Transatlantic Solidarity Under Stress


New strategic surprises will continue to challenge the paradigms on which the transatlantic security partnership has been built. The forthcoming NATO Warsaw Summit is expected to be critical in enacting the necessary adaptation of the Alliance, by showing progress in three complementary aspects: solidarity, credibility and flexibility, according to a new paper from the German Marshall Fund.

The West needs a comprehensive, overarching concept of solidarity. This concept has to start with shared values — democracy, human rights, the free market economy, and the liberal international order. These are the bedrock on which both the EU and NATO are built, the authors contend:

Democratic values should not be perceived as liabilities when addressing the challenges of more autocratic regimes, which do not have the same accountability toward their populations.

Some conversations should remain private, but the strength of the United States, Canada, and European countries lies in their open societies, which are able to freely discuss internal weaknesses, and make workable solutions emerge. In the context of hybrid warfare, transatlantic powers could be tempted to restraint their own domestic liberties in order to prevent enemies from using them against transatlantic unity. Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and independence of the judiciary, among others transatlantic values, could [face] new restrictions as part of the struggle against revisionist propaganda.

But such policies would ultimately reinforce their revisionist agenda and weaken the credibility of NATO. On the contrary, transatlantic leaders should put an emphasis on strategic consistency, showing that the current challenges will not affect the fundamental values on which the Alliance has been built and that still keep it together, and which makes NATO first and foremost a political alliance, with a military arm.

The interests of the United States and Europe are also threatened by the radical Islamic State’s attack on democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law, core values on which the West is based, analyst Stanley R. Sloan writes for The National Interest. Dealing with this challenge will require broad-based international political, economic and financial cooperation in addition to targeting ISIS assets.

The migration crisis and instability emanating from Europe’s south; the rise of anti-EU populism; and democratic backsliding in places like Poland, Hungary, and Turkey are conspiring to make Europe a soft target for Russian meddling. Should Putin be allowed to act with impunity, the United States will be unable to avoid the profoundly detrimental effects, the Marshall Fund report adds, arguing that two opposing scenarios can be envisioned over the mid-term:

  • In the first, the United States and its allies manage to find the so far elusive balance between provocation and permissiveness. Learning the lessons from the Ukraine crisis, NATO engages in a constructive rethinking of its force structure and political tools and strengthens transatlantic resilience to prevent political and societal destabilization. European security is bolstered as NATO’s effective deterrence and competency in hybrid warfare reduces the risk of military escalation.
  • Alternatively, the transatlantic security partnership could continue to resist the hard choices necessary to overcome institutional blockages and capability shortfalls. The existing political, social, and economic vulnerabilities will increasingly be exploited by Russia to weaken solidarity and cooperation, and bordering states will find themselves the target of hybrid tactics and escalating Russian territorial incursions.


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