A top NATO general echoes Trump, calling aspects of alliance ‘obsolete’

Brussels, Jan 18 (IANS) A top NATO general has echoed US President-elect Donald Trump’s remark on the group and said that aspects of the alliance were “obsolete”.

Reiterating Trump’s language, General Denis Mercier, the senior NATO commander based in the US, said on Tuesday that the Western military alliance needs to adapt for a changing world, the Washington Post reported.

The admission was a first sign of how NATO may try to pitch itself to the most sceptical US President in the history of the bloc, which was formed as a ­defensive bulwark against the ­Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II.

Mercier and Trump believe the same aspects of NATO are “­obsolete”.

Trump in an interview on Sunday said that he wanted the 28-nation defence alliance to focus more on counter-terrorism, a shift that NATO leaders say was already underway before Trump’s insurgent candidacy transformed into an election victory.

“When I look at the threats we are facing now, we see that we may have focused too much, until the Ukraine crisis, we may have focused too much on expeditionary operations, especially in Afghanistan, and doing that, NATO has a bit failed to look at the change in the strategic background,” said Mercier.

His job, previously held by retired US Marine General James Mattis, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defence, is focused on the technical side of developing NATO’s future military stance and strategies, a command post that stands to benefit from major demands for change.

“We have some structures that are obsolete,” Mercier told the media here, saying that aspects of NATO bureaucracy are duplicative and could be streamlined.

One example he offered was a standardised blueprint for the way NATO partners with non-member countries on security initiatives.

But in a sign that his vision of NATO’s future may diverge from Trump’s, he said the July 2016 summit in which NATO nations committed thousands of troops to eastern Europe was an example of successful adaptation.

“If there was not obsolescence in many areas of the alliance, we would not have decided this adaptation, in fact,” Mercier said.

Mercier also said NATO was working on counter-terrorism efforts by committing military trainers to Iraq and offering NATO radar planes to the ­coalition combating the Islamic State militant group.

The general carefully broke from Trump’s desire to team up with Russia, saying NATO needed to talk to the Kremlin but Russia should not violate the territorial integrity of other nations.

“We always talk better with Russia when we are strong,” he said, praising the current NATO troop deployments across Eastern Europe.

“If the US forces would stop deploying, it would be some kind of strategic shock in Europe,” he said of the deployments to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Over the weekend, Trump also said other nations were not paying enough for their own defence.