NUsually Jens Stoltenberg is the most anticipated politician one can imagine. The Secretary General of NATO is always “informed”. You can ask him ten different questions about a topic, and he always gives the same answer – and he has ensured that politically with his allies. But in February, the former Norwegian prime minister also showed a different side. He called for a step he did not coordinate with almost anyone: NATO should “spend more money together” on “the core of our defense and our deterrence.” Specifically, he designated fighting groups stationed on the eastern side, observing Baltic airspace and sea routes, as well as exercises. In all of these cases, the following applies so far: Each participating country bears its own costs, and the Allianz may now struggle for three and a half months over whether that should change.
Diplomats expected “live discussions” when the alliance’s foreign and defense ministers prepared separate video conferences for the June 14th Heads of State and Government meeting in Brussels on Tuesday afternoon. Stoltenberg announced that his move in February would be a top priority of his “NATO 2030” concept. This includes more points, such as climate protection and technological leadership, but none has proven controversial. “When it comes to money, it is always the fundamentals,” said a seasoned diplomat. It also has to do with how much European members invest in NATO or in the national capabilities that they can also make available to the European Union.
It is therefore not surprising that France vehemently rejected Stoltenberg’s proposal. Diplomats in Brussels have made it clear time and time again since February. Defense Secretary Florence Parly did this again publicly with her colleagues right before the video conference. Parley told Politico magazine on the Internet: “This all the money does not increase national defense budgets and pushes European defense efforts that benefit NATO as well.” “What? Nobody knows what to say. We have to double the budget and then think about what we’re going to do with the money?”
Headwinds to Stoltenberg from Paris
This was a little unfair. What Stoltenberg wanted to spend money on, he said yes. But it is also clear that the Secretary-General of NATO is in favor of the Europeans developing their military capabilities, but they should do so in the alliance. The word “strategic autonomy” did not come out of his lips. Instead, he warned of a split in the alliance if the European Union became the frame of reference. Members on the East Side in particular still regard America as their life insurance.
However, more cofinancing should unite the ranks. On Monday, Stoltenberg said the increased joint spending “will send a strong message of unity and determination – to our people and to a potential adversary.” It will also help burden sharing within the coalition. This is always measured against the goal of spending 2% of economic output on defense. But the NATO budget is also a tool for solidarity and redistribution. Since last year, Germany has been paying into its coffers the same amount of money the much larger United States is – a concession by then-President Trump.