When Donald Trump took the office in 2016 as the US President, he questioned Article 5 of the collective security treaty, creating serious concerns for the US European allies. He asked the Europeans to increase their defense expenses by at least two percent of their Gross Domestic Product. Trump calibrated his attacks on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and accused Berlin of owing NATO. Ten of the 30 member states of the NATO addressed the Trump demand to increase their military spending by at least two percent of their Gross Domestic Product. The NATO members in the past had agreed to step up the level of the exclusive budget to at least two percent of the GDP.
Without doubt after Biden comes into the White House and conditions become normal, and after acknowledgements of Biden by the member states, big and deep challenges of NATO will continue. The first challenge which was raised in the recent NATO meeting in the presence of diplomatic delegates including the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the issue of the withdrawal of the American forces and their allies from Afghanistan. After nineteen years of war, the Trump administration concluded an agreement in recent months with the Taliban on pulling out American troops from Afghanistan. Reciprocally, the Taliban have committed to preventing Afghanistan from turning into a base for terrorists. Of course, the NATO Secretary General warns concurrently that difficult decisions needs to be taken in February 2021 in case the present Afghan talks fail.
The issue of China remains a significant challenge for the NATO. The military enhancement of China especially in the East China Sea and the Silk Road create remarkable menace to NATO. In one of its reports, NATO claims that this coalition should think more seriously about the quality of confrontation with China and the rising Chinese army.
Even though tension between Turkey and Greece in the East Mediterranean and the cancellation of the military drills of the two countries have partly repelled the danger of crisis and military conflict, the issue remains unresolved and may come to surface anytime. The NATO Secretary General considers diplomatic efforts taken by NATO to resolve the differences between Turkey and the Hellenic Republic as an important platform for technical consultations and talks to succeed. However, US Secretary of State Pompeo, as the representative of the radical members of NATO, has criticized Turkey for buying arms and military platforms from Russia and described it as a gift to Moscow. He claims that Ankara has weakened the security of NATO and caused instability in creating tensions with Greece and Cyprus over the gas resources of the East Mediterranean; However, in view of the Turkish side, the United States is favoring Greece in regional conflicts and has refused to sell Patriot anti-air system to Ankara. The Turks are hoping that when Biden assumes the power, relations between Washington and Ankara would improve. The status of Turkey in NATO has been always an important issue for the military block. Turkey feels entitled to worry about the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, and its brigades in Syria. Ankara believes that NATO allies are adopting a lenient approach towards the PKK and its brigades in Syria and this has been a source of serious differences inside NATO. Turkey which is of utmost significance for NATO in accessing the Middle East has now turned into a problem in the Western coalition.
Other NATO challenge is its relations with Russia. The military enhancement of Russia around NATO allied countries such as Ukraine, Georgia, Syria and Libya are other concerns of the NATO. Russia is worried about an increase in the military activities of NATO in the Black Sea. In the belief of Moscow, NATO is expanding its activities to the Black Sea as NATO reconnaissance drones are stepping up their missions near Russian borders. NATO is also benefiting from infrastructure of Bulgaria and Romania and has stationed its attack arms in that part of Europe and has exercised scenarios in military drills which are indicative of military confrontation capability. One such scenario is attack on the Russian territory using US strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons. NATO measures would create instability in the region and would further divide the countries of the region. Russia is NATO’s largest neighbor and this alliance cannot simply ignore this fact. Evidence indicates that the best way to establish cooperation with Russia is to guarantee strong relations with NATO. NATO is also interested in establishing links with Russia; however, in order to attain this objective, Moscow needs to be pursuing the same goal and take clear steps to realize it. In connection with strategic decisions, there is no coordination between the United States and its allies in NATO.
Some parts of Europe such as Germany are seeking to strengthen the foundations of NATO in Europe as Europe has assumed the responsibility of the security policies of NATO from Africa to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Alongside its security interests, Europe is continuing such a path in order to establish a balanced partnership with the US. Europe openly determines its political and regional interests in the company of the United States. Europe and the US have long been pursuing aligned policies towards regional and international issues and differences between Washington and Brussels have not been so far as substantial as it they were during the four years of Trump’s tenure. The JCPOA is a clear example of Europe’s alignment with the US. The French president said earlier that Europe’s dependency on the US is an impediment to trade between Iran and European companies. He criticized dependence of Europe to America in the nuclear issue of Iran and claimed they had totally understood the complete outcomes of this issue during nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Trump’s aggressive and unilateral policies, his withdrawal from important regional and trans-regional agreements, Washington’s trade and tariff war with Brussels, US unilateralism in the global stage, its cold war with Russia and Trump’s commercial war with China and so on are examples of issues which have paved the way for the separation of the two sides of the Atlantic.
NATO objectives under the present conditions could be searched in issues such as the weakening of the Russian power and eliminating grounds for reconstruction of its past hegemony, the strengthening of US hegemony in the Russian sphere of influences and domination over e resources. The NATO goals to expand its operation towards the geopolitics of regions in the East and the South have caused reactions by other governments such as Russia, China and Iran. The NATO presence in the geographical spaces of countries such as Afghanistan and cooperation between NATO and southern states of the Persian Gulf are undeniable facts. Such a situation could mark various scenarios in the security of the countries surrounding Iran that would represent NATO presence as a threat to Iran; therefore, Iran should be sensitive about the future intensions of this military alliance and keep a watchful eye on NATO plans and activities in the region.