NATO Summit: Security is not free | Opinion
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This war has been the definitive warning. The summit, an occasion, perhaps the last, for rectification. It will not be easy. There are public goods that need the care of all, although we consider them as acquired rights and free as the air we breathe. For the citizens of Western Europe, this is the case of collective security, guaranteed since 1949 by the Atlantic Alliance and assured by the fundamental and disproportionate contribution of the United States.
It was a win-win deal. The senior partner obtained hegemony and the resulting effects, especially economic. And the minors, the possibility of dedicating their resources to other items outside the Armed Forces, and even not worrying about such a burdensome and unpleasant chapter. The results are in sight and no one denies them: peace, stability and prosperity have turned it into a club where there are elbows to enter, especially in times of danger, and from which no one wants to leave, as if It has happened with the European Union.
There are also resentments, often the result of political and historical daydreams. Europeans would like to play in the first division and for free, but without paying the bills, both in military investments and in renunciations of sovereignty in favor of collective defense. Americans are cyclically assailed by the isolationist reflection of George Washington’s famous farewell speech, in which the first president of the United States abhorred permanent alliances; and almost always, although to different degrees according to the presidents, because of the irritation caused by his excessive contribution to the defense of Europe.
Fortunately for Europeans, especially Russia’s geographic neighbors, the White House remains committed to the most successful and effective alliance in history. The link between the United States and Europe, three quarters of a century old, could not be more permanent or more solid, and now even decisive beyond the European continent. The war in Ukraine has been the occasion to prove it, to the point that Washington will increase its forces and military investments in Europe, after having cut them. The sights are now more far-reaching and are directed towards Beijing: without the strong and democratic Europe that Putin wants to erode, the United States would be at a disadvantage in the strategic confrontation that is being prepared with the emerging superpower that is China.
That the transatlantic bond is so strong does not mean that it will always be so. Europe will do well if it begins to really count on its own forces. In case Donald Trump returns to power. In case the United States had to dedicate itself even more to Asia. European strategic autonomy is not an insult to the United States. On the contrary: geopolitical Europe and autonomous European defense will not magically emerge as the result of an inspired decision of the 27, but will grow within the Atlantic Alliance, with the aim of turning the European Union into its strongest branch, and the obligation to pay the corresponding price. After Madrid, the EU and NATO should be the two complementary sides of the same coin. It will be difficult to live on a cap from now on in defense matters.
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