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Two remarkable points from the NATO Secretary General’s press conference preceding the NATO Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on November 20, 2019: NATO is preparing for wars in space. And is facing up to China.

Already in 2018 the Allies had identified space as an “essential element for deterrence and defence.” Now it is to be recognized as the Alliance’s fifth area of operation – alongside land, sea, air and cyber.

Jens Stoltenberg: “Space is essential to the Alliance’s defence and deterrence. For early warning, communication and navigation. Around 2,000 satellites currently orbit the Earth. Around half are owned by NATO countries. So, recognising space as an operational domain will be a clear sign that we continue to strengthen our deterrence and defence in all areas.” But NATO’s approach is “defensive and fully in line with international law.” “NATO has no intention of launching weapons into space.”



NATO will seek to assess the impact of China’s economic rise and foreign policy on the security of the Alliance. “We see that China will soon have the largest economy in the world. They have the second largest defence budget. China is investing heavily in modern military capabilities, including new advanced intercontinental missiles, hypersonic weapons, gliders and so on. So, of course, these are important military capabilities that affect our security.” In addition: “China is getting closer to us. We see it in Africa, in the Arctic, China is investing in infrastructure in Europe and also in cyberspace,” said the NATO Secretary General.


Preparing for the London Jubilee Summit

Overall, the working meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers will take place on December 3 and 4. Thus, the usual suspects are not missing from the Foreign Ministers’ agenda: a review of progress since the 2018 Brussels Summit (including the Readiness Initiative), the fight against international terrorism, the positioning vis-à-vis Russia, which is increasingly perceived as destabilizing, discussions on the future of arms control agreements. On the subject of burden sharing, the Secretary General is expected to give an overview of the latest figures on defence spending. “For the fifth consecutive year, we are seeing higher defence spending by European allies and Canada. With more than 100 billion dollars more invested in defence. This is unprecedented progress,” says Stoltenberg.

The NATO Secretary General did not ignore any of the usual allergens. Without getting to the core. Syria, for example. “The situation in northern Syria and northeastern Syria remains precarious and difficult and extremely complex. But at least it is a step forward in that we have seen at least a decrease in violence so far. We must build on that to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis.” What this might look like remains to be seen.

Just as one deals with an ally that puts the solidarity of the others to the test in three locations (Northern Syria and the sea area west of Cyprus as well as through extravagant arms projects). The implementation of a greater responsibility of Europe to stand up for its own security remains a delicate issue. And in which it is apparently necessary to position oneself between greater autonomy (the credo from Paris) and the A2A formula (ability to act) invoked by the German Defence Minister. And, as an intervention by a French journalist shows, Berlin’s reaction to the French president’s diagnosis seemed to have highly irritated the neighbour. “So do we need some resignations, or should we downplay France’s comments, as Germany has done by accusing France of wanting to sabotage NATO? Is that the right response?” asked the representative of Agence France-Presse.

Stoltenberg, on the other hand, makes it clear that “to address strategic security challenges NATO remains the only guarantor of European and transatlantic security. And it is the responsibility of each of us to maintain and strengthen our unity. In order to ensure credible deterrence and defence for all of us.” And he wants to come to Paris next week. Probably to discuss therapy models. For example, recourse to nuclear medicine – the concession of the “force de frappe?”

Emmanuel Macron’s analysis seems correct in view of the powerlessness of the European forces. And in the motive to be imputed to him to want to advance their strengthening. The critical point is that Paris could do just that for secession. Quasi “by tradition.”

And whether the appropriate treatment of space and China should or can give NATO the decisive (brain-) life-securing impulses is not the question. Rather, it is about the fact that in the abstinence of stimulating interventions from the other side of the Atlantic, the Europeans in NATO (as for themselves) must present the topics themselves and deliver. Solutions included.

Hans Uwe Mergener