klich5_ Jaap ArriensNurPhoto via Getty Images_stoltenberg Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

NATO’s Stoltenberg Paradox

The United States and its European NATO allies disagree on many important issues, but their cooperation within the Alliance is better than it has been in years. Poland and the rest of NATO’s Eastern flank in particular hope that this paradox persists.

WARSAW – As it turns 70, NATO is facing its most severe challenges since the Cold War ended nearly three decades ago. The Alliance has been rocked by Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its invasion of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine; US President Donald Trump’s stinging criticism; and the United Kingdom’s Brexit-fueled metamorphosis into Little England. Despite these setbacks, NATO has significantly strengthened its commitment to Central and Eastern Europe in recent years. Yet it needs to do more. 

True, the United States and its European NATO allies disagree on important issues such as defense spending, trade, climate change, and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal – as the Alliance’s current secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, acknowledged during a recent visit to Warsaw. But, as Stoltenberg correctly pointed out, military cooperation within NATO is better than it has been in years. This “Stoltenberg Paradox” is arguably most evident in NATO’s progressive strengthening of its Eastern flank, including in Poland.

Stoltenberg justifiably highlights NATO’s recent reforms. For example, the Alliance has built up its new Very High Readiness Joint Task Force. In addition, NATO has developed a series of large-scale military exercises along its Eastern flank to show Russia that the Alliance treats its obligations toward each member state seriously. This is especially important for Poland and the Baltic states, all of which have a border with Russia.

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