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The new dynamics taking shape within NATO

The new dynamics taking shape within NATO
The new dynamics taking shape within NATO

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One of the black-and-white photos on display in a corridor of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) huge glass HQ in Brussels, opposite the library, is a one of the good old days. The picture, taken in March 1991, shows former Czechoslovak dissident-turned-president Vaclav Havel in conversation with the then secretary general of NATO, German diplomat Manfred Wörner. Havel was the first national leader of one of the new post-communist democracies to have been invited to address the North Atlantic Council. Eight years later, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland were formally admitted to NATO. Thirteen other European countries have since followed their lead.

Created on April 4, 1949, in Washington, NATO will celebrate its 75th anniversary in Washington, as is only fitting, with a summit of all 32 of its members in July. The atmosphere is likely to be less serene than in the days when Havel was hailed as a hero.

In 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty provided a legal framework for the massive American military presence in Western Europe. In 1999, the priority for Central and Eastern European countries, having broken free from Soviet domination, was to place themselves under US protection by joining NATO’s collective defense system. Today, with the threat once again coming from the East, the American protector is hesitating between its various priorities. Indeed, it is some of the “new” European members who are leading the way.

Read more Subscribers only ‘The US isn’t leading from behind: It isn’t leading at all’

Diplomatic creativity

The Czech Republic, whose President Petr Pavel is a former general who held important responsibilities within NATO, has instigated an initiative that may save the Ukrainian army from a terrible debacle: In response to the severe shortage of ammunition that Ukraine’s troops have been suffering from on the front line against better-supplied Russian forces, the Czechs have scoured the world over and identified 800,000 units of artillery ammunition that are just waiting to be sold. All that remained was to find the money to pay for them, as the $60 billion in aid the US had promised Ukraine has been blocked since November 2023 by Republican dissension in Congress.

At the Munich Security Conference in mid-February, Pavel outlined this initiative. Several NATO countries – 18 to date – then decided to support it and finance these much-needed munitions, 300,000 units of which should reach their Ukrainian recipients in early summer 2024. What’s more, the Czechs have sourced a further 700,000 units which could be purchased. Even better: That would be so much ammunition potentially withdrawn from the global market, which Russia would therefore be unable to acquire to supplement its production. It will always have North Korea to fall back on, which supplied it with 1 million units in 2023.

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