Friday, 5 December 2008

A Russian View on NATO Enlargement

I came across this piece today, and found it interesting and worth the read.


MOSCOW, December 2 (RIA Novosti)NATO expansion still relevant, but Georgia, Ukraine have to wait

Kommersant

NATO expansion still relevant, but Georgia, Ukraine have to wait

Even Washington has stopped insisting on the admission of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO's Membership Action Plan (MAP), and the two former Soviet republics' governments have only themselves to blame. They have provided NATO with a perfect formal pretext to refuse them. However, the North Atlantic alliance's expansion is still on the table, according to Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the Moscow-based magazine, Russia in Global Affairs.

Ukraine missed its chance of forcing its way into the alliance at the Riga summit 18 months ago, not in Bucharest as one might assume. Moscow was not nearly as determined to prevent its accession to NATO at that point as it is now, and Western Europe had fewer reasons to heed Moscow's opinion anyway, the analyst said.

However, [Ukrainian President] Viktor Yushchenko was at loggerheads with a large part of the country's political elite then, and Western nations could only shrug in dismay at the off-the-wall antics of important politicians in Kiev.Tbilisi tried to play the old "Russian threat" card, and it worked, but for some reason brought the opposite effect, Lukyanov explained. The West believed in the reality of such threat and became genuinely weary of dealing with tarnished Georgian democracy.

The new U.S. government will certainly be as committed to the NATO expansion plan as the outgoing one. The concept of its institutes' further expansion serving peace and stability is too deeply rooted in American political minds.Europe is more cautious, but there is a lot of controversy there on this issue, which is probably part of a larger political issue. France is boosting its leadership in Europe with the help of intricate political moves involving its return to NATO's military organization.

It is likely to engage in certain trade-offs which could change the country's policy.NATO's main dilemma at the moment is not Eastern Europe. Afghanistan is threatening to grow into the world's main armed conflict. Tensions grew in Hindustan after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, which is bound to affect the entire region. NATO's future depends on its ability to become an effective instrument in that region much more than on how soon it expands to the post-Soviet countries, Lukyanov concluded.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Brussels Wrap-Up

NATO posts its press conferences, communiques and some other documentation relating to the Foreign Ministers meeting here.

The second day of the meeting was largely taken up with Afghanistan, at least in public, and little if anything was added to previous discussions on enlargement and other issues. There was no formal announcement about substantive issues that may be discussed at the Summit in April. There will be a couple of Ministerial meetings in February and March to thrash out the details for the Summit.

Overall, the impression one is left with is of an Alliance 'waiting for Obama'. The US transition overshadows everything, and will do so through Strasbourg and Kehl. (it is worth noting in this context that German officials have already started briefing that they have no intention of responding to Obama's request to step up Allied engagement in the south of Afghanistan, so talks may be long and hard).

I will shortly publish a detailed analysis of this meetings and current prospects for the Summit on the Acronym Institute website at www.acronym.org.uk.

NATO's Retreat from Arms Control Continues

Another last hurrah for Dick Cheney. NATO asserts that "that arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation will continue to make an important contribution to peace, security and stability, as part of a broader response to security issues", and I couldn't agree more.

It's just that in this communique, as in others over the past few years, the Bush administration's hostility to the concept of arms control and non-proliferation shines through. Cheney famously remarked after the Moscow Treaty was signed (in itself the most feeble piece of arms control ever) that 'that's the end of arms control'. And then proceeded to put that doctrine into action.

NATO offers no support in this communique for the CTBT, for the NPT, for START I (about to expire) or for any other nuclear, chemical or biological weapons Treaty. This pattern has developed since 2000. A sop to the Europeans where NATO claims these things are important, and then a refusal to endorse any actual arms control or disarmament measures. Now even references to support for the NPT have been dropped.

Only the CFE Treaty gets the nod, but since NATO is refusing military-to-military cooperation with Russia at the moment, and Russia has suspended its participation in the Treaty as a reaction to proposed US BMD deployments, this is meaningless.

NATO has the luxury at present of being in a situation where it faces few if any present WMD threats, except from Russia. Russia is not treated as an enemy, but as a partner, so in listening to Russian security concerns, NATO can manage nuclear and other matters with Russia as it has done for decades.

Such threats as could emerge elsewhere are currently susceptible to elimination through a sustained programme of engagement between Allies and their neighbours. This would include a dialogue on mutual threat perceptions and how to eliminate possible threats. The problem for NATO is that this would likely include the removal of US nuclear weapons from Europe, and an end to NATO's insistence that nuclear weapons are 'essential' for the defence of the Alliance. Something, they have not yet shown a willingness to do.

NATO BMD Policy

NATO continues to take a cautious approach to missile defence issues. The imprint of the Bush administration is clear in this area, and it will be interesting to see how the Alliance position on the European deployment of the US strategic missile defence system alters once President-Elect Obama takes power. As noted in a previous post (here) it is likely that Bush administration efforts to deploy a radar and interceptors in the Czech Republic and Poland will slow or stop next year.

For the meantime, the Allies punted the question of actual NATO support for integrating theatre and strategic defences into 2009, while allowing strong enough language in the communiquĂ© for the Americans, Poles and the Czechs to say that the Alliance supports their actions – although Ministers only ‘noted’ the bilateral agreements now signed.

In reality, many in NATO are extremely concerned about the adverse effect that these unilateral American actions have had on relations with Russia, and are deeply skeptical about the benefits of missile defences.

The truth is that there are no new missile threats to most of the Alliance, and that if NATO were to systematically and seriously engage in security talks with countries like Iran that have indigenous missile programmes, it is likely that emerging threats could be neutered by they become concrete. In any case, deploying an untested version of a missile defence interceptor to Poland, as part of a system that has failed a majority of the tests that have been carried out, would do nothing to enhance European security. Congress has recognized this and has already prohibited deployment of interceptors and radar to Europe until the system has passed ‘operationally realistic tests’. This runs counter to the Bush administration’s approach of ‘spiral development’, where missile interceptors that were known not to work were deployed in Alaska a few years ago in the hope that eventually, with enough tests and changes to the system it could be made to work eventually.

For the record, this is what Ministers said on BMD:

Ballistic missile proliferation poses an increasing threat to Allies’ forces, territory, and populations. Missile defence forms part of a broader response to counter this threat. We therefore recognise the substantial contribution to the protection of Allies from long-range ballistic missiles to be provided by the planned deployment of European-based United States missile defence assets. As tasked at the Bucharest Summit, we are exploring ways to link this capability with current NATO missile defence efforts as a way to ensure that it would be an integral part of any future NATO-wide missile defence architecture. Bearing in mind the principle of indivisibility of Allied security as well as NATO solidarity, Allies took note of progress on the development of options for a comprehensive missile defence architecture to extend coverage to all European Allied territory and populations not otherwise covered by the United States system for review at our 2009 Summit to inform any future political decision. As all options include the planned deployment of European-based United States missile defence assets, we note as a relevant development the signature of agreements by the Czech Republic and the Republic of Poland with the United States regarding those assets. As Defence Ministers did at their Budapest Ministerial in October 2008, we also noted today the plan to complete the analysis of options for a comprehensive missile defence architecture by the Defence Ministerial in Krakow in February 2009. A report on these options will be presented to Heads of State and Government for review at their next Summit. We continue to support the work underway to strengthen missile defence cooperation between Russia and NATO, and remain committed to maximum transparency and reciprocal confidence building measures to allay any concerns, as stated at the Bucharest Summit. We also encourage Russia to take advantage of United States missile defence cooperation proposals and we remain ready to explore the potential for linking United States, NATO and Russian missile defence systems at an appropriate time.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

End of Day One

NATO Ministers finished a series of meetings in Brussels tonight. There is no communique, that will be issued after further meetings on Wednesday. However, some outlines of the results of major discussions are clear.


The controversial question of extending membership to Georgia and the Ukraine loomed large. Bush administration hopes of either offering MAPs to membership for the two aspirant nations, or alternatively finding a different route to membership, came to nothing. A number of different options were explored, but in the end the opposition of Germany, France, Spain, Italy could not be overcome. Instead, NATO agreed, without providing any public detail, to strengthen the NATO-Georgia and NATO-Ukraine Commissions, providing more information and assistance on security reforms through 'annual national programmes'.

Ministers also decided to re-engage with Russia, initially on an informal basis, in the NATO-Russia Council to allow discussion of issues of mutual concern. In the press conference, Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer took a hard line, describing Russian recognition of Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence as 'illegal', and condemning the Russian threat to place nuclear Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad as a response to the proposed deployment of US missile defences in Poland and the Czech Republic. He did say though that "Russia is an important player. Russia is an important player on many dossiers, which are also on the NATO agenda. So the catchphrase is a conditional and graduated re-engagement and the mandate given to me as the Secretary General of NATO."

NATO is faced with a difficult set of decisions here. Many of the new members would like to take a very strong position against Russia, but few beyond Eastern Europe want the relationship mired in confrontation. This goes to the heart of debate about NATO's role - is it a purely military defence organisation, or is it about global security? The older NATO members have created a new NATO, but Poland, the Baltic States and other have joined the Alliance and want it to be the Old NATO. This will make the Strategic Concept debate very difficult.

Another item to be noted is the decline in the influence of the Bush administration. A month or so before the inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama the US has not been able to impose its vision for Georgia, the Ukraine and for NATO-Russia relations on its allies.

More Wednesday.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Israeli Links With NATO

NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue includes Israel, one of the few fora where Israel and Arab nations sit down together, possibly the only one were security questions are the topic of conversation. Now this relationship is being taken up a level. Ha'aretz reports that the Individual Cooperation Programme "allows for an exchange of intelligence information and security expertise on different subjects, an increase in the number of joint Israel-NATO military exercises and further cooperation in the fight against nuclear proliferation." One can hope that this might include discussion of Israel's nuclear arsenal, or even simply discussion of a potential WMD Free Zone in the Middle East (Israel has allowed participation in SOAS meetings on that topic), but I doubt it.

This enhanced cooperation is interesting. There have been numerous reports that NATO could be involved in guaranteeing Israeli and Palestinian security in the event of a peace deal. (For example, here is a Jerusalem Post report on then-NATO SACEUR General Jones visiting Israel to scope out a potential West Bank deployment back in February 2008) This kind of cooperation could make that eventuality more likely. General Jones, now about to become National Security Advisor to Barack Obama, thought the idea might have legs. Will he pursue it once in the new administration?

NATO and Georgia

What to do with Georgia? This is one of the most pressing questions for NATO ministers this week. President Bush had hoped that part of his legacy would be to incorporate Georgia into the Atlantic Alliance. German and French insistence had kept them out of NATO this year, while with this meeting of the North Atlantic Council the promise to review their application for a Membership Action Plan (MAP) -- the last stage before joining the Alliance -- comes good.

It has become apparent over the past few weeks, as Ambassadors and others discussed the preparations for the NAC, that many European nations have stronger doubts now about admitting Georgia to NATO than they did last Spring. NATO insiders have said that these doubts have grown exponentially as reviews of the Russia-Georgia conflict this Summer was started by Georgia, and that Georgian President Saakashvili had ignored warnings from US advisers (amongst others) not take take military action or do anything to risk provoking the kind of military intervention Russia embarked on in August.

The Bush administration has been trying to circumvent the MAP process, and working to have the new NATO-Georgia Commission be the vehicle through which Georgia joins the Alliance. As Secretary of State Condi Rice said last week "There are other ways to prepare countries for membership", adding that there was no MAP process when the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary joined the Alliance.

European NATO nations, still led by Germany and France, have insisted on their position that Georgia is not ready for NATO membership. It seems that Georgia will receive encouragement for future NATO membership, and assistance with security sector reform. But that is all. No MAP. No invitation to membership. And then the question will come back again at the Strasbourg Summit. After all, Barack Obama is on the record in favour of Georgia and the Ukraine joining NATO.

NATO Foreign Ministers Meet

NATO Foreign Ministers are meeting, both in the North Atlantic Council, and in other bodies with colleagues from beyond the Alliance. The meetings take place in Brussels today and tomorrow.

Croatia and Albania, who are due to join the Alliance at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit, play a special role in the meeting, not yet part of the Alliance but 'Invitees', they get to sit in on everything.

Things kick off with a working lunch of the Mediterranean Dialogue including NATO invitees Albania and Croatia. Ministers will examine ways to deepen political and practical co-operation.

Next comes a session of the North Atlantic Council with invitees, where Ministers will make a first assessment of the progress made in the framework of intensive engagement with Ukraine and Georgia. They will also discuss relations with Russia.

Tomorrow, , the Foreign Ministers with Invitees will take a look at Allied operations, especially the mission in Afghanistan. The session will provide a good opportunity to assess the evolving situation in Afghanistan and review progress in implementing the comprehensive strategic political-military plan, as well as to discuss potential support to the upcoming elections. It is likely that the the thoughts of President-Elect Obama's pick for National Security Advisor, former NATO Supreme Commander General James Jones, will weigh heavy on the meeting. He has said that NATO 'isn't winning' in Afghanistan, and supports the Obama 'troop surge' proposal.

Ministers will also look at developments in Kosovo and their implications for NATO’s longer-term engagement in the Western Balkans. At the same time, they will consider the growing challenge of piracy and NATO’s contribution to the international effort to fight this challenge. The hijacking of a Saudi oil tanker while NATO ships were patrolling off Africa to prevent such episodes can only be seen as an embarrassment for the Alliance, however much official spokesman protest the mission was only to escort World Food Programme ships. This semi-success, semi-failure does nothing to strengthen the hand of those who want NATO to become a global security provider in the 21st century.


The NATO-Georgia Commission will then hold its first ever meeting in Foreign Ministers format, with Invitees. This will provide an opportunity to exchange views with the Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Tkeshelashvili, about the evolving security situation in the region, and about Georgia’s progress related to its membership’s aspirations. US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has said she now favours unfreezing some cooperation with Russia, in particular dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council, although she does not want military-to-military engagement while Russian troops are still dug in on Georgian soil.

A meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission with Invitees, all at the level of Foreign Ministers, will be held afterwards to review with Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Mr. Ogryzko, the progress made in the framework of decisions taken at the Bucharest Summit. Ukraine is a thorny problem for NATO. The US (including Barack Obama) wants to admit the Ukraine to NATO membership. Russia is fiercely opposed. More trickily, so is the majority of the Ukraine's population. The Ukraine hasn't helped its case as it has allowed clandestine arms sales at cut rates to Georgia, in contravention of Ukrainian law and to the outrage of most in Ukraine's parliament.

Finally, not officially on the agenda, but undoubtedly a major topic of discussion, is the NATO Summit. There will be other preparatory ministerial meetings between now and April, but talks have already started. It is likely, but not entirely certain, that NATO will decide to review its Strategic Concept beginning in Strasbourg. Source do say, however, that there is opposition and that key questions will make the process difficult. The most difficult questions is whether, as new Eastern European members believe, NATO should concentrate on defending itself from Russia; or whether, as the US and UK would like, NATO should stretch its mandate to missions far beyond Europe, as in Afghanistan. Also, the role of nuclear weapons in NATO strategy presents difficulties. but some believe that Ministers will agree in advance of Strategic Concept negotiations to leave the 'nuclear paragraphs' of the current concept intact, as any changes are too fraught with difficulty.

We'll see what the next two days brings.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Obama, NATO Europe and Missile Defences

The Obama administration will differ from the Bush administration in a number of areas. National security policy is one area where there are likely to be significant difference. One important area for future relations with Russia, and therefore for the prospects for disarmament in Europe, is the US strategic missile defence system, and in particular the Obama administration’s policy on deployment at the European sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. This is a topic that has been extremely divisive in Europe amongst NATO allies, and one that has shown the Bush adnministration at its least sensitive to the Atlantic Alliance.

During the campaign, the President-Elect told ABC News that “I just want to make sure if you put up a missile defense system then it better defend against missiles. If it doesn't then that creates greater insecurity and instability not more.” This nuanced position is mirrored in his transition website’s policy statement on the issue:

National Missile Defense: An Obama-Biden administration will support missile defense, but ensure that it is developed in a way that is pragmatic and cost-effective; and, most importantly, does not divert resources from other national security priorities until we are positive the technology will protect the American public.
(
http://www.change.gov/agenda/defense/)

Further, a statement in 2007 by then-candidate Obama adds to the doubts about ballistic missile defences (BMD) and notes that the Bush administration’s unilateral approach to deploying elements of strategic BMD in Europe has done much to divide NATO:

If we can responsibly deploy missile defenses that would protect us and our allies we should – but only when the system works. We need to make sure any missile defense system would be effective before deployment. The Bush Administration has in the past exaggerated missile defense capabilities and rushed deployments for political purposes. The Bush Administration has also done a poor job of consulting its NATO allies about the deployment of a missile defense system that has major implications for all of them. We must not allow this issue to divide “new Europe” and “old Europe,” as the Bush Administration tried to do over Iraq.
(
http://obama.senate.gov/press/070716-obama_statement_73/)

This summer, following the 5-day war between Georgia and Russia, President-Elect Obama said that Congress should review the technological capabilities of the proposed European deployments, but divorced this from American mutual defence obligations in NATO, saying “..I have said that congress should review it [BMD]. But there is no doubt that after the Russian invasion of Georgia that NATO allies… like Poland need to know that they are going to be protected if there in encroachment on their territory.” Dividing these two issues is vital. The fears engendered in Eastern Europe by the Russian destruction of Georgia’s military led to Poland agreeing quickly to the Bush BMD deployment request after months of hesitation about its security benefits. Reassuring Poland and the Czech Republic about the solidity of NATO allows for a more rational discussion about missile defence.

Recent confusion on the part of Polish President Lech Kaczynski shows how sensitive this issue is. Kaczynski and Obama had a conversation on November 8, 2008, and Kaczynski later claimed that Obama had said the BMD deployment would go ahead without delay. The Obama transition team responded that his position had not changed, reiterating past statements.

Democrats have had to be extremely careful on missile defences this year, to avoid handing the Republicans an excuse to claim in the lection that Obama is ‘soft on defence’. They have crafted a position publicly supportive of missile defences, but which will prevent any deployments in the near future. The Obama campaign was consulted by Congressional leaders as this legislation was developed. The relevant legislation, the Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2009, authorizes $465.8 million for the missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, a cut of $246.3 million from the administration request. It bans any use these funds for the procurement, site activation, construction, preparation of equipment for or deployment of a long-range missile defense system in Europe until the two countries have ratified the missile defense basing agreement and a status of forces agreement permitting the stationing of the missiles and the radar and associated personnel. This has not happened. The legislation also requires the Secretary of Defense to certify that the system “has demonstrated, through successful, operationally realistic flight testing, a high probability of working in an operationally effective manner and the ability to accomplish the mission.”

Most observers believe that, if the system can be proved at all, it will take years and hundreds of millions of dollars in expenditure to do the necessary tests. This at a time when the incoming administration is faced with a recession, the cost of funding two wars, and an economic bailout whose cost is rising towards $1.8 trillion. Missile defence programmes, especially unproven programmes like the European mid-course interceptors, are prime candidates for savings, and indeed on November 5 the Inside Defense newsletter reported a transition team position paper which listed missile defence programmes as ripe for cuts.

However, some of the potential candidates for Defense Secretary are supporters of the mid-course BMD system. It is possible that Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a strong missile defence proponent, may stay in post. It has also been reported that former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, a key Obama aide, could be appointed as Deputy Secretary of Defense to Gates, or even as Defense Secretary in his own right. Danzig recently brushed aside Russian concerns about the missile defense programme saying “Serious conversation needs to be had with the Russians about what we’re trying to do, because it is not anti-Russian.” He is reported to believe that the European deployments should continue. (http://www.nti.org/d_newswire/issues/2008_10_2.html#4C6AA903).

President Obama’s inclination is likely to be to at least delay if not to cancel the European missile defence deployments. This will be a relief to most in NATO Europe, although the Czech government in particular may feel betrayed. The Czechs have bought into the Bush vision completely, seemingly without thinking of the consequences if Obama won.

Obama is aided in his retreat from the bush policy as the Congress has stymied President Bush’s plan to have the deployment well underway before the next President takes office, something which would have made cancelling the system much harder. His doubts about the technical capabilities are added to fiscal pressures to cut budgets. Moreover, Obama will be working with Democrats in Congress who oppose the deployment of mid-course missile defences in Europe.

On balance, it is likely that no action will be taken to deploy systems in the next year or two. Additional testing would take at least this long. This breathing space will allow time for negotiations with Russia on the future of strategic weapons systems in Europe. It will also see an engagement with Iran. If these negotiations are positive it is unlikely that the European BMD sites will go forward during the full term of an Obama Presidency.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Does The US Defense Secretary Know About Nuclear Sharing?

Does US Defense Defense Secretary Robert Gates know that the US has a programme of nuclear sharing in place with some European Allies? And that these programmes have existed since the 1960s? I ask because answering questions yesterday at the Carnegie Endowment in DC, he appeared not to. Gates was asked this question by Paul Ingram of BASIC:

Q: Paul Ingram from the British American Security Information Council. You said in your talk, you made reference to the nuclear umbrella. I wonder if you could tell us whether you feel that the nuclear umbrella depends upon the United States handing over the control of nuclear weapons to some European allies at time of war and for preparing for that when European allies are not spending sufficient on conventional military capability when it comes to Afghanistan.

Now, that is clearly a question about nuclear sharing, if phrased a little indirectly. And Gates replied:

SEC. GATES: Well, you have just given me an idea. We might sit down and say we are willing to talk about it after you get your GDP spending on defense up to two or 3 percent. And I think that would set the bar plenty high for most of them, that it would be a distant, future problem. I think that – I think that the Iran – I think the way I would leave it – it is obviously a sensitive subject – I think the way I would leave it is that my impression is that all of our allies in Europe are very comfortable with the arrangements that we have today.

Did Gates understand the premise of the question? It doesn't seem so. It seems that he is saying that nuclear sharing programmes could be a future option if the Allies started spending enough on defence? And that for the moment the US promise of a nuclear umbrella is all that Europeans want. If the nuclear sharing programmes are so unimportant that a US Defense Secretary is in ignorance of them, well then that's one programme and set of bombs that could be done away with very quickly. (The speech itself was a call for a new generation of nuclear weapons. The full transcript is on the Carnegie website.)

Thursday, 23 October 2008

The Guardian on Craddock's Speech

The Guardian editorialised on General Craddock's speech, in very critical vein:

The general was pressing for a root-and-branch reform of Nato, a new strategic concept for the 21st century. But it needs more than that. Even without the challenge of a resurgent Russia, or a persistent Pashtun nationalist insurgency, Nato is buckling under the weight of its own contradictions. The crumbling of the Soviet Union presented an opportunity to establish a new security structure in Europe. It was ignored by the victors, who believed that western-style democracy could be anchored by Nato. The prospect of defeat in Afghanistan should spur alliance members to think radically about security structures that would command collective political support.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

SACEUR Speaks on NATO Reform, Ignores Role of Nuclear Forces

NATO’s General Craddock, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), spoke at RUSI in London on Monday. His speech, and the question and answer session that followed, were thought provoking. The issues that the General raised have a strong bearing on the future of the Alliance, and in particular the any revision of the Strategic Concept following the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit next spring. The headlines that the press gave to the speech concerned mostly narrow tactical issues facing the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that NATO leads in Afghanistan. Craddock talked about Afghanistan, but the significance of his remarks lay more in their long tern strategic implications. He began by saying that:

… the Center for Strategic and International Studies [and] RUSI recently published a compelling article about NATO’s future in view of its current operation in Afghanistan. The authors argue that 'the troubles the Alliance has encountered in Afghanistan are not specific to the ISAF mission. They reflect very real changes in the global security environment – issues that to date NATO has failed to address'. In short, they see the operation in 'Afghanistan as a symptom, not the cause', and ask some hard-hitting questions that I believe our Alliance must answer. Questions such as: what are the long-term consequences if nations remain uncomfortable with far away missions like Afghanistan? Will NATO permanently opt to scale back missions outside the Euro-Atlantic area? What are the consequences of undertaking more missions like Afghanistan in light of varying beliefs within the alliance about the use of military force? These are important questions – questions that rightly belong at NATO’s political level. However, the answers to these questions are undoubtedly shaped by what we do at the military strategic, operational, and tactical levels.

The truth is that NATO has failed to manage the transition from the Cold War to the Long War with any measure of success. The military structure that integrated forces ready for a potential battle on the Central Front has been dismantled (although the command structure remains), and the ad-hoc arrangements for operations that were used in Kosovo have not stood up to the rigours of a much longer and more complicated campaign in Afghanistan. Allowing nations to decide on a case by case basis what troops and equipment they provide, and how those forces are used has placed huge constraints on NATO operations in theatre. Craddock continued:

NATO’s role and credibility as a security provider in the post-cold war era will be judged by how we respond to emerging crises, and if committed, how well we perform in our operations.

This presupposes an answer to one of the questions Craddock has already posed. Should NATO play a role in security provision beyond the Euro-Atlantic area? This is a position that divides NATO. France and Germany are not keen on NATO taking a global leadership role, while the US (with the UK at its side) is enthusiastic for such responsibility. However, it is likely that the strongest opposition away from an emphasis on territorial defence to expeditionary missions will come from the NATO members in Eastern Europe. The Baltic States, Poland and others have a vision of NATO as their protector from Russia. This has only sharpened as a result of the summer’s conflict in Georgia. However, that said, if NATO does decide to take on missions like ISAF, it has do to do so without reservation, united and using all tools necessary to succeed. This has not been the case with ISAF. While troop levels are roughly consistent with the requirement of field commanders, nations have been reluctant to provide certain capabilities (for example, the constant lack of helicopters for troop and supplies transport to remote battlefields), and the debate about the long list of national ‘caveats’ on the use of forces in country has been close to an embarrassment for the Alliance. This is the risk for NATO of pursuing continued relevance through the acceptance of ‘missions of choice’ rather than those forced on the Alliance by the need to defend its members’ territory.

NATO also faces another problem in Afghanistan that General Craddock highlighted:

… the conflict in Afghanistan cannot be won by military means alone – we are just one member of a greater team. The military must provide a safe and secure environment to enable the conditions for the government of Afghanistan – and the international community – to deliver good governance, reconstruction, and enduring development. For this co-operative effort to succeed, we in the international community must come together as part of a truly comprehensive approach. The current effort remains disjointed in time and space.

Perhaps the root of the problem is that we don’t all see the concept in the same light. For some a comprehensive approach entails the many actors in the international community playing their roles and doing their parts, individually, toward the collective vision for success. In the end – I believe the overarching strategy of the international community is correct – but we must find a way to enhance our comprehensive approach toward success. We need a cohesive and coherent effort with cooperation and coordination – building on common strengths and off-setting persistent shortfalls.

While NATO’s ‘take, hold, build’ strategy is the classic strategy for fighting an insurgency, the problem for NATO is that it doesn’t control the final part of this. It has to work with the EU, the United Nations and a wide range of NGOs. The Provincial Reconstruction Teams are part of meeting this need on the ground, but NATO is not structured at the command or political level to run a reconstruction effort. It is true that there needs to be a unified command effort in Afghanistan, but it is doubtful that NATO is best placed to undertake that role. NATO needs to agree, at the political level, to provide forces for its operational commanders and then to allow those commanders to get on with their job. It would be best, if operating outside Europe, that this were done at the service of the United Nations, to reinforce an internationalist and cooperative approach to security building. The UN can bring expertise to bear in areas where NATO is deficient, allowing for a much greater chance of success in Afghanistan.

If NATO is unable to agree an operational framework that frees its commanders to do their job, then it need not engage in a debate as to the desirability or otherwise of amending the Strategic Concept to give NATO the structures it needs to act as a ‘global security provider’ (as the Secretary General likes to say). In such circumstances, NATO would be unable to operationalise such aims anyway, just as it is falling short with ISAF. Whatever path NATO takes the essential thing is that its members act together. As General Craddock put it:

… we are demonstrating a political will that is – somewhat – wavering. And it is this wavering political will that impedes operational progress and brings into question the relevancy of the alliance here in the twenty-first century. Clearly – the alliance cannot nor should not do everything everywhere – but we need to define what role we wish to play in today’s security environment.

This couldn’t be more true, but presents the Alliance with a major difficulty. There has been no revision of the Strategic Concept for a decade as many believe that the members of NATO, especially since the last round of enlargement, diverge too deeply on the role the Alliance should play. However, General Craddock suggests a way to proceed:

NATO must continually assess the role it wants to have in the current security environment and assess its capabilities and its will to fulfil that role… I believe our alliance should start with a comprehensive global strategic threat assessment – shortly followed by a twenty-first century strategic concept.

This seems only sensible. If NATO has a future as an Alliance then its member states must agree what threats it faces, and then how to deal with them. It must also be prepared to provide the necessary resources. At a time of global recession, that is going mean a smaller, more constricted Alliance, at least in terms of a reduction of acquisition of military hardware and of operations. However, if NATO is to retain any credibility then, as Craddock insisted:

Whatever we decide, NATO’s role is in our world – we must all be certain that our reach does not extend beyond our grasp – that our level of ambition is in step with our political will and our military capability.

One proposal that General Craddock advanced would see a radical shift in the way that operations are funded and organized. He suggested that in future, rather than each troop providing nation paying the cost of their operations, NATO should at least explore the possibility of:

.. the use of common funding. With a system of common funding – deployment costs can be shared – thereby reducing the strain on national defence budgets.

He also proposed a major shift in NATO’s decision-making. One where political decision would continue to be taken by consensus, but operational decisions would not:

More flexible and rapid decision-making processes are needed if we are to address the challenges we face today and tomorrow. Our alliance has long operated under the system of consensus – and at the political level – this system has proven powerful in garnering international support and legitimacy. But do we really need to achieve consensus at every level of committee within the NATO structure? In my judgement this policy stands squarely in the path of agile decision-making.

These proposals taken as a whole make sense. They would transform NATO and end the ‘war by committee’ controversy that first emerged in Kosovo. General Craddock properly dealt with military and operational reform of NATO to make Alliance operations more effective. That is his role. However, he ignored one area of NATO defence strategy that is under his control, and where reform is most urgent - the need to reconsider the role of nuclear forces in Alliance policy.
If NATO is to become involved increasingly in expeditionary warfare with Afghanistan as a model, then nuclear weapons are redundant – and indeed counterproductive, they simply have no role whatsoever in such scenarios. The risk assessment and Strategic Concept debates the General proposes have to take this into consideration.

NATO’s nuclear forces also have no role for defence in the current strategic situation. NATO retains a significant nuclear force, both tactical and strategic, supposedly deter aggression. However, the massive conventional forces of the Warsaw Pact have melted away or even joined NATO. There is simply no conventional threat to the Alliance. Similarly, with Russia as a strategic partner, there is no extent nuclear threat to the Alliance. Such nuclear or other WMD threats as might emerge (Iran notably) could, with adept diplomacy and appropriate security guarantees, be negotiated away before they emerge. Rather than refusing to discuss arms reductions and elimination, thereby hurting non-proliferation efforts, NATO needs to engage with its neighbours to achieve a mutual end to WMD threats, and the blueprint for that engagement needs to be written into the Strategic Concept.

A NATO military that was not subject to consensus rules for operations, as the General has proposed, would mean that elimination of the Alliance's nuclear role would become urgent. The Cold War thinking that General Craddock says dominates the Alliance at present must change. The ridiculous assertion in the Strategic Concept that it takes the presence of American nuclear weapons in Europe to maintain the trans-Atlantic link is one part of the NATO’s thinking most in need of such change. A 21st century NATO cannot simply rely on 1950s nuclear thinking.

General Craddock’s speech is available on the RUSI website.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Afghanistan Drowns Out Important Issues in Budapest

The main headlines that emerged from the informal Budapest Defence Ministers meeting concerned Afghanistan. Ministers agreed that NATO forces could go after drug producers, primarily as a means to cut off funding to the Taliban. However, as is often the case with NATO, the items that Ministers hoped journalists would concentrate on were not the most important ones to come out of the meeting.

Defending the Baltic States

NATO Monitor has already covered the controversy at the meeting over defence planning for military intervention in the Baltic States to prevent a Russian invasion. There is deep division amongst NATO ministers on this topic, and a NATO source contacted by NATO Monitor expressed irritation that this had risen to the political level at all. Had the authorities at SHAPE simply begun some contingency planning without any fuss, it may have gone unnoticed, our source said. By raising the question with ministers, SACEUR General Craddock has both divided the political leaders of the Alliance and guaranteed that any future exercises or planning activity will stir up acrimony with Russia.

Relations with Georgia

Understandably, the future nature of NATO contacts with Georgia was discussed in the main meeting, and on the margins. NATO was keen to signal political support for the Georgian government. Having decided to establish a NATO-Georgia Commission this Summer, in the wake of the Georgian conflict with Russia, Ministers met with their Georgian counterpart in this forum for the first time - promising "the coordination of assistance in areas such as defence and security cooperation, security sector reform and airspace management." (NATO's report can be found here).

However, for Georgia and for the United States, this was another opportunity to press for Georgian accession to the Alliance. US Defense Secretary Gates came into the meeting saying he would raise this with his colleagues. His goal was to have the North Atlantic Council meeting this coming December approve a Membership Action Plan for Georgia (and the Ukraine). A positive reaction in Budapest would make this easier. However, Chancellor Merkel of Germany has already ruled this out. Meeting with Russian President Medvedev on October 2, she told the media that it is too early to move ahead. (See a report here) Soundings amongst other NATO nations make it clear that Merkel has considerable support.

Other aspects of some NATO members' approach to Georgia have irritated Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer and the United States. Scheffer has expressed irritation that the French brokered peace deal allowed Russian troops to remain in South Ossetia and Abkhazia indefinitely, although it is very hard to see how any other outcome could have been achieved. Further, the US has been prepared to indirectly support arms sales to Georgia to allow the rebuilding of military stockpiles destroyed by Russia during the short Summer war.

US experts have been advising the Ukraine on appropriate arms to supply, including anti-tank missiles. The Bush administration hold talks with Georgian representatives in Washington DC later this month about supplies of equipments and weapons for the Georgian military. NATO ministers discussed this informally in Budapest and ruled out Alliance support for rebuilding Georgia's military. Even influential members of Congress do not support the administration on this one. Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee has ruled out the actual supply of weapons to Georgia.

In short, the US, with British and some Eastern European support, wants to continue the aggressive posture of pushing the boundaries of the relationship with Moscow through a step-change in relations with Georgia and other nations on Russia's periphery. Other NATO members have looked at the war this Summer and seen the potential for a new Cold War, and decided they want no part of it.

Conclusion

The needs of the continuing ISAF mission in Afghanistan continue to dominate NATO meetings, and media coverage of them. But some vital questions of European security are overlooked if tactical changes in Alliance operations are the only focus. NATO's interaction with Russia is, in the long term, much more significant for the future of the Alliance. And yet, these questions get relatively attention at present. The German Defence Minister Franz Jozef Jung told his colleagues that the NATO-Russia Council should be reactivated. With matters of enormous strategic importance to discuss, he is surely right. The outcome of the Afghnaistan mission is important to the future role of the Alliance, but relations with Russia are much more so.

If the confrontation over Georgia, and now over defending the Baltic States, cannot be resolved successfully then the outlook is bleak. Prolems that must be resolved include differences over missile defences, the CFE treaty and tactical nuclear weapons. Without agreement on these topics, a new Cold War looms on the horizon - and that is in no-one's interest.

Friday, 10 October 2008

NATO Meeting Wraps Up

The Defence Ministers meeting in Budapest wrapped up this afternoon after two days devoted to discussing the mission in Afghanistan, supporting naval security off the coast of Somalia and relations between the Allaince and Georgia. Nothing public on defence planning, nothing on solving relations with Russia. NATO Monitor will publish a fuller review tomorrow.

Scheffer Doubts Iranian Nuclear Programme Can Be Stopped

Will Iran get the bomb? NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer thinks so. Reuters has reported that he told a conference on October 6 that:

Scheffer told a conference in southeast France that NATO did not have a direct role to play in the issue, but said he was worried that the United Nations had failed to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. "It is a major challenge to prevent Iran from continuing to strive to get the bomb," Scheffer told a World Policy Conference organised by France's IFRI foreign affairs think tank. "I am not positive about the world being able to stop Iran from fulfilling its ambitions," he added.

Of course, this raises at least one question. If, as Scheffer is quoted as saying elsewhere in the article, the UN is not really capable of dealing with this problem at the moment, why isn;t NATO engaged? During the Cold War NATO, specifically the North Atlantic Council (NAC), was the premier forum for security consultation and cooperation between Allies. A potential nuclear threat to the Alliance would have been an obvious subject for discussion, especially if that potential threat bordered an Allied nation - as Iran borders Turkey.

Instead of working together through NATO, the US and several European Allies have been pursuing separate tracks of negotiation with Iran. Using the NAC they could present a truly united front. Moreover, with the US and NATO engaged they could offer the kinds of security guarantees to Iran's leadership that are likely to be necessary if Iran is to open up completely and abandon its nuclear weapons programme, or prove once and for all that it doesn't have one.

NATO could also remove the few remaining US free fall nuclear bombs from Europe. This relic of the Cold War is useless for security purposes and could be used as a piece of the puzzle to get arms control progress with Russia and Iran. Such a withdrawal would also do much to lighten the mood in the review process of the NPT.

In current circumstances Scheffer's judgement about Iran is probably right. it is a pity he doesn't look beyond hand wringing to the positive role the Alliance he leads could play in changing the dynamic of the nuclear dispute with Iran.

NATO Takes on Somali Pirates

At the same time that NATO ministers are being forced to confront questions about the defence of the Baltic States, they are also looking at a number of other items. One stands out as the kind of mission that is transforming NATO into a 'global security provider'.

At the request of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, NATO will dispatch some ships from their Standing Naval Maritime Group to the coast of Somalia. These ships will participate in patrols from late October through December to prevent Somali pirates hijacking ships as it passes the coast of East Africa's most dangerous failed state.

They will also provide security for ships of the World Food Programme as aid is delivered to Somalia.

This presence, together with other naval efforts including that launched by the European Union, and the US presence already in the region, should help prevent a recurrence of the capture of a ship, recently seized by Somali pirates, that was heading to Africa with tanks and other military equipment aboard.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Membership for Georgia?

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has urged his counterparts in Budapest to allow Georgia to get back on the road to membership for NATO at Ministerial meetings this December. He wants Georgia to be awarded the Membership Action Plan (the last step before joining the Alliance) that it was denied in Bucharest earlier this year.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is known to be strongly opposed to such a move, especially after the reckless assault ordered by Georgian armed forces on South Ossetia by President Saakashvili.

This one will run and run.

How to Deal With Russia

While the official agenda in Budapest concerns Afghanistan and support for Georgia, as NATO Spokesman James Apathurai told journalists earlier this week: any NATO ally or indeed SACEUR if he wishes to can put issues onto the agenda.

And the item that, if not on the agenda, is certainly the most important question to have arisen within NATO since the end of the Cold War is - what do we do about Russia? And, more particularly, do we need to be taking active measures to defend ourselves against Russia?

As we have reported, at the informal Ministerial in London a couple of weeks ago, some NATO nations were seeking to have the NATO Response Force tasked with potential deployment within Alliance territory in the event of a threat from Russia. Also, there was a discussion about whether the military staff at SHAPE should be planning for contingencies involving potential Russian threats to the Baltic States.

This is absolutely fundamental to the future of NATO. If the Alliance is unable to provide the security that the Baltic States thought they were getting when they joined, if the Article V guarantee is no guarantee at all - what is NATO about? All the discussion about NATO as a 'global security provider' that its advocates have been passionately advocating for the past couple of years becomes meaningless if the Alliance cannot do collective defence of its own members.

At least, that is how the Baltic States, Poland and their supporters (principally the US and the UK) see things. Others have a rather different take. France and Germany (and note by the way how quickly the divisions that emerged within the Alliance over the invasion of Iraq have reasserted themselves) say that while the Alliance is, of course, about collective defence, the Baltic States are exaggerating current threats. There is no danger of war with Russia on the northern flank, and to begin active preparations for it is merely to provoke the Russians in an unnecessary fashion.

NATO's SACEUR, the top military commander, wants to begin contingency planning for potential conflicts with Russia in the Baltics, or in Poland. American General Craddock is reported to have written a letter to all 26 allies asking for permission to go ahead with defence contingency planning. He has also been discussing the issue with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. They take the position that he has the right ot do this planning, but that the support of the Allies is important.

Of course, seeking permission of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) turns this from something that is purely a matter of military caution to a matter of the highest Alliance politics. This situation has arisen because, when the three Baltic States joined NATO in 2004 the Alliance was working to make Russia a strategic partner and no need for such contingency planning was seen.

But now, if the NAC gives the go-ahead, this will ratchet up the political pressure on the relationship with Russia, making a serious international situation even worse. If the NAC doesn't go ahead then the three Baltic States can argue that NATO is not prepared to defend them as it should. Craddock wants to begin with a risk assessment for Estonia, before moving on to prepare contingency plans. Germany and France argue that this would provoke open confrontation with Russia.

This internal dispute risks making the security situation in Europe worse. It shows the urgent need to sit back down with Russia in the NATO-Russia Council and hammer things out. The alternative, a lurch back to the Cold War would be in no-one's interest. It also shows how NATO has changed over the past decade. The new members have very different perceptions of threats to their security form the old members, and those differences will be very hard to reconcile. Further, in the Cold War or through the 1990s NATO would have had no problem with dealing with this problem. The expeditionary Alliance, bogged down a war even the British commander in Afghanistan thinks is unwinnable, has its hands full with new tasks, the tasks that the Secretary General hopes will become its raison d'ĂȘtre - those that involve a global vision of NATO underpinning security with its military force. And yet, so occupied, it seems unable to agree on the basics of mutual defence at home.

This problem needs to be resolved, and resolved very quickly. If not, the Strategic Concept debate that will begin next Spring at the 2009 Summit will prove very hard indeed.

NATO Defence Ministers Meet in Budapest

NATO Defence Ministers meet in Budapest today and tomorrow. The principle topics of discussion will be the Alliance ISAF mission in Afghanistan, and the aftermath of the conflict in Georgia. However, the global financial meltdown will also be a topic for discussion as Deutchse Welle reports:

much of the discussions in Budapest will revolve around ways to boost NATO's capabilities at a time of global economic slowdown. Officials say the financial crisis should encourage member states to make better use of their defense budgets. "The pressure on national budgets will only grow as a result of the current financial crisis. Which means finding efficiencies across government spending will become ever more important," said alliance spokesman James Appathurai.

Ministers will also look to agree a target of adapting forces so that 50% are deployable beyond NATO's borders. This is not without controversy, as Turkey, Poland and the Baltic States are said to be sticking firmly to the position that their national defense needs are more important than the ability to project power globally.

NATO Monitor will keep up to date throughout the meeting.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Defence Planning, Response Force for Baltics Debate Continues

A couple of related items came up at NATO Spokesman James Apathurai's press briefing last week. Journalists asked about the NATO Response Force (NRF) questions that had leaked during the London Defence Ministerial a couple of weeks ago, and a group of NATO nations (plus Sweden and Finland) which is establishing a combined heavy airlift capability took a big step towards the purchase of the C-17 aircraft they will operate for the Alliance.

Appathurai was asked "whether you can give us any flavour of what were the discussions in London between the Ministers of Defence on what to do about the Baltics, whether there's any need to give them any sort of greater defence, reassurement?"

He replied that "there was an informal discussion amongst the NATO Defence Ministers on the issue of planning and exercising for collective defence. The consensus, not a formal decision because this was not a decision-taking meeting, but the consensus was that NATO has always done what is necessary to ensure that the necessary... that the appropriate planning and exercising is in place for the defence of allied territory. That is one of our core... or "the" core task of NATO; that no one should be surprised if any prudent planning or any exercises take place in future to meet... to continue to meet, excuse me, that core task. And if and when such planning or exercises take place, this should be considered business as usual for NATO."

This somewhat waffly answer conceals a difficult truth for NATO. In the wake of the conflict in Georgia the Baltic States have asked for NATO's defence guarantee to be given some extra teeth. They received support for this from Des Browne, then UK Defence Secretary. Specifically, they wanted assurances that in the event of Russian military deployments near their borders, the NRF could be deployed to defend them. France, Germany and Italy objected and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer was left to finesse the question at a press conference in London, something he didn't do very well, raising more inquisitive eyebrows than he intended. (See previous posts on the London meeting)

De Hoop Sceffer and US Ambassador to NATO Volker have previously promised to do all that is necessary, both in terms of planning and exercises, to ensure that NATO is ready to defend the Baltic States. However, the idea of formally committing the NRF has become controversial as it is symbolic of the new confrontation with Russia. This has been building as Russian objections to the deployment of missile defence in Eastern Europe, and NATO nations failure to ratify the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty led to a cut-off in cooperation on CFE implementation. The Georgian conflict this summer has turned a simmering dispute into a full blown stand-off between the two.

The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for the collective purchase of C-17 transport aircraft is significant in this context. It gives NATO a joint capacity to transport the NRF (as opposed to asking for American help) and thus contributes to enhanced operational capacity for the NRF. Since the transport wing will be based in Hungary, it also shifts the balance of NATO forces eastwards, and seems to go against promises about the restriction of military infrastructure in the east of Europe that were made to Russia repeatedly during the past 15 years, thus contributing further to Russia's sense of encirclement, and to the crisis in relations between NATO and Russia.

NATO leaders protest they don't want a new Cold War. They need to work out relations with Russia very quickly if it is to be avoided. Russia has announced plans to step up its nuclear force modernisation, and to work on its own missile defences. It has suspended cooperation with NATO on CFE and used that suspension to mount the Georgia operation in stealth. It has threatened to significantly enhance its military forces in Kaliningrad.

In present circumstances, the internal NATO debate about stepping up defence cooperation for the Baltics can only contribute to this negative spiral.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

NATO Secretary General Press Conference

The transcript of the somewhat perplexing press conference that Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer gave in London last Friday has now been posted on the NATO webiste. You can read it here.

After London, Budapest Next

Last week, NATO Defence Ministers met in London in an informal session, one that issues no communique and takes no decisions. The occasion was surrounded in some mystery, with even the reason for the meeting seeming somewhat confused - even after (or perhaps because) Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer gave his press conference.

Defence Ministers will meet again in Budapest in two weeks time for their regular Autumn informal session. So why was the London meeting held? And what was discussed? What are the concrete results liekly to be? The picture is now becoming a little clearer.

The meeting had been planned at the invitation of UK Defence Secretary Des Browne, who called for the meeting during the Bucharest Summit this spring. His intention was to discuss the further transformation of NATO's defence structures. At issue was the pressing need to provide more equipment to front-line NATO operations in Afghanistan, especially helicopters; and also the need to build common infrastructure including strategic airlift. Another issue that concerned Browne is the need to bring the NATO Response Force up to full operational capability. Further, Browne has ideas about slimming down the NATO HQ bureaucracy to provide funds for the more urgent needs.

However, in the event this agenda was derailed by the fallout from the Russia-Georgia conflict this Summer. A group of countries led by Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic States demanded a review of NATO relations with Russia. In this they had the full support of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates. They also called a revision of the mandate of the NATO Response Force, conceived to allow swift NATO intervention beyond Europe's borders, to allow it to operate within NATO territory in the event of a threat from Russia.

According to the AFP, Polish Defence Minister Bogdan Klich told the meeting that NATO's principle task is "still the defence of its member states, which must not be diluted." This is something of a U-turn for the Polish government, which since elections last year, had been taking a much more conciliatory line with Russia. This changed when Russia crushed Georgia in a few days this Summer. The return to an emphasis on territorial defence, something the Baltic States have always insisted on, is part of debate on the future of NATO and a direct thrust at those (including the Secretary General0 who believe that NATO must look ever wider for new security tasks in order to justify its existence in the 21st Century.

NATO sources added that there might be a greater visibility for the NATO air defence forces which have flown missions over the Baltic States since their entry into the Alliance. And their will more resources pumped into military planning for any eventual problems with Russia.

A NATO Spokesperson has been moved to respond to some press reports, saying that NATO has no plans to deploy forces to the Russian border. However, since that was never claimed the denial lacks real credibility. Obviously, the NRF could be used to confront Russia just as easily to mount an operation in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

Browne's agenda on the slimming down of the NATO bureaucracy also ran into problems. The Greek Defence Minister, for one, opining that it was better for the NATO HQ to involve all nations (thereby building solidarity) than to save a little money and cut some nations out of NATO operations.

NATO Ministers move on to Budapest to continue this debate, and also to consider the future of their Afghan mission. They are also looking ofrward to the future Strategic Concept debate which will determine the future roles and organisation of the Alliance.

Friday, 19 September 2008

NATO's Transformation Ministerial

For a decade 'transformation' has been a buzzword for taking the old Cold War NATO and remodelling the Alliance for the new security situation. Since 9/11 that has primarily meant an expeditionary Alliance doing its part in what the Pentagon now calls the 'long war'. NATO created Allied Command Transformation, a major NATO command headquarters based in Norfolk, Virginia. This was aimed at rebuilding the forces of all NATO nations for power projection outside Europe.

At the request of Defence Secretary Des Browne, NATO ministers came to London to discuss the development of Alliance forces. In a statement released by the MID, Browne said that:

"NATO is the cornerstone of our Euro-Atlantic security, and it has bound North America and Europe in common purpose for nearly sixty years. That unity of purpose has been displayed in NATO's response to recent events in the Caucasus. However over time institutions build bad habits. There remains a mismatch between our aspirations and what we actually deliver. The NATO response force is not getting the forces or capabilities that it needs. We are lacking sufficient capabilities in key areas like intra-theatre air lift. Resources need to be switched from non-deployable capabilities. These capabilities require proper resourcing and investment. This meeting today is about transforming NATO to address all these points - and more - and to ensure that operations are central to NATO's purpose. Achieving this will allow us to focus better on the way we approach defence and security in the 21st Century."

However, during the afternoon that this meeting was not all about making NATO more capable of undertaking missions such as that in Afghanistan, the 'out of area' missions in which it acts as a 'global security provider'. It was also about the new confrontation with Russia that has emerged in the wake of the war in Georgia this Summer. The LA Times has reported that NATO ministers were discussing a plan to create "an easily deployable military force that could be sent into nations feeling threatened, a senior U.S. Defense official said Thursday. The creation of such a force would take NATO back to its roots as a deterrent against Soviet might after years of concentrating on missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan."

It is certain that ministers were discussing efforts to boost the somewhat faltering NATO Response Force (NRF) intended to bring together some 25,000 NATO soldiers ready to deploy and fight almost instantly. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a press conference today that NATO needed to "strike the right balance between expeditionary forces and core tasks".

As The NATO Monitor has previously reported, this has been an ongoing debate between old and new members of NATO, with the Eastern Europeans concerned that NATO was not doing enough to offer protection form Russia. This feeling has grown exponentially since the Russian intervention in Georgia, and this may be NATO's answer. A common force of C-17 transport aircraft, inaugurated at the NATO Summit in Riga in 2006, was cited by De Hoop Scheffer as an example of common projects that enhance Alliance troop mobility in a cost-efficient manner. He also said that "planning and exercising for the common defence is what NATO does and will do. It is business as usual."

The Secretary General added that "NATO has always been prepared for all eventualities and still is. I don't see any new eventualities," but also admitted that NATO was beefing up some elements of its common defence capabilities, while refusing to be in any way specific on those capabilities.

It is clear that NATO has taken a step back towards its old role, the territorial defence of Europe. It is trying to do so in a way that maintains room for new missions in Afghanistan and, potentially in the future, elsewhere. No decisions were taken at this informal meeting, but further discussions will take place in Budapest in October, in December, in Krakow next Spring and then at the April Summit of Alliance leaders in Strasbourg and Kehl.

What is far less clear at present is what this means for NATO Russia relations. NATO leaders do not seem eager to head into a new Cold War, but at the same time they cannot afford to leave their new members dissatisfied with NATO's Article V mutual defence guarantee.Are we on the point of seeing a revival of a military balance of power in Europe between NATO and Russia? And what role will NATO's nuclear forces play in that stand-off if it emerges?

US to Allies: NATO Should Fight a War on Drugs in Afghanistan

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has flown into London for the NATO meeting. He has asked ministers to consider taking on the drug lords in Afghnaistan as part of their mission there, saying: "It seems to me that if we or ISAF encounter the opportunity to take out drug labs, or to arrest or take action against drug lords, kingpins, that's an opportunity, given how tied in it is with all the other issues in Afghanistan that that's something we ought to be willing to take on in some way."

Other NATO nations have been extremely reluctant to do this, with the UK, for example, going out of their way to tell residents of Helmand province that their mission is to fight the Taliban, not combat the trade in heroin.

Gates announcement is part of a Bush administration review of strategy in Afghnaistan, and the role of the NATO mission - ISAF - inthe country will make up a major part of deliberations in London.

NATO Ministers Meet in London

In the first of two informal Ministerials this Autumn(where no official decisions are taken) NATO Defence Ministers gathered in London, September 18, against a backdrop of crisis in Afghanistan and worsening relations with Russia.

The first significant event, Thursday evening, was a speech by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). A couple of points made by the Secretary General stand out. On the aftermath of the conflict in Georgia, he said that: "I don’t have to explain at length why Russia’s justification for recognising Abkhazia and South Ossetia could set a dangerous precedent – with truly global consequences. " This is true, and Russia's recognition of two breakaway states based on their own interpretation of local wishes will have serious implications for global security. Indeed, with the status of Chechnya far from finally settled in the eyes of many Chechens, it could have future implications for Russia. However, De Hoop Scheffer conveniently ignores the point that Russia based its actions on a precedent set by NATO. The recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states follows that of Kosovo, which NATO members were keen to see as an independent state, relying on the declaration of independence by Kosovars and ignoring the concerns of Serbia (of which Kosovo was part, and also of Russia). What is sauce for the NATO goose, is also sauce for the Russia gander. Since international law is in large part customary, it may be that dismembering states based on their citizens perceived desires is becoming much easier legally.

A second very important point made by the Secretary General concerned the future of NATO itself: ".. in this new security context, some have called for a reappraisal of the balance between an expeditionary NATO and our core task of collective defence. Such a discussion is certainly justified. But, again, I do not foresee a 180 degree change in our approach. Article 5 already exists, we don’t have to reinvent it. Neither does upholding Article 5 require us to return to a Cold War military posture in Europe."

De Hoop Scheffer and his policy team have been foremost amongst those arguing that NATO must transform itself into a 'global security provider' to be relevant in the 21st Century. Many object, most especially those new members of NATO in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe who see the Alliance as primarily a bulwark against Russia. They have taken heart from the events of August to strengthen their standpoint. As NATO members and officials begin discussing the terms of reference for the redefinition of NATO's Strategic Concept, a process that is likely to be formally launched at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit next Spring, this will be the crux of the debate - what is NATO's raison d'etre?

He also noted the visit of the North Atlantic Council to Georgia this week, and the support that NATO is ready to offer to the Saakashvili government. But there is no sign that those nations that refused to accept Georgian membership in Bucharest are ready to accept it now. Nor any sign that they are ready to actually fight Russia over Georgia, which makes NATO support for the country more than a little hollow. It does, however, mean that Georgia must resolve its issues with Russia with western backing and without force. This is to be welcomed.

Other parts of the speech highlight continuing controversies between the US and European states of NATO over the mission in Afghanistan. In particular, as he noted the increasing US military effort in Afghanistan, De Hoop Scheffer also noted that: "While I of course welcome an even greater US effort, I believe that it is important that we continue to make this not just a US responsibility but a collective transatlantic responsibility. When the telephone rings early next year, I hope that the other Allies will also be ready, not just with additional forces, but also with extra contributions to training Afghanistan’s National Army and Police, strengthening its institutions and developing its economy." The debate about burden-sharing amongst Allies in the Afghanistan mission has been long drawn out, and European nations have been unreceptive to US demands for greater engagement to date. Will they be more receptive to President Obama, or President McCain?

Another area of controversy is the US attacks into Pakistan, and the Secretary General alluded to this problem: "Success in Afghanistan also means stepping up our political engagement with her neighbours, notably Pakistan. And this is my third point. As long as Pakistan’s border region remains a sanctuary for insurgents, Afghanistan will never become truly secure." he will travel to Pakistan soon, and NATO and Pakistan must come to an arrangement concerning border security and the presence of the Taliban in Pakistan if any success is to be achieved in Afghanistan. The problem is that, at present, NATO's actions and those of the US where it acts alone, are stimulating support for the Taliban in Pakistan and destabilising the new government. De Hoop Scheffer has his work cut out for him.

The Secretary General's speech is available at the NATO website, and we will continue to report the Ministerial as it progresses.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

The NATO Monitor

This blog was created to report the Bucharest NATO Summit, which we did. We have now revived the blog as The NATO Monitor to provide a permanent home for monitoring the future of NATO, especially with regard to nuclear weapons and other strategic policies. We will become especially active as NATO moves towards a renewal of its Strategic Concept this Autumn.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

US-Russia Strategic Framework

The full text of the Strategic Framework is too long to post here, but can be accessed at the International Herald Tribune website.

Strategic Framework on Non-Proliferation

Beyond the arms control section of the Framework, the two leaders agreed a section on their non-proliferation agenda. While this is largely an inventory of existing actions such as UN Security Council negotiations on Iran, UNSCR 1540, and other items, there are one or two worth highlighting.


In particular, the two countries commitment to selling nuclear power technology around the world, especially MOX plutonium fuel under the GNEP, runs directly counter to non-proliferation objectives - especially the aim of preventing nuclear terrorism. Dramatically extending sources of enriched uranium and plutonium (however down-blended) around the globe will only make it easier for terrorists to obtain such material. The power stations will also produce waste that could be used for dirty bombs.

The decalaration reads:

Preventing the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction

We recognize the profound importance of preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. We must prevent such weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists and those who support them. To this end, our two countries will provide global leadership on a wide range of cooperative efforts that will advance our common nonproliferation goals. These will include new approaches focused on environmentally-friendly technologies that will support economic growth, promote the expansion of nuclear energy, and create a viable alternative to the spread of sensitive nuclear fuel cycle technologies.

NPT: We confirm our continuing support for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and are committed to its strengthening. We will cooperate in preparing and ensuring a successful outcome of the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

Declaration on Nuclear Energy and Nonproliferation: On July 3, 2007 we issued a declaration on joint actions to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime and to promote the expansion of nuclear energy worldwide. We are working together and with other nations to develop mutually beneficial approaches for economical and reliable access to nuclear energy designed to permit states to gain the benefits of nuclear energy and to create a viable alternative to their acquisition of sensitive fuel cycle technologies.

As nations with secure, advanced nuclear capabilities, we will provide assistance to countries considering nuclear energy in the development of the necessary infrastructure (including nuclear reactors), consider ways for facilitating financing, and will ensure, inter alia, provision of fresh fuel and spent fuel management.

International Uranium Enrichment Center: The Russian Federation has announced, and the U.S. has expressed support for, an initiative to create a global nuclear energy infrastructure that would provide for effective access to the benefits of nuclear energy. As the first step, Russia and Kazakhstan have established on the territory of Russia the International Uranium Enrichment Center.

Global Nuclear Energy Partnership: We are working with a wide range of other states to develop the next generation of civil nuclear capability that will be safe and secure, improve the environment, and reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation. GNEP is aimed at accelerating the development and deployment of advanced fuel cycle technologies including recycling that do not involve separating plutonium. Such advanced technologies, when available, would substantially reduce nuclear waste, simplify its disposition, and draw down existing inventories of civilian spent fuel in a safe, secure and proliferation resistant manner.

INPRO: The Russian Federation and the U.S. support the IAEA Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO) that has brought together both the states with developed nuclear technology and states running small-scale nuclear programs or just developing plans for peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Reliable Access to Nuclear Fuel: Recognizing the need for an assured fuel supply, both the U.S. and Russia have committed to creating reliable access to nuclear fuel.

Reserve of low enriched uranium: The Russian Federation is working on the establishment of a stockpile of low enriched uranium to be available to the IAEA for ensuring reliable nuclear fuel supply.

Blending Down Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU): The U.S. is downblending 17.4 MT of excess HEU from its defense programs and is pledging $50 million to support establishment of an IAEA international fuel bank to ensure reliable supplies of nuclear fuel.

Iran: We remain committed to political and diplomatic efforts to find a negotiated solution guaranteeing that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes. We reiterate the necessity for Iran to comply with the requirements of the IAEA Board of Governors and United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1737, 1747, and 1803, including full and verifiable suspension of enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. We affirm our commitment on the way forward as expressed in the March 3, 2008 statement by the P5+1 Foreign Ministers. Russia's agreement to deliver nuclear fuel and take back spent fuel from Iran's nuclear reactor at Bushehr is a welcome step that provides Iran a civil nuclear power capability without the need for the indigenous enrichment of uranium or reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

North Korea: We reaffirm our full support for the Six-Party Talks and will continue our cooperation in accordance with the agreements reached at the Six-Party Talks and the provisions of UNSC Resolution 1718 on the nuclear weapons and nuclear programs of North Korea in order to achieve the ultimate goals of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy: We will sign in the near future and work to bring into force the bilateral agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States that was initialed on June 29, 2007. This agreement will create the necessary legal basis for our cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy and will permit the expansion of such cooperation. It will allow U.S. and Russian companies to partner in joint ventures, and transfer nuclear materials, reactors and major reactor components between our two countries. It is critical to facilitating U.S.-Russian further cooperation under bilateral programs and initiatives in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy, including the Declaration on Nuclear Energy and Nonproliferation of July 3, 2007, and the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.

Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism: The Global Initiative we launched in July 2006 has grown to include 67 participating countries plus the European Union and the IAEA as observers. Participating states are cooperating in strengthening their individual and collective capabilities to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear materials, to deny them safe haven and financial and other support, to share information on terrorist activities, to cooperate on law enforcement matters, and to deal with the consequences of an attack. We will continue to expand and strengthen this initiative and fully implement the agreed program of work.

Nuclear Security: We will complete our agreed-to nuclear security upgrades under the Bratislava Nuclear Security Initiative by the end of 2008. We look forward to these upgraded systems continuing to reliably serve their purpose for the years to come. The Senior Interagency Group will report back annually on implementation of the agreed actions under the Bratislava Initiative on emergency response, best practices, security culture, research reactors, and nuclear security upgrades. We will work together to share our nuclear security best practices with other nations, including through international fora.

Proliferation Security Initiative: We reaffirm our commitment to the Proliferation Security Initiative, which constitutes an important means to deter and prevent trafficking in WMD, their delivery means and related materials. We will work cooperatively to prevent and disrupt proliferation finance, in furtherance of the objectives of UNSCR 1540.

Sochi Declaration on Arms Control and Disarmament

President's Putin and Bush have agreed a Strategic Framework declaration. There is substantial content on arms control between the two countries.


There is no commitment to continuing the Moscow Treaty past 2012, but there is a commitment to continuing to negotiate a legal framework to continue the START I Treaty after its 2009 expiration. This is problematic as the Russian Duma and the US Senate will have to ratify any deal, and time is running very short, but since the Bush administration has been adamantly hostile to arms control this volte-face is to be welcomed.

There is also a commitment to examining existing short and intermediate range ballistic missiles and how to reduce threats from them, as well as from cruise missiles. This is positive, but falls far short of constructive Russian ideas like the globalisation of INF.

In short, this Framework is a shopping list of things that could be done, rather than a set of commitments to actually act. But it's not a bad shopping list. The text that deals with arms control reads:

Promoting Security

We acknowledge that today's security environment is fundamentally different than during the Cold War. We must move beyond past strategic principles, which focused on the prospect of mutual annihilation, and focus on the very real dangers that confront both our nations. These include especially the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. Reflecting the changed nature of our strategic relationship, we will take steps together to counter these new and emerging challenges.

Post-START:

We have reiterated our intention to carry out strategic offensive reductions to the lowest possible level consistent with our national security requirements and alliance commitments.

Substantial reductions of strategic offensive forces have been carried out under the START Treaty, which served as a key instrument in this context. The Moscow Treaty was an additional important step and remains in effect. We will continue development of a legally binding post-START arrangement.

We are fully committed to the goals of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and consider the arrangement we are pursuing to be a further step in implementing our commitments under Article VI of the Treaty.

Missile Defense:

We discussed the issue of missile defense. Both sides expressed their interest in creating a system for responding to potential missile threats in which Russia and the United States and Europe will participate as equal partners.

The Russian side has made clear that it does not agree with the decision to establish sites in Poland and the Czech Republic and reiterated its proposed alternative. Yet, it appreciates the measures that the U.S. has proposed and declared that if agreed and implemented such measures will be important and useful in assuaging Russian concerns.

We agreed to intensify our dialogue after Sochi on issues concerning MD cooperation both bilaterally and multilaterally.

INF Treaty: Taking note of our Joint Statement on the INF Treaty at the sixty-second session of the UN General Assembly, we will engage in a high-level dialogue to analyze current and future intermediate-range and shorter-range ballistic and cruise missile threats and inventory options for dealing with them.

CFE and Other Items: [] We will work together to address serious differences in areas where our policies do not coincide, including NATO expansion; development of a package solution that helps restore the viability of the CFE regime and prompt ratification of the Adapted CFE Treaty by all the States Parties; and certain military activities in space.