NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was a courteous guest during a joint session of Congress Wednesday, playing down current frictions within the alliance and praising President Donald Trump’s effort to get Europe to pay more for its own defense.
This was more than just astute diplomacy: It was recognition that, despite the impression given by Trump’s many disparaging remarks about NATO, the U.S. has remained essentially supportive of trans-Atlantic security.
Since Trump took office, spending on the European Deterrence Initiative, the primary mechanism to counter Russian belligerence, has nearly doubled to more than $6 billion a year. More than 8,000 U.S. troops are rotating in and out of NATO bases in Eastern Europe, and the administration is in talks with Poland about building a permanent base there.
The U.S. is pushing to make the former Yugoslav republic now called North Macedonia NATO’s 30th member.
And it’s true that Trump’s admonishment of low-spending NATO allies has been productive. Several are now meeting the goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on their militaries, and more are on track to do so by the mid-2020s.
The allies themselves deserve credit for their investment in other NATO efforts as well. Canada, Germany and the U.K. are spearheading multinational quick-reaction forces in the Baltic states and Poland. The Europeans have been legitimate partners in the fight against Islamic State - France dispatched its lone aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf in support.
That said, as NATO celebrates its 70th anniversary and prepares for its December summit, much work is left to be done. and in the Arctic. NATO needs a strategy to address Russian information warfare and new cybersecurity threats posed by China.
And Turkey, which is sliding into Russia’s orbit, must be brought back into the fold.