Amidst political disunity, military spending set to grow by $400 billion and NATO reaches out into space

A review of the NATO Leaders’ Meeting, London, 3-4 December 2019

By Dr. Ian Davis, NATO Watch

Key activities and decisions taken:

  • NATO’s disunity was reflected in the lack of a summit communique and instead, an anodyne 9-point London Declaration was agreed.
  • An expert group “reflection process” under the leadership of the NATO Secretary General is to be established to “further strengthen NATO’s political dimension”.
  • The leaders discussed NATO’s coordinated approach to three strategic issues—relations with Russia, the rise of China and arms control—without making any new commitments.
  • There has been a fifth consecutive year of growth in military spending across European allies and Canada, and an estimated accumulated increase in spending by 2024 of $400 billion. 
  • NATO’s Readiness Initiative has been achieved: 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons, and 30 combat ships are now available to NATO within 30 days.
  • Space was formally acknowledged as the fifth domain of warfare for the alliance (a decision already taken by NATO defence and foreign ministers), following up on the 2016 pronouncement of cyber as a warfare domain.
  • A new action plan was agreed to step up NATO’s efforts in the fight against terrorism (although no details were released).
  • New security standards for telecommunications infrastructure, including 5G, were agreed (a decision already taken by NATO defence ministers in October).
  • Several other measures previously agreed by the defence and foreign ministers were also apparently signed-off, including measures to enhance protection of energy infrastructure, ensure the alliance’s technological edge and to step up the response to hybrid threats—although much of the detail on these measures remain outside of the public domain.
  • There appeared to be no discussion of NATO’s new (classified) Military Strategy that was approved by NATO’s Chiefs of Defence in May 2019 (see NATO Watch Observatory No.50).
  • After three consecutive years of summits, the leaders agreed to meet again in 2021.

NATO’s Leaders’ Meeting took place on the 4 December 2019 at the Grove Hotel, Hertfordshire, and a separate evening reception took take place at Buckingham Palace on 3 December. Thus, what was initially billed as a major summit celebrating NATO’s 70th anniversary, was downgraded to a meeting with only one session of the North Atlantic Council. Nonetheless, the meeting came at a vital time in the alliance’s 70-year history as the global security environment becomes increasingly unpredictable and unstable, not least because of disruptive leaders within the alliance itself.

In a Trump-friendly agenda designed to hide disunity and avoid the kind of clashes between the US and European allies that marred last years’ Brussels Summit, the leaders held a strategic discussion on Russia, the future of arms control and the rise of China. They also reviewed the readiness of allied forces, space policy, counter terrorism and ongoing efforts to achieve fairer burden sharing within the alliance.

Read the attached pdf briefing to find out more.

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