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The Maastricht Diplomat

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[Politico] NATO members fall short concluding as end of four-day summit nears

Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) struggled to find common ground regarding four main themes, on Saturday morning, with some members urging the assembly to focus on consensus, a necessary step towards drafting a final resolution.

Following Friday’s debates on the definition of cyber warfare, lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs), increasing cyber resilience by deploying in-person measures at the Eastern flank, and sharing intelligence with other members, the NATO states continued to call each other out on their differences in opinion, struggling to decide on common definitions, strategies, and compromise and focusing on formalities and deferring blame instead.

The lack of consensus was reflected in the assembly’s struggle to agree on a topic of conversation at the beginning of the meeting. What started off as a promising address to tie up loose ends, quickly deteriorated into states promoting their own proposals and declaring that they “are not the problem”, as Greece insisted during talks on sharing intelligence with other NATO members.

“The Hellenic Republic simply has reason to suspect that there is the potential for abuse of access to certain information from that certain member of the alliance”, Greece’s representative told Politico. Greece did not want to disclose which member they were referring to but Politico has reason to believe that it is Türkiye, based on the unresolved dispute over the Aegean Islands.

Britain reminded Greece that NATO is an alliance, and some extent of intelligence sharing is hence expected. 

Germany called out Greece for “excusing themselves” from solving disagreements with members, stating that they may in fact “become a problem if they do not want to solve it.” Türkiye was once again absent from the discussion and did not have the opportunity to defend itself. 

Upon the United States’ suggestion to increase the intensity of training and integrate existing agencies and expert opinions into a NATO response against cyber attacks rather than starting from the ground up, France declared, “the US has questions, France has the answers” and proposed opening an office in charge of the coordination of cyber warfare within existing structures, which would supposedly prevent creating more bureaucracy. Greece reminded France that any assignment of new responsibilities to a NATO office creates more bureaucracy. 

Representatives of the member states are not on the same page, as proven by France referring to a “secret document” that sparked question marks on other members’ faces. During informal conversations, member states gathered around France to catch a look of the secret document. While discussing amendments to this document, dissent arose between Slovakia and France, with France accusing the Eastern European nation of being too concerned about not appearing like a threat to its Eastern neighbors.  

Slovakia urges the assembly to remember that there is a delicate balance at the Eastern flank that needs to be upheld to not further threaten Eastern neighbors.

Canada in turn raised their voice at Slovakia, asking “we are the threat?” and highlighting that NATO needs to ensure that no member is attacked. 

Lithuania corroborated, declaring that they are not surprised by Slovakia’s attempt to undermine action against Russian aggression. Slovakia clarified that NATO should focus on deterrence at the Eastern flank and reminded NATO of ist peace-keeping and defensive status. France called out Slovakia for using the term “Eastern front” instead of “Eastern flank”, highlighting that NATO is not at war.

During a press conference, France reiterates their argument of cutting non-native English speakers some slack, explaining that Slovakia has trouble with the English language, therefore confusing the term “Eastern flank” with “Eastern front”. On Friday, France had been called out for harsh phrasing of their stance on civilian deaths during war operations and had resorted to blaming their lack of eloquence in English and the heat of the debate for their controversial expressions. Slovakia had no choice but to confirm France’s statement to avoid misrepresenting NATO’s intentions as hostility towards the East. 

At the end of this meeting, NATO members were only able to agree on the necessity of more and intensified military drills in case of cybersecurity breaches to increase resilience at the Eastern flank. The drills are meant to harmonize a common response to a common threat and integrate experts from non-state agencies. Spain also pointed out that common drills can increase unison without the need of sharing intelligence and could provide an opportunity for some nations to fix their relations. 

On definitions and LAWs, NATO remained split. “There is an element of deterrence in not strictly defining cyber warfare”, the United States told the press, circumventing accusations of being too hung up on formalities to formulate a joint response to threats. Washington D.C. also remains the only proponent of LAWs. 

With the end of the four-day NATO summit nearing, pressure to find consensus and make compromises is high. While NATO members coordinated a unified statement in front of the press, doubts remain about their ability to work out their differences in opinion and draft a final resolution that appeases all members.

EuroMUN Committee: North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)


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