LEADERS of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) are meeting in London this week as the organisation marks its 70th birthday.

It was founded in 1949, partly to address the threat posed by the Soviet Union, but also to halt the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong American presence and to encourage European political integration.

The Second World War devastated Europe after more than 36 million people died, among them 19m civilians. Millions more were displaced as communists, helped by the Soviet Union, threatened elected governments across Europe.

When West Germany established its democracy, Soviets blockaded the Allied-controlled West Berlin to strengthen their grip on the German capital and, despite the heroism of the Berlin Airlift, poverty remained a great threat to stability and, of course, freedom.

As aid came in through the US-funded European Recovery Programme, several Western European democracies worked towards greater military co-operation and collective defence, which eventually conceded that only a transatlantic arrangement could fully deter Soviet aggression and lay the groundwork for political integration.

The North Atlantic Treaty was signed in April 1949 and saw the Allies agree under Article 5, that “an armed attack against one or more of them … shall be considered an attack against them all”.

Now its 29 member nations all agree to that tenet of mutual defence.


FAR from it. In recent years they pledged to bring defence spending up to at least 2% of each country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2024 – a target the UK has met since it was introduced in 2006.

Over the last seven years, the UK has spent $60.4 billion (£46.7bn), making it the organisation’s second biggest spender.

READ MORE: Andrew Marr: Nato chief brands UK’s nuclear weapons ‘important’

The top spender has been the US, which has spent twice as much on defence than the rest of Nato combined in each of the last seven years. Other countries which meet the 2% target are Greece, Poland, Latvia and Estonia.

But the economic profile is changing. Between 2012 and 2018 total Nato defence spending has fallen by $72.2bn (£55.8bn) and while Nato Europe has increased spending by more than $25bn (£19.3bn), Nato North America has reduced its total by nearly $100bn (£77.3bn).


THERE is some of that woven into the various economic and political arguments. However, the SNP’s stance in opposing nuclear weapons has always been at odds with Nato’s view that they are a “core component” of its overall capabilities for “deterrence and defence”.

Douglas Chapman, the party’s spokesperson on nuclear disarmament, has said the SNP would provide “conventional” support for Nato, and he told CommonSpace in July: “With independence, the SNP would seek to conduct a speedy but responsible withdrawal of the UK’s nuclear arsenal, and focus the savings that this would deliver on tackling the tangible security issues that we need to address to keep our citizens safe here at home and abroad.

“As outlined in Scotland’s Future, we would seek to work with the UK Government to ensure that weapons of mass destruction are withdrawn safely as a matter of priority.”

US President Donald Trump is worried about the cost of the alliance and is unhappy at how much the other 28 members contribute.

The National:

During his presidential campaign, he called it “obsolete”, but being Trump, he later backtracked: “I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.”

French president Emmanuel Macron has described Nato as “brain dead” and expressed regret at the two previous Nato summits focusing “only on how to alleviate the financial cost for the United States”.

He said the bloc really needed to focus on what it is about.


BORIS Johnson said Nato has been the foundation of European security since 1949 and while he pledged a major defence, security and foreign policy review if he wins the election, he also wanted to see Nato modernised, rather than abandoned.

Labour – like the Tories – has committed to renewing Trident at a cost of no less than £31bn, and to honouring the Nato pledge of allocating 2% of GDP to defence spending. The LibDems said they will build on the UK’s “proud record” of international leadership through the EU, UN, Nato and the Commonwealth by promoting values of freedom and opportunity for all.


YES – and the problem is that when Trump enters the room, anything can happen, especially when Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also there. He has flouted one of Nato’s basic principles and has bought weapons from “outside the club”, most notably surface to air missiles from the alliance’s most aggressive adversary Russia. Erdogan is also considering buying a fleet of Russian fighter jets, which is causing some disquiet.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg believes the organisation is still fit for purpose: “If we look back at the history of Nato, we have seen disagreements before, dating back to the Suez crisis in 56 all the way to the Iraq war in 2003,” he said last month.

“But the strength of Nato is that despite these disagreements, we have always been able to unite around our core task: to protect and defend each other. And that’s my aim. And I’m absolutely certain that we’ll manage to do that also this time.”