Strong Allies Equal a Strong Defence

16  February 2018 - Washington and Charleston: US policymakers delivered a clear message to a delegation from the Defence and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly: The United States is increasing its commitment to NATO, and it expects increased investments in parallel from its Allies. Officials told the delegation the Trump administration will make burden sharing among allies a key priority at the NATO summit this July in Brussels. The other priorities, deterrence and defence as well as counterterrorism, officials stressed, go hand in hand with allies’ responsibility to meet their defence spending commitments.

US Policymakers also attempted to lay to rest any lingering doubts about the United States’ Article 5 commitment – NATO’s collective security guarantee enshrined in the Washington Treaty. As Thomas Goffus, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for European and NATO Policy, confirmed: “The United States’ Article 5 guarantee is iron clad.” Goffus continued by stating the United States would focus on the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) during the upcoming summit in Brussels: “Deterrence is what we do together, rather than the US-focused European Reassurance Initiative, as the EDI was previously known.”

The United States recently announced a planned allocation of $6.5bn to the EDI in 2019, a $1.7bn increase from last year, and $3.1bn more than allocated in 2017. 

Michael Murphy, Director of the Office of Security and Political-Military Affairs at the Bureau of European Affairs, told the delegation, “the Wales Pledge is at the forefront of US officials’ minds in the run-up to Brussels.” The 2014 Wales Summit saw NATO member states’ heads of state and government pledge to invest at least 2% of their nation’s GDP toward domestic defence institutions by 2024, 20% of which must be dedicated to research and development. Mr. Murphy insisted all allies must be able to present credible plans to get there, to which he added only approximately 13 were currently on track to do so. “If these numbers are still present at the summit, this will be problematic – please carry this message back to your governments and constituencies,” he added.

Increased investments will mean a credible defence and deterrence posture, allowing Allies to channel resources to address new security challenges from counterterrorism to counter-hybrid tactics, US officials underscored. The credibility of allied commitment to a modern mobile and dynamic defence and security, it was repeated, is the only way forward for the Alliance in the 21st century. 

During the visit, the delegation also discussed the new US National Security Strategy (NSS) published by the Trump administration in December 2017. The document defines the current international security environment as one of global competition at all levels, as the administration views both China and Russia seeking peer rival status vis-à-vis the United States. An important line of effort to counter this, DASD Goffus told the delegation, is to build stronger alliances. The most crucial factor for stronger alliances, he continued, is to increase interoperability, “As NATO adaptation continues, the United States will push for more effective allied interoperability from training, planning, and communication to combat” Goffus told the delegation.

The Defence and Security Committee delegation also visited Charleston, South Carolina where parliamentarians were welcomed for briefings at Joint Base Charleston, Boeing, and The Citadel.  The delegation consisted of 29 members of parliament from 18 allied nations. A more detailed mission report of the visit will be published on the NATO PA website.