Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst is a former British Army Officer, doctor, lawyer, and Conservative activist in the West Midlands.
Today, on a cold winter morning, the 29 Western leaders will meet at the former home of the Earls of Clarendon. The Grove Hotel will, of course, be the venue for the 70th Anniversary Summit of the most successful alliance in history; NATO.
For most of its 70 year existence, the fundamental tenets of the alliance have been resolutely agreed to with unquestioning support. However, in recent times that has shifted. In an increasingly unstable geopolitical climate, rather than being united behind shared priorities, there are dissenting voices, both at home and abroad, who seek to undermine the alliance and its accomplishments.
There are a number of issues facing the alliance when they meet this week. High amongst them are The Three Presidential Problems, if you will.
President Trump has been a vocal critic of the collective failure of 20 out of the 29 NATO members to meet their commitment of two per cent of GDP on defence. Whilst some progress has been made on defence spending, there is much more to be done. The President has been, and continues to be, on the right side of the argument in battling for this investment.
However, whilst this may be so with regard to funding, his ruinous policy of deserting our Kurdish allies in Syria has resulted in the United States’ commitment to its other allies being brought into question.
President Erdogan has created a schism within the alliance as a result of the proximity of his relationship with Putin’s Russia through the procurement of Russian S-400 air defence systems. Furthermore, he is holding NATO to ransom by refusing to sign off their defence plans unless the remaining members accede to consigning the YPG to the category of a terrorist organisation.
Then we arrive at President Macron, who cast doubt on the ongoing validity of the principle of collective defence, which at Article 5 is at the very heart of NATO’s founding treaty. By describing the “brain death of Nato”, Mr Macron undermined the alliance in the most undiplomatic and dangerous terms. Putin must have been rubbing his hands with glee as the Russians described the French President’s assessment as “truthful words”.
And yet, at this tumultuous time the moderating voice of Britain is muffled. Distracted by domestic political unrest, at a time we should have stepped up, we have stepped back. It is crucial to NATO’s future that we reassert our influence and presence on this most vital of organisations.
It is notable that the issue of global security and Britain’s role in it has not played a prominent role in the current general election campaign. The Conservatives commitment to our national security priorities cannot be questioned. Until recent years, the same could have been said of Labour. Indeed, every Labour Prime Minister from Atlee onwards has been unswervingly committed to NATO and its pivotal role in protecting the interests of the allied nations. But now the country is faced with a very different prospect. Should Jeremy Corbyn take power, Britain and NATO will be facing a diametrically opposite reality.
I have not, and never will, buy into the concept that Corbyn is either naïve or a peacemaker. He is, quite simply, a security risk. A man who has said that he “couldn’t think of a circumstance in which Britain would use its Armed Forces”. A man who has consistently, and unwaveringly, opposed every one of Britain’s military interventions whilst in Parliament. And yet a man who will happily support the actions of hostile nations against our national interests.
We have seen his kowtowing to Russia on repeated occasions. Firstly, after the novichok attack on our own soil in Salisbury and, before that, in 2014 when he defended and supported Russia when NATO intervened following the former’s invasion of Ukraine.
The 70th Anniversary Summit has arisen at a time of uncertainty for NATO. However, the unwitting danger of a Corbyn led government to Britain’s global leadership role and the continuing security of the West cannot and must not be overlooked. By Corbyn power, we would surely be handing over our national security.