ERR in Brussels: NATO stronger than ever, security experts say

NATO Headquarters in Brussels.
NATO Headquarters in Brussels. Source: SCANPIX/Reuters

NATO is stronger than ever, say a number of experts on transatlantic relations who congregated in Brussels this week. At the same time, there are concerns next year's US presidential elections may alter both this and attitudes towards the war in Ukraine, ERR's Brussels correspondent Joosep Värk reports.

This week's Brussels Forum security conference saw, perhaps unsurprisingly, plenty of talk about the war in Ukraine, the future of that country, and the relations the U.S. and its European allies. 

The assessment of the current situation was in fact surprisingly rosy. According to those experts who spoke to ERR, NATO is in its strongest state in its 74-year history, with talk of its being "brain dead" a few years ago having evaporated.

Rachael Dean Wilson, election analyst at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a think-tank, said the alliance with Europe has become much more important for politicians across the pond. 

This is not only exemplified by the actions of President Joe Biden, but also by, for instance, the attendance of Senate leader of the Republican Party Mitch McConnell at the Munich Security Conference this year.

Wilson said: "Currently there is a bipartisan agreement on Ukraine at Congress. There are, of course, those who dissent from that. But right now, Europe and our allies should be well aware of what the U.S. stance is on the war in Ukraine."

Meanwhile Julia Ioffe, a journalist from the Washington-based publication Puck News and a world-renowned Russia expert, agrees with this assessment, though added the importance of the outcome of the 2024 presidential election is difficult to underestimate in this context.

"These will prove really important for the world, for Ukraine and for NATO. And I really think that the NATO countries should be concerned about what will happen in November 2024, were Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis to be elected president," Ioffe went on, referring to two possible presidential candidates for the Republicans.

"I think this could bring a very different policies towards NATO, Ukraine and Russia," she added.

At the same time, the U.S. cannot escape confrontation with China, which is causing more and more tension. Europe could be America's ally on this matter, Ioffe said, but there are those, too, who believe that the U.S. should be less active on the world stage in any event.

"This kind of homegrown isolationism can be found on both sides of the party divide, but especially on the right, as of now. This is something that Europe needs to watch very closely because there will be consequences if these people are elected. Although right now, support for Ukraine is still 'mainstream opinion' in Congress, there are people on both the extreme left and right who don't think the U.S. should be sending aid and funding on that scale."

This means a continuation of current policies would be ideal for the transatlantic relationship, but turbulent times still lie ahead.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

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