NATO drill with five aircraft carriers displays hypocrisy rather than unity in the alliance
Published: Nov 20, 2022 06:30 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

"NATO navies are holding maneuvers in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea throughout November, bringing together five aircraft carriers, numerous warships and thousands of sailors," the NATO official website reported on Friday. Although the scale sounds intimidating, the drill, with "five of the most powerful warships in the alliance," is filled with participants' different calculations. Instead of flaunting the bloc's unity, it in fact mirrors NATO's hypocrisy and embarrassment.

The five aircraft carriers are US Navy's USS George H.W. Bush and Gerald R. Ford, British Royal Navy's HMS Queen Elizabeth, France's Charles De Gaulle, and Italy's ITS Cavour. The US Navy said the drill "showcases NATO cohesion and interoperability," although the carriers are operating separately. NATO Allied Maritime Command Vice Admiral Keith Blount said in the Navy's statement, "This opportunity demonstrates our ironclad commitment to the stability and security of the Euro-Atlantic Area and the strength of our collective capability."

When Western media outlets cover NATO exercises, a majority of them unanimously raised the same incident - the deadly explosion in eastern Poland, which occurred earlier last week and marked the first time that the conflict spilled into the territory of a NATO country. Leaders from both Poland and NATO said the missile was likely fired by Ukrainian forces, which were "defending their country." Yet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg put it bluntly, "This is not Ukraine's fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility." So the NATO exercise seems to be another act of strategic deterrence against Russia, while endorsing Ukraine. 

But the aftermath of the Poland incident has proved, once again, that avoiding direct armed conflict with Russia has been and will continue to be the long-standing stance of NATO, experts believe. 

The drill may seem massive in scale, but it is not that extraordinary in nature. The three European aircraft carriers and USS George H.W. Bush are where they almost always are. USS Gerald R. Ford is the only one new to Europe, as well as US' second aircraft carrier in Europe. It is unrealistic to believe that the US is ready to confront Russia militarily by deploying only two aircraft carrier strike groups in Europe, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times. 

According to Song, the four countries of the five aircraft carriers in the NATO exercise are not thinking on the same page. France sent Charles De Gaulle to the mission with a priority to safeguard French own security, not the security of NATO or the US, not to mention Ukraine. Italy's ITS Cavour is a light aircraft carrier with limited combat capabilities. And the UK coordinates with the US closely out of its heavy dependence on the US, including in terms of military equipment. Once HMS Queen Elizabeth loses one warplane, its sustainable combat ability would be greatly hurt. 

The US goal is obvious - pursuing dominance in European security, and even trying to subordinate the EU to NATO interests. In that case, the US could successfully prevent the EU from becoming a pole in the world, disturb the EU from forging its own global competitiveness, and make it ultimately a political vassal of the US, Song added. 

The so-called unity, cohesion, and ironclad commitment to the stability of the participants of the exercise are founded on quicksand. They come together out of political correctness, not sincerity.

Still, some experts believe the exercise deserves vigilance. The drill can be argued as the most deterrent one in Europe since the end of the World War II, Yang Xiyu, a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times.

NATO has been revitalized by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, but this is not enough for the US, Yang said. He added that the US is concerned about whether the process of revitalization will slow down or even stop if the conflict ceases. Hence, all US wants now is to make NATO's reinvigoration a long-lasting dynamic.   

This is why the world is witnessing NATO constantly upgrade its military deterrence, holding drills one after another. The NATO may argue to contain its rival or to cool down the escalation on the battlefield through such efforts. The truth is, it is deliberately pushing the tension to a much higher level and much greater uncertainties.  

The author is a reporter with Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn