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Q&A – Tomas Valasek

Director of Carnegie, Europe, Brussels

Founded in April 1949, Nato has gone from the Cold War era to the age of Donald Trump. monocle spoke to Tomas Valasek, director of the Carnegie Europe think-tank in Brussels and Slovakia’s former permanent representative to Nato, about the alliance at 70.

Is Nato still effective in 2019?
Absolutely. It is in the business of deterrence, which means that you only hear about it when it fails. Deterrence is difficult to explain, especially if Russia is not on your doorstep: if you’re in Portugal, you worry about very different things from Estonians. Building consensus between 29 members requires governments to put themselves in the shoes of others.

What is the main challenge for the alliance now?
The US seems less committed to defending the other 28 members than at any point in Nato’s history. Donald Trump does not believe in alliances. Some members want a European alternative but replacing the US in the short term is impossible.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learnt about how Nato functions?
There is a lot of hot air in diplomatic circles about unity of values. The reality is that we are very different countries with different security cultures. Nato is a strong alliance not because of unity between member states but despite differences. The bargaining that happens on an hourly basis keeps it ticking.

Where will the alliance be in 2030?
Wherever its members want it to be. The beauty of Nato is its flexibility. It is the go-to organisation for democracies to turn to with whatever task comes up, from defence to stability.


Going it alone

UK — Brexit

British securocrats have generally been in agreement on Brexit: there is no “good” scenario. “The harder the Brexit, the greater the damage,” said John Sawers, former head of mi6. Former national security adviser Peter Ricketts, who sits in the House of Lords, was more terse: a no-deal Brexit, he said, would create “a really serious and immediate problem for British national security”.

London has enjoyed a unique and privileged position in global security circles. The UK is the only country in the world that is a member of Nato, the Five Eyes intelligence alliance and (as monocle went to press) the EU. It also has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. With Brexit, one of those legs will be kicked away.

As a member of the EU, the UK is also a member of Europol, the European Arrest Warrant and the Schengen Information System (known as sis 2). The Arrest Warrant allows the UK to request the detention and extradition of wanted criminals in other EU jurisdictions, and vice versa, while the sis 2 allows passport data to be transferred between countries, helping security forces track criminals or persons of interest. After Brexit the UK will automatically leave these bodies and will have to renegotiate access; even if successful, this would almost certainly be on a reduced scale.

One area that shouldn’t be affected, however, is mainstream defence. The UK is Europe’s largest defence spender and one of only two countries on the continent with a nuclear deterrent, along with France. It will also remain a member of Europe’s primary defence alliance, Nato. The UK government has expressed a willingness to take part in some future EU military operations. But Westminster’s strong opposition to an EU army will cease to matter, which means closer co-operation between remaining member states could become a reality. But that will be of no benefit to the UK.


Blown apart

Global — Security

Since 1987 the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (Inf) has forbidden the US and Russia from building short and medium-range nuclear missiles. In February the US declared that Russia was in violation of its terms and that it would withdraw within six months – so Russia said that it would too.

Both could resume the manufacture of such missiles – but is there any point? “Russia will build them to intimidate Europe and dislodge America from the defence of Europe,” says Tom Nichols, professor of security affairs at the US Naval War College.

US advocates of ending the treaty say that it stops their country from keeping up with China, which was never bound by it. “When you ask the question, the answer is, ‘Build the missiles, then we’ll figure out what to do with them,’” says Nichols. “It’s the military-industrial complex in zombie mode.”


Price: $15bn (€13bn) Delivery date: 2028 and 2032.

In the basket 01

Aircraft carriers

Our new regular feature keeps you abreast of the most significant recent deals.

In the basket: Two Ford-class aircraft carriers: the uss Enterprise and another yet to be named.
Who’s buying: The US navy.
Who’s selling: Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.

These will be the third and fourth Ford-class aircraft carriers (the first is set to go to sea in 2022; the second is under construction). Each ship can put more combat jets in the air than many airforces – and this purchase is similar to Canada’s annual defence budget.

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