Nato 'must go back to its roots' of territorial defence

Transcript of video by Luke Coffey on peace negotiations with Russia.

How do geopolitical shifts impact Nato’s international role?

Luke Coffey:

Nato, since the end of the Cold War, has been trying to find its role in the world. During the nineties it focused on the Balkans, and then after 9/11 it was in Afghanistan. But with the current mission in Afghanistan ending people are starting to wonder again what is Nato's role in the world.

We see the rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East, and we also see a resurgent Russia. So I think we’re going to see a Nato that is going back to its original purpose, which is territorial defence.

When we see Russia increasing its military capabilities and threatening its European neighbours, then Nato really has no other choice than to go back to its roots.

Is there too much reliance on the USA in Nato?

Luke Coffey:

Yes, there is in terms of military capability. Many Europeans over the years have cut their defence budgets drastically, and as a consequence they lack the certain capabilities that are needed to fight modern warfare.

We’ve seen this in Afghanistan where some European countries had difficulties deploying even a handful of soldiers, and then we saw this in Libya in 2011 where some European countries were literally running out of bombs to drop.

So, at the end of the day Europe has some soul searching to do, and realise that it is in a dangerous part of the world. Regardless of how safe Europe might be, the area around Europe is very unstable and dangerous.

I think that policy-makers need to do a better job explaining this to their publics.

How can the requirement to spend on defence be justified in times of austerity?

Defence spending, like all other public spending, is about setting national priorities. And if the defence of the realm, if the defence of the nation is the number one job of government – which we are told time and time again – then it shouldn’t be a problem to find the right amount of money to spend on defence and security.

But the case of defence spending in Nato, is a terrible situation. Out of 28 members of Nato only four spend the required two per cent of GDP on defence.

As an illustrative point, London spends more on the Metropolitan Police than 15 Nato members spend on their national defence. So it is a really bad situation, and its time that policy makers and politicians explain to their publics why its necessary to spend money on national security.

What would happen if Nato was to dissolve?

Luke Coffey:

This would be a tragic situation that would have economic, security and political consequences. Not only in Europe and the North Atlantic region, but all around the world.

Much of the security and stability that Europe enjoys since the end of World War II has been the result of Nato. This has led to economic prosperity, which has created the situation where the US and Europe are each other’s number one trading partners, and together combined we are half the world’s GDP.

Without the security and stability it is likely this economic prosperity wouldn’t take place.

And then you'd have the other issues of protecting transit routes, pipelines, transit routes through the various straits, Strait of Gibraltar, Bosphorus Strait, for example.

If Nato were to disappear these areas would also become more contested and less stable.

  • Founded 1949.
  • In 1955 the Soviet Union created a counter-alliance called the Warsaw Pact, which dissolved after the break-up of the USSR in 1991.
  • The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland became the first former Warsaw Pact countries to gain Nato membership in 1999.
  • In 2004, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - republics of the USSR until its collapse in 1991 - along with Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania were welcomed as Nato members.
  • Membership today is 28 nations.
  • Nato cooperates with a number of international organisations and countries.
  • Applicant nations are Georgia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Montenegro.
  • Nato's general aim is to 'safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation' of its members by promoting 'stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area'.
  • Members agree that an armed attack against one shall be considered an attack against them all, and that they will come to the aid of one another.