This summit is held as a landmark summit by many, including NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg; a summit where the allies will show, more than ever, their commitments to each other.
It started this morning with the signature of a new strategic partnership between the European Union and NATO to step-up the 15-year-long cooperation between both organizations.
Canada also pledged itself to NATO defence and deterrence measures. We already know about the country’s intention to be one of the four Framework countries of the new NATO Enhanced Forward Presence force. Today, we learnt it will be taking the lead in Latvia. While we still don’t know exactly how many troops it will deploy, Canada already announced a frigate and an Air Task Force, up to 6 CF-18 jet fighters, in the Baltic region.
In an interview, Stéfanie von Hlatkly, Director of the Queen’s University Centre for International and Defence Policy, mentioned that Canada’s contribution to the new NATO Enhanced Forward Presence is significant and will allow the country to avoid recrimination from other allies for not reaching the 2% of GDP goal in defense expenditures.
Concluding the day, Secretary-General Stoltenberg’s press conference made sure to express the importance of resilience and modernization of the alliance. The 21st century brings new challenges, such as cyberspace, and NATO recognizes this as a new operational domain alongside land, air, and sea. Stoltenberg also makes a strong point that the alliance is all about defending its members and not targeting anyone, namely Russia, which “cannot and should not be isolated.”
But there is an unacknowledged shadow hovering over the summit: Brexit. Early today, president Obama explicitly said that the Brexit vote will not weaken the link between the US and Europe. European leaders also reaffirmed that the Brexit has nothing to do with NATO unity. The very fact it was said that many times it is not an issue shows that it is a concern to many.
In reaction, the United Kingdom (UK) announced a new troop contribution, and that it will lead the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in 2017. Even the wording used by the British delegates shows the need for UK to assure its allies of its commitment, with expressions ranging from “UK’s forces are at the hear of NATO’s defence” to “our close NATO partners”.
This summit is all about assurance measures and enhanced capacities for the alliance. But the reality is we’re not sure who needs assurance; the alliance or outsiders?