Tuesday, June 14, 2016

NATO Ministerial FAQ

This week is another NATO ministerial.  What is that?  Here's a handy guide to the basics and why NATO is run like an academic conference.
  • What is the NAC?  Nope, not these guys.  The North Atlantic Council refers to a meeting of the representations of NATO members (not partners--those who play well with NATO but are not actually members).  Ordinarily, as in all the time in Brussels, the NAC consists of senior diplomatic representatives from each member--this is a very high post for an Ambassador or Foreign Affairs official.  They are called permanent representatives or PermReps.
  • A NAC FM is a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of each NATO country, and is one of two kinds of Ministerials.  These meetings tend to set the agenda for the next big meeting.  And the defence/foreign affairs bureaucracies spend a great deal of effort in the run up to these events vetting the policy policy papers and talking points.
  • A NAC DM is a meeting of the Defence Ministers of each NATO country.  This is what is happening this week.  As it is the last ministerial before the big NATO summit in Warsaw in July, much of the work here is on reaching/finessing/clarifying decisions that can be announced in Warsaw.  Again, lots of folks in each country have been working very hard to word-smith documents so that consensus can be reached.
  • A NATO summit is a NAC where the reps are the heads of state.  There is usually very few actual decisions made at a summit.  Instead, they announce decisions that have been worked through in the leadup to the summit.
And that is how NATO is like an academic conference--it sets deadlines which then force the actors to finish their papers.  Without regular summits, there would be no focal point and time limit that would force the actors to reach consensus and have some "deliverables."

And, yes, I am pretty jazzed about the Warsaw Summit both because it looks like my desire for a tripwire in the Baltics will be met AND because I got invited to the side-party--a conference taking place at the same time in Warsaw.  My first time at (ok, adjacent to) a NATO summit.  I will have to find my best blue and white clothing.  I will, of course, live tweet and blog as much as I can. 

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