Watford, England, 4 December 2019 (dpa/MIA) – NATO leaders reaffirmed the strength of the trans-Atlantic defense alliance on Wednesday, as they gathered for the second day of a 70th-anniversary summit overshadowed by divisions about strategy and burden-sharing.
“NATO is the most successful alliance in history because we have changed as the world has changed,” alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg told the 29 leaders at the start of their formal session.
An unprecedented increase in defense expenditure is “making NATO stronger,” he added. “Whatever our differences, we will continue to unite around our core task, to defend one another.”
“As long as we stand together, no-one could hope to defeat us – and therefore no-one will start a war,” added British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He affirmed Britain’s “rock-solid” commitment to NATO.
“There is far, far more that unites us than divides us,” Johnson said on his way into the meeting. He has been keeping a low profile at the summit, which he is hosting in the midst of an election campaign.
NATO has been shaken by French President Emmanuel Macron‘s recent criticism about the “brain death” of the alliance, in the wake of US and Turkish military action in north-eastern Syria that threatened advances made against the Islamic State extremist group.
Leaders must debate important strategic questions, rather than focus on “budgetary and financial issues,” Macron said on Wednesday, in an apparent dig at US President Donald Trump who has focused largely on boosting allies’ defense expenditure.
“How can we build durable peace in Europe?” Macron asked. “Who is our enemy? How to act jointly against terrorism?”
Trump, in turn, had criticized Macron‘s “very, very nasty” comment about NATO on Tuesday.
The 29 allies are to formalize around 50 decisions adapting NATO to a changing global security environment. This includes recognizing space as a fifth operational domain alongside land, air, sea and cyber.
They will issue a joint declaration reiterating allies’ commitment to collective defense, nuclear deterrence, increased defense spending and NATO’s open-door policy which should see North Macedonia soon join as its 30th member.
In their summit declaration, the leaders are also due to pave the way for a “forward-looking reflection process” to strengthen NATO’s political dimension.