When the Allies celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Washington Treaty in 1999, which created the Alliance, at the same time mobilizing the physical, spiritual and geopolitical visions of the upcoming NATO enlargement process. It was these decisions that helped define the contours of the “new NATO” for the 21st century. On April 4, 2019, the Alliance marked the 70th anniversary of its existence. On the same date, the Republic of North Macedonia marked 20 years of receiving MAP membership, a sort of candidate status in the Alliance, which represents an infamous record in waiting in front of NATO doors. By comparison, Albania waited 9 years, Croatia 8 years, and the RNM waited for 20 years, which is considered an absolute record in pending invitation to join.
The North Atlantic Treaty, also referred to as the Washington Treaty, was created at the height of the Cold War (1949) on the basis of the common values of the founding states without mentioning the countries against which the then-military alliance was directed. Only the signatories voted to defend territorial sovereignty and integrity. The document was written in soft words to facilitate the adaptation of members to the international strategic context. The then Foreign Office Secretary, Ernest Bevin, and one of the “fathers of NATO” evoked the common values of the future Alliance since 1948: “Our sacrifices in the war, our hatred of injustice and oppression, our Parliamentary democracy, our striving for economic rights and our conception and love of liberty are common…”. For his part, Secretary of State Dean Acheson noted: “…the central idea of the treaty is not a static one… and that “the North Atlantic Treaty is far more than a defensive arrangement. It is an affirmation of the moral and spiritual values which we hold in common. ” Since its constitution in 1949, without any cynicism, NATO justified its existence. New security challenges arose, to which the Alliance sought to deal with diplomatic and military assets, with sophisticated technology, crisis management and wise dialogue. Therefore, when the jubilee of NATO is evoked, without any sarcasm one can conclude that in the 21st century, the Alliance evolved into a more contemporary, more dynamic and global political and military institution capable of facing new security challenges.
In the years after the Cold War, NATO sought to establish dialogue and practical cooperation with Russia in areas of common interest. In 2014, after the illegal annexation of Crimea, the overall practical cooperation between NATO and Russia was suspended. Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine, its destabilizing attitude and recourse to hybrid actions against the countries of the Euro-Atlantic region have modified the environment of international security, resulting in an increase in unpredictability in the domain of security.
According to the annual report of NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, several incidents of security character were manifested between Russia and the allies during 2018. In March 2018, the Alliance condemned the attack on a former Russian agent with a neurotoxic poison in Salsbury, the United Kingdom. In October, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom informed the Allies about an attempted information piracy by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) – for which Russian military services were suspected. In November, Russia seized three Ukrainian ships that were in Ukrainian territorial waters. In December, NATO foreign ministers concluded that Russia had developed and established a missile system that violated the Mid-Range Nuclear Power Treaty. In response to the aforementioned events, the Summit in Brussels urged Moscow that “Russia should respect the agreement”, pledged to more successfully deal with hybrid attacks and to increase the defense budgets of its members. At the NATO headquarters in Brussels, when generals evoke the lessons learned from the crises, they have been repeating the ancient African proverb for decades that ” You do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla”. So is the experience of hybrid attacks. A state that is aiming for a hybrid danger with a delay will realize that it was targeted by a hybrid attack. The methodology of a classic hybrid attack is clear. It manifests itself when state and non-state actors resort to hybrid attacks to destabilize the enemy through: propaganda, fake news, sabotage and other non-military means. These tools have always existed and there is nothing new here. What’s new is the speed of action, the width of the execution and the intensity of the attack.
At the Summit in Scotland 2014, the Heads of State and Government of NATO adopted a defense investment document. This act sought to increase spending in the domain of defense from a minimum of 2% of the GNP to member states. Such a decision relies on a major discrepancy between US contributions to that of members. During his election campaign, Donald Trump threatened European allies: Why should the United States pay for the defense of Europe? His preferred target was Germany. Trump, using a praetorian rhetoric, criticized Merkel’s rhetoric that it is paradoxical for a rich country like Germany to allocate only 1.25% instead of 2% of its BNP. Faced with Russian threats, Europeans have increased their defense budget. While in 2017, US participation accounted for 70% of the Alliance’s budget, in 2018 US-Europe parity was leveled at 50% – 50%. In 2018, seven Alliance members set aside more than 2% of the GNP for the defense budget, compared to only three in 2014.
Expressed in real terms, NATO defense spending between 2017 and 2018 increased by 4% or $ 41 billion. Perspectively, European members and Canada have pledged to reach the $ 100 billion defense budget and the psychological limit of 2% of GNP by 2020. When it comes to financing NATO, there are three different budgets in the Alliance. The states contribute directly to the NATO budget, whose consumption reaches an average of up to 2 billion euros. The main contributors are the United States with 22.14%, Germany with 14.65%, France with 10.63 and the United Kingdom with 9.85%. The Alliance’s military budget is the most significant item, reaching 1.29 billion euros and divided into 36 pre-budget sections. The civilian budget reaches 235 million euros in 2017 and covers the costs of NATO’s International Secretariat’s programs and wages and equipment for 6000 employees, of which 1,000 work at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels. However, the indirect budget of NATO, that is the national budgets of the armies of Alliance members, are the essential dimensions that make this institution the most powerful global military and political force. In this area, nearly 1000 billion euros are allocated annually. In 2016, the US allocated 3.61% of GNP, or 625.41 billion euros. Europe is significantly lagging behind with 224.92 billion euros. In these astronomical sums, the allocation for defense in the future member of the Alliance, the Republic of North Macedonia, fell during the ruling period of VMRO-DPMNE to 1.1% or about 100 million euros. These funds were mainly intended for employees’ salaries, and are far from the Alliance’s standards. The Prespa Agreement and the membership invitation, for the first time in ten years, increased the defense budget. In the words of Minister of Defense Sekerinska, the Alliance will have an understanding of the Republic of North Macedonia, which through the annual increase of the defense budget by 0.2%, or 25 million euros, will succeed in intensifying reforms.
Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik