The crisis in transatlantic relations, caused by the creation of the AUKUS triple security partnership, is becoming a new challenge for NATO. According to French Defense Minister Florence Parley, the proclamation of China as the main threat, which led to the emergence of an alliance between the United States, Great Britain and Australia, has put NATO in the face of the need to revise its own defense strategy. NATO, which emerged to ensure the collective defense of Europe against the Soviet threat, is forced to integrate into a new reality in which the key player – the United States – is transferring activity to the Indo-Pacific region to contain now not Moscow, but Beijing.
NATO brain is being brought back to life
In the ongoing scandal between Washington and Paris, caused by the creation of the trilateral security partnership AUKUS (U-SA, UK, Australia) and the disruption of the “deal of the century” for the supply of 12 French Barracuda-class submarines to Canberra, French Defense Minister Florence Parley has become the new troublemaker. Speaking at the French National Assembly, the head of the defense department dealt a strong blow to the main argument of the Australian side, which is that the abandonment of French submarines is related to their tactical and technical data.
“Negotiations on a future contract for the supply of classic-class and ocean-type submarines between France and Australia began back in 2014. All this was already happening in the context of a sharp increase in the power of China in the Indo-Pacific region. Australia put forward demands for such a submarine to have a long range, and its propulsion system should be of a classic, non-nuclear type, “- disclosed the circumstances of the negotiations Florence Parley, formulating the main conclusion as follows: Australia’s actions are more than just breaking the arms contract … “This is a real undermining of trust between the allied countries and a sharp strategic turn for us, the European countries,” said the French Minister of Defense. After that, the head of the French defense department turned to the topic of future relations with NATO, Many of her statements by the standards of NATO officials have become openly dissident.
Thus, the French Minis-ter of Defense actually disavowed the thesis that decisions in the alliance are m-ade by consensus, expressing the opinion that there is no political dialogue among the NATO member states.
It is for this reason that, even before the submarine scandal, France initiated a revision of NATO’s strategic concept. “It aims to remind everyone that NATO’s primary purpose is to ensure transatlantic security, not confrontation with China,” Florence Parley threw another stone into the US and AUKUS garden.
Since the creation of NATO, France’s relationship with this organization has had its ups and downs. In 1966, by decision of President Charles de Gaulle, France withdrew from NATO’s military command, retaining complete freedom to decide on the dispatch of troops to participate in the alliance’s coalition operations, and returned to the integrated command structure only in 2009, under the then President Nicolas Sarkozy.
However, less than two years ago, in November 2019, in an interview with The Economist , French President Emmanuel Macron said that NATO has completely lost its ability to interact within the alliance, making his sensational statement of NATO’s “brain death”, which echoes the latest statement by the Minister of Defense country. “What we are seeing now is NATO’s brain death. We do not have coordination on strategic decisions between the United States and its allies in the alliance, “President Macron said at the time, commenting on Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria, which the alliance leadership called a gross mistake.
After the change of the US administration in Janu-ary this year, the alliance received two powerful blows to its unity from mid-August to mid-September, giving new meaning to Pre-sident Macron’s words ab-out NATO’s “brain death”. The first blow was the decision of US President Joe Biden to end the operation in Afghanistan, taken be-hind the backs of NATO allies and canceled the collective efforts of the NATO coalition in this country. T-he second blow was the submarine scandal, in wh-ich Paris sees another atte-mpt by Washington to finally assert its right to make all decisions, assigning the allies the role of extras. The head of the French Ministry of Defense, Florence Parley, defines the essence of the problem as follows: “Now in NATO there is a question of revising the balance between the United States and the Europeans in ensuring security. And the crisis we are going through perfectly illustrates the need for such a revision. “
There is an alliance, there is no threat
Meanwhile, speaking on Tuesday from the rostrum of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, US President Joe Biden, who found himself at the center of the Afghan and French scandals, expressed confidence that relations with allies are moving in the right direction, although they are undergoing a restructuring phase. “We are rebuilding our alliances, bringing new life to partnerships.
We reaffirm our sacred commitment to Article 5 of the NATO Charter and are working with our allies on a new Strategic Concept. We are renewing our interaction with the European Union on the entire spectrum of important issues facing the world, ”said Joe Biden. As a resentful France tries to initiate a discussion about the foundations of allies, AUKUS members and their NATO support team are working hard to minimize damage to Western allies. One of the members of the “fire brigade” that rushed to extinguish the fire inside the alliance was and. O. Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, who discussed the situation around the security pact AUKUS with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “I am in contact on this issue with partners involved such as France, UK and Australia,” wrote on TwitterMark Rutte, who also visited London, holding talks with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “It was great to welcome Mark Rutte to Downing Street and reaffirm the long-standing partnership between the UK and the Netherlands as NATO allies and loyal friends,” Boris Johnson tweeted. However, experts interviewed by Kommersant consider the task of restoring relations between the Western allies intractable. “There is no trace of the enthusiasm of the Europeans who hoped that Joe Biden’s presidency would become “Obama’s third term”.
First, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which demonstrated blatant disdain for NATO allies, then a new blow to the Euro-Atlantic partnership by AUKUS. Actions towards France – the most important ally in NATO, a nuclear power and a permanent member of the UN Security Council – are something unprecedented, something even President Trump did not allow himself, ”Vladimir Batyuk, professor at the Higher School of Economics, told Kommersant.
It remains unclear how, after all this, the Biden administration will restore relations with Western allies, already seriously shaken by President Trump, ”sums up Mr. Batyuk.
In turn, according to Vladimir Vasiliev, Chief Researcher at the Institute of the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the future of NATO will crucially depend on the fate of Article 5 of the Alliance’s Charter, the meaning of which boils down to the fact that an attack on one of the members of the alliance means an attack on the United States. … “It would not be an exaggeration to say that if NATO’s Article 5 ceases to function, there will be no military alliance, or it will be stillborn. This is the dilemma of the United States, which will have to decide whether they are ready to continue to claim global leadership, but at the same time bear obligations to their allies, ”notes Mr. Vasiliev.
In turn, according to Andrei Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, the future of the alliance depends on whether its leadership and members of the alliance will be able to come to a common denominator on the question of where the main threat comes from.
“While the NATO machine is more comfortable with inertia to regard Russia as the main threat, President Biden considers China to be such a threat,” Andrei Kortunov reminded Kommersant.