NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has a problem in the North Atlantic. It is not prepared for Russian aggression, at either the strategic or the tactical level. This can be seen in the nonchalant way the alliance regards key strategic choke points in the Atlantic, in particular the waters around the island nation of Iceland in the north Atlantic and Portugal’s Azores islands in the mid-Atlantic. It can also be seen in the individual fiscal commitments towards defense by individual NATO nations. For instance, Germany currently spends only about 1.2 percent of its GDP on its defense and Iceland spends only about 0.1 percent of its GDP. This is troubling, given the Russian threat that looms on the horizon.
NATO may soon find itself at risk because of its inattention to the key geographical feature that dominates its structure. To be clear, this is not the European continent, with 27 countries that make up the preponderance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The nations that belong to the alliance in Europe are contiguous to one another and largely integrated in their mutual defense, such as it is in an era when defense spending amounts to 2 percent of GDP or less. No, the area of risk for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is in the moat that separates Europe from its large, defense-minded neighbor, the United States, in North America. It’s the Atlantic Ocean that presents the alliance’s highest risk — or, rather, the alliance’s lack of focus on the critical task of maintaining access to it, and NATO’s shaky awareness of the critical importance of the key geographic features in Iceland and the Azores.
Read the full op-ed in National Review.
More from CNAS
VideoUnited States Military Strategy Should Better Match Interests, Says Defense Research Expert
Becca Wasser discusses how U.S. military strategy has been linked to outdated priorities and should better reflect the country’s interests, including protection of the homelan...
By Becca Wasser
CommentarySpiking the Problem: Developing a Resilient Posture in the Indo-Pacific With Passive Defenses
This article originally appeared in War on the Rocks....
By Stacie Pettyjohn
CommentarySecuring the Global Digital Economy Beyond the China Challenge
A revised route to digital modernization, premised on open participation, can not only offset the local costs of China’s cyber and influence power, but pave the way for an equ...
By Ainikki Riikonen
CommentaryThe Unmet Promise of the Global Posture Review
The review missed an opportunity to realign U.S. military presence overseas with the strategic priorities laid out in the interim National Security Strategic Guidance....
By Becca Wasser