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Launch of 'The Transatlantic Bargain'

2 February 2012

On 1 February 2012 'The Transatlantic Bargain' was launched, a joint study by the NATO Defense College and the National Defense University in Washington D.C. The study brought together a number of renowned experts from both sides of the Atlantic.

Since the speech of outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in June last year, the question of transatlantic burden sharing and NATO's cohesion is back on the agenda. The transatlantic relationship might be uncontested in its basics but it faces a host of challenges in today’s security environment: insufficient military capabilities on the European side of the Atlantic, no fair share of duties and responsibilities for common security, or insufficient political will among many NATO partners to contribute to common operations. Some in Europe might add that there are also doubts over Washington’s future willingness to lead. Even NATO’s success in Libya cannot paper over the existing cracks within the Alliance’s transatlantic fabric with respect to common goals and common commitments.

What happened to the great concept of the "Transatlantic Bargain" - in short, the deal in which North America provided security for its European allies in return for their acceptance of American leadership - which held NATO together for many decades? Did it ever actually exist, or was it more an illusion suitable for heartwarming Sunday speeches but not for political realities? Is there a way to revitalize this bargain as a means to keeping the transatlantic link stable despite the fundamentally changed security requirements?

The study addressed three aspects of this question:

• Was there ever a transatlantic bargain and, if so, what was it?
• What would a transatlantic bargain look like today?
• In such a bargain, what would be NATO's role? What needs to be done?

The report of the study has been attached as PDF.

Experts on this news


Rob de Wijk

Rob de Wijk is the founder and non-executive director of HCSS. He studied Contemporary History and International Relations in Groningen, and wrote his PhD dissertation on NATO’s ‘Flexibility in Response’ strategy at the Political Science Department of Leiden University.

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