Friday, July 31, 2009

Wild Speculation about the Future of NATO

I am going to be on CBC Newsworld tomorrow (August 1st, 1:15pm EDT) to discuss the new Secretary-General of NATO, former Danish Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen, the future of NATO, and of NATO and Canada in Afghanistan. But since most of my readers probably don't get the CBC, here is what I think I am going to say:

  1. Really don't know what Rasmussen is likely to do. He is an interesting choice given that during his time as PM, there was the controversy about how Muhammad was depicted in a cartoon. Given that NATO is embroiled in one war in an Islamic country, this choice has implications. On the other hand, the big decision-makers in NATO are really the leaders of the major countries (especially those who are contributing the largest forces to the NATO missions of the day, which currently is Afghanistan and Kosovo to a lesser degree) and the military commander of NATO--Supreme Allied Commander Europe [SACEUR] who is always an American, just as the SG is always a European (sorry Canada). Interestingly, the Surpreme Allied Commander Transformation is a French air force officer, definitely one of the early returns for France's re-integration into NATO.
  2. What are the pivotal issues facing NATO today? Afghanistan is the obvious focus (more below), but also the meaning of NATO is always up for grabs, and is especially so these days. That is, where does NATO end? And what is it for? NATO's expansion has been very quick (particularly from the Russian perspective), but has it stopped yet? Are Georgia and Ukraine real candidates for membership? If so, that means, technically, the rest of NATO is somewhat obligated to defend them if they are attacked. This is likely to have two effects: encourage the belligerence of Georgia since they would have confidnece (over-confidence) in their defense; and stretch the credibility of Article V (mutual defense) to the breaking point.(I am not a fan of further enlargement)
  3. This gets to the second big question--what is NATO for? Global peace enforcement? Counter-terrorism? Or good old containment of Russia. The answer is probably a little of each.
  4. How about Afghanistan? NATO will remain, but the number of NATO countries providing significant numbers of troops is likely to decline by at least two by 2011--with the Dutch and Canadians almost certainly pulling out most of their forces. My guess is that both are likely to leave their Provincial Reconstruction Teams (mixes of military and civilian folks helping to provide training, aid, and the like) in place in Uruzgan and Kandahar. The war is increasingly becoming an American one, but NATO will still be a relevant player.

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