Friday, 20 February 2009

The New Tone at NATO pt II

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke to journalists yesterday, and reflected the very different tone of the Obama administration. On Russia he said:

There are Russian behaviors that are a concern to us. We also need the Russians in other areas. So we need to work this relationship through, I think, in a constructive way that allows us to move forward. But at the same time mindful of some of their actions that still give us a problem.

He added that:

We are concerned about the Iranian missile threat, and as long as that threat exists we will continue to pursue missile defense, as long as we can make sure it works and that it's cost-effective and we want to pursue it in partnership not only with our NATO allies, but also with the Russians. .. I am hopeful that with a new start that maybe there are some opportunities with the Russians that we can pursue.

So, the tone is one of cooperation across divides to meet security threats. On missile defence, Gates has fallen in line with the sceptics on the Democrat side. Cost effectiveness and 'being sure it works' are things that the Pentagon cannot achieve, either at present or for many years to come. This is code for saying - we're shutting mid-course defences down.

James Appathurai, the NATO Spokesman, also told journalists that Gates had briefed his colleagues on US policy and NATO, saying:

Secretary Gates also explicitly promised the allies, and that process has already begun, a process of engagement with NATO, with NATO allies, on the U.S. review process. They want to hear what allies have to say as they, the United States, engage in their own process of strategic review. He also said that the U.S. intends to finish this process of strategic review well before the NATO Summit, so that the consultation process between the end of the review process and the NATO Summit can take place so that everybody is moving in the same direction by the time we get to Strasbourg and Kehl.

So, things will be changing in time for the Summit. NATO Monitor is also aware of some impending personnel appointments by the Obama administration in this area, and because of these is confident that positive policy developments will come out of the review.

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