The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO): A Year of Triumphs
2022 has been a remarkable year for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, NATO has shown its strength and unity. Two new members, Finland and Sweden (pending final approval), have joined the alliance, and NATO has provided crucial support to the Ukrainian military. This support includes weapons systems, ammunition, training, and intelligence, all of which have greatly aided Ukraine in repelling the Russian invaders. The leadership of nations like the United States, the United Kingdom, the Baltic states, and Poland has played a pivotal role in making this possible, even convincing more reluctant counterparts (ahem … Germany) to join the cause.
Now, with the appointment of a new NATO leader, we have the opportunity to reward this faction while protecting American interests in Europe and taking a smaller role on the continent. However, the Biden administration has missed this historic opportunity by rejecting the best candidate for the job.
The Need for a New Approach
The position of NATO secretary general, currently held by Norway’s Jens Stoltenberg, is typically filled by someone from the European political elite. Stoltenberg has been a solid leader, promoting greater defense spending and coordination within the alliance. However, with significant geopolitical changes underway, NATO needs a new approach. The alliance should focus on deterring further Russian aggression, ensuring all members meet or exceed the minimum 2 percent of GDP threshold for defense spending, actively preparing for threats to the European community, and reorienting itself to NATO’s critical eastern front.
Theaters of competition and conflict in the coming years will extend beyond Ukraine and the Baltic states. Europe will face greater Russian efforts to sow discord in the Balkans, the Baltic Sea, and the Arctic. The new NATO leader must be clear-eyed and decisive in confronting Russian aggression, a key aspect of the alliance since the Cold War.
The Ideal Candidate: Ben Wallace
Considering their exceptional performance during the Ukraine war, the most serious pro-Ukraine bloc, including the U.K. and Eastern European nations, should have a significant say in the next NATO secretary general. British Defense Minister Ben Wallace emerges as a strong candidate for this crucial position. He has the support of his own government, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who endorsed his candidacy in meetings with President Biden.
Wallace’s military experience and tenure as defense minister have made him a leader in supporting Ukraine and advancing military affairs in Europe. He has built deep ties with counterparts across the NATO alliance, especially those on the eastern front. The Eastern Europeans support Wallace for the job, aligning with the need for a new, more eastern-looking NATO policy.
A Missed Opportunity
Surprisingly, the Biden administration has reportedly scuttled Wallace’s nomination, denying him their backing for the position. This decision is inexcusable and a disappointment to our closest ally, the U.K. The White House seems to prefer other candidates, despite the overwhelming support for Wallace. By extending Stoltenberg’s tenure, the administration is missing a chance to reorient our foreign policy and address the challenges of the future.
Appointing Wallace as NATO secretary general would allow the U.S. to focus on the Indo-Pacific while securing our European interests. With the large overlap between British and American interests in Europe, Wallace would be able to protect those interests without constant American involvement. There would be no appeasement of Russia or underfunding of defense. Germany and other nations would be pushed to contribute their fair share. A fresh start is needed in NATO, and Wallace is the leader who can embrace the vision for success in this rapidly changing future.
Unfortunately, the Biden administration has failed this major foreign policy test. The consequences of this missed opportunity will be felt in Europe and the Indo-Pacific for years to come.
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