Wednesday, 3 October 2012

North Atlantic Council Meets on Syria Crisis

The North Atlantic Council was convened in emergency session this evening, following the Syrian mortar bombing of a Turkish town and the killing of five Turkish civilians, four of them children. This statement was issued:

North Atlantic Council statement on developments on the Turkish-Syrian border
As stated on 26 June 2012, the Alliance continues to closely follow the situation in Syria. In view of the Syrian regime’s recent aggressive acts at NATO’s southeastern border, which are a flagrant breach of international law and a clear and present danger to the security of one of its Allies, the North Atlantic Council met today, within the framework of Article 4 of the Washington Treaty, and discussed the continuous shelling of locations in Turkey adjacent to the Turkish-Syrian border by the Syrian regime forces. 
The most recent shelling on 3 October 20l2, which caused the death of five Turkish citizens and injured many, constitutes a cause of greatest concern for, and is strongly condemned by, all Allies.
This is a clear warning to Syria that any escalation of cross border conflict will not be tolerated, as was the Washington DC and NATO sanctioned retaliation by Turkey against Syrian targets. While this meeting was not a result of Turkey invoking NATO's Article 5 common defence guarantee, the statement can be read as a clear warning to Syria that such a move may well follow any further attacks.

Turkey Retaliates Against Syria, Seeks NATO Meeting

After a mortar from Syria struck Turkey and killed a woman and five children, Turkey is reported to have consulted the United States and NATO Secretary General Rasmussen, before firing back. It is also reported that Turkey is seeking an urgent NATO meeting on the crisis.

UPDATE: NATO Ambassadors meeting now at NATO HQ (9pm UK time)

The meeting is an Article 4 consultation, not an Article 5 common defence invocation.

Further Update: It is now reported that turkey has struck additional Syrian military targets in Idlib.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

UPDATE: NATO Disarray in Afghanistan

The Guardian (amongst many others) has a report on events today in the wake of NATO's scramble to deal with the green-on-blue killings. It is now clear that UK Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond was not told of the change in cooperation with Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) until after he made a statement to the House of Commons on Monday.

Today, he said the change was tactical, not strategic and he didn't interfere at the tactical level. He added that nothing has really changed in UK operations. This statement is at best deeply disingenuous as Mr Hammond must have known this is a major development on the ground. The MOD has said that the US General commanding UK forces in Helmand has pre-approved the current level of tactical operations with ANSF, but this is contradicted by an ISAF statement today which said that exceptions to this rule must be approved by a senior commander.

Since there have been 12 green-on-blue attacks killing 15 NATO soldiers in the past month, it is clear that something had to change. But the way this has been handled and, at a minimum, the appearance of disarray created has undermined ISAF's mission, perhaps for good. How much of an Alliance is it when the US changes the ground rules and doesn't bother to inform a major ally and the country in which operations are taking place? Mr Hammond has been left looking out of touch and weak.

NATO Monitor agrees with Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander when he said:

"But sitting beyond that question is the deeper question: does this represent a temporary tactical response by military commanders on the ground or does it represent a more strategic shift in the mission?"If we are in a position where a regional commander is generally unwilling to grant the authority for troops to go out on patrol with Afghan soldiers, that would severely compromise the capacity of the mission to deliver its objectives."He went on: "The whole of the strategy in Afghanistan now is built around the premise that as the international forces step back, the Afghan forces can step up."That's why I think there are very serious questions for the government to answer in the hours ahead."
And the Monitor also agrees with John Baron, conservative MP who said today that the announcement "threatens to blow a hole in our stated exit strategy, which is heavily reliant on these joint operations continuing until Afghan forces are able to operate independently". 

NATO Afghan Strategy in Disarray

NATO strategy in Afghanistan is today in complete disarray. The path that the Alliance's leaders had mapped out towards withdrawal no longer seems at all clear, as the Alliance has announced in confused circumstances that the training and monitoring mission which is supposed to create the conditions for an end to ISAF combat missions is now restricted to large unit cooperation in major operations.

This follows the deaths of six NATO soldiers on Sunday (see report here) in green-on-blue attacks, bringing the total of NATO soldiers killed by their allies this year to over fifty. it also follows a major Taliban assault on Camp Bastion, when six harrier jump jets were destroyed, and two badly damaged. Hangars and refuelling stations were also attacked and NATO personnel, including the commander of the squadron involved, killed. (see report here)

So far, so clear. The security situation in country is not improving, and the Taliban is showing an ability to mount well coordinated attacks at a major NATO target. What followed next is extraordinary and shows the confusion within NATO.

In a statement to the House of Commons UK Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond said:

Our servicemen and women are doing vital work protecting the UK from the threat of international terrorism. Our strategy is clear. We are mentoring and training the Afghan army and police to deliver security to their own people. This will allow our forces first to withdraw into a support role and then to come home. The Taliban hate this strategy and seek to wreck it through insider attacks. They aim to disrupt the collaboration with Afghan forces, which is at the heart of our strategy. We cannot and will not allow the process to be derailed.Our partnering with the Afghan national security forces involves risk, but it is essential to success.
However, apparently on Sunday (at least according to the New York Times) orders were issued to NATO forces that training and mentoring will now happen at the battalion level and above. Mr Hammond appeared unaware of this, or did not see fit to report it to the House of Commons. The Afghan government was not told, and learned of the policy switch in news reports.

The New York Times reported that:
At a news conference on that trip, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said: “We are concerned with regards to these insider attacks and the impact they are having on our forces.” Gen. John R. Allen, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, "has reflected that in the steps that he has taken," Mr. Panetta said.
NATO has subsequently clarified that smaller unit cooperation in the field is still possible, but authorisation for such mission - even at the platoon level - will have to be given by a 2 star general. This is a major change, since platoon and company commanders have previously been able to order such missions. it will greatly hamper the ability of NATO ISAF to support their Afghan allies. The BBC World Service has reported this morning that an Afghan unit last night requested medevac after a vehicle hit an IED. US forces in the area refused the support, no doubt fearing an ambush, and a medevac they could have provided in 30 minutes took Afghan national forces 6 hours to provide. It doesn't much imagination to see that this will hit morale, and make Afghan forces much less willing to conduct combat operations and even routine patrolling.

Afghans are apparently dismayed by the change, as the New York Times reports:

Afghan soldiers were not reassured by such talk. Three interviewed as word spread Tuesday said their many of their units were not yet ready to fight alone – an assessment shared by the Pentagon — and could be in deep trouble without close coalition assistance.
The curtailment of partnered operations is “a big problem for the Afghan Army,” said Maj. Salam, an officer based in western Afghanistan who asked that he only be identified by his rank and last name. 
“We rely on the Americans for everything,” he continued. “The army is not in a level to carry out military operations independently, we still need their support. I do not buy the lies that the MOD officials are trying to sell us and the public — we are in the field and we know how difficult it would be for the army without Americans.”
This weekend may come to be seen as a major turning point. British Conservative MP Colonel Bob Stewart, famous and highly regarded for his service in the army in Bosnia, has called for UK forces to be withdrawn as soon as possible. There is no doubt that he reflects majority public opinion. NATO has lost the PR war, and while winning the tactical engagements is losing the war on the ground too.

It seems very unlikely that NATO will be able to leave behind a stable government with fully functioning security forces in control of its national territory when it leaves. So what does this mean for NATO? The destruction of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the toppling of its Taliban ally had been accomplished a decade ago. if they can't leave a functioning government able to survive on its own after 2014, then what were the next ten years of combat for? And what future is there for NATO expeditionary missions when this one has failed so badly? How can NATO missions even be mounted when the US behaves in such a unilateral fashion and leaves its allies swinging in the wind, as Phillip Hammond now is? These are the kinds of questions that need answering today.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Should Israel Joint NATO?

Haaretz has published an op-ed recommending that Israel could find a structural solution to its security problems by taking membership of the Atlantic Alliance.

The arguments advanced in the article are interesting but not entirely compelling to NATO Monitor.

While it seems logical that Israel would be far less scared of Iran if it had NATO membership, there are major problems that would need to be overcome. Principle amongst these is the issue of relations between Israel and Palestine.

Would Israel, in return for the security embrace of NATO, be prepared to end the de facto siege of Gaza? Would it be prepared to allow the creation of a viable Palestinian state with properly contiguous territory on the West Bank, and working connections to Gaza?

Would Israel be willing to forego sabre-rattling military options like its periodic wars in Lebanon?

In summary, would Israel be prepared to mature sufficiently as a state to take up the serious responsibilities of a state receiving the Article V security guarantee that NATO offers? Would it be prepared to act in a completely different way, not threatening to drag its allies into war at every turn?

Would Israel gain anything from NATO membership? After all, it already has strong links with the US and other NATO allies. Haaretz lists 7 exercises in which NATO members and Israel jointly participate this year:
The seven exercises involve the special forces (an exercise known as JCET ), the navy (three exercises - Noble Dina, Noble Melinda and Reliant Mermaid ), the marines (Noble Shirley ), the National Guard (an exercise in responding to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive attack ), and a combined forces operation that includes ballistic missile defense drills (Austere Challenge, which includes the Juniper Cobra and Juniper Falcon exercises ). The latter, scheduled for October, is the one that the United States recently scaled down drastically, from a planned 5,000 troops to possibly as few as 1,200.
Would Israel share NATO's assessment of its security situation? With PM Netanyahu exploding into overblown rhetoric at every opportunity it seems unlikely. As Haaretz reports, Admiral Stavridis NATO's Supreme Commander, shares the assessment of his analysts that Israel is currently more secure than at any time since 1948. Hardly the outlook of the Netanyahu government which proclaims regularly that the second holocaust is coming.

Looked at from the Arab side, would Israeli membership of NATO be seen as aimed against Arab states or as part of a process to normalise relations between Israel and its neighbours by providing the Israel with the security it needs to allow such a process to happen?

These are questions worth exploring, as any potential solution to the security morass in the Middle East is worth exploring. But NATO is certainly a long way from going down this path.

Libyan Weapons Arming Regional Conflicts

IPS news service has a piece following up on a theme that NATO Monitor has followed regularly over the last year. Weapons from Libya, which have proliferated across the region as a result of the insecurity in Libya caused by the NATO-assisted overthrow of the previous regime, are fuelling conflicts from Mali to Syria. The article notes that:
“All of the militias are involved in selling weapons. There is no law in Libya, still no functioning government, and the country’s security forces are too weak to control the situation, so selling weapons is regarded as legal by many of the rebels,” said Ridwan, a former rebel who fought with Tripoli’s Suq Al Jumma Katiba (brigades). 
“Many of the fighters got greedy following the war and believe they are entitled to compensation for the sacrifices they made for their country as they believe the government has abandoned them,” Ridwan, who did not give his last name, told IPS. 
“The guys sell an AK-47 on the black market for 1,000 Libyan dinars (800 dollars). An anti-aircraft gun mounted on the back of a pickup truck goes for between 8000-10,000 LD. Most of the weapons are smuggled to the borders, especially Turkey.
NATO Monitor is not arguing that the overthrow of Gaddhafi was a bad thing, simply that consequences such as the weapons proliferation resulting from the conflict should have been foreseen and measures taken to minimise the problem. NATO could have taken steps to work with regional governments to help them better secure borders. It could and should have done more to ensure that Libyan arms dumps were destroyed. these are lessons that need to be well learned before the next such war.

Green on Blue - a Symptom of the Real Problem

The news that Prince Harry has redeployed to Afghanistan as an Apache helicopter commander as thrown a major spotlight on the risks in the upsurge of green-on-blue killings of NATO soldiers by their Afhgan colleagues.

This follows hard on the heels of the announcement from the US, as reported in papers like the Washington Post, of the suspension of training for Afghan recruits to enable better vetting procedures to be put into place. This follows a dramatic rise of such killings this year, with 45 NATO personnel killed by Afghan colleagues so far this year, as against 35 in the whole of 2011 - and a total of 101 since 2007.

Journalists are writing stories to try to explain this phenomenon like this one in Scotland's Herald, and this one in a Channel 4 blog, in which an anonymous Afghan officer says:
“I understand why our men are shooting US and NATO soldiers. I too have been personally hurt by the way American forces behave towards my soldiers, our villagers, our religion and culture. Too many of them are racist, arrogant, and simply don’t respect us.”
The wider problem is that the US and NATO have no place in Afghanistan in 2012. Had the war there been confined to the toppling of the Taliban and the establishment of a government with wider legitimacy across the country, followed by an early exit, then these problems would not have emerged.

The desire to build a nation, and the cackhanded way that goal has been pursued, has led to a long term occupation and the consequent killings of thousands of innocent Afghan civilians. When the utter contempt of western soldiers for Afghans is figured into the equation, then strong resistance including green on blue killings was inevitable given time.

NATO has no goal left in Afghanistan except to get out without being completely humiliated, and even that looks harder to achieve by the day. Soldiers are now being killed an a near daily basis for no good purpose whatsoever, and the starkest manifestation of that are the green on blue incidents. Better training and better vetting will have no effect. NATO estimates that just 25% of these killings are Taliban plots, as if that shows their security works. Insisting, for example as here in the words of Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow that most of these killings are personal affairs and that the Afghan-NATO alliance remains solid. Instead it just highlights how unpopular foreign forces are in country. It also highlights that gap between the  Karzai government and the Afghan people.

Want to stop the green on blue killings? It's time, beyond time, to leave.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

NATO Appoints Special Rep. for Women, Peace and Security

NATO has announced the appointment of Norwean diplomat Mari Sk√•re Special Representative of Secretary General Rasmussen for Women, Peace and Security. This demonstrates a new level of commitment for the Alliance to implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on that topic.

Including a gender perspective in NATO missions has been done at the operational level in Kosovo and Afghanistan, and is increasingly important with the kinds of missions that NATO is now undertaking. This new appointment raises the political profile of UNSCR 1325 issues at NATO HQ, which is something to the good.

NATO's Failure to Plan for Aftermath of War Evident, Dangerous in Libya

The unintended consequences of NATO's intervention in Libya last year continue unabated, as shown in a recent Guardian piece on the hundreds of armed militia groups that now pervade the country.

These militia groups are well armed, have refused to come under the control of the National Transitional Council (itself largely run by ex-Gaddhafi supporters who were smart enough to turn coat early). They now run secret prisons where detainees are tortured, the kill with impunity and are making the country ungovernable.

These consequences of the break up of the Gaddhafi regime were entirely foreseeable, and yet NATO failed to plan for them. Any rational plan for a successful end to the war last year needed to include organisation of the security sector under the control of the interim government to prevent just the current circumstances arising.

NATO has taken pride in its military efficiency in helping to oust Gaddhafi, and has refused responsibility for events that have happened since. But the state of semi-conflict and instability to the south of the Mediterranean is a security risk for Alliance nations - to ignore it and do nothing about it is untenable - especially since Mali, another country negatively impacted by NATO's Libya mission has descended into chaos and is now a rallying point for Al Qaeda followers across the Maghreb.

The conclusion - NATO needs to plan for all aspects of interventions it undertakes, not just the bits it wants to do. This particularly applied to Libya where the mission was notionally protection of civilians under a UN mandate (although NATO quickly used that to effect regime change). Civilians continue to suffer and die in Libya, and NATO nations bear some of the responsibility for creating the circumstances that allow that.

In Libya, it has a mess it should be working hard to sort out. If it doesn't then, in the long run, it could get bitten.

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:

Monday, 21 May 2012

Summit Fails to Overcome NATO-Pakistan Divisions

Pakistani President Zardari has left Chicago without agreeing to allow NATO supply convoys through Pakistan to restart.

Zardari met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and raised a number of issues that are important to Pakistan.  He said that before convoys can resume that the US must apologise for the cross border attack at Salala last year, which killed a number of Pakistani soldiers. He also said that US drone attacks against Taliban and other targets inside Pakistan must stop, as they violate Pakistani sovereignty and are causing political and social problems through the civilian casualties they bring. Finally, Pakistani sources said that the government wants $500 per truck compensation when convoys restart, although some sources have mentioned figures between $2500 and $5000 per truck.

Reports have said that the President framed these as issues of rebuilding trust:
In his nearly hour-long meeting with Clinton, Zardari said that the goal of establishing a long-term, sustained and durable Pakistan-US equation would remain elusive till the issue of trust deficit continues to haunt the relationship, said the presidential spokesman, Farhatullah Babar. 
"Bridging the trust deficit, the president said, was a must for Pakistan re-joining counterterrorism cooperation with the international community," Babar said after the meeting between Zardari and Clinton on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Chicago, which is being attended by leaders of more than 60 countries.
Following the meeting with Clinton, President Obama refused to meet with President Zardari, as did NATO Secretary General Rasmussen. NATO Monitor cannot understand why they would do this. The Guardian reported the White House as saying this was normal:
The White House national security spokesman, Ben Rhodes, asked at a press conference if Zardari had gone to Chicago under the misconception he would see Obama, replied that Obama's schedule was busy. He said issues such as the reopening of supply lines were not normally dealt with at presidential level. Rhodes said: "The invitation to attend this summit was extended by Nato of course. We obviously supported that. It's important for Pakistan to be here because as we contemplate the future of the region, they are obviously going to be a part of that picture.
Bringing the President of a country important to your war aims halfway round the world, only to refuse to meet him, can only be described as crassly bad diplomacy. It will weaken Zardari at home, and inflame anti-NATO and anti-US sentiment there. The US knew what the demands were before asking Zardari to fly to Chicago, so why were they so unprepared to meet them. Better that President Zardari had stayed home than this be the outcome.

NATO needs the Pakistani supply routes open now to save money, but in a few months time they will need them to bring soldiers and equipment out of Apkistan. Undoubtedly the price just went up steeply.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

BBC Summary of NATO BMD Programme

Johnathan Marcus of the BBC has written a good summary of some of the issues surrounding NATO's BMD programme. You can read it here. It contains a great quote from Professor Ted Postol about the lack of missile threat to Europe:

However, a leading expert on missile defence technology, Professor Theodore Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes that this potential threat has been much overstated. 
"The fundamental long-term threat from Iran is from nuclear weapons. But for now Iran does not have the bomb. A ballistic missile without a nuclear weapon," he says, "is like a terrorist bomber without an explosive vest."

AP - NATO Summit in Three Paragraphs

Turkey Stands up for Itself in NATO

Turkey came close to blocking EU reps Jose Manual Barroso and Herman van Rompuy from attending the Summit in Chicago. The two received very invitations, but even now they are restricted to sections of the Summit dealing with Afghanistan, reports VOA.

Clearly Turkish anger at continued blocking of their negotiations to join the EU was behind this move, but it wasn't their first piece of muscle-flexing in the run-up to Chicago. Previously AFP had reported that Turkey refused Israel a place at the Summit:

The Turkish official, who requested anonymity, told AFP earlier Monday: "We have not agreed to this. We don't think Israel should take part in such a forum," adding: "NATO is an alliance to which Israel does not belong." 
Turkish press reports said Israel wanted to take part in the key summit as a participant in the Mediterranean Dialogue cooperation programme with NATO.
This was denied by NATO spokespeople who claimed that there had never been any intention to invite Israel, despite their place in the Alliance's Mediterranean Partnership. However, it is clear that there was at least the possibility that Israel would be represented at the Summit, even if no official invitation was ever sent. This row is the latest manifestation of the declining relationship between the two previously close partners.

It has also been reported recently that important Turkish politicians have publicly advocated Macedonian membership of NATO in the face of continued Greek refusal to countenance such a move.

It seems that these might be signs of Turkey's importance to the Alliance in a vital neighbourhood, and of the increasing confidence of the current government in NATO.

Are NATO's Global Partnerships the Way to Relevance?

George W Bush didn't really believe in NATO. After 9/11, when the Alliance announced it had invoked its Article V common defence clause for the first time, he (and the rest of America) essentially took no notice. What he believed in was coalitions of the willing. So, instead of letting NATO go to war with the US in Afghanistan, an informal coalition of allies did. The result was the sidelining of the Alliance, and a United States that felt it didn't have to listen to anyone before using military force. The same was later true of Iraq, although it is very doubtful that NATO would have agreed to that particular venture, and the US learned the limits of supposedly unfettered power in a very hard way. Bush's attitude fit the unipolar moment, at least for the right, and was symptomatic of how large Empires behave.

By the time President Obama was elected that moment had subsided and NATO ISAF was running security forces in Afghanistan (although notably not US counter terrorism operations). NATO Europe hoped it would be seen as more relevant. But ISAF was never NATO alone, many more countries were always involved. And European nations were both generally unwilling and also unable to project enough power alongside the US to be the only global allies.

Now the US is selling a vision of NATO where it will operate globally, with different partners for different missions. On May 17, James J. Townsend Jr., deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy, told Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service reporters about the partnerships plan:
The summit also offers a chance to celebrate NATO partnerships outside the alliance, which greatly extend the organization’s reach, he said. 
“NATO has established partnerships globally that not a lot of people know about,” Townsend said. “Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea have been very helpful to the alliance, particularly in Afghanistan, and in other places.”
The DoD reports Secretary Rasmussen as saying:
Tomorrow, on the second day of the summit, Rasmussen said, “we will meet 13 of our most active partners around the globe, from Europe to Asia and the Middle East, because today’s security challenges are global and they need global solutions.” 
NATO will continue to cooperate with partners from around the world, building on successes “so that we can provide more security for NATO, for our partners, and for the world,” he added.
Fred Kempe of the Atlantic Council of the US certainly believes that the creation of a web of partnerships around the global hub of NATO is the way forward. He has written recently that:

The expected discussions of NATO leaders this weekend about how best to wind down their decade-long Afghan military operation and about how to maintain sufficient defense capabilities, despite growing budget cuts, risk leaving the impression of an alliance in retrenchment or decline. That’s hardly an inspiring or helpful message for a U.S. president heading home to Chicago at the beginning of his re-election campaign. 
By contrast, NATO’s efforts to broaden and deepen cooperation with capable partner nations can be rolled out as a pro-active, forward-looking initiative that has NATO going on offense for a new era. So that no one misses his notion of NATO at the core of a global security network, President Obama and his allies will stage an unprecedented summit meeting with 13 partner nations – from South Korea, Japan, New Zealand and Australia in Asia-Pacific to Jordan, Morocco, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East and North Africa. Also present will be five European states that aren’t members of the alliance but routinely contribute to alliance activities – Austria, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland. 
What they’ll be trying to do is give teeth to an agenda for NATO that I first saw discussed in detail by former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski in a major Foreign Affairs article in October 2009. He argued against those who wished to expand NATO into a global alliance of democracies. He said that would dilute the crucial importance of the U.S.-European connection, which still accounts for half of the world’s economy, and that none of the world’s rising powers would be likely to accept membership in a global NATO. An ideologically defined democratic alliance would needlessly draw institutional lines between the U.S. and, for example, China. 
“NATO, however, has the experience, the institutions, and the means to eventually become the hub of a globe-spanning web of various regional cooperative-security undertakings among states with the growing power to act,” he wrote. “In pursuing that strategic mission, NATO would not only be preserving transatlantic political unity; it would also be responding to the twenty-first century’s novel and increasingly urgent security agenda.” 
It would also rescue the alliance from geostrategic irrelevance.

There is no doubt that NATO's international command structures have been flexible enough to incorporate troops from many other nations in the former Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan and in Libya. But the real question is political. Do NATO nations want to carry on doing this kind of mission. Very few wanted to participate in Libya, and even support for an Alliance role was very grudging. Afghanistan has come close at times to breaking Alliance unity for good. the caveats that some nations have placed on troop use have been deeply resented by those that played a fuller part. Some, such as Canada and the Netherlands, have terminated their participation there in frustration.

And the truth is that the more NATO strays from the defence of Europe, the less its member states have in common politically. Their goals are simply not the same. And that shows in what states are willing to do. the unity of the Cold War, when the mission was clear, and everyone understood it in simple terms, has long gone. Even the defence of Europe looks very different in Tallinn than it does in London or Lisbon or Ankara.

NATO is a finely honed military tool looking for a rationale to stay in existence. And this partnerships arrangement shows how difficult that search is proving.

Rasmussen on Summit Agenda

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen spoke on his way into the start of the NATO Summit in Chicago earlier saying:

Our summit has three key priorities. Keeping Afghanistan secure now and in the years to come. Keeping NATO strong and capable in the 21st century. And keeping our global network of partners solid.Today, we will focus on security in an age of austerity.  We will ensure that the Alliance has the capabilities to deal with the security challenges of the future – even as we tackle the economic challenges of the present.We will adopt a concrete package of multinational projects which can provide greater security for all our citizens at lower cost. We will embrace a renewed culture of cooperation, which we call Smart Defence. And I expect we will take the first step to make our missile defence system operational.
NATO Monitor will discuss some of these issues in later posts.

Pakistan at the NATO Summit

Afghanistan is the major topic for the Chicago Summit which gets underway later today, and it would have made no sense to deal with that topic with Pakistan absent. But, until earlier this week, that is what may well have happened. NATO-Pakistan relation shave been bad since the NATO attack on a Pakistani border post that killed several Pakistani soldiers last year. However, earlier this week Pakistan signalled that it might be willing to reopen the NATO supply routes into Afghanistan that were shut down after the air attacks, and NATO issued a formal invitation to President Zardari to attend the Summit along with other partners to ISAF.

Negotiations on the conditions for a restart of Pakistani cooperation with NATO continue. Voice of America reports that:
The United States and Pakistan are engaged in intense negotiations to finalize a deal to end the blockade. Prime Minister Gilani said he has instructed concerned ministries and departments to conclude the talks as quickly as possible.Pakistan is seeking heavy taxes on future NATO convoys, a condition diplomatic sources say is hindering the talks. Pakistan's Junior Communications Minister Dost Mohammad Mazari defends the demand. “For the last 10 years, NATO supply has been going on from [the southern port city of] Karachi to different places into Afghanistan,” said Mazari.  "There were some damages to our [road] infrastructure. The damages what we have gathered from our resources and staff is $1.5-billion.” The minister says Pakistan has proposed a levy of $2,500 per truck, suggesting the amount could be negotiated down during talks with the United States. Pakistani officials also are seeking an unconditional U.S. apology for the deadly border strike and are demanding an end to drone strikes that American officials say target Taliban and al-Qaida militants hiding in Pakistan's northwest, along the Afghan border.
According to other sources Pakistan first proposed a fee of $5000 per truck which was swiftly ruled out. But whatever the levy it will be a significant revenue source for the Pakistani government, although with attacks by the Taliban the convoys are also a source of instability and danger inside Pakistan.

The convoy fees are also an internal matter in Pakistani politics, reports show (see here for example) that some Baloch politicians have called for direct investment of the revenue received for the development of Balochistan.

Whatever decisions are made in Chicago, the Pakistani government insists that it will not reopen NATO's supply lines without the approval of parliament. And while NATO has managed to maintain supplies through northern routes for the past few months, with the withdrawal looming it will need southern exit routes to bring  the huge amounts of equipment, vehicles and supplies home as combat operation end.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Why Not Let Macedonia into NATO?

General James Jones has argued that the Chicago Summit should allow Macedonia into the Alliance, even while he acknowledged that it will not. He has written a piece for the New Atlanticist blog and Roll Call explaining why Macedonia has done all it should do to be allowed to join, and argues that continued exclusion risks renewed instability in the Balkans.

NATO Monitor basically agrees, although it does seem that fears of instability in Macedonia because of continued absence from NATO fora is a little overblown. That said, one of NATO's more valuable roles in the post-World War II world was to integrate national defence forces into a multilateral structure and make war much harder. It can perform much the same role in the Balkans.

However, the only real block on Macedonia joining NATO is a political objection from Greece. So, when Macedonia erects a giant gold statue of Alexander the Great in Skopje, and names its international airport after him, how can they be surprised that Greece continues to block entry into NATO - however daft those objections are. Political symbolism runs deep here, and it seems that Macedonian politicians prefer playing games to being part of NATO.

Human Rights Watch Report on Civilian Deaths from NATO Bombing in Syria

Human Rights Watch has published a report with detailed analysis of 8 bombing raids by NATO which resulted in 72 unacknowledged civilian deaths.

The small number of these incidents with which HRW finds issue is a testament to the lengths that NATO went to in Libya to attempt to avoid killing civilians. However, since the purpose of the mission was, under the UN mandate, protection of civilians it is incumbent on NATO to do its utmost to investigate these bombings, compensate families where appropriate, and instigate changes in targeting policy and practice for future missions to minimise these risks. NATO has said it will investigate if asked, but will do nothing proactive for the Libyans it promised to safeguard.

There is something that struck NATO Monitor, given our past analysis of NATO's Libya operation. At least three of the bombing missions were attacks on towns that supported Colonel Gaddhafi to the end- Bani Walid and Sirte. It has been the Monitor's contention all along that the NATO mission evolved from protecting civilians to offering air support to the rebel forces, and this report offers some confirmation of that. There can be no excuse for using the UN mandate to attack targets where there is no threat to civilians, and in these two towns there was none since they backed the government wholeheartedly. The threat to civilians there came from the rebels and from NATO.

If NATO is to repeat its role as military supporter of a UN mandate for POC, it will have to learn the lessons of Libya. It can't do that without understanding the fundamental difference between pursung foreign policy through military means, and the protection of civilians. Clearly, it hasn;t got it right yet.

Giles Fraser on guns, fear and NATO!

Giles Fraser, who resigned from the staff of St Paul's Cathedral over their treatment of the Occupy the Stock Exchange protestors, now writes for the Guardian, and is a vicar of a South London church. His column today is thought provoking. NATO Monitor was struck by this section:
Fear justifies the need for security. And the need for security justifies more spending on guns. For Nato, it used to be the Russians, but now it's Iran.
The problem with this logic is right under the noses of Nato leaders, should they venture out of their compounds. The murder rate in Chicago is up 54% this year. The Windy City now has more murders than New York which has more than twice the population. This is mostly down to the fact that the place is awash with guns and fear, with each of these continually justifying their own existence with respect to the other.
It is an interesting link between the US gun culture which believes (in the face of all the evidence) that arming as many people as possible will enhance public safety, and those who follow the same plan in national security.

NATO Monitor argues for dialogue, confidence and security building measures, combined with reduced levels of arms. It is precisely those policies which have enhanced security and reduced fear in Europe. NATO needs ot look to its past actions to build better policies for the future.

NATOWatch Issue Briefs

Ian Davis of NATO Watch has issued a policy brief on Smart Defence, the latest in his series of such briefs in the run-up to the Summit; and another on the defence and deterrence posture review. Well worth a read.

DDPR3: Fomer Sec Gen Robertson Still a Nuclear Hawk

A short paper on nuclear aspects of the Defence and Deterrence Posture Review (DDPR) that former NATO Secretary General George Robertson has co-authored for the Atlantic Council of the US is an egregious example of hawkish, Cold War thinking on nukes.

The paper is a badly written hodge-podge of arguments for the indefinite retention of US nuclear weapons in Europe, and ad hominem attacks on politicians such as Germany's Guido Westerwelle who have dared to question the status quo. Unfortunately, it does represent a significant strand of opinion on the hawkish end of the US debate, and would likely represent US policy if Mitt Romney were to get elected, so needs to be read.

The paper recommends that NATO should indefinitely retain some nuclear weapons in Europe, and negotiate allowance for this with the Russians. It is unable to explain why the Russians should be prepared to balance their remaining 2,000 or so tactical nuclear weapons against the 200 or so that the US maintains n Europe; while ignoring the many hundreds more the retain the US.

The paper says NATO should simply stop talking about nuclear weapons after Chicago, and blames Westerwelle for a debate which it says has split the Alliance. this is to to ignore the factors on nuclear policy that have split the Alliance since the end of the Cold War. Current nuclear arrangements in NATO freeze the Alliance into a two-tier membership. New members in Eastern Europe are not permitted to have nuclear weapons deployed on their soil, nor to engage in nuclear sharing programmes. This results from promises made to Russia by the Alliance, and by the US alone, during the expansion debates in the 1990s. This is resented in eastern Europe, and divides the Alliance.

Secondly, there is no appetite in western European publics for the basing of US nuclear weapons on their soil, or for the expenditure that nuclear sharing states undertake to maintain their nuclear sharing programmes. Indeed, it seems likely these programmes will simply wither away over the coming coming decade or so as these states, particularly Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, fail to add nuclear capability to new aircraft they purchase to replace ageing fleets.

Thirdly, Robertson argues that the solidarity of the Alliance continues to require widespread European participation in Alliance nuclear strategy and basing of weapons, whereas active participation has been dropping away for years. Even the UK, a staunch ally, has had all the more than 100 US nuclear weapons that used to be based at airbases there removed. Most NATO allies do no more than turn up for briefings of the Nuclear Planning Group.

Finally, the paper argues that NATO must concentrate on beefing up conventional defences and defence spending, while ignoring the fact that nuclear basing and nuclear sharing consume significant resources that European nations can ill afford, and are indeed one of the true distractions from the ability to pursue the conventional spending he wishes to see. Turkey still allows US basing of nukes, but dropped its participation in nuclear sharing some years ago for these (and other other) reasons.

Robertson is a member of the European Leadership Network, and theoretically supports multilateral nuclear disarmament. Yet here he argues for a multilateral agreement with Russia to permanently maintain nuclear arms. It's more than a little illogical. he does so in the company of Franklin Miller, a former US nuclear official so dedicated to maintaining the UK bomb he got a got a knighthood from Tony Blair, and who finished his government career helping George W Bush oppose arms control. The other author is Kori Schake, a former NATO and George W Bush administration official. The company Robertson keeps these days explains his promotion of policies far outside the European mainstream.

So file the paper away and hope Mitt Romney doesn't win in November!

DDPR2: Former European Leaders Adopt on NATO Deterrence Posture, Challenge Alliance to Lead Disarmament

Forty-Five members of the European Leadership Network, a network of former Prime, Foreign Defence and other Ministers (with a few retired generals) have published a declaration ahead of the NATO Summit on the Alliance Defence and Deterrence Posture Review.

The tone of the declaration is forward leaning. It warns NATO that:
To be of any value, it must reflect on and respond to these developments – and provide a strategy that will both reduce nuclear risks in Europe and strengthen NATO’s overall defence capabilities against 21st Century threats. If it does not do so, it will be an ineffectual Summit of little historic consequence.
 The ELN's headline is that NATO must aim for:
 .. the goal of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons – including through further reductions – and use the summit to play a constructive role in advancing this agenda
To achieve this they urge an immediate 50% cut in US nuclear weapons held in Europe. This is absolutely sensible, and unfortunately something that, as the ELN acknowledges, NATO is unlikely to do. France is playing the role of the intransigent Monsieur Non on disarmament and has refused to countenance reductions by other NATO states whose weapons are allocated to the Alliance for fear that their own arsenal might come under scrutiny. So, the declaration from an eminent group of former leaders is very welcome.

However, digging into the detail it is possible to discern some troubling elements in the suggestions the ELN makes for progress. They equate Russian elimination of warheads with the consolidation of US warheads to fewer sites in Europe, and eventually to the US - something they must know Russia would not agree to.

They also call for an adaptation of NATO's nuclear sharing programme. Under that programme, the US helps equip and train the air forces of The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Italy to use nuclear weapons. The US deploys nuclear weapons to those countries to be handed over to them at time of 'general war' - an old Cold War concept that has little or no meaning now. Nuclear sharing has long been controversial in nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as the handing over of nuclear weapons to nominally non-nuclear states is illegal under that Treaty. the legality of the sharing programmes rests on the legal notion that if 'general war' comes then the NPT has failed and is consequently no longer in force. At that point, the US can arm whomsoever it likes with nuclear weapons.

(For a detailed treatment of this issue you can read Questions of Command and Control: NATO nuclear sharing and the NPT by the author of this blog and other colleagues)

However, in 2010 at the NPT Review Conference NATO nations all agreed in the Final Document that:

The Conference reaffirms that the strict observance of all the provisions of the Treaty remains central to achieving the shared objectives of the total elimination of nuclear weapons, preventing, under any circumstances, the further proliferation of nuclear weapons and preserving the Treaty’s vital contribution to peace and security.

This followed similar agreement in the 1985 Final Document. With this formulation NATO States have removed the legal basis for their sharing agreements, which was in any case only paper thin, and thus done away with any justification for the continuation of sharing programmes. the ELN should have reflected this reality in their text.

The declaration also calls for an appropriate role for, and development of, ballistic missile defences for NATO. it does suggest that this is done in conjunction with Russia, but while the authors acknowledge that this issue is blocking progress in further transparency, confidence and security building or disarmament measures with Russia, this is not enough to prevent the recommendation that NATO go ahead. This seems a little perverse, given the stated goal of furthering nuclear disarmament in cooperation with Russia.

The declaration does call for arms control to become a serious and permanent part of NATO's infrastructure, but only in the field of weapons of mass destruction. Russia links progress in the nuclear field not only to BMD, but also to the currently more or less defunct Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. It is vital for future arms control that some form of conventional arms control is included, not least as NATO has overwhelmingly conventional superiority against Russia - even European nations outspend Russia 5-1 on defence. A NATO arms control policy which ignored this would be meaningless.

All in all the declaration reflects the NATO mainstream quite well. Unfortunately, France and some of its Baltic and eastern European friends have stymied action in this field and President Putin is staying away from Chicago, knowing that nothing will be achieved there in this field. The mainstream European view will not, therefore be reflected in the results of the Summit.

It would have been nice to see a grouping like this, with the goals it espouses, push the policy envelope a little to advance the debate rather than simply reflecting what the majority of NATO governments want to do anyway. As welcome as it is, and as much as it is helpful in setting the status quo in a better place than France would wish, this declaration doesn't do enough to encourage those currently in government to go a little further or fight a little harder against the opposition of the hawks. Perhaps next time.

DDPR1: NATO's Defence and Deterrence Posture Review

(The first in a series of posts about issues around the NATO defence and and deterrence posture review)

Paul Ingram of BASIC and Oliver Meier of the Arms Control Association have published an assessment of the NATO defence and deterrence posture review, with a look at what is likely to be announced in Chicago. It's a worthwhile read and fits very much with NATO Monitor's impression of what has gone on behind the scenes.

As they conclude, and as has been obvious for well over a decade, NATO is deeply divided on nuclear policy issues. It has been unable to even to set a declaratory nuclear use policy because of that division.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative has published an analysis of the DDPR with very similar conclusions. Their paper also adds a look at Russian attitudes to the nuclear issues in the DDPR.

While the paper's analysis is useful, their conclusions about what NATO should do are deeply problematic. they recommend consolidation of US nuclear weapons in Italy and Turkey, which would do nothing to reduce Russian opposition to their presence in Europe but would be seen as threatening by some countries to the south and east, hardly a desirable end.

However, NTIs most damaging conclusion is one which, on the face of it, would directly breach the NPT in a visible way. They say that:

  • NATO Control.
  •  NATO could choose to establish an independent, jointly operated unit of DCA tasked with delivering non-strategic nuclear weapons in addition to any U.S. DCA in Europe. All member states would contribute financially in addition to providing personnel. However, this posture will still require the alliance to answer difficult questions about where these capabilities will be based, with Italy again one possibility.

This appears to be a call to revive a form of the Multilateral Nuclear Force (MNF) idea that was proposed for NATO during the 1960s, and which NATO terminated on recognition that it would be banned under the NPT when that came into force. At best, it would be to enhance and give visibility to the current nuclear sharing arrangements, which are themselves of at best dubious legality under the NPT and really only survive because no country mounts a sustained objection to them.

Their final option, of consolidation of the US arsenal on the soil of the United States, would be much more sensible. it would not, in the short term, alter NATO policy or doctrine at all, but might (as NTI says) give an impetus to the next round of nuclear talks with Russia. Its security impact would be zero, since the nukes in Europe are not ready to use in any case, and very few people can envisage any circumstances in which a European country would give approval for a nuclear strike mission to be carried out from their soil. Some eastern European states may complain, but what option do they have? Would they leave NATO? of course not. they would go along.

One thing has puzzled the Monitor since President Obama took office, and that is something which links the analysis in both these papers. Traditionally, the US has led on NATO nuclear policy and doctrine. What was US practise has swiftly become Alliance practise too. The US has always given Allies a clear steer on what they expect in this area. Following the 2009 Prague speech on the need for a nuclear weapon free world, and the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review which reduced the role of nuclear forces in US defence doctrine, it was to be expected that President Obama would instruct his NATO Ambassador to take a similar lead.

Instead, it has become clear over the past two years that the US has abdicated its traditional leadership role and simply said to Europe - tell us what you want! So the deep divisions within NATO Europe have been unbridgeable because there was no leadership to make the bridging possible. If President Obama wants NATO to contribute to the goal he set in Prague, he needs to do something about it.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

NATO Monitor Features on US National Public Radio

US National Public Radio is running previews of the NATO Summit coming up in Chicago. NATO Monitor's Martin Butcher taped an interview with them last week on NATO's operation in Libya and its implications for the future of the Alliance. They used some of that interview on today's Morning Edition. You can hear the piece at the NPR site, and read the story here.

As the Chicago Summit approaches, Der Spiegel has run an interesting piece on the low opinion of Germany in NATO. the basic contention of the article is that:
Ahead of the NATO summit in Chicago, Germany's standing in the alliance has reached a low point. The country's abstention in the UN vote on military action in Libya has done lasting damage to its reputation. The Germans are now seen as unreliable partners who don't know what they want.
This criticism comes on the heel of long-standing dissatisfaction within the Alliance at the restricted role that Germany has chosen to follow in Afghanistan. NATO Monitor has been writing since the time of its founding about German caveats on the use of forces in Afghanistan, and the resentment that has caused amongst some NATO members.

Now, if an Alliance is going to work, all its members have to pull together to back agreed missions. This must certainly apply to Afghanistan, into which all NATO members entered without reservation (however unwisely).

But Libya is different, and here it seems that the criticism of the German government's refusal to play a role is wrong. France and Britain pushed an unwilling Alliance into the intervention with precious little real support. And the unfortunate ongoing unintended consequences of the toppling of Gaddhafi show that the caution was entirely justified. And, if Germany has only a small ability to project forces overseas, this is a democratic choice that it has a right to make. Many countries and many analysts have deep reservations about the idea that the US now sees NATO as an adjunct to its own global aspirations for the use of military force as part of foreign policy. Clear Der Spiegel would like to see German troops deployed across the world and is thus ready to slam the current government. Many, including NATO Monitor, see that vision as very questionable.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Will Turkey Invoke Article V over Syria?

The ongoing crisis in Syria, seemingly coming ever closer to all-out civil war, will be one of the most significant issues forming the background to the NATO Summit in Chicago. There have been numerous calls for NATO to intervene in the crisis, but so far these have been resisted. One problem is that it would not be possible to get a UN Security Council mandate for action, since Russia and China are absolutely opposed to letting NATO act against President Assad. For Russia this is a matter of protecting an ally, but for both Russia and China it is also a reaction to NATO's over-reach in Libya, where the Atlantic Alliance took a mandate to protect civilians against violence and used it justify the overthrow of Colonel Gaddhafi.

However, it might also be open to NATO to intervene using the Atlantic Treaty's Article V on common defence. Turkey has a long border with Syria, and thousands of refugees have already fled to safety in Turkey. There have been several incidents of cross border fire, with Syria attacking refugees inside Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, amongst others, have raised the possibility of asking NATO to intervene since early April. This was criticised, naturally, by Syrian spokesmen. Some observers were surprised that Turkey did not raise the issue of an Article V intervention in Syria during the recent Ministerial meeting in Brussels which prepared the Chicago Summit. Turkish sources had been saying before the meeting that they would do so, but afterwards NATO officials said the matter never came up.

However, Turkish media have reported that on May 10, Turkish government spokesmen again raised the idea that Turkey could ask for Article V solidarity from NATO following yet another attack by Syrian forces on Syrians in Turkey. Today's Zaman reported that:
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Selcuk Unal said during a press briefing on Thursday that Turkey's expectation from Syria is that it halts the violence as soon as possible to prevent further instability. Unal said: "However, we have many options on the table if this instability deepens. We have to determine these options in accordance with the developments we face. As you know, Article 5 of NATO is related to self-defense. So, this issue was mentioned in the past due to some incidents that occurred [along the Turkish border]. This is, of course, a matter which will remain on the agenda and it will still be assessed."
A NATO intervention on this basis could not be an all out campaign to overthrow President Assad, nor even a series of attacks to prevent Syrian forces attacking their own civilians across the country. It would most likely be confined to security a 'safe zone' along the border to prevent Syria attacking refugees, or indeed making any other kind of attack, across the border with Turkey.

There is even a provision for this in the 1998 Adana Accord under which Syria ".. will not permit any activity that emanates from its territory aimed at jeopardizing the security and stability of Turkey." This was aimed at cooperative security measures against the PKK, and at preventing the PKK from operating inside Syria against Turkey. However, it might be open to turkey to recognise the Syrian National Council as the legitimate government of Syria and to then fight alongside the Free Syrian Army against President Assad. 

In an unstable region this would be truly dangerous territory. And there are other concerns too.

Unless Russia were absolutely convinced this was a very limited operation to protect Turkey it could have terrible consequences for NATO Russia relations. Russia would see this as a NATO aggression, and the effects on US-Russia arms control talks, BMD cooperation talks, as well as other aspects of relations with Russia would probably suffer in the short to medium term.

Since Turkish relations with Israel are also bad, and Syria sits between Israel and Iran, having NATO intervene there would have unforeseen consequences on NATO-Israel relations. it may put NATO right in the firing line of an Israeli attack on Iran, in the event that that were to happen.

It seems unlikely that NATO will intervene, if only to prevent a messy regional war and worsened relations with Russia, but as Joshua Foust has highlighted there are internal NATO reasons to stay out too:

Prime Minister Erdogan may very well gain support from some European states to increase security assets along the Turkish-Syrian border. But no matter the threat of spillover from Syria into Turkey, NATO’s ability to meaningfully affect the situation is, at best, very limited. And the bigger currents within European defense circles – contracting, scaling back, and reducing forces and so on – mean that even if NATO wanted to do something, in all likelihood it couldn’t. 
This has profound implications for Europe and the Middle East. NATO has been a bulwark of stability since its founding in 1949; after the Cold War, it transitioned from opposing the Soviet Union to assisting the political transition of the former Warsaw Pact countries (many of whom have since become NATO members). Now, however, NATO is drifting between the lofty ambitions of the new strategic concept announced in the 2010 Lisbon Treaty and the messy reality of drastically curtailed defense budgets and a limited appetite for adventurism. 
The end result is that when a member state, like Turkey, is facing a serious threat along its border, NATO will have a very limited capacity to actually assist in rallying to its defense. This doesn’t mean the alliance is done with, but it does mean that NATO requires some serious thinking and strategic planning to match its ambitions with its capabilities. 

President Obama isn't going to want another war on his hands in an election year, and in the end, that is going to count for more than Turkey's concerns about instability on its borders.

NATOWatch Summit Briefs Are an Interesting Read

Kudos to Ian Davis of NATOWatch, who has produced a series of readable and useful issue briefs covering the main items of business for the Chicago Summit. There's one on NATO-Russia relations, one on missile defence, one on Afghanistan, and another on NATO and the Arab Spring.

There are three more to come, keep an eye out for them.

Smart Defence - the latest iteration of an old NATO debate!

One of the main topics at the Chicago Summit will be Smart Defence. NATO defines this as:

a new way of thinking about generating the modern defence capabilities the Alliance needs for the coming decade and beyond. It is a renewed culture of cooperation that encourages Allies to cooperate in developing, acquiring and maintaining military capabilities to undertake the Alliance’s essential core tasks agreed in the new NATO strategic concept. That means pooling and sharing capabilities, setting priorities and coordinating efforts better.

NATO says that results of the Summit will include:
Projects in the spirit of Smart Defence will comprise a package of multinational projects to address critical capability shortfalls. They will include programmes such as as missile defence, Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) and Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance as well as projects covering areas such as pooling maritime patrol aircraft and remote-controlled robots for clearing roadside bombs. 
So far, so sensible. This is in the long tradition of attempts to get NATO to function better, and in particular to get European NATO nations to provide more assets to the Alliance. During the Cold War there was a constant call for more burdensharing, which generally meant Europe spending more on its defence. In the late 1970s and 1980s, the Alliance set a target for 3% increases in defence expenditure each year - and they were never met.

As major defence programmes become ever more expensive, it is only natural that countries should seek to cooperate more. Few countries can afford to maintain a large forces on their own anymore. The problem is for NATO that European nations are tremendously wasteful in the way they spend money, but changing that gets to the heart of national sovereignty and the fact that few if any European nations are willing to go far down the route of merging defence capabilities, at least if that means giving up national freedom of action.

According to NATO's own figures, NATO Europe spent over $282 billion on defence in 2011. By any measure that is a very significant sum of money, far more than either Russia or China spend on defence. however, the reality recognised in the Smart Defence idea is that this money is mostly wasted. Expensive national programmes to produce 24 parallel military structures, none of which are able to project much power or sustain operations for very long.

If European NATO members were to merge forces and capabilities, they could significantly cut what they spend on defence and still have more material and soldiers available when they were needed. NATO has a multinational command structure which could run the whole shebang effectively. Alternatively this could all be done through the Common Defence and and Security Policy of the European Union. But it just isn't going to happen. Countries are going to continue to make national decisions about the structure of national defences and defence forces.

Until that changes, NATO's Smart Defence may have successes at the margins, but won't do much to affect the situation where most European nations get very little for their defence budgets.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

NATO Monitor features on Public Radio International

NATO Monitor author Martin Butcher was interviewed for a piece on NATO and Libya for the Americans Abroad series of Public Radio International. While narrower in focus, the piece draws heavily on NATO Monitor's critique of Ambassador Ivo Daalder's assessment of NATO's achievement in Libya.

You can listen to the piece following the link below - it runs for ten minutes which is long for a radio piece, and is one of a very interesting series in the run-up to Chicago.