Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Russian Ambassador Rogozin on NATO-Russia Relationship

Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitri Rogozin published a piece on relations with the Alliance in the Moscow Times today. He makes some good points, and proposes once again the Russian idea of a pan-European security treaty.

The crisis in Georgia last August tested Europe's security system, and the system failed to fulfill its core task of ensuring common security for the continent as a whole. As a result, Europe must re-examine its current security arrangements, analyze what happened, and take this analysis into account in reforming those arrangements.

When the NATO-Russia council (NRC) was created in 2002, it was devised as a mechanism for dialogue, cooperation, and joint decision-making on issues of mutual interest, including non-proliferation and arms control, the fight against terrorism, civil emergency planning, and military-to-military cooperation. The NRC also was supposed to act as a forum for "holding prompt consultations" in crisis situations and to prevent such crises by "early identification of emerging problems." Unfortunately, the Georgian crisis demonstrated that Russia's dialogue with NATO was less substantial than it should have been. Yet NATO-Russia cooperation is of the utmost importance to global security. We need NATO and NATO needs us in order to face common threats and challenges. .. Indeed, Russia's foremost foreign-policy goal is a real, strategic partnership with the West in which we work together to solve the multitude of modern security problems. (My emphasis)

Europe needs an integrated, solid, and indivisible system of comprehensive security. We are not calling for abolishing everything and starting from scratch. On the contrary, we must build on existing institutions. In short, we need to retain the hardware, but update the software. Russia's initiative for a pan-European security treaty should be the new operating system.

All of this is very conciliatory sounding. There are some sections of the piece that are less so. Russian fears about US and NATO enlargement around its borders are clearly stated:

Russia has tried for years to get away from Cold War thinking and to persuade our partners to drop their stereotypes. After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Russia quickly extended a helping hand to the Americans. But the West did not appreciate this gesture. Military bases have been impetuously established along Russia's perimeter. The United States plans to establish part of its global missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland. The Warsaw Pact ceased to exist 20 years ago, but NATO still proceeds eastward, adding new member states for reasons other than enhancing security and democracy.

And when he offers NATO a choice between Russian support in the international struggle against terrorist groups, and NATO support for Georgia, there are few in the Alliance who would agree with him:

A real, working NATO-Russia relationship could provide the Alliance with solutions to problems that it cannot tackle on its own. It would also give new impetus to the European security system. This is what we want to see in the future – and it is a future that is not possible without Russia. To see why, simply compare the importance of combating international terrorism with the value of nurturing Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's personal ambitions; things soon fall into place.

All in all, for an Ambassador whose appointment was widely seen as a Russian hard line snub to NATO, this represents an unclenching of the fist, or a pushing of the reset button - or whatever current metaphor one wants to use. NATO and Russia need to work together in mutual respect to create true security in Europe. It seems the signs on this score are more positive than they have been for some time.

Jamie Shea on Engagement With Pakistan

Jamie Shea, Director of Policy Planning in the NATO Secretary General's office, has always been one of the most thoughtful of NATO staff. Radio Free Europe is carrying a very interesting interview with him on what NATO will do to try to engage further with Pakistan.

Since everyone agrees that cannot succeed in Afghanistan without working more closely with Pakistan (even while there is little agreement what 'success' will look like), and Shea is a key man in building that closer engagement, this interview is well worth the read.

Amongst the key points, Shea says that ".. specific examples of cooperation on the ground.." could include:

..improving the lines of communication. Eighty percent of our supplies for ISAF [NATO-led International Security Assistance Force] go through Pakistan. Setting up a NATO liaison office in Islamabad. Stepping up the cooperation on the [Afghan-Pakistan] border. We are in the process of setting up six border cooperation centers. Sharing intelligence. These kinds of things. We've got to bring Pakistan as closely as we can into a regional approach in order to be successful in Afghanistan.

He also mentions improved logistics as essential. Jamie Shea has never been afraid to speak honestly, and when he talks about Taliban successes, like blowing up thirty trucks in a supply convoy, looking spectacular, he sounds much more in touch with reality than typical NATO spokespeople. He is also right to say that more cooperation is necessary to safeguard southern supply routes.

Read the interview.

Turkey Still Opposes Rasmussen

Reuters have a report on the appointment of the next NATO Secretary General:

Turkey's resistance to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen could prevent NATO nations naming a new secretary-general of the alliance at a summit this week, diplomats said on Monday. Ankara has not threatened outright to veto Rasmussen, the front-runner, but has made clear its dismay at his refusal to apologize for Danish newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad which sparked riots in several Muslim states in 2006. Prime Minister Tayyip Erogan said Muslim countries wanted Turkey to block his appointment. Some NATO members are asking privately whether he would be the best choice at a time when the alliance is seeking to improve its image in the Islamic world.

It is interesting that the Turks say that other Muslim nations have been talking to them about this. The cartoons issue has hung over Rasmussen from the beginning. As NATO Monitor has previously noted, with the ongoing mission in Afghanistan; the increasingly important Mediterranean dialogue; and the possibility that NATO will operate in other Muslim states in the future, this appointment matters for NATO's credibility.

US diplomats, who recently swung behind Rasmussen at the urging of the UK, France and Germany, are now saying that no decision is necessary this week. They have even privately mooted the option of extending the term of current Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer if no agreement can be found by July. These are not good signs for Rasmussen. As the EU Observer says:

NATO officials see this option however as a signal for Mr Rasmussen will likely not be offered the job. "Either he gets it at the summit, or he doesn't at all," one NATO source told EUobserver.

And NATO Spokesman James Appathurai has confirmed to Danish newspaper Politiken that:

.. the decision as to who is to be the next secretary-general of NATO is unlikely to be taken at a summit on Friday and Saturday. “I wouldn’t exclude the possibility that the decision could be taken at the summit, but I don’t expect it to be.

The trouble is that there is no other candidate who even comes close to meeting NATO needs and achieving consensus amongst NATO members. The Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store is a popular candidate, but does not come from an EU country. With NATO and the EU keen to exploit the re-entry of France into NATO's military command structures to allow the two to work together much more closely than in the past, he would be a strange choice. The various Eastern European candidates are perceived as far too hostile to Russia, and too interested in rebranding NATO as a defensive Alliance aimed against Russia. This doesn't suit President Obama, who is keen for better relations with Russia, and for a major new initiative on nuclear arms control. It also goes against the interests of those NATO members keen to see NATO position itself as a global alliance capable of providing security for all.

The Czech Republic had been proposing their Deputy Prime Minister Alex Vondra, but his chances evaporated when Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek told the European Parliament that President Obama's proposals for rescuing the global economy would put Europe on 'the road to hell'.

Canadian Defence Minister Peter Mackay is trying to position himself as a compromise candidate, with Poland now supporting him having accepted that their man Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski cannot win the job. Mackay, however, is seen as a lightweight and probably too close to the political and foreign policy views of former US President George W. Bush.

It is not yet even certain that Turkey will veto Rasmussen. While Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has been raising concerns, Turkish President Abdullah Gul has been going out of his way to say that Turkey has no problem with Rasumussen. It is possible that late moves by Denmark against separatist Kurdish Roj TV, which broadcasts from Copenhagen, might be the trade-off necessary to get Rasmussen the job. Turkey claims that Roj TV is run by the separatist PKK which has been at war with Turkey for years, although the station denies that. Danish police and prosecutors have travelled to Ankara to review evidence, says Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, and to decide whether or not enough proof exists to justify closing Roj TV under Danish law. Although Danish sources deny that there is any link between the two issues, the visit seems coincidental to say the least. Even a sign that a solution favourable to Turkey were coming would probably be enough to persuade Erdogan to allow a NATO decision this week. And Rasmussen will speak next week to a UN Alliance of Civilisations Summit in Istanbul, which would be an excellent venue for him to put on the record his respect for Islam and his willingness to work with the Muslim world.

NATO certainly needs a decision on a new leader this weekend. A failure to agree a new Secretary General will take some of the shine off an already somewhat lacklustre Summit. At present the accession of Croatia and Albania to the Alliance, and the re-entry of France to the military command, plus the adoption of an Atlantic Declaration are the most that can be expected.

NATO Summit Website

If you want to follow the NATO Summit on their website, the go to the NATO website.

NATO Monitor will follow the NATO site closely, adding comment and details to the items that they post.

France Rejoins NATO Military Structure

On March 17, the French National Assembly confirmed President Nicolas Sarkozy's announcement that France would rejoin NATO's integrated military command. This overturns 50 years of French policy, and most importantly in domestic terms, the legacy of General de Gaulle, who expelled NATO and US forces from France in 1966, partly because the US had refused to reveal details of US nuclear forces in France, or the circumstances in which they would be used.

The result of the vote last week was never in question, since Prime Minister Francois Fillon had made the vote a question of confidence in the government. He also insisted that was a matter of foreign and defence policy, which is a presidential prerogative under the French Constitution.

This parliamentary manoeuvre ensured that Gaullist opposition to rejoining the military structures of the Alliance was muted, since most Deputies were not willing to bring down the government over the issue. However, many commentators suggested that if the vote were secret then at least a third of government Deputies would vote no, enough to make the measure fail. Major figures like former Prime Ministers Dominique de Villepin and Alain Juppé, as well as Francois Bayrou, a former leader of the forerunner of Sarkozy's UMP party and twice presidential candidate, spoke out strongly against the move. In the end, the threat of domestic political chaos was enough to persuade most doubters and the final vote was 329 to 268 in favour.

France will now take command of Joint Command Lisbon, which notably includes responsibility for running the NATO Response Force and mounting missions using allied Combined Joint Task Forces. These mechanisms are most likely to be used to project force beyond the NATO area. The JCL also has responsibility for military components of the Mediterranean Dialogue. France will also lead the Allied Command transformation, based in Norfolk, Virgina. The command has responsibility for managing the transformation of the Alliance from a static defence organisation to a flexible, expeditionary Alliance that can support security needs across the globe.

In 1996, when President Chirac failed to get France back into the military command, he wanted command of Allied Forces Southern Europe (AFSOUTH), the major NATO command in the Mediterranean. During the debate on the 17th, Fillon was taunted that Sarkozy had failed to get this command (now known as Allied Joint Force Command Naples), and settled for two lesser commands instead.

France will also join the Defence Planning Committee (although not its Nuclear Planning Group), and will assign some 800 officers to positions within NATO's military structures.

Croatia Can Go To The Ball

There has been some concern over the delay in ratifying Croatia's membership of NATO, as the NATO Monitor reported a while back (see the story here). However, on Monday, only just in time for the Summit, those concerns have evaporated and Croatia will join the Alliance this week.

Slovenia had delayed ratification of Croatian membership over a border dispute. This concerns the Bay of Piran and dates back many years. Croatia claims half the bay, a claim disputed by Slovenia which says that if Croatia gets it way then Slovenia's access to the Adriatic Sea will be blocked. (The BBC has a good report on this, and the map above comes from that story.)

Slovenian nationalists failed to collect enough signatures to force a referendum by the March 26 deadline, and on Friday the President confirmed the Parliament's ratification vote dating back to February. To the relief of NATO officials, Slovenia deposited its instrument of ratification with the United States on Monday. So, Croatia will officially join NATO this weekend.

Meanwhile, the territorial dispute continues. Slovenia is still blocking EU membership for Croatia. EU Commissioner on expansion Olli Rehn tabled a new compromise proposal last week, which the two parties are studying.

But for NATO the problem is over, and one cloud hanging over the Summit has evaporated.

Monday, 23 March 2009

NATO Secretary General News

Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post reports:

On a more positive note, national security adviser Jim Jones flew secretly to Switzerland this month to meet with vacationing Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and then threw U.S. support behind Rasmussen to become the next NATO secretary general. Mazeltov, Denmark.

You can read Hoagland's short piece here.

Now it remains to be seen what Washington can give Ankara to allay their concerns, as Turkey appears to be the last real opponent Rasmussen has.

NATO – a Middle East Peacekeeper?

With the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit fast approaching, the debate about the future of NATO, and in particular the ambition of some within the Alliance to have it become a ‘global security provider’, is taking some interesting twists and turns. It may soon coincide with the Obama administration’s action on the Arab-Israeli peace process, which under the new leadership of Presidential Envoy George Mitchell is far more dynamic already than under President Bush.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visited Israel in January as part of the Alliance’s Mediterranean Dialogue. One issue for discussion was a potential role for NATO as a future peacekeeper if the parties to the peace process are able to come to a final accord on Palestine and Israel.

The idea that NATO troops might be deployed in the Middle East has been on the agenda for a year or more (I noted it in another piece on Israeli-NATO links here). Retired US Marine General James Jones (a former NATO SACEUR and now President Obama’s National Security Advisor) is a key proponent of the concept.

In an interview with Ha’aretz, de Hoop Scheffer said that:

I believe, however, that in the context of a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, should all parties ask for NATO's assistance in implementing such an agreement and should there be a UN mandate, then the North Atlantic Council would certainly discuss it. Personally, I think the answer would be positive.

This declaration of intent comes with a caveat. The Secretary General says that he is not including Gaza in this possible deployment, believing such a deployment to be beyond the realms of the possible for NATO. Indeed, even General Jones has, for the moment, only proposed a NATO force for the West Bank to answer Israeli security concerns after a peace deal. He restated this proposal late last year to Israeli officials while acting as then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s envoy to the region. The Israeli Defence Force was unenthusiastic.

During his meetings with Israelis, Jones has proposed that a NATO-based international force deploy in the West Bank in the interim period between an Israeli withdrawal and the Palestinian forces becoming able to curb terror activity....The IDF is particularly wary of such a plan, a top IDF officer said, who added that the military's operational freedom in the territories was responsible for the drop in terrorist attacks. "NATO is a very bad idea," the officer said. "No other country in the world has successfully dealt with terror like Israel has. There is a need for continuous combat; NATO will not want to endanger its soldiers on behalf of Israeli citizens."

Would NATO be a good candidate to run a peacekeeping force for the United Nations after an Arab-Israeli peace deal? There are arguments on both sides. There is a good mix within the Alliance of countries who are seen to favour one side or the other, so both sides could expect even-handed enforcement of a peace deal. On the other hand the US influence over the Alliance, and its deep connection to Israel might be seen as tipping NATO too far one way to allow for true impartiality. There are a lot of questions that would need to be answered before NATO could be seen as the logical candidate for Middle East peacekeeper.

Can the IDF be persuaded that NATO can do the job of ensuring Israeli security? And conversely, what would the Palestinian Authority security apparatus feel about NATO’s role. NATO does not have a stellar record of success in Afghanistan. Political divisions have severely undermined efforts to build security there, and this cannot be allowed to happen again. Will NATO’s increasingly close links with Israel – the two partners have conducted joint military exercises in recent years – be a foundation for future trust, or for mistrust? NATO also has good links with some Arab nations such as Jordan and Egypt. How would this affect a peacekeeping role? If NATO would not be prepared to police an agreement in Gaza, then who would? And without a neutral peacekeeper there, what would an agreement be worth?

Pondering these questions, it becomes clear why the debate about a possible global role for NATO in the future is so fraught. Of course, a peaceful Middle East would represent a huge increase in stability and security for NATO’s southern flank. No other organisation has the ability to put together a multi-national command structure of the kind that NATO can. On the other hand, the idea of 26 (or by then) 28 Ambassadors trying to micromanage an operation in such difficult circumstances is impossible to imagine. Structural reform of NATO to allow operational commanders to run matters in the field would be essential, naturally after the North Atlantic Council had agreed a mission by consensus.

These are big topics, and this is why NATO needs a Strategic Concept review.

Friday, 20 March 2009

All Change in NATO's Leadership

If the Danish newspaper Politiken is correct in this article, then the US has dropped the possibility of supporting Canadian Defence Minister Peter Mackay as the new NATO Secretary General. They are now, along with major European powers, supporting Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

That should about sew things up for Rasmussen, but will leave some important constituencies to be mollified, notably Turkey which has opposed the appointment. The Eastern Europeans will also be somewhat miffed, as they are beginning to feel like second class citizens within the Alliance. The Poles, in particular, were convinced that their man should get the job.

Another big change is the American announcement of a new Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), the Alliance's top military post. The current SACEUR, General Craddock, is widely perceived as being too close to ex-President Bush's political outlook. His replacement, Admiral James Stavridis of SOUTHCOM, was a surprise. (Here is the Pentagon press release about him).Most observers were expecting Admiral Mattis of NATO's Allied Command Transformation to get the job.

According to Der Spiegel, some in Germany at least were upset that the Pentagon made the appointment out of the blue without reference to European sensibilities. However, I certainly don't recall big debates in the Alliance about this in the past, and this job is in the gift of the US President. Any potential fights about the next Secretary General will be more significant in the short and longer term.

Friday, 13 March 2009

New NATO Secretary General Part III

It seems that Turkey is expressing ever stronger opposition to the candidacy of Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen for the job of NATO Secretary General. In particular, they object to his handling of the Danish cartoons crisis in 2005, but also because Denmark allows the Kurdish PKK to operate from their soil. The PKK has been fighting Turkey for decades, and their radio station broadcasts from Denmark. The Obama administration has signalled publicly that it has not yet made a decision, a blow to Rasmussen's supporters, but also to those of Canadian Defence Minister Peter Mackay who was thought to have US support. The International Herald Tribune has a good article on this. Der Spiegel has a good take on it too.

What is certain is that with NATO operating in Afghanistan, and running the Mediterranean Dialogue with numerous Muslim countries, whoever is the new NATO Secretary General needs to be well regarded in the Muslim world, a well as within the Alliance.

Other names newly mentioned in the past day or so include Czech deputy Prime Minister Alex Vondra (although the angry outbursts about President Obama's scepticism on missile defence deployments to Europe won't help his chances); and former Bulgarian foreign minister Solomon Passy (who is something of an outsider). Watch this space.

Kouchner Promotes NATO Membership for France

Apostate Socialist and French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, has defended the French decision to rejoin NATO's integrated military command in an interview with Le Figaro newspaper.

Q. - Why is it in France’s interest to rejoin NATO’s integrated command, a cumbersome bureaucratic structure, unsuited to conducting the modern asymmetric wars, as we have seen in Afghanistan?

THE MINISTER - That’s your view. We are founding members of the Atlantic Alliance. General de Gaulle withdrew us from the integrated command in 1966 since he didn’t want, in the Cold War era, foreign troops stationed in France not under French command. Today the situation has changed. The Warsaw Pact and communist danger no longer exist. We have participated in all the NATO operations, in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, yet we haven’t been involved in developing the plans. France can no longer go on being the only film director not invited to contribute to the screenplay! This in no way calls our independence of decision-making into question. I remind you that Germany’s full membership of NATO didn’t compel her to participate in the invasion of Iraq. On the other hand, we are going to get some significant NATO commands and, above all, contribute to drawing up the plans which we are supposed, if we accept them, to apply. We are in favour of NATO’s Europeanization! On top of this, it will be easier for the Europeans to decide to conduct external operations, without American agreement or participation.

The interview touches a number of interesting questions, and you can read it all here.

France to Rejoin NATO's Integrated Military

In a speech this week, President Sarkozy announced his intention to reintegrate France into NATO's military structure. This reverses more than 40 years of French policy, since President de Gaulle expelled NATO forces from France in 1966.

France's nuclear forces will remain outside NATO structures, but for many, many years NATO and France have coordinated target planning, so this decision will have little or no operational effect.

Under the French constitution Sarkozy does not need the approval of the National Assembly to reintegrate with NATO. he has, however, asked the Prime Minister to hold a debate and vote on March 17. It is likely that the measure will pass, but this is no foregone conclusion, and the debate is likely to prove stormy.

The Socialists, led by Segolene Royal, oppose the move (as they opposed the original withdrawal from the military structure). Royal has described NATO as the 'armed wing of the West' and is overtly hostile to the Alliance. In response to Sarkozy's speech another Socialist leader, Lionel Jospin, wrote in the Nouvel Observateur magazine that:

In an uncertain world, France must retain its ability to freely assess for itself international realities and then play its full role, without having to censor itself in the name of transatlantic solidarity.

But the opposition is not only on the left. Dominique de Villepin, President Chirac's foreign minister at the time of the invasion of Iraq, told Canal+ TV that:

The independent positioning of France is essential for the global balance of power. If tomorrow, we integrated into NATO, would we, could we, maintain the position that we have done on Iraq?

That said, since France has been ever-present in NATO missions in the former Yugoslavia, and lately in Afghanistan, the measure will not represent a major change. France has been offered two major NATO commands (one the Allied Command Transformation based in Norfolk, Virginia). It was the refusal of the US to countenance such an offer that caused the failure of President Chirac's bid for reintegration in 1996, something that President Sarkozy mentioned (a little ungraciously) this week.

France will now be in a much better position to push for the negotiation of a new Strategic Concept by NATO, something it has agreed with Germany to do at the April Summit. The French government also hopes that this move will smooth the way to broaden and deepen European defence cooperation within the EU, in partnership with NATO. France has often been seen to promote European defence initiatives as a way of weakening NATO, and they hope this will no longer be the case. That remains to be seen.

One thing is surely true. The Eastern Europeans who see NATO primarily, indeed in some cases almost exclusively, as a defensive organisations aimed against Russia have lost ground. France will support an expeditionary Alliance, and will try to position NATO in a more cooperative relationship with Russia.

France was never as divorced from NATO as its public image suggested. But even so this is a major development. NATO Monitor will follow next week's National Assembly debate with interest.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

The Next Secretary General Part II

Following first reports in January, countries are now beginning to jockey for position in the race to be the next Secretary General. There are many different stories starting to surface, and the early names are not necessarily those now making the running.

One who is, and who has heavy-weight European backing, is Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen. According to Sueddeutsche Zeitung "Britain, France and Germany will back Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to succeed Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as secretary-general of NATO" (translation by Reuters).

Early mentions of Norwegian Minister of Defense Anne-Grete Strom-Erichsen have dropped off, with her colleague, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, being touted as a good possibility. While former UK Defence Minister Des Browne has been mentioned, he would be a surprise choice coming so soon after Labour Party colleague Lord Robertson.

However, following a Washington Post report, speculation mounted that the United States (while the Obama administration has not yet made a decision) is sounding out Allies on the possibility of appointing Canadian Defence Minister Peter Mackay.

The Canadian Chronicle Herald wrties of him that:

Mr. MacKay is lobbying for the job as the political master of the defence alliance, but the job has always been held by a European and most observers think they are unlikely to want to give up the post.

It’s a job that involves subtle European diplomacy and behind-the-scenes arm-twisting, which a young Canadian might not be expected to do as well as a seasoned European. Also, Mr. MacKay would be seen as more hawkish and closer to the Americans than many European allies, and if he got the job, that would be one fewer job that the Europeans could trade among themselves.

And media reports suggest the reaction in Europe was not entirely positive when Mr. MacKay recently toured Europe, pressing allies to do more in Afghanistan.

There is likely a lot of horse-trading to be done, as the Secretary-General has traditionally been a European. But there isn't long to go. Current Secretary General De Hoop Scheffer leaves office this Summer, and a new appointment must be made at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit at the beginning of April.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Poland Challenges US Vision for NATO

Polish Defence Minister Bogdan Klich said yesterday in Warsaw that Poland is concerned that in the past ten years NATO placed too strong an emphasis on military missions (in the Balkans and then Afghanistan), forgetting somewhat that it is above all a defensive alliance.

This is an unusually frank statement of a position that is common to the newer NATO members. Their increasing outspokenness, including the attempt by Lithuania to block the reinstatement of relations with Russia, led to a question to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

QUESTION: Thank you. Madame Secretary, as you know, some of the new NATO members have interpreted your recent overtures to Russia as potentially the U.S. making deals behind their back. I wonder – I know that you’ve been emphasizing that you’ll be consulting before any decisions are made anywhere – in Asia, in Middle East and Europe, everywhere you go. But what did you do today to give assurances to those allies that you will not indeed make any deals over their heads, whether it be with the Lithuanians, the Czechs or the Poles? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think I reiterated that as members of this alliance, we share a common defense commitment – an Article 5 requirement – that we take very seriously. We intend to work with and support all of our NATO allies.

As the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit approaches, these deep-seated differences on the role of the Alliance are becoming clearer. Secretary Clinton can make reassuring statements, but the truth is that the US-Russia relationship is vital to the Obama administration, and its vision for the future of the Alliance is at variance with those that cling to Article V as NATO's central role. It will require a lot of diplomatic skill to begin to build abridge between the two camps.

NATO-Russia Council to Reopen

The North Atlantic Council (NAC) has decided to resume full relations with Russia. The NATO-Russia Council (NRC), suspended since the Russo-Georgian War last summer, will begin to meet at Ambassadorial level following the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit in April. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced to journalists that:

Ministers reached agreement to formally resume the NATO-Russia Council, including at ministerial level, as soon as possible after the Summit in Strasbourg and Kehl. There was, of course, a lot of discussion on how this forum, how the NRC should be used, and there is strong agreement that the NATO-Russia Council is certainly not a fair-weather body, and that the weather is not yet fair. I'll get to that in a moment. It is, in other words, a forum where you discuss the things you disagree, sometimes fundamentally disagree, and subjects where you can work together.

Where we disagree, and where we go on disagreeing, but what we nevertheless have discussed, of course, is Russia's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Its intention to build military bases there, part of Georgian territory, let's not forget that. Parts of Georgian territory in many United Nations Security Council resolutions. The non-accession of monitors, also a major point for discussion, where Russia is not fulfilling its obligations.

On a different matter, the suspension of the CFE Treaty are areas of particular concern to the allies.

So in other words, if we resume the NATO-Russia Council also in a more formal sense, we will urge Russia to meet fully its commitments, with respect to Georgia, and let me mention, on top of what I already did, withdrawal from the areas Russia has committed to leave. I mentioned already the monitors and Russia's responsibility with regards to security and order. These are issues we should discuss in the NATO-Russia Council, and I know that Russia is willing to have that discussion as well.

There was also an exchange of views on President Medvedev's proposals on a new European security architecture. To the extent details are clear, and I think we might need some more details and some more clarity in this regard, there's certainly a willingness in NATO, and I know there's a willingness in the Russian side as well, to discuss certainly the hard security aspects of the Medvedev proposals in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, although the primary forum for discussing these issues was and is the OSCE. And we have, of course, the Chairman in Office of the OSCE in our midst, the Greek Minister Bakoyannis.

The debate between ministers was apparently ‘robust’, and many of NATO’s newest members were unhappy with a decision to proceed at this point. Lithuania held out to the last against the resumption of business as usual with Russia. This despite the fact that, as the Secretary General had made clear, NATO has many issues which it needs to be able to discuss with Russia. Moreover, the resumption of normal relations is a key part of the Obama administration’s strategy for re-engaging Russia, and there was no possibility that Lithuania would be allowed to stand in the way.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas briefed that he believed it to be :

.. premature to open formal dialogue. I think we have to use this time before the summit and encourage Russia to be more cooperative on all the various questions which are a part of NATO security agenda.

In contrast, the statements from British and German representatives were much more positive.

"The crisis which is now behind us militarily ... cannot leave us in a situation where we refuse to talk," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told his colleagues. Germany had been reluctant to break off relations last summer, and has been working assiduously to restore contact ever since.

He was supported by UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who said later that:

NATO and Russia need to work together. I think it is important that NATO move to re-establish the NATO- Russian Council. I think that gives us an opportunity to put our concerns directly to the Russians. It also allows us to engage on issues of mutual concern in a number of areas.” The UK had supported the Bush administration in breaking off NATO-Russia talks, and is now supporting the Obama administration in their resumption.

A number of the Eastern European members of NATO expressed deep concern at the ease with which their western counterparts have shrugged off the events of last year.

"We support NATO-Russia dialogue. Russia must be given an opportunity to demonstrate a constructive attitude, interest in more extensive relations with NATO and a will to move forward on issues of mutual interest," Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet briefed journalists, but warned that "we cannot seriously speak of true NATO-Russia partnership before Russia fulfills the terms of the treaties it has signed."

Briefing reporters in Warsaw, Polish Defence Minister Bogdan Klich expressed strong reservations at the decision and added that NATO’s credibility was on the line in relations with Russia, over Georgia, but also over the failure to issue invitations to the Ukraine and Georgia to join the Alliance.

The Czech government came under some criticism at home for its refusal to back the Lithuanian veto. Czech representatives felt that the suspension of the NRC last year was far too small a protest about the war in Georgia, and the move now to reinstate it deeply cynical. The Czechs further warned of Russian "imperial ambitions".

Not all of the older NATO members were wildly enthusiastic about the reopening of the NATO-Russia Council. They were pragmatic enough to accept it. Greek Foreign Minister Bakoyannis accepted the decision as “necessary and useful”, but underlined that relations “must be of a sincere and substantive dialogue", as well as of "cooperation on handling common challenges such as, for example, international terrorism, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and of weapons of mass destruction and the situation in Afghanistan."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed the US position hard. Talks on the NATO ISAF mission in Afghanistan were delayed by some time in order to get agreement. Sources say that Lithuanian delegation members complained that all NATO members should be on an equal footing, and that they had been placed under intolerable pressure to give way. Clinton acknowleged that the debate had been “vigourous”, but continued that:

I thought it was absolutely invigorating to have the kind of true debate that exists among friends and allies over such an important issue. We emerged with greater unity of purpose about how to build a constructive relationship with Russia and a stronger consensus about our relations with the emerging nations of Europe’s east. While the alliance won’t agree and indeed need not agree on every issue relating to Russia, we can and do agree that we must find ways to work constructively with Russia where we share areas of common interest. We also agree we must find ways to manage our differences with Russia where they persist, and stand firm where our principles or our vital interests are at stake.

She did accept that some member States have “..particular concerns that a number of nations in Europe’s east, who have long experience with Russia, have voiced about any kind of dialogue with Russia, whether it be NATO-Russia, the United States-Russia, or any kind of discussion,” but emphasized that the position of the administration is that:

.. there are benefits to reenergizing the NATO-Russia Council .. We have areas where we believe we not only can, but must cooperate with Russia – nonproliferation, arms control, antiterrorism, anti-piracy efforts. There are a number of important matters that should be discussed between us and Russia. There are equally serious matters that we need to not stop talking to Russia about. I don’t think you punish Russia by stopping conversations with them about matters, whether it be the misuse of energy supplies or the failure to comply with the requirements set forth by the OSCE and others concerning their actions in Georgia.

(Read the Secretary of State’s full Press Briefing)

In truth, of course, NATO needs Russia – especially for its vital mission in Afghanistan. As the NATO Monitor has regularly observed, NATO leaders have tied the future credibility of the Alliance as a future 'global security provider' to success by ISAF. And, to do the best it can to ensure that success, NATO needs Russia.

NATO would like Russian help in rescinding the Kyrgyz decision to close the Manas air base (a vital resupply point) to the US and other Alliance members. They would also like Russia to allow a land-supply route for non-lethal military supplies for Afghanistan. US sources have briefed that they are hopeful that Russia may also allow lethal military supplies to travel by land, and the opening of an air corridor into Afghanistan. (Reuters has a good report on this) None of this will be possible without the resumption of talks in the NRC.

The dispute that surfaced yesterday on the issue is yet another example of the differences between old and new NATO members. The Eastern Europeans see NATO through the lens of Article V, its main purpose the same as it was in 1949. The US, and many of the older NATO members, see NATO as a renewed Alliance which can act globally to build security for all. It is very hard to see how too such completely disparate world views can be reconciled. Of course, at Strasbourg and beyond, the cracks will be papered over. But the Strategic Concept debate is likely to prove long and hard indeed.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

The Declaration on Alliance Security

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer presented ministers with his draft of the Declaration on Atlantic Security. He told Ministers that:

Finally, as instructed by our Heads of State and Government a year ago in Bucharest, next month’s Summit will issue a Declaration on Alliance Security. This Declaration should, in my view, underline NATO’s determination to perform the full range of its missions, from its core task of collective defence to projecting stability abroad. It should convey to our publics, in plain and powerful words, NATO’s “raison d’être” at 60. And it should also give us the necessary vision and political guidance to start a process which will lead to updating our 1999 Strategic Concept, in order to set out in detail the Alliance’s role in the new security environment of the 21st century.

Having failed to obtain agreement last year to begin a review of NATO’s Strategic Concept, De Hoop Scheffer persuaded the Allies to agree a new statement of principles. He had hoped that NATO would issue a new Atlantic Charter. The original was written at the height of World War II, as a statement of western values in the fight against Hitler. It led directly to the formation of the United Nations, and then of NATO as the fight against fascism became the fight against communism. However, NATO leaders downplayed the idea, and it became a Declaration.

What is important, though, is the content. The document as drafted by the Secretary General includes review of NATO activity over the past 60 years and a future vision for NATO strategy as well as foreseen security duties and obligations of member states and NATO missions beyond NATO territory.

It seems that the principle importance of the Declaration will be the breadth of topics that it covers, and the fact that it will serve as a public terms of reference for the Strategic Concept debate that follows. As such, while hardly likely to be a document of historic importance like the original charter, it will be influential in shaping NATO for coming decades. In so far as the Declaration breaks new ground for NATO, De Hoop Scheffer will leave his mark as Secretary General on the Alliance when he retires later this year.

Unease on Missile Defence

While the deployment of US missile defences to Poland and the Czech Republic is not part of the official agenda at NATO, the subject is an ever-present worry for some. In the US, advocates of the Bush missile defence agenda are still trying to adapt to the post-Bush world in which some of their cherished programmes (like the deployment of a radar in the Czech Republic and interceptors in Poland as part of the mid-course BMD system). For example, Michael Rubin of the conservative American Enterprise Institute writes in support of the European deployment for Radio Free Europe.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will go from the NATO meeting to meetings with Russian counterparts, where the future of the European BMD sites will be discussed. As the International Herald Tribune reports, both the Czechs and the Poles have some nervousness about this meeting. Bloomberg also reports on this topic today.

The Czechs appear to want to ensure the deployment of US troops on their soil, while the Poles are concerned that the US sticks to a deal about the deployment of Patriot batteries in Poland, even if the interceptor site is never built. This degree of nervousness about the US commitment to the defence of Europe recalls the days of the Cold War, when west Europeans felt much the same way. In this case though the European protagonists have only themselves to blame. They struck a controversial deal with the Bush administration in its dying days, knowing that it would likely be reversed if Barrack Obama became President. They ignored advice to wait, and now feel that they have been let down, when it is rather they who have failed to understand the nature of great power politics.

The Czech and Polish governments are now left lamenting the fate of the BMD programmes with their conservative allies, essentially powerless to affect the outcome. They must now avoid the mistake of assuming that their security interests cannot be met by the Obama administration. After all, friendly relations with Russia, leading to greatly reduced nuclear forces and a more stable Europe is a path to security for all concerned. One that is, in the long run, much better than a return to a Cold War-style stand-off where Poland, in particular, could never feel safe as they would be on the European front line.

Foreign Ministers Meet in Summit Preview

Following on from the recent Defence Ministers meeting, it is now the turn of Foreign Ministers to engage in preparations for the forthcoming Summit in Strasbourg and Kehl.

The full press briefing before the meeting by James Appathurai, NATO Spokesperson, contains some interesting pieces of information.

The importance of Afghanistan for the future of the Alliance is underscored by the fact that half the meeting will be taken up in discussion of the Alliance political-military strategy in the country; beginning with a briefing from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Obama administration’s review of US strategy in the region.

Another prominent topic will be relations with Russia, on which:

.. the Secretary General will report tomorrow morning to the Ministers on his political contacts and they will discuss possible next steps, including the resumption of formal meetings of the NATO-Russia Council at Ambassadorial and Ministerial level.

Perhaps as important in the long run is the Alliance’s internal debate on its policy direction. This will be dealt with in a discussion on:

.. the Declaration on Alliance security. This is again a tasking given to him by Ministers to draft, and he has done that, a declaration to be adopted at the summit in early April. This declaration should in essence underline NATO's determination to perform the full range of its missions including collective defence to projecting stability abroad. It should convey for our publics NATO's raison d'être at the age of 60, a sprightly and flexible 60. And it should also set out the way forward in launching a process which should lead to updating the Strategic Concept, which as you know dates to 1999, in order to set out in detail the Alliance's role in the new security environment of the 21st century.

Ministers, with invitee nations, will also be discussing the latest round of enlargement agreed last year at Bucharest. I’ll be reporting the various parts of the discussion as the meeting goes on.