As NATO prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary, former Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has put a damper on the media elation, stressing that the current situation is far from perfect.
Rasmussen, who was in charge of NATO from 2009 to 2014, didn't mince words while describing NATO's current state.
“Never before in the history of NATO have we experienced as much of a political divide as we see now,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Danish Radio.
The former secretary general listed three things that spurred the current crisis and may deflate the festivities in London.
Firstly, he named US President Donald Trump questioning the very cornerstone of NATO cooperation, the so-called Article 5. It implies that an attack on a single member state must be interpreted as an attack on the entire alliance. According to the US president, the other member states do not spend enough money on their defence, which is why he has repeatedly reprimanded them and cast doubt on the US's commitment to the alliance.
Secondly, French President Emmanuel Macron's recent description of NATO's state of mind as “brain death”. This has spurred a great deal of debate and internal criticism among its member states.
Thirdly and lastly, there has been great internal opposition to the military offensive that Turkey, a NATO member since 1952, recently carried out in northern Syria, ostensibly to secure its borders.
A related “cause of concern”, according to Rasmussen, is that the Turkey risks becoming “increasingly marginalised” in NATO's defence cooperation after choosing to procure Russian defence equipment. Nevertheless, NATO should “hold on to” Turkey, he contended, calling it a historic mistake to turn NATO's back on Turkey, let alone throw it out of the alliance.
According to Rasmussen, the upcoming NATO summit in London may be easily derailed if either of these issues is addressed.
“On top of all this, there is uncertainty about the British election that will take place a few days after the meeting,” the former secretary general said, stressing that it could have serious consequences for his native Denmark and the other member states.
All the uncertainty and disagreement, Rasmussen ventured, may tempt “weak souls as Russian President Vladimir Putin” into testing NATO's indecision. Fogh Rasmussen called Russia “a strategic opponent of NATO” and stressed that the alliance's military machinery is “running well”.
“NATO is actually more needed now than ever before since the end of the Cold War,” Fogh Rasmussen concluded.
On Tuesday, 3 December, the NATO summit will start with receptions at Buckingham Palace with British Queen Elizabeth II and then at 10 Downing Street, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a host.
On Wednesday, 4 December, the heads of state and government will meet for a three-hour work session to discuss a range of relevant issues, including China, cyber-security and NATO's presence in space.