March 28, 2017

The UK and the Western alliance: NATO in the new era of realpolitik

Policy Exchange’s Britain in the World project publishes a paper by John Bew and Gabriel Elefteriu examining the future of NATO.

Professor John Bew, Head of Policy Exchange’s Britain in the World Project said:

“We need NATO now more than ever, but the alliance is not just threatened by external events – but by internal fragmentation. It is NATO that forms the bedrock of the western alliance. We let it unravel at our peril.

“As I will tell the Defence Committee today, we need a new grand strategic rethink for NATO that addresses its role in the Western alliance more broadly – one that goes beyond practical questions of efficiency, balance sheets and coalition management and addresses today’s changing political realities.

“When it comes to the security of the Western world, post-Brexit Britain can and should still play an active and responsible role in European affairs.”

The paper argues that current events, from Russian aggression to the EU’s internal politics, mean that NATO is weakening at a time when security challenges are growing:

  • NATO needs a new Strategic Concept, which must go back to first principles and consider the future of the Western Alliance against the backdrop of instability in the Middle East and North Africa, the rising power of Asia and a resurgent Russia
  • Britain should lead those discussions, as NATO’s foremost European champion – and should start by increasing our defence spending above the current commitment of 2% of GDP
  • The EU ambition for ‘strategic autonomy’ from Washington is one of the factors which has undermined the cohesiveness of NATO
  • NATO’s future is best served by less emphasis on expanding its membership and more on dynamic action by its existing members, in the face of a rapidly changing threat environment.

This paper was submitted to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee as evidence to their inquiry into US, NATO and UK defence relations.

Professor Bew will be giving oral evidence to the Committee on Tuesday 28th March 2017.

The report was featured in the Express in an article entitled EU Army would ‘UNDERMINE’ Nato as shock report warns it is ‘WEAKENING’. Read the article here.


John Bew

Head of Britain in the World

Gabriel Elefteriu

Director of Strategy and Space Policy

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