar explained.
That’s why Germany, France, the UK (not a member of PESCO), and Turkey will hold a quadrilateral meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit.
“Although the topic of the meeting is officially Syria, I believe Turkey’s contribution to PESCO will be discussed", he added.
NATO 'Brain Dead' Spat
Emmanuel Macron has earned a lot of criticism from other members since he called the alliance “strategically brain dead” last month. And during last week’s talks with NATO chief Stoltenberg, the French president said the alliance lacked direction.
Macron was slammed for his comments by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who told Macron on Friday to “check whether you are brain dead”.
France responded by summoning the Turkish Ambassador to France to explain “unacceptable statements ... that have no place in Turkish-French relations and cannot substitute for the necessary dialogue between the two countries".
But Professor Demirdas believes that the ongoing infighting between NATO allies is not going to affect their long-term relationship.
“Summoning ambassadors is not uncommon. On 31 October, Turkey summoned France’s ambassador to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara to condemn Macron’s remarks about Turkey’s Peace Spring Operation in Syria", he explained.
"Turkish-French relations have survived worse crises. I don’t think the current crisis is going to have a major negative impact on relations. France is not in a position to have any impact on Turkey’s Syria policy. Paris simply doesn’t have any leverage over Ankara to do so", Demirdas stressed.
Turkey’s Role in NATO
Stoltenberg has called Turkey a very important country for the alliance. “It’s enough to look at the map and examine the geostrategic position of Turkey to understand this”, NATO's secretary-general told French newspaper Le Figaro on 21 November.
Stoltenberg also pointed out that Turkey is the only NATO member that has a border with Syria and Iraq.
But the EU criticised Ankara’s offensive in northern Syria against Kurdish fighters that Erdogan launched in October after the US moved its troops out of the area.
Turkey promised to send back some of the 3.6 million refugees that it is currently hosting in response to criticism from its European NATO allies, especially from Germany and France.
"In his recent speech, Macron criticised Turkey for its unilateral actions in Syria, but paradoxically he justified France’s presence in Mali and sub-Saharan Africa, while at the same time demanding NATO become a part of France’s 'anti-terror' operations", Professor Demirdas said.
“His proposal for NATO involvement in Mali came after President Erdogan asked NATO to take measures in Syria for Turkey’s security".
But the real reason why Macron has been making these controversial remarks is because France feels like it is losing influence in its former sub-Saharan colonies and is unhappy about Turkey’s growing role in Syria.
"The recent spat between France and Turkey should be seen as Macron’s increasing uneasiness for Turkey’s rising influence in Syria (a former French colony) and in the Balkans. He has previously stated his concern that the Balkans are becoming an area of rivalry for the EU, Turkey, and the Russian Federation", the Professor said.
“At a time when the European Union is becoming anything but a 'union', Macron wants to spearhead France’s dominance in Europe", Demirdas emphasised.
Many have predicted the demise of the alliance that’s struggling to identify its mission and purpose. So can NATO survive or are we witnessing its slow disintegration?
"Although I don’t expect NATO to disintegrate in the same manner as the Warsaw Pact did, it should be expected that it will gradually lose its functionality", the scholar concluded.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.