The UK cannot be complacent about the continuing existence of NATO: a world without the alliance would be even more fractious and less secure, while giving up on NATO would be “whimsical, reckless, self-harming and self-defeating”, argues a new Policy Exchange paper, Remaking the Case for NATO: Collective Security and the British National Interest ahead of this week’s crucial summit in Brussels. As the NATO summit opens in Brussels and President Trump prepares to visit the UK, both the alliance and the UK’s role within it require urgent political attention. The importance of NATO to British national security cannot be overstated and government must show more confidence in Britain’s leading role within it. There is no viable successor to NATO as the guarantor of European security or the foundation stone of transatlantic unity.
The report recommends that: If the UK government takes the health and survival of NATO seriously, the absolute bare minimum it must do is to commit to a graduated increase in defence spending that breaks free from the 2% threshold, while also signalling a willingness to make further leaps towards 3% should the geopolitical situation demand it. This will enable the UK to lead the way to quell American concerns about the failure of European partners to commit more funds to their own national defence, both at the summit and during President Trump’s visit next weekend, to put the vital relationship with the United States on a firmer long-term footing. After Brexit, the UK’s commitment to the defence of Europe should continue through the NATO framework, and the UK should discourage any further attempts at against closer EU defence integration that duplicate or compete with the transatlantic alliance. The UK must also be a forceful advocate for a revived twenty-first century western alliance, given that the biggest threats to NATO’s cohesion currently come from within. Apathy, historical amnesia and wishful thinking are three enemies of NATO that need to be tackled head on by government and all political parties.