“I believe that in the North Atlantic treaty lies the best, if not the only hope of peace.” Not my words, but the words of Lord Hastings Ismay, former military assistant to Winston Churchill and the very first secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
In the same 1952 broadcast, Ismay predicted “that there will be persistent efforts to drive a wedge between us” and “that we shall have our little quarrels”. Right now, those words seem remarkably prescient.
[A]t the political level, the ties that bind us are under strain. There are real differences between the US and other allies over issues such as trade, climate change and the Iran nuclear agreement.
These disagreements are real and they won’t disappear overnight….
It will take political will, imagination and hard work. But I believe we can succeed, for three simple reasons.
Firstly, differences of opinion are nothing new. We had them during the Suez crisis in 1956….
We are 29 democracies with different histories, geographies and cultures, so of course we sometimes disagree. But the historical record shows that, despite our differences, we have always been able to unite around our common goal: standing together and protecting each other.
The second reason we can preserve the transatlantic bond is what is happening in NATO today….
The US and Canada are stepping up their commitment to Europe’s security. In fact, since coming to office, the Trump administration has increased funding for the US presence in Europe by 40%….
This isn’t a one-way street. European allies, with the UK in the vanguard, are stepping up, too – spending billions more on defence and taking responsibility for Euro-Atlantic security alongside their North American allies.
The third and final reason I am hopeful the political storm clouds will pass is that it is in our profound interest to stay united.
Two world wars and a cold war have taught us this: together, Europe and North America are stronger, safer and more prosperous. That is why young American and Canadian soldiers fought on the western front in the first world war, and why their sons fought their way across the beaches of Normandy almost 30 years later….
I believe that we, as the west, must be confident. We must continue to work hard to settle our differences – and where differences persist, we must limit any negative impact on our security cooperation. We must continue to protect multilateral institutions like NATO, and continue to stand up for the international rules that have served us so well for so many decades.
Jens Stoltenberg is Secretary General of NATO.