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How Will the Growing U.S.-European Split Affect NATO?

March 17, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

An array of news stories over the past two weeks confirms that
Washington’s NATO allies are increasingly defiant toward U.S.
policy objectives that they consider misguided or merely
inconvenient. One prominent blow came when Turkey finalized its
purchase of S-400 air defense missiles. Trump administration
officials had told President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s
government for months that executing that deal was unacceptable.
Not only would the S-400s be incompatible with systems that other
NATO members were deploying, thus undermining a coordinated NATO
air defense, but the purchase symbolized a disturbingly cozy
relationship that was developing between Turkey and Russia. The
administration warned its Turkish ally that “ grave consequences ” would occur unless
Ankara backed away from the sale. Yet Erdogan seems intent on
ignoring Washington’s thinly veiled
threat.

Other NATO allies appear rather uncooperative as
well—especially on U.S. efforts to confront and isolate
Moscow. Speaking at a conference on March 10, Italian prime
minister Giuseppe Conte stated that he was working to end international
economic sanctions against Russia. Those measures, which the
Western powers imposed on Moscow following Vladimir Putin’s
decision to annex Crimea in 2014, remain a high priority for
Washington. Conte’s coalition government, though, argues that
the measures are ineffective in getting Putin to capitulate and
have become an end in themselves. Meanwhile, Italian officials
complain that the restrictions needlessly hurt Italy’s
economy. Conte is hardly alone in his negative view of the
sanctions. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, has made similar arguments for months , and
other countries , including Belgium, the Czech
Republic, Bulgaria, and Greece, show signs of restlessness, with
officials expressing increasingly critical sentiments about the
sanctions strategy.

European officials and
their publics are finally realizing that while American and
European interests overlap, they are not congruent.

The NATO allies are even less enthusiastic about confrontational
military measures toward Moscow. Vice President Mike Pence
discovered that reality in February when he tried to enlist German Chancellor Angela Merkel to send
warships to test the Kremlin’s assertion that the Kerch
Strait is now Russian territorial waters. The strait, which
connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, separates
Russia’s Taman Peninsula from the Crimea Peninsula. Despite
Moscow’s annexation of the latter in 2014, Kiev still
considers Crimea to be Ukrainian territory and the Kerch Strait to
be an international waterway, a position that the United States and
its allies back. In November 2018, three Ukrainian ships tried to
force a transit of the strait without giving forty-eight
hours-notice and receiving the explicit permission that Moscow
requires. Russian security personnel fired on two of the …read more

Source: OP-EDS