The future of NATO: Fewer dragons, more snakes

NEXT week’s NATO summit in Lisbon is likely to be one of the most crucial in the 61-year history of the military alliance. Officially, the 28 members are meeting mostly to approve a new “strategic concept” that frames the threats NATO faces and the ways in which it should defend against them over the next decade.

It is 11 years since the last such concept was adopted. In that period, both the world and NATO itself have changed greatly. But attention will focus on more immediate worries: above all, the prospects for the long war in Afghanistan, the response to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the need to “reset” NATO’s ambiguous relations with its old enemy, Russia, after the chill caused by the invasion of Georgia in 2008. All this comes at a time of tumbling European defence spending and fears that America, preoccupied by strategic competition with China and by global terrorism, sees NATO as less vital to its security than in the past.

The new strategic concept itself should be easy to agree to. It is a sensible document, the result of a report drafted by a “group of experts” led by a former American secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. Last month NATO officials were claiming that it was “98% there”, and although members continue to differ on some issues, such as the alliance’s future nuclear posture (of which more later), those will be papered over in Lisbon.

At the heart of the document is a restatement of NATO’s core commitment to collective defence, enshrined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. However, it recognises that there is little likelihood of an orthodox military assault across the alliance’s borders. Most of the threats NATO faces are of the unconventional kind: from terrorism, rogue states with weapons of mass destruction, disruption of global supply lines, or cyber attacks on critical infrastructure such as power grids. Read more…

As published in www.economist.com (November 11, 2010 – From The Economist print edition)


Leila November 15, 2010 - 12:24 pm

Times change and so does it the balance of power. America´s leading role in security issues remains but, there is a clear need to make decisions, update NATO objectives and strategy for the coming years.

Iran nuclear ambitions, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, relations with Russia, maritime piracy, illegal drugs trade, America´s priorities and budget constraints, Europe role in the decision-making process are some of the key topics that NATO needs to define.

What should NATO priorities be? Should NATO define a clear action path for specific events and discard others with the economic and social impact this could have? Should the European Union take a more active role in NATO decisions? Should NATO coordinate efforts with other international institutions to reach further? France and England recently signed a defense agreement, what is NATO role in this agreement?
It is clear that after 9 years in Afghanistan and more than 600 casualties within the last year, international organizations that care about international security should take some time to ¨stop and think¨.

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