Tuesday 24th November 2020
The election defeat of US President Trump gives many European allies a sigh of relief. But NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg is now warning of overly high hopes after an initial phone call with President-elect Biden. It is also open what happens in Afghanistan.
According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, future US President Joe Biden will, like Donald Trump, insist on higher defense spending by the European allies. The incumbent President Trump had “his own style” and expressed his expectations of the Europeans “fairly clearly”. “But I am sure that the elected President Biden will express the same expectation of the European partners,” Stoltenberg told the newspapers of the Funke media group.
However, he is certain that in Biden, NATO will have a “strong supporter of the Alliance”. Stoltenberg and Biden spoke to each other on Monday for the first time since the Democrat was elected the next US president. Stoltenberg congratulated Biden on his election victory and told him that he was looking forward to working closely together to further strengthen the connection between North America and Europe, the defense alliance said afterwards.
In the conversation, Biden had assured that the United States would continue to be obliged to NATO, including the mutual assistance obligation under Article 5, said the transition team of the experienced foreign policy maker. Biden wanted to work with Stoltenberg and the allies to ensure that NATO had the strategic direction and capabilities to heighten deterrence and counter new threats like climate change and health threats to the world.
Allies breathe a sigh of relief after Trump was voted out of office
Under Trump, the relationship between the United States and NATO was noticeably damaged. Regardless of the consequences, Trump repeatedly raised doubts as to whether the United States would fulfill its obligation to provide military assistance in an emergency. In addition, there were not agreed announcements for troop withdrawals from Germany and most recently from Afghanistan and Iraq.
It is now eagerly awaited how Biden positions himself for the future of NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan. As Stoltenberg said in a speech to parliamentarians from the 30 alliance states on Monday, the alliance will make a decision on whether to continue at a defense ministers’ meeting in February. Trump actually wanted to end the operation in support of the Afghan government by May next year. He is counting on US-brokered peace talks between the Afghan government and the militant Islamist Taliban to lead to success.
However, many allies have strong doubts about this and point out that the Taliban have not yet met the requirements for troop withdrawal. At the same time, however, they are neither ready nor able to continue the Afghanistan mission without the USA. It began in 2001 as a result of the terrorist attacks against the United States. Stoltenberg spoke out in front of the MPs on Monday in favor of staying longer in Afghanistan in case of doubt. The country should not become a haven for terrorists again, he said.
US security guarantees are “absolutely necessary”
In an interview with the Funke media group, Stoltenberg again warned against considering questioning the so-called two percent target because of the financial pressure caused by the Corona crisis. This stipulates that the allies spend two percent of their gross domestic product annually on defense purposes. “The most important task of NATO is to prevent the Corona health crisis from becoming a security crisis. We must therefore continue to invest more,” said the Norwegian. The security threats and challenges have not decreased during the pandemic.
At the same time, in the debate about an independent European security policy, Stoltenberg warned of a weakening of NATO and the division of Europe. “The fact is that the European Union cannot defend Europe.” The US security guarantees, nuclear deterrence and the presence of US troops in Europe are “absolutely necessary for the defense of Europe”. Before that, French President Emmanuel Macron had initiated a critical debate by calling for Europe to have “strategic autonomy”. “Any attempt to weaken the ties between North America and Europe will not only weaken NATO – it will also divide Europe,” stressed Stoltenberg.