Gavin E L Hall Blog - Insights into my Mind

June 2015

Why a Russian Threat is Good for NATO

The primary security mechanism for the West, especially the United States, to engage with European security problems is NATO, both in regard to existential threats and endogenous power struggles. The 2014 Wales Summit Declaration makes it clear in Paragraph 1 that ‘Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine have fundamentally challenged our [NATO’s] vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace’. A renewed Russian threat is good for business and avoids questions regarding the continued viability of NATO for dealing with security challenges.
Another significant aspect to come out of the Wales Summit was the pledge by the 28 member states of NATO to continue to meet the 2% of GDP defence spending target. Continue is used in the loosest possible way here as only the UK, US and Greece actually met this target in
2013. Greece has fairly substantial problems and is likely to be reducing its military spending, hence, Obama’s pressure on Cameron to maintain the UK’s defence spending earlier on in June 2015. A real danger existed that the United States could be the only member state to have met its defence spending commitments.
Traditional arguments surrounding burden-sharing and the problem of free-riding are increasingly being utilised against NATO, especially across the Atlantic. When combined with the much heralded, even if little delivered, pivot to Asia, the transatlantic bond appears to be under pressure.
It should also be noted that the American military-industrial complex traditional needs a clearly defined enemy to galvanise its efforts behind. It could be argued that in the post-bin Laden era this has been lacking and portraying the Russian Bear, and Putin, as the enemy is a well established playbook.
Is it possible that the revival of the Bear in the East and its nuclear arsenal could be a vehicle for providing encouragement to the member states of NATO to enhance their defence spending towards the hallowed 2% criteria?