Nato came into being in 1949 just after the Berlin blockade enforced by the Soviet leader Josef Stalin was lifted. The alliance had a significant purpose at that time; to thwart the ambitions of Soviet Russia under Stalin to spread communism in Europe. Seventy years down the line, much of the old aim has been rendered redundant as the Soviet Union has collapsed and fresh challenges like the domination of China and funding of the alliance have emerged. USA Today reported that President Trump, since taking over as president, has accused Nato members of insufficiently paying their share to sustain an alliance that contributes to Europe's security.

Divergent views

Trump is not the only fly in the ointment. Two of the most powerful members of the alliance Germany and France do not see eye to eye. The French would like to remove the focus from Russia as an enemy and focus on anti-terrorism. It is reported that the French President Macron referred to Nato as "brain dead." CNN reported that Trump is not the only spoiler at this meeting in London and other leaders including president Erdogan and Macron are on divergent paths.

The biggest grouse by the French is about the actions of Turkey, also a member of Nato.

The French president has not approved of Turkey's action of invading the Kurdish areas in Syria. The USA is also not happy that President Erdogan has negotiated to purchase the S400 missile system from Russia. Despite all efforts by Trump, the Turkish president has not backtracked.

The alliance

The meeting this time comes at a time when many are questioning the utility of the alliance. The USA would like a greater focus on China. By a combination of trade and soft loans, the Chinese are making deep inroads in traditional areas of the west's influence in Asia and Africa.

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In contrast, the East European countries would like the focus to remain on Russia.

There is no denying the fact that the world has changed beyond measure since 1949. The scenario at that time was a monolith Russia breathing down the neck of the western powers and it was real. As it stands, no western power wants a clash with Russia. The French president has gone a step further and wants to change the focus from Russia to anti-terrorism.

The US president has his own view on Nato as well. Though he has moderated his pre-election campaign view that Nato was "obsolete" he has been insisting on a greater financial contribution by the members.

He would also like a greater focus on China whose Belt and Road scheme has unnerved the west.

Many feel that Nato has outlived its utility. 2019 is not 1949 and the political environment is different. The biggest danger to the west from Communist Russia has gone and though Putin remains an adversary, the bigger challenge is from China.

Future

With the exit of the UK from the EU imminent, the western alliance will need to do a lot of soul searching so that it can remain relevant in the present political scenario.

The meeting this week will be an attempt to iron out the differences in a changing world. Nato will have to readjust its priorities and most nations will have to realize the USA is not going to bankroll their defense for all time to come. In 1949 the focus was Europe but now it's global. One will have to wait and see if the message sinks into the EU and Nato leadership.

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