Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Guardian Live Blog on NATO Meeting and other Middle East Issues

The Guardian is running a live blog which will include details from the NATO meeting on the Turkey-Syria crisis. You can find it here.

NATO Consultations Today on Syrian Shootdown of Turkish Jet

Turkey will this morning put its case before the Ambassadors of the North Atlantic Council. Turkish politicians have said that Turkey will seek an Article V mutual defence declaration from the Alliance that this was an attack on all of NATO. For example, according to the AP, Deputy PM Bulent Arinc told journalists that:

"No doubt, Turkey has made necessary applications with NATO regarding Article 4 and Article 5. It should be known that within legality we will of course use all rights granted under international law until the end. This also includes self-defense. This also includes retaliation many-fold. This includes all sanctions that can be applied to the aggressor state under international law. Turkey will not leave anything out on this issue. The public should be assured."
However, he also said that Turkey does not want to go to war over the incident. Further reporting from the Guardian yesterday showed Turkey increasing pressure on NATO for support, as it was said that Syria had also fired on search and rescue planes looking for the downed jet and its pilots. The Guardian also had some explanation of why Turkey is going to NATO:

Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: "The downing of a plane by one of Turkey's neighbours is unprecedented. Turkey is going to Nato and the UN security council to appease Turkey domestic opinion."On the bilateral level, it has no tools left. All the Syrian diplomats have been expelled and Turkey has no representation in Damascus any more. Its only option is to seek support from Turkey's partners in the multilateral arena."Statements of solidarity from western capitals will help Turkey fulfil two objectives: they will assuage domestic public opinion and Turkey can also use the incident as proof that the situation vis-a-vis Syria will remain volatile and unsustainable as long as Assad is there."
The EU condemned the shooting down on Monday, but will not take more substantive action at this time. Russia, not surprisingly, appealed for restraint from NATO with Ria Novosti saying that Foreign Minister Andrei Zolotov had said that nothing should be done to make a political solution impossible. Which, given Russia's arming of the Syrian government, is pretty rich.

All in all it seems likely that NATO will offer support to to Turkey, and condemn the shooting down of their plane. But since Turkey admitted the plane had strayed into Syrian airspace and there is no evidence this is part of a wider attack on Turkey, let alone the Alliance, military action is very unlikely. This incident may, however, make Turkey more likely to offer covert support to rebel groups. It also reduces the political area Syria has for maneouvre.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

ACUS on Why NATO Won't go to War with Syria

James Joyner at the Atlantic Council of the United States has written a blog post explaining why NATO will not use the Syrian downing of a Turkish jet as an Article V casus belli. it seems to NATO Monitor that this section of his post is particularly noteworthy:

Instead, the operative word that almost certainly disqualifies this incident from an Article 5 response is "attack." Turkey was engaged in aggressive action along its border with Syria during a particularly tense situation and flew into Syrian airspace. While shooting down the plane was almost certainly an overreaction--the Assad government has said as much--it's hardly an "attack."
Ultimately, like the "high crimes and misdemeanor" threshold for impeachment set forth by the US Constitution, it's a judgment call. In the former case,  the House of Representatives makes the call; in the latter, it's the North Atlantic Council.  
But it's virtually inconceivable that the NAC would deem this to be a qualifying "attack." First, Article 5 couches the response in terms of "the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations." An overly aggressive defensive action by Syria--especially a one-off--would not seem to qualify. While the Turkish pilot would certainly have been within his rights to use deadly force to protect himself, a retaliatory strike at this juncture by Turkey--much less its NATO allies--would be in violation of the UN Charter. 
Second, borrowing language from Article 51, Article 5 specifies the rationale for the use of force as "to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area." Given that the incident is already contained--that is, not likely to be followed by any sort of follow-on action by Syria absent further provocation--said security already exists. Indeed, a NATO or Turkish response would make the area more, not less, secure.
The whole piece is worth reading and the analysis seems very sound, especially given the quiet reaction to the incident from NATO foreign ministries to date.

Updated: NATO Ambassadors Will Meet Over Shot Down Turkish Plane

Updated 20.30 BST

Turkey has asked NATO Ambassadors in the North Atlantic Council for consultations over the Syrian shooting down of a Turkish F-4 jet. NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu confirmed that the North Atlantic Council will meet to discuss the case on Tuesday June 26.

The Turkish F-4 jet was shot down on Friday 22 June, with Syria claiming it was in Syrian airspace and Turkey saying it was conducting an open exercise to test their national radar systems over international waters.

Article 4 of NATO's founding treaty reads:
The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.
Turkey has previously raised the possibility of invoking NATO in its defence after Syrian forces fired over the Turkish border. (See this previous NATO Monitor piece) While no automatic action will follow from the Article 4 consultation, the possibility of NATO assisting Turkey to guard against Syria does exist. 

However, Russia is standing by its Syrian ally, not least to guard its military access to the port of Tartus, the Russian Navy's only Mediterranean base. Any NATO action could have serious consequences for its relationship with Russia, so NATO leaders are likely to continue to act cautiously as they have been doing. The Telegraph website reports diplomats as saying that Turkey is not likely to seek NATO military action, but rather political support for action it chooses to take itself.

This air of caution is borne out by Guido Westerwelle's declaration that the main need is to avoid escalation. The US has issued a statement of support for Turkey, with no mention of NATO action. France has yet to ract at ministerial level. British Foreign Secretary William Hague, for example, issued a statement about the shooting down saying:
The Assad regime should not make the mistake of believing that it can act with impunity. It will be held to account for its behaviour. The UK stands ready to pursue robust action at theUnited Nations Security Council.
Since action in the UNSC gives Russia a veto over any action, this would imply that the UK wants a political rather than a military response to this incident. Careful action in a situation where numerous regional and global powers have an interest is to be applauded. However, NATO is also constrained by its inability to command a UN mandate in Syria, largely because of Russian and Chinese objections to NATO's overstretch in Libya, where a protection of civilians mandate was used to overthrow the Gaddhafi regime. NATO Monitor will watch for progress in this case on Tuesday.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Lord Browne Leads Excellent Debate on DDPR

Former Defence Secretary (Lord) Des Browne initiated a  debate in the Lords this week on the Defence and Deterrence Posture Review (DDPR),asking he government:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the outcome of the NATO Deterrence and Defence Posture Review and the implications of clarifying NATO's deterrence posture for European security and the relationship with Russia.
 It's a question worth asking, and one the government had done its best to ignore, not least because the outcome of the DDPR was a complete mess. As Lord Browne said;

As part of the necessary "real change", NATO spent the year before Lisbon rewriting the alliance's main doctrine-the strategic concept-but it did not finish the job in time for Lisbon. The alliance managed to agree that, "as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance".The apparent clarity of that statement masked an inability of member states to agree on key issues about NATO's nuclear deterrence. At the same time, NATO agreed to,"develop the capability to defend our populations and territories against ballistic missile attack as a core element of our collective defence". However, that, too, hid significant differences about the role of ballistic missile defence in the alliance's future mix of capabilities.
Browne also highlighted the divisive nature of nuclear and missile defence politics in the Alliance, a theme NATO Monitor has regularly returned to in past posts. He also noted that no progress had been made at the Chicago Summit on the withdrawal of US tactical nuclear weapons from Europe. Indeed, as he said, the Obama administration is now embarked on a upgrade programme for the B-61 bombs based in Europe and the US, which will make them more accurate and suited to warfighting, tailored deterrence policies.

NATO Monitor is bound to point out that this stands in stark contrast to President Obama's past undertakings that he would not introduce an y new nuclear capabilities into the arsenal, and to his Prague speech of 2009 calling for nuclear disarmament. It is also worth noting that President Bush, condemned for his nuclear weapons policies withdrew hundreds of B-61 bombs from Europe, while Obama has withdrawn none.

Several Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour peers spoke during the mini-debate, mostly in agreement with Lord Browne and agreeing that the government should stake out a strong position in favour of nuclear disarmament in NATO, and friendship and cooperation with Russia. All were concerned that the government had had nothing to say on the DDPR since it was initiated by the Lisbon Summit in 2010.

Ending the debate, Lord Howell of Guildford, an FCO minister, defended the government, the DDPR and the status quo:
The threats that we must be ready to counter come from many different directions and in many different forms. The capabilities available to us have certainly broadened. The DDPR has presented a timely opportunity to reassess NATO's defence and deterrence capabilities to ensure that they are able to respond to the modern, multipolar world. That means not only where they have come from and where we are now, which is the realistic moment that we live in, but the future as well.
 It was pleasing to see a peer of Des Browne's experience leading a debate, and recommending sensible security building policies grounded in arms control measures and cooperation with a potential adversary. It is deeply to be regretted that a president with a Nobel Peace Prize is unable to offer the same kind of leadership, leaving NATO with not one but three nuclear use doctrines.

The whole debate can be read at: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2012-05-29a.1096.0&s=ddpr#g1107.0