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Should the EU cooperate more closely with NATO despite conflicting and diverse objectives?

The European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization must find ways to cooperate even more closely and that it is critical for European countries to spend more on defense, the NATO military alliance's chief Jens Stoltenberg said Monday.

Despite growing security threats, some European officials have voiced concerns about the potential for duplicating missions as the EU seeks to strengthen its defenses in the face of an assertive Russia and a turbulent Middle East.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the European Parliament that the EU and NATO, as two organizations whose members share territory and values, must face the new threats together.

But does Europe want to become an extension of US Geo-Politicalo objectives? Disagreements were evident especially when Mr. Stoltenberg urged European countries to meet the NATO goal of spending at least 2% of their GDP on defense, which the great majority fail to do.

Elmar Brok, the German parliamentarian who chairs the Foreign Relations committee, said that when the U.S. complains that European nations should spend more on defense, it ignores how much Europe spends on nonmilitary aid.

"We should remind the Americans that the costs include also the costs of soft power," Mr. Brok said. "It should be taken into account if we come to a fair definition of burden-sharing."

Rather than spending more, Mr. Brok said to applause from his colleagues, the priority should be on "getting more out of the money which is available."

The position of the countries with the Continent's largest economies — Germany, France and Italy — also complicates the issue. These countries do not feel directly threatened by Russia's actions in Eastern Europe, and they also have strong political and economic ties with Moscow.

They worry about the economic impact of present sanctions and counter-sanctions and would like to see a diplomatic solution to the conflict. However, they are also concerned with holding the European Union together and accommodating the conflicting strategic needs of its various member states.

Germany is in a particularly awkward position. Berlin and Moscow have strong business and energy ties, but they also compete for influence in Central and Eastern Europe. This is why Germany has taken such a direct role in the Ukrainian crisis. In the beginning, it supported opposition groups in the Kiev protests against the government of former President Viktor Yanukovich, and it has contributed financial support to the new government. Berlin has pushed for increasing sanctions against Moscow while also keeping negotiation channels open and opposing moves by the United States that could lead to an escalation of the conflict.


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