Simmering differences in NATO

By Imran Khalid | Gwadar Pro Jul 8, 2023

Editor's Note: The writer is a freelance columnist on international affairs based in Karachi, Pakistan. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.

In yet another blatant display of the transatlantic military alliance's incompetence, Jens Stoltenberg, the incumbent NATO secretary general, has been granted yet another extension, now totaling four terms. This prolonged tenure signifies an outright failure to find a suitable replacement who can truly manage NATO.

As the world closely watches the escalating Russia-Ukraine conflict, the decision to retain Stoltenberg serves as an undeniable indication of the simmering divisions within NATO and, more pertinently, the tight control the United States maintains over the organization. In light of the forthcoming NATO summit in Vilnius, the fourth consecutive extension of Jens Stoltenberg, considered to be hot favorite of Washington, showcases a lack of genuine commitment to ensure a representative leadership. Instead, it underscores the hegemonic dominance of the United States, which manipulates NATO to further its own interests.

The perpetuation of Stoltenberg's tenure only serves to deepen the already pronounced fractures within the alliance, leaving smaller nations marginalized and their voices stifled. It is abundantly clear that NATO's primary purpose is to serve as a vehicle for American influence, rather than an equitable partnership among nations. Apparently, in the quest to find a successor for NATO's top slot, three potential challengers emerged on the surface. However, for various reasons, none of them managed to unseat Stoltenberg.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen were among the individuals considered for the role. Nevertheless, internal divisions and reservations within NATO, combined with the overbearing influence of the United States, ultimately sidelined these prominent candidates, effectively removing them from the race.

Wallace's chances were hindered by several factors. Some NATO allies expressed a preference for a person with prior experience as a head of state or government, while France adamantly wanted an EU representative, which the United Kingdom, having left the EU, could not fulfill. However, the most decisive setback for Wallace was the lack of support from the United States. Without the backing of the influential American presence, his candidacy was significantly weakened and ultimately unable to gain traction.

While Frederiksen appeared to be “best-fit” as a potential first female leader hailing from the EU, but many NATO members from the eastern flank, emphasizing a more robust stance against Russia, were more in favor of someone hailing from their region to assume the reins. Similarly, according to some reports, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, because of her tough stance against Russia as well as China, had strong backing of US President Joe Biden as the best candidate to lead NATO.

However, her handling of the German defense ministry has raised concerns as well as her chronic rivalry with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, jeopardized her prospects. But more than anything else, two key reasons helped Stoltenberg to again win the fourth extension in a row. One, his active role in aligning the 31 NATO member states, as well as non-NATO countries like Japan, South Korea, and Australia, to provide military and financial support to Ukraine, garnered him favor from the United States and other influential NATO members.

This cozy relationship, fueled by Stoltenberg's doggedness to advancing American agendas, has undoubtedly played a pivotal role in his repeated extensions. Furthermore, Stoltenberg's hawkish stance on China was the other major reason behind the decision to retain him at the helm of NATO. Under his stewardship, at the last year’s NATO summit, held in Spain, China was for the first time singled out as a "systemic challenge to Euro-Atlantic security" in NATO's strategic concept, aligning perfectly with the United States' portrayal of China as the "greatest threat to American security." Stoltenberg's willingness to toe the American line on China, further cementing NATO's position as a tool of US foreign policy, undoubtedly played a significant role in securing his continued leadership.

The US decision to select Stoltenberg for yet another term as NATO secretary general can be attributed to the approaching US election season and the substantial investment the US has made in the Ukrainian conflict for over a year. This diversion of resources from its intended competition with China has necessitated the urgent establishment of a compliant NATO. By ensuring Stoltenberg's continued leadership, the US aims to exert greater control over the alliance and redirect its focus towards serving American interests.

This move exemplifies the prioritization of short-term political gain over long-term strategic considerations, ultimately undermining the credibility and independence of NATO as a collective defense organization. These developments expose NATO's subservience to American interests, undermining the notion of a truly independent and cooperative alliance. Stoltenberg's tenure serves as a reminder that NATO's primary function is not the defense and well-being of its member states, but rather the promotion and protection of US hegemony on the global stage.

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