NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the Munich Security Conference last week that the organisation is adapting to ensure it continues its success against new threats and challenges.
But even as the alliance transitions, there are some pillars that remain undisturbed and the largest of those is the transatlantic partnership, Stoltenberg said.
He noted the symbolism of two items in front of the new NATO headquarters building in Brussels: a piece of the Berlin Wall and a twisted girder from New York’s World Trade Center.
“Together they symbolise NATO’s steel-hard commitment to our collective defence and our solidarity in the fight against terrorism,” he said. “But most of all, they symbolise the unbreakable bond that unites the continents of North America and Europe.”
The transatlantic partnership is being questioned, Stoltenberg said, with those in Europe perceiving a lack of US support for Article 5, and US officials perceiving unfair burden-sharing.
“All of this has fuelled an impression of weakening transatlantic bond,” he said. “But the reality is that the bond has proven to be resilient, because both Europe and North America benefit from the bond. What we see now is North Americans coming back to Europe, just as Europeans are stepping up their contributions to our shared security.”
Russia’s incursion into Georgia and its annexation of Crimea rang alarm bells on the continent, the secretary general said. In response, the United States increased the number of troops based in Europe. There are brigades deploying into and out of the Baltic republics and Poland. American and British ships patrol the Black Sea and US and UK aircraft aid in the Baltic air policing mission.
“This week, Washington rolled out a plan for further substantial increases in US presence in Europe, [with] billions for equipment, prepositioned supplies, training and infrastructure,” Stoltenberg said.
“Canadian troops have also returned to Europe for the first time in a generation, leading a multinational battlegroup in Latvia.”