As U.S. President Donald Trump has called for détente with Russia, he has consistently championed the need for comprehensive NATO reform. There has since been much political rhetoric on both sides of the Atlantic on how to carry out NATO reform, but it is critical that time not be wasted on a circular discussion that primarily pertains to how each alliance member must meet its obligations to spend at least two percent of GDP on defense, as initially pledged at NATO’s 2006 Riga Summit. Instead, the focus for member states should be on ensuring that any changes to NATO are carried out incrementally and in the appropriate sequence in order to meet clear, achievable, and worthwhile policy goals.
Toward that end, Germany, Norway, and the United Kingdom could collectively match rhetoric on the need for enhanced NATO investments. All three countries could play a leadership role in the North Atlantic region by strengthening their military interoperability at sea and in the skies. The United Kingdom and Norway have both acquired the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35), and Germany appears likely to do so as well, having stopped the production of its F-4F Phantom II fleet in 2013 and suspended the production of Eurofighter jets at least until 2018.
In the likely event that Germany acquires the F-35, it would be uniquely positioned to strengthen multilateral cooperation with the United Kingdom and Norway within the North Atlantic, a region through which Russian nuclear submarines and warships can the United Kingdom and continental Europe. The purchase would also help subsidize numerous U.S. manufacturing jobs, which the White House would likely consider a gesture of goodwill toward the Trump administration, which campaigned on restoring the U.S. manufacturing base.
Meanwhile, as part of an effort to enhance its deterrence against Russia, Norway is currently upgrading its entire submarine fleet and has selected Germany’s thyssenkrupp for a delivery of four new submarines to replace its current Ula class (also German manufactured). In return, the Naval Strike Missile, which is manufactured by Kongsberg. Kongsberg, in partnership with Raytheon, is also the manufacturer of the Joint Strike Missile, which is part of the F-35 program.
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