The sovereign can no longer say, "You shall think as I do on pain of death;" but he says, "You are free to think differently from me, and to retain your life, your property, and all that you possess; but if such be your determination, you are henceforth an alien among your people."

(Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835)

Friday, 19 March 2010

Some remarks about NATO

A friend asked me to come up with some questions for a panel discussion that she was asked to moderate. The panel is about resetting NATO. I thought I'd post the result of my first brain storm:

NATO has difficulties in achieving its goals in AFG. Ten years into the war the country is still in shambles and no end in sight. More and more European allies are pulling out and sooner or later the US and the UK will find themselves alone. So general question: if NATO proved its inefficiency for overseas contingency operations, what is NATO good for at all?

Obviously, the US and UK wants NATO for expeditionary missions, whereas Eastern Europe wants it as defence against the Russians. Clearly a gap that is hard to bridge. Where else is common ground?

The US needs NATO as a self-financing foreign legion. Europe doesn't feel at ease with the US foreign policy. So whey does the EU not leave NATO? Or why does the US not leave NATO, since it operates with coalitions of the willing under US command anyway?

Why did NATO not consider the Russian proposal of an European Security Treaty? As a matter of fact, many senior NATO officials and officers are still in a mindset of the Cold War. Are we not missing a chance to team up with Russia against our common threats?

NATO works very well in the field of standardisation and organisation of the armies of Allies. It does clearly not work very well in overseas operations, perhaps with exception of the counter-piracy operation. So why not focus on what NATO is good at and drop the rest?

NATO and EU will never have a healthy relationship, because of the Turkey-Cyprus-Greece deadlock. Now, the EU considers to set up an operational headquarters, a clear duplication of capabilities. It's easy to imagine that this is only the first step in a process of more duplications to come. Hence, instead of fighting duplication, the US and UK should accept realities and support the increase of EU capabilities.

Missile defence will become a NATO asset. This decision has already been taken, rumours have it. But: why do we need it? On which threat analysis is this need based upon? Iran? North Korea? Why would either of those states bother launching a missile to Europe or the US? They are not many indications nor evidence for that! So, Russia and China, I suppose... Is that really the right way forward, to threaten the balance of power/balance of possible mutual destruction? It is very expensive, so far the tests were mostly unsuccessful, but instead it antagonises powers with which we should cooperate - so where is the added value? It only makes sense if you predict a military confrontation with Russia or China in the future. This scenario might be a threat for some in the alliance, but "Old Europe" does not see this scenario as very likely. So, nations that are interested should share the burden but NATO as a whole should not step in to share the bill.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting points you raise, Frederik. If I may allow to comment/seek clarification on some.

    On AFG: I'm not an expert in this subject, but would like to know how exactly are we to measure NATO's success in Afghanistan and why you speak of failure. Surely, stabilisation and state-building cannot be expected to be achieved over-night. You say "ten years into the war" but I would say ten years into the conflict - and I see those differently. I understand that by failure you are referring to that in combat. On the flip side, how would you judge what NATO is doing in non-combat areas, like, for instance, in training the ANA and ANP for the transfer of lead security responsibility?

    On finding common ground: In my view, the common ground is in Afghanistan. Quid pro quo. This also relates to your musings on a potential missile defence for NATO, and I think we could use similar logic in answering the very valid questions you raised on missile defence.

    More musings to come.