After ‘brain death’ and Trump, NATO chief proposes reforms for Atlantic alliance


Brussels (Reuters) – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will present reform plans on Wednesday to modernise the alliance after four years of friction with Washington and to face challenges including China’s military rise and Russia as an adversary.

After confrontational rhetoric between Washington and its allies during the Donald Trump presidency, Stoltenberg will set out eight areas where NATO could modernise over the medium term, from climate change to more sustainable funding of military operations, two senior officials told Reuters.

The reform proposals, which NATO leaders are expected to consider at a summit in Brussels planned for later this year, aim to convince Trump’s successor Joe Biden to strongly back NATO and to mollify allies frustrated with what they say is the alliance’s failure to coordinate at the political level.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in late 2019 that NATO was “experiencing brain death” after alliance member Turkey launched an offensive on U.S.-backed rebels in Syria.

“We have a unique opportunity to re-energize and to strengthen the transatlantic bond,” Stoltenberg told reporters on Monday, referring to the “NATO 2030” reform process.

The proposals include updating NATO’s official master strategy document, its “Strategic Concept”, which could consider growing Chinese military capabilities and Russian strategic competition.

Stoltenberg will propose more political discussion at NATO to allow for frequent meetings of foreign, interior ministers and national security advisers, and ways to reduce both the security impact of climate change and military carbon emissions.

Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, will also suggest that allies fund collectively more of their deterrent operations on allied territory, rather than the current system that a single ally bears all the costs of a deployment.

That money, which could go into an enlarged common NATO military budget, would also be counted in the alliance’s annual defence spending target of 2% of economic output, so as to avoid an additional burden on allies, the two NATO officials said.

“The Secretary General is thinking about how can we make this more sustainable and ultimately fair, because these are activities that are essential to our security. We need to find a way to change the way we fund them,” one NATO official said.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created in 1949 to confront the threat of the communist Soviet Union but found renewed purpose after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

NATO is now under pressure to help solve some of the world’s most intractable crises and Washington has pushed it to consider its position on China, a growing military power.

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