Pamela Hurt, Forecast International.
A day after meeting with President Trump at the White House, NATO head Jens Stoltenberg discussed the unique challenges of a time when the line between peace and war is increasingly unclear.
“Before, it was easy to distinguish whether it was war or peace,” the Secretary General stated, during a talk on Thursday, at George Washington University. Now “there is a much more blurred line between peace and war,” he said, observing that in past conflicts, war occurred in identifiable geographical areas, and within defined periods of time.
That clarity is now often absent.
The hybrid nature of contemporary war explains why the physical battlefield is no longer easily defined. Nation-states and terrorist groups make use of a menu of tactical choices—conventional, irregular, terroristic, and criminal—modulating these approaches situationally. The “theater of battle” is in Syria, until it’s in Sweden, or Egypt, or France. Terrorism gives war a global reach without the need for long-range aircraft or missiles.
Undeclared wars, proxy wars, non-state actors, and aggressions carried out in cyberspace—all bend the meaning of war in time and space. Cyber warfare—a particular focus in the General Secretary’s remarks—expands the contemporary battlefield virtually everywhere, encircling and attacking military targets and civilians alike. (Even a voting booth can become a foreign adversary’s tactical tool.)
Mr. Stoltenberg’s apparently positive meeting with President Trump was just one highlight of a busy week for NATO and the U.S.
On Tuesday, nine countries from the EU and NATO, including the U.S., signed a Memorandum of Understanding to set up a center in Helsinki to develop ways to most effectively counter increasing threats of cyber attacks, propaganda, and disinformation.
On Thursday, a battalion of NATO troops, led by U.S. military personnel, arrived in Poland, to reinforce that country’s border with Russia. In response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and other threatening actions, NATO plans to set up a “tripwire”—eventually to consist of four NATO battalions.
In his talk with students at GW, Secretary General Stoltenberg pointed to NATO’s huge success for nearly 70 years—keeping uninterrupted peace in NATO countries since 1949. “Europe was traditionally the Middle East of Europe. We were fighting…each other for centuries.”
Perhaps President Trump has decided that NATO has some valuable knowledge and resources—that it is worthy of U.S. membership—after all. Perhaps there is a good basis for that newfound point of view.
Note: The NATO alliance was established with the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty—also known as the Washington Treaty—on April 4, 1949, in Washington, DC.
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Sources: CSPAN, Reuters, DW.com (Deutsche Welle)