The images tell the story.
In the packed meeting rooms and hallways of Munich’s Hotel Bayerischer Hof last weekend, back-slapping allies pushed an agenda with the kind of forward-looking determination NATO had long sought to portray but just as often struggled to achieve. They pledged more aid for Ukraine. They revamped plans for their own collective defense.
Two days later in Moscow, Vladimir Putin stood alone, rigidly ticking through another speech full of resentment and lonely nationalism, pausing only to allow his audience of grim-faced government functionaries to struggle to their feet in a series of mandatory ovations in a cold, cavernous hall.
With the war in Ukraine now one year old, and no clear path to peace at hand, a newly unified NATO is on the verge of making a series of seismic decisions beginning this summer to revolutionize how it defends itself while forcing slower members of the alliance into action.
The decisions in front of NATO will place the alliance — which protects 1 billion people — on a path to one the most sweeping transformations in its 74-year history. Plans set to be solidified at a summit in Lithuania this summer promise to revamp everything from allies’ annual budgets to new troop deployments to integrating defense industries across Europe.
The goal: Build an alliance that Putin wouldn’t dare directly challenge.
Yet the biggest obstacle could be the alliance itself, a lumbering collection of squabbling nations with parochial interests and a bureaucracy that has often promised way more than it has delivered. Now it has to seize the momentum of the past year to cut through red tape and crank up peacetime procurement strategies to meet an unpredictable, and likely increasingly belligerent Russia. [Continue reading…]