Edited and translated by People's Daily Online
Recently, European countries and the United States continue to cast blame on each other, and the antagonism between the two parties is strong. Speeches regarding the international disunities of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization can also be seen in various occasions. Around the Libya War, the United States is angry mainly because Europe "does not want to contribute money," and Europe dislikes the fact that the United States "will not take the lead."
Compared to the past, the background of the new contradictions within the NATO has become different. First of all, Europe and the Untied States have both fallen into the quagmire of severe economic crisis. Especially, the United States is trying its best to withdraw its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and it is hard for the United States to give other countries a free ride. The U.S. Congress and common people are becoming less patient and interested in paying the bill for the national safety of European countries.
Since European countries are being stricken by both the debt crisis and economic crisis, the European integration is stagnant now, and the common diplomatic and security policies of Europe are still unpractical words. Various signals have made the United States believe that Europe actually cannot help much in dealing with the new important strategic issues.
The President of the Council of Foreign Relations Richard Haass even wrote an article on the website of the Washington Post that said directly that the partnership between the United States and Europe once played a key role in guiding and winning the Cold War, but in the future, it will inevitably become less important. In a sense, the partnership between the United States and Europe has even become dispensable.
Do all these things mean that the NATO, whose existing value has been questioned since the Soviet Union disintegrated, has come to the end of its life? The answer is "no." Although it has internal disunities and has become less important, the Europe and the Untied States still need to maintain their current relationship and will not disband NATO easily.
Many Americans are indeed disappointed with NATO — largely with the NATO as a military entity. NATO is a synthesis of military and political components. Europe and the United States are both battle companions and like-minded partners within the alliance. NATO's first task during the Cold War period was to deal with the Soviet Union’s military expansion. Europe and the United States naturally put military cooperation on the top of their agenda in NATO.
However, following the end of the Cold War, the political cooperation between Europe and the United States in the framework of NATO has become increasingly important. According to a story by U.K.-based magazine the Economist, to the Obama administration, Europe has the same values as the United States and remains "its most reliable friend" in an uncertain world with risks and challenges.
Without NATO, Europe will lose its direct influence on the United States as well as an important platform for multilateral cooperation with the world's only superpower. After coming to power, French President Nicolas Sarkozy decided to promote France's return to NATO mainly for the purpose of influencing the United States more effectively.
Europe is still highly dependent on the collective defense of all NATO allies though the Cold War ended a long time ago. Russia does not pose any practical threats to Western European countries, including France and German, but they still want to remain NATO members for greater national security. In fact, most European NATO members, especially new member states in Central and Eastern Europe, are still psychologically dependent on the United States in terms of strategic security.
The United States and its European allies have made active efforts to maintain a leading role in dealing with economic recessions, the unrest in West Asia and North Africa, climate change, nuclear proliferation and other regional and global threats and challenges. During a state visit to the United Kingdom this year, U.S. President Barack Obama refuted the argument about the "descent of the United States and Europe" and stressed that the United States, the United Kingdom and their democratic allies remain the "greatest catalysts for global action" in many areas. As an important platform for the West's leading role in the world, NATO will not collapse simply because of internal disagreement.