Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Heavy NATO News Week

As things begin to ramp up for the big summit in Chicago in a couple of weeks, heaps of NATO to be found in the news, so some highlights and reactions:
  • The French election produced a President, Francois Hollande, who has promised to get his country out of Afghanistan by the end of 2012.  I do not doubt that Hollande will start this process, but complete it?  France has about three thousand soldiers in Afghanistan, and taking out that many is not a trivial exercise, especially if there is any obligation to bring back the stuff they brought with them.  [Update: It looks like I guessed right--Hollande is backtracking since getting troops and their stuff home is hard.]
    • France is not a lead nation--not of a province and not of a PRT--so its departure will not create a big gap in terms of leadership and infrastructure.  This contrasts with the Canadian and Dutch departures. 
    • France was pretty flexible since Sarkozy became President, so this is still a significant loss especially compared to some other European countries with tighter restrictions.
  •  The Visegrad group--Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia--announced they are forming a joint combat force of three thousand troops to be commanded by the Poles and to serve the EU.  I got in a twitter discussion with @Natosource about this because I indicated that I was unimpressed.  Why?  Because the Hungarians had very tight restrictions in Afghanistan, so much so that the small New Zealand detachment in the adjacent province would patrol in the Hungarian sector to get situational awareness.
    • Also, I am committed EU skeptic when it comes to security.  While this force might be useful for doing post-conflict stabilization (Bosnia after 2004), I am dubious of the chances of the EU deploying any troops into serious harm's way.  That would require a common foreign policy which the EU has yet to demonstrate any place where there is significant violence.
  • The Pentagon refused to support the making of the Avengers movie because its depiction of US-SHIELD relations was seen to be unrealistic.  This is so silly given how many multilateral military operations the US has done over the past two decades, so I can only assume that the movie clearance people did not bother to chat with the Joint Staff folks on the NATO desk (I could probably still find that room....).  Perhaps once they read my next book, they will understand how the US would manage its relationship with SHIELD.

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