The NATO summit which took place in Brussels on 11-12 July 2018 among the 29 members represented by the head of state or government and is a major event within the Alliance that is often used to launch new policies and or provide new direction to the organisation. In a changing geopolitical landscape today, the bulwark of security for the West European countries during the Cold War, NATO today faces new security challenges in the post 9/11 world. At the core is Article 5 that defines the collective defence alliance, which implies that attack on one member would be seen as an attack on all members. NATO expanded at the end of Cold War to offer membership to Central and Eastern European countries, which had previously been its enemies. The enlargement also brought the borders of NATO to the borders of Russia, which under President Putin has been a source of constant irritation to both sides.

NATO is a multilateral effort of defending the member states and functions through the pooling of material and financial resources. Burden sharing is at the heart of bearing the cost of collective defence. However, with the coming of President Trump into office in January 2017, NATO has been on the European radar for all the wrong reasons.

The Summit on Thursday 12 July 2018 almost spiralled out of control on Trumps insistence that the allies meet the 2 percent military spending target set for 2024 immediately or else he would do his own thing. In the run up to the 2016 US Presidential elections, Trump had similarly threatened to abandon the European allies. In an unprecedented move on Thursday, the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg convened an emergency meeting of the leaders to address the crisis. This followed Trumps sharp criticism of Germany on Wednesday as being “captive to Russia”, for engaging and doing business with it on a gas project.

The NATO Summit has actually left the allies shaken and unofficially questioning the US commitment to Europe in the face of a growing Russian presence on the eastern flank of the European Union. It has also cast a shadow on the next meeting that Trump would have on Monday with Putin in Helsinki. It is not the first time that the NATO faces internal challenges and the issue of burden sharing is as old as the Alliance itself. What is new is the anchor country of NATO – the United States - is deliberately creating a rift in the transatlantic partnership.

It is not only about the budgets and military expenditure, but standoff in Brussels have drawn attention to fundamental issues about commitments and what the values of the alliance are in a new geopolitical context with an American President challenging some of those assumptions and an assertive Russia that looks further East after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.Who will defend Europe and should it develop its own capabilities and capacities? Can the Transatlantic relation weather this storm?

That there is a need for consensus building between the US and its NATO partners is obvious given the leadership change in the US. But the last two days which witnessed unprecedented turmoil over the statements of Trump castigating allies, only highlighted how big the gap is on both sides and the growing trust deficit that will not be rebuilt overnight. The Summit declaration reaffirmed existing NATO obligations but addressed the growing Russian presence through a NATO Readiness Initiative or the four 30’s plan that can put together 30 land battalions, 30 aircraft squadrons and 30 warships within 30 days. Although Trump said he got the allies to spend more, but nothing new appeared in writing rather it left the European allies with two grim questions - is the key element of American foreign policy for 70 years- the US commitment to NATO and to defend Europe still intact?