70 years ... and prove them all

(To Walter Raleigh)
23/04/19

Like any war, even the Second World War has left its legacy; the new order, shaped by the winners, brought liberators to the most, and a new political, economic and strategic vision destined to last for those who could look more concretely to the future. The most violent conflict in human history opened the door to an institutionalism imbued with solid realism that provided precise addresses on the areas where then interests and competitions would develop.

The 4 April 1949 took shape the longest-lived political-military organization of the modern era, aimed at preventing and containing the Soviet expansion already feared three years earlier with the long telegram by George Kennan; the NATO constituent act consolidated the principle of collective defense, moreover invoked, pursuant to art. 5 for the first and only time the 11 September 2001 against the new enemy, radical terrorism, and however dangerously bound to a unanimity that could have (and could) disappear even for a single dissenting vote; the history of the '49 is known, as it has evolved with the Cold War as well; what should be understood, for the many unresolved questions, is the future.

That politics and strategy constituted the foundations of the Pact was soon evident: the geographical extension of the signatory countries far exceeded the area North Atlantic, imposing ever wider objectives. The globe, divided into areas of influence according to the addresses expressed by the Conferences of Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam, was divided by ideological and power faults which, in fact, characterized modern history up until the 1991, until the original reason for being the Alliance itself. But NATO is not alone militaria, it is also and above all policy in a global and integrated context, and the change in the security structure has repeatedly contributed to changing the appearance of an Alliance, often an expression of political developments within the members of the executive countries; the constantly evolving international situation, thanks to the Russian annexation of Crimea, has contributed to shifting the focus, bringing attention to all the possible fronts of instability, from the north-eastern border to the southern Mediterranean.

If it is true that the Alliance has nevertheless managed to guarantee peace especially in Europe, remodeling itself to be able to adapt to the various theaters from time to time, it is equally true that the critical points are still many, often internal to an Organization that it cannot ignore either the constant inflow of resources to an extent not less than 2% of national GDPs, nor even less to the active presence of the USA, conditioned by ambivalent and opposing internal policies. The latest challenge, in chronological order, is the European Defense, a potentially contradictory and not very complementary institutional conceptuality project, which brings with it two problems of considerable thickness that the eye-catching façade cannot hide from a closer look: who pays and especially who commands, given the British exit, and the possession of nuclear deterrence in the French hands.

Business is business...

NATO is strategically still indispensable for the security of its members, and able to provide stability in an international multi-polar and anarchist environment where the effectiveness of the Alliance is given by being, in fact and without alternatives, the means to ensure the Atlantic constraint with a common security space between old and new world; the advent of a US administration marked by anti-politics does not diminish the value nor of the Club nor of his partner most relevant.

As in all evolutionary realities, even NATO must continue to show itself adaptable to changes without, however, disregarding what was acquired in the past, if only to refer to historical memory and common identities; unanimity should not remain in a formal context, but constitute an inspiring principle of political constancy capable of ensuring uniformity of judgments and above all of actions. The problems, however, are not few, starting with the individual national budgets in contraction, passing through the unresolved problem linked to the competition between the US and European arms industries, ending with the dangerous drift of the historic Turkish ally.

As far as the economic aspect is concerned, it must be remembered that the sharing of the budget has always been a sore point for many States, and that American grievances must necessarily be interpreted in light of the fact that the expenses incurred for the war sector, even though they are at 3,5% of GDP, they are not entirely allocated to the Alliance, for which the US has recently contributed to the 22% of the total; mind you, this trend is not only stars and stripes, but it also concerns other countries more exposed to war vicissitudes (Turkey), unlike others that, even if in evident economic difficulties and with political guides apparently not compatible with the American ones, do not skimp on financing Atlantic (Greece). What is certain is that the distribution calculated on the Gross National Income is not respected: if this were the case, the Americans should contribute more than the 50%, which is not the case, and also an indicator based on the numerical quotient of the units used on the operating theaters , would show that there are countries more exposed than they should in relation to economic parameters (Italy), unlike cunning virtuosos, more careful to spend on strictly national needs (France).

NATO is committed to multiple fronts, starting with the Balkans, with actions that have aimed to goad the soft power Russian, to integrate Northern Macedonia, and to contain the consequences for the birth of a Kosovar army; also the MO has seen and sees a consistent NATO presence between Afghanistan, Iraq and in its time tragically in Libya, with active contacts also with UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait.

Faults ...

An active Alliance, therefore, but not always attentive to all situations; in fact, there are several fault points that call into question the Atlantic cohesion: the American based political posture on America first and on the unilateral agreements, aimed at safeguarding national interests and preserving the country from the Chinese threat, heightens the uncertainties of the Allies. In the North East, Russia is a reality that should not be underestimated, especially after the Ukrainian events and Western suspicions on the Skripal case; to the south the instability and fragmentation of the MENA area leads to consider the possibility of the resurgence of terrorist activities; the Alliance must find one squaring which allows it to evaluate the different situations, also in light of the different state nature of the various interlocutors. But the deepest and most dangerous fault concerns the front Turkish, expression of a country that is changing according to the assertive political direction impressed by Erdogan, committed on a double oven: Kurdish in Syria, Russian for supplies of incompatible arms for a country Atlantic. Finally, the Alliance's loss of credibility on the occasion of the attempted coup by 2016 should not be underestimated. escaped to the intelligence services of the various NATO operational bases on the Anatolian soil.

International dynamics, exalting less than in the past the US hegemonic role, lead to consider the relevance of new actors; China, with its expansion, is an example of it, so much so that it has become the true American competitor especially as regards technological development. The BIS (Belt and Road Initiative, the new Silk Road - ed) expresses economic - commercial interests very close to being of political and military importance, given the size of the investments. The weakening of internal cohesion within the Alliance, according to the changes in the endogenous economic and commercial balance in Europe, is therefore one of the factors to be considered to establish the lines of development of NATO, committed also to the threat of the cyber dimension, which operating domain is therefore part of the priorities in terms of collective defense in an area where ambiguity and lack of reference points reign supreme. However, it will be essential that the rediscovery of the Russian antagonist does not distract attention from the Chinese insurgency, never as now so willful. In this regard it cannot fail to consider the new geostrategic balance of economic - military power towards Asia, an aspect that contributes to Western political decadence: if the speed with which the transfer of power takes place is difficult to predict, the historical address of the change it is perfectly.

The military power is based on economic strength, and on this path traced by the USA with about 600 B USD of investment, China is starting with 215, followed at a distance by Russia with 70. In the Asia Pacific region, therefore, a diarchy is being created on which NATO analysts are focusing attention, consisting of the security guaranteed by the US, and the economic power assured by China, a situation capable of destabilizing the region.

Western uncertainties in providing useful answers have contributed to fragmenting the landscape, and laying the foundations for an unpredictable geostrategic environment, which could benefit from a formal opening with partnerships towards countries with mature democracies, but which do not lose sight of the Atlantic focus, unless we intend to reinforce the risk of removing Allies who are not so inclined to support further American military enterprises.

A possible future

We talked about the essential adaptability of the system; from this point of view, NATO will have to revise its position in global terms, considering the Chinese presence, strategically evaluating Russian regional proactivity, and assuming a more active commitment in the Pacific area, aimed at containing the Dragon. The attention given to the east towards the Russian side must be compensated by a greater care towards the southern front, a potential object of asymmetric but no less dangerous threats.

The international dynamics teach that no hypothesis can be neglected, therefore the political capacity, together with the military one, cannot leave out any cooperative possibility, where obviously it is feasible without compromises and where this can be functional to a common cause. In this perspective, joint intentions1 USA and NATO do not want to trigger a new one Cold War could clarify possible medium-long term developments, also in light of the exit from the INF Treaty2 and to the American propensity to use smaller tactical warheads but with greater possibility of use, a hypothesis contemplated by the current Russian military doctrine. Also our country has a non-secondary part in the general complex; such as play it it is quite another thing.

Italy pressed for the creation of NATO Strategic Direction South Hub3, intended to control events concerning the MENA area and the Subsahara, and able to confer a role in line with our geostrategic position; it is obvious that assuming such a significant task does not allow for amateurism: Italy would irreparably lose credibility and above all, part of its decision-making capacity in a geopolitical context that is not easy but of undoubted returns. Economic commitment in terms of GDP, together with the investments to be honored, are part of a capital that must be increased and well spent, but having the foresight to proceed with evaluations at 360 degrees.

Italian diplomacy, in the '49, achieved an admirable result: a defeated state which, at the same table as the winners, with an open view on all possible scenarios, planned a new future.

We do not want to make political assessments of part, the realist sentiment would not allow it, but it is beyond doubt that the value and the abilities of statesmen like Tarchiani, De Gasperi and Brosio, would be extremely useful and opportune even now.

1Statements made in a press conference by Kyron Skinner, head of the State Department's political planning department, and Benedetta Berti, political adviser to the NATO secretary general, head of her political planning department.

2Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

3In Naples

Photo: NATO / Presidency of the Council of Ministers / MoD People's Republic of China