Friday, 19 November 2010

Summit Overview on Missile Defence

The major business of the NATO Summit will be the new Strategic Concept, which will replace the one agreed in 1999. NATO has undergone a process over the past year leading to this point, a process which has, unfortunately, been far less open and democratic than it could have been. A chance for a major political revitalization of the Alliance has been lost, as parliaments and civil society have not been given the chance to input into the process in any meaningful way – thus buy-in by the political class is very limited. The latest relaunch of the NATO presence in Afghanistan is also on the agenda. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen briefed the press earlier this week:

The Summit will put in place an Alliance that is more effective, more engaged and more efficient. More effective because NATO will invest in key capabilities like missile defence, cyber defence and strategic and tactical airlift. More engaged because NATO will reach out to connect with our partners around the globe, countries and other organizations. And more efficient because we are cutting fat, even as we invest in muscle. For example, by slimming down our command structure by about 5,000 personnel.

A decision to develop a NATO-based missile defence to protect our populations would be a major step. It would make our territorial defence even more effective and it would bind the allies even stronger together. And the decision to reform and rationalise our command structures, our agencies, and our headquarters will make the Alliance fit for purpose and ready to meet the security challenges of the 21st Century.

All of that will be enshrined in the new Strategic Concept. The new Strategic Concept will guide the Alliance for the next decade. It will serve as a lever for continuous reform towards a more effective, efficient and flexible Alliance so that our taxpayers get the most security for the money they invest in defence. Which makes the new Strategic Concept a key outcome of the Summit.

(The full Press Conference can be seen here.)

Significant problems remain before the Summit Communique can be issued. One of the trickiest is missile deefence. Turkey will only agree to allow the missile defence programme to go ahead if NATO says nothing about potential missile threats - while the US is intent on naming Iran as the source of potential missile threats to NATO. Turkey must also agree to host a radar for the system to be effective for the whole of NATO territory, something so important to the Alliance that it broke the proposed mid-course missile defence system the Bush administration wanted to deploy in Europe.
"We do not perceive any threat from any neighbor countries and we do not think our neighbors form a threat to Nato," says Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Turkey fears that Iran, an important trade partner will be angered if it goes ahead with the NATO missile defence programme. They also want the US to put pressure on Germany and France to allow an advance on Turkish negotiations for EU membership in return for concessions in NATO - something very unlikely to succeed. You can read about their position in depth here.)

However, even if a deal can be done with the Turks, there are other problems to solve. Notably, the French are insistent that the missile defence programme is not in any way seen as replacing nuclear weapons as a deterrent to attack. France. The US sees BMD programmes as enhancing deterrence, France does not. It fears that pressure to reduce and eliminate its nuclear forces will grow if it accepts that missile defences can play such a role. Dealing with this objection will be a difficult part of the Summit's work. A discussion of the French-German talks on the topic can be found here.

More later.

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