NATO Membership Means Transatlantic Citizenship
As a dual citizen from the U.S. and U.K., the transatlantic relationship has been a defining part of my life, and the security and cooperation that NATO provides is so seamless that I’ve never thought about what life would be without it. I’ve experienced life on both sides of the Atlantic, and as someone who has studied security policy. I’ve seen and learned how the day-to-day work that is so vital to maintaining a strong transatlantic relationship remains so hidden. But we can thank recent events – particularly those involving Russia – for showing us how relevant NATO is, and for showing us a glimpse of what life would be without NATO. Yet NATO’s relevance comes in more ways than just as a counter to an aggressive Russia. Its real value is rooted in its ability to address threats that are amongst us and are bubbling up around the world. Just in the last few years, the transatlantic security relationship has been integral to fighting piracy off the horn of Africa, building up domestic forces for security in Afghanistan, protecingt civilians in Libya, and providing security in Kosovo – all while simultaneously providing the mechanism and framework for counter-terrorism and intelligence sharing. The key to making NATO stronger in the future isn’t to find new missions for it; it is to pursue the important missions they are already doing better and to be ready and agile for the next set of challenges that will one day face the world. NATO needs to update its interoperability and learn from and improve upon its recent engagements. Future threats will likely be more relevant to recent transatlantic security missions, than to tank exercises leftover from the 1960s. While I’m a dual citizen, I grew up in New Mexico – about as far away as it gets from twenty-first century threats or even the Atlantic Ocean for that matter. Yet ordinary Americans like me are at the heart of preserving and strengthening the alliance. That said, Americans are confused about NATO’s role. A 2014 poll conducted by YouGov showed a huge gap in support for defending different NATO allies. 56% of Americans believe we should defend the UK if it was attacked by Russia, but only 21% percent believe we should defend Latvia. Yet we are obligated by Article V to defend any member under attack. That means we are obligated to defend both Latvia and the UK no matter what. Europeans understand that, (though getting European countries fully to fund their militaries is a different question) but if NATO were better understood in the U.S., and the idea of sharing the defensive burden was discussed and its advantages applauded instead of criticized, then the most successful military relationship in history would have the hope of getting the American support it needs. I know this isn’t just the British passport in me talking – Americans need NATO too. We live in an interconnected world where one country can’t do it all, especially not when partners are able to help, or are in need of help.
Devorah West is an Insight Development Research Associate at Sustainable Brands.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.