Cooperation on European security issues
32 - Relations with the US on NATO and NATO reform
EU countries which are part of NATO have few objectives in common and sometimes even conflicting objectives, leaving the United States preside over NATO and European security.
Given that six member states are not members of NATO, the EU cannot have a truly common position vis-à-vis the organisation, in the sense of shared objectives for European security that would be negotiated with the US within NATO. The EU itself does not take an official position on NATO questions such as the 2010 Strategic Concept. EU countries that are members of NATO could with that caveat conceivably defend a “European position”, but they are divided over many fundamental issues regarding their own security, leaving Washington in the driver's seat of the organisation. Because Europeans have not identified common interests in NATO reform, it is difficult to evaluate their performance.
Indeed, in 2010, there was little agreement on the priorities for NATO reform and the new Strategic Concept. Central and eastern European countries insisted with the US on reassurance vis-à-vis Russia, following up on the secret defence plan “Eagle Guardian” revealed by WikiLeaks, while Western Europeans insisted on a conciliatory tone with Moscow. Germany and other countries questioned the presence and relevance of American tactical nuclear weapons on European soil, but that position was disputed by France and others in the run-up to the Lisbon summit in November. Europeans also maintained a half-hearted commitment to NATO expeditionary missions such as Afghanistan, and acquiesced to American preferences on cyber security and missile defence.
More generally, Americans have pretty much defined the agenda for reform and the direction taken by NATO in 2010, as in years gone by. Because of the economic crisis, most European countries decreased their defence expenditures, which led to a collective admonishment of NATO allies by the US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in February. Gates also abolished the US Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, leaving its NATO counterpart (the Allied Command Transformation) with no American equivalent. Europeans mostly want American protection under NATO and they get it – but they are dependent and subordinate actors in their own security.