Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lugar calls on NATO to lead, not upset Russia-Georgia security balance

Were you keeping a list of senior GOP lawmakers who are weighing in to oppose the potential French sale of the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship to Russia? If so, add Indiana Senator Richard Lugar to that list.

Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, released a report Tuesday that calls on NATO to take a lead role in coordinating security assistance to Georgia, the culmination of a staff project that included a trip to Tbilisi in late October. The report's conclusions are stark in terms of Lugar's view on how Georgia is faring one year after the Russian invasion.

"As a result of Russian diplomatic pressure and threats to restrict commercial ties with entities selling defense articles to Georgia, the Georgian military has been unable to replenish much of its military capacity that was eviscerated in the war," the report reads.

The last tranche of U.S. post-war assistance to Georgia, $242 million to round out the $1 billion commitment, was notified to Congress in December and went through without objection. The report highlights that the Obama administration decided not to use any of that money to shore up Georgia's lethal capabilities.

"The United States, under substantial Russian diplomatic pressure, has paused the transfer of lethal military articles to Georgia, and no U.S. assistance since the war has been directly provided to the Georgian Ministry of Defense. Consequently, Georgia lacks basic capacity for territorial defense."

Lugar argues that Georgian military weakness increases the risk of armed conflict by pinning the Georgians into a desperate position and raising the possibility of conflict-starting miscalculations.

Despite the unfortunate headline in this otherwise strong Associated Press article, Lugar is not calling on NATO to arm Georgia, exactly. His more nuanced view is that NATO must establish a leadership role in maintaining the security balance in the Caucasus, which is tipping more every day toward the Russian advantage.

That's where the French sale of the Mistral comes in. Several senior GOP lawmakers have come out strongly against the potential sale of the ship, introducing bills and writing letter focused on strategic or tactical concerns.

Lugar's concern is more of a diplomatic one, and it relates to the integrity of NATO as much as the security of Georgia. He references the possible sale of the Mistral specifically.

"Failing a coordinated, NATO-led strategy for security assistance in the region, allies run the risk of disturbing an already fragile political balance and engendering an excessive nationalization of Georgian defense policy."

It remains to be seen if NATO will embrace the role of coordinator for security for Georgia, especially since Georgia seems as far away from NATO membership as ever. But regardless of whether Georgia get in or stays out, NATO is going have stake in Georgian security issues from now on and Lugar's point is that should include ensuring NATO allies don't take unilateral measures to upset the military balance.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Is there an Obama doctrine?
Dec 17th 2009 WASHINGTON, DCFrom The Economist print edition

“Just war”, not just war. And affordable, please

BY HIS own admission, Barack Obama received his Nobel peace prize when his accomplishments were still “slight”. But he has big plans—including signing a new nuclear-arms reduction treaty with Russia and, eventually, ridding the world of atomic weapons altogether. When he collected his prize in Oslo on December 10th, he also gave a thought-provoking acceptance speech. To some it hit the rhetorical heights of Cicero (Simon Schama, a historian, in the Financial Times). For others (David Brooks, in the New York Times), there were echoes of Reinhold Niebuhr, a theologian with a gloomy view of human nature. The question now obsessing America’s commentariat is whether this speech outlines an “Obama doctrine” in foreign policy. If so, what is it?

Mr Obama has never claimed to be a pacifist. Yet his critics on the right seemed surprised, pleasantly, when he said in Oslo that “there will be times when nations—acting individually or in concert—will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.” Bill Kristol, the neoconservative editor of the Weekly Standard, praised his “hardheaded and pro-American tone”. Sarah Palin appeared to like his observation that “evil does exist in the world”. (She also reminded Americans that they could read her own musings on man’s fallen state in her new book.) John Bolton, on the other hand, remained in a grump. George Bush’s former ambassador to the United Nations took exception to Mr Obama’s acknowledgment that the world would “not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes”. End violence? Merely to entertain such a possibility, he huffed on television, “reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature”.
A presidential “doctrine”, however, needs to say more than that America will sometimes have to fight, and sometimes alone. The question is: when? If Mr Bush had a doctrine it was his belief in pre-emptive war, enunciated in the National Security Strategy of 2002 and enacted in Iraq the next year. Does Mr Obama, who opposed that war, accept the idea of pre-emption in any circumstances? Here the Oslo speech was vague. He cited the concept of “just war” (war waged only as a last resort or in self-defence, with “proportional” force and sparing civilians where possible), but said that nuclear proliferation and failed states made it necessary to think about just war “in new ways”. These he did not specify. After referring to North Korea and Iran, he said only that “those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.”

Sometimes Mr Obama is accused of soft-headed idealism (eg, for extending a tentative hand to Iran and North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, to whom he passed a letter last week), and sometimes of a hard-hearted realism that pays too little heed to human rights. When Iran cracked down on pro-democracy protesters in June, he muted his criticism for fear of disrupting the nuclear talks. His administration has made less fuss than some about human rights in China. In Oslo he defended his decision to treat with repressive regimes by arguing that “sanctions without outreach” and “condemnation without discussion” could end in stalemate. On December 14th Hillary Clinton, his secretary of state, took up the refrain. “Our principles are our north star,” she said, “but our tools and tactics must be flexible.”

So is this a distinctive Obama doctrine? Mr Bush’s officials also talked to North Korea and Iran, and got along well enough with China and Russia. What makes Mr Obama most different so far, argues Peter Beinart of the New America Foundation, a think-tank, is his conviction that an economically stricken America needs to pare down its foreign commitments.
When Mr Obama said at West Point at the beginning of December that he was sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, he also said that he refused to set goals “that go beyond our responsibility, our means, or our interests”. By definition, a superpower has to sally forth into the world. Arguably, Mr Obama’s main new idea, much easier to say than to achieve, is that it should also live within its means.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

NATO will never attack Russia: Alliance chief

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has sought to reassure Moscow that the alliance poses no danger to Russia amid Kremlin bids for a new European-Atlantic defense pact.

After talks with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders on Thursday, Rasmussen questioned the need for the new security treaty proposed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

"Let me make a very clear statement as Secretary General of NATO: NATO will never attack Russia. Never. And we don't think Russia will attack us. We have stopped worrying about this and Russia should stop worrying about us as well."

However, Rasmussen, during a speech to students and diplomats in Moscow, urged both sides to stop viewing each other as threats.

According to a draft published on November 29, Medvedev envisions a post-cold war security pact to replace NATO and other institutions. It focuses mainly on military security and seeks to restrict the ability of any country to unilaterally use force.

While repeatedly appealing for aid in Afghanistan and urging greater cooperation in the war-torn country, Rasmussen said he did not "see a need for new treaties or new legally binding documents because we do have a framework already."

He did not dismiss the possibility of "discussing" the ideas in the right forum, namely the 56-member state Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The trip marks Rasmussen's first visit to Moscow since taking office on August 1, 2009.

The NATO chief said recent rows should not prevent Russia and the military alliance from confronting a common security threat from Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

Rasmussen conceded that he had not received any firm offer of support from Moscow in response to his requests for Russia to provide Kabul with helicopters and training support, saying that he had never expected to get a firm response this week.

Old cold war-era hostiles between the alliance and Russia have remerged following the brief conflict between Russia and Georgia in August 2008. US-supported plans to attract and embrace more ex-Soviet states within the alliance have also intensified rifts.

US President Barack Obama, who recently pledged 30,000 extra troops to the war in Afghanistan, is pressuring NATO to secure more support as public opposition and mounting death tolls have forced some European governments to ponder commitment to the surge.

NATO Secretary General visits Moscow

YATA is following NATO Secretary General visit to Moscow. Yesterday evening a "Secretary General's corner" was shot on the Red Square.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

NATO High Officer addressed OSCE Ministerial Meeting

On December 1-2 2009, the OSCE holds its Ministerial Meeting in Athens.
During the meeting a Declaration to chart the way ahead for dialogue on European security was approved. The Declaration on the OSCE Corfù Process aims to Reconfirm-Review-Reinvigorate Security and Co-operation from Vancouver to Vladivostok and it underlines the importance to continue of the path of a frank dialogue and cooperation. Full taex is available here.
NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Regional Economic and Multilateral Affaris, Mme Aurelia Bouchez addressed the Foreign Ministries gathering.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

US and Russia hold talks on cybercrime and reinforcing

Full article from The New York Times:

The United States has begun talks with Russia and a United Nations arms control committee about strengthening Internet security and limiting military use of cyberspace.

American and Russian officials have different interpretations of the talks so far, but the mere fact that the United States is participating represents a significant policy shift after years of rejecting Russia’s overtures. Officials familiar with the talks said the Obama administration realized that more nations were developing cyberweapons and that a new approach was needed to blunt an international arms race.

In the last two years, Internet-based attacks on government and corporate computer systems have multiplied to thousands a day. Hackers, usually never identified, have compromised Pentagon computers, stolen industrial secrets and temporarily jammed government and corporate Web sites. President Obama ordered a review of the nation’s Internet security in February and is preparing to name an official to coordinate national policy.

Last month, a delegation led by Gen. Vladislav P. Sherstyuk, a deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council and the former leader of the Russian equivalent of the National Security Agency, met in Washington with representatives from the National Security Council and the Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security. Officials familiar with these talks said the two sides made progress in bridging divisions that had long separated the countries.

Indeed, two weeks later in Geneva, the United States agreed to discuss cyberwarfare and cybersecurity with representatives of the United Nations committee on disarmament and international security. The United States had previously insisted on addressing those matters in the committee on economic issues.

The Russians have held that the increasing challenges posed by military activities to civilian computer networks can be best dealt with by an international treaty, similar to treaties that have limited the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The United States had resisted, arguing that it was impossible to draw a line between the commercial and military uses of software and hardware.

Now there is a thaw, said people familiar with the discussions.

“In the last months there are more signs of building better cooperation between the U.S. and Russia,” said Veni Markovski, a Washington-based adviser to Bulgaria’s Internet security chief and representative to Russia for the organization that assigns Internet domain names. “These are signs that show the dangers of cybercrime are too big to be neglected.”

Viktor V. Sokolov, deputy director of the Institute of Information Security in Moscow, a policy research group run by General Sherstyuk, said the Russian view was that the American position on Internet security had shifted perceptibly in recent months.

“There is movement,” he said. Before, bilateral negotiations were limited to the relevant Russian police agency, the Bureau of Special Technical Operations, the Internet division of the Ministry of Interior, and the F.B.I.

Mr. Sokolov characterized this new round of discussions as the opening of negotiations between Russia and the United States on a possible disarmament treaty for cyberspace, something Russia has long sought but the United States has resisted.

“The talks took place in a good atmosphere,” he said. “And they agreed to continue this process. There are positive movements.”

A State Department official, who was not authorized to speak about the talks and requested anonymity, disputed the Russian characterization of the American position. While the Russians have continued to focus on treaties that may restrict weapons development, the United States is hoping to use the talks to increase international cooperation in opposing Internet crime. Strengthening defenses against Internet criminals would also strengthen defenses against any military-directed cyberattacks, the United States maintains. An administration official said the United States was seeking common ground with the Russians.

The United Nations discussions are scheduled to resume in New York in January, and the two countries also plan to talk at an annual Russia-sponsored Internet security conference in Garmisch, Germany.

The American interest in reopening discussions shows that the Obama administration, even in absence of a designated Internet security chief, is breaking with the Bush administration, which declined to talk with Russia about issues related to military attacks using the Internet.

Many countries, including the United States, are developing weapons for use on computer networks that are ever more integral to the operations of everything from banks to electrical power systems to government offices. They include “logic bombs” that can be hidden in computers to halt them at crucial times or damage circuitry; “botnets” that can disable or spy on Web sites and networks; or microwave radiation devices that can burn out computer circuits miles away.

The Russians have focused on three related issues, according to American officials involved in the talks that are part of a broader thaw in American-Russian relations known as the "reset" that also include negotiations on a new nuclear disarmament treaty. In addition to continuing efforts to ban offensive cyberweapons, they have insisted on what they describe as an issue of sovereignty calling for a ban on “cyberterrorism.” American officials view the issue differently and describe this as a Russian effort to restrict “politically destabilizing speech.” The Russians have also rejected a portion of the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime that they assert violates their Constitution by permitting foreign law enforcement agencies to conduct Internet searches inside Russian borders.

In late October at a luncheon during a meeting on Security and Counter Terrorism at Moscow State University, General Sherstyuk told a group of American executives that the Russians would never sign the European Cybercrime Treaty as long as it contained the language permitting cross-border searches.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

U.S.-NATO: Looking for Common Ground in Afghanistan

U.S.-NATO: Looking for Common Ground in Afghanistan

A good insight to get the whole picture (by an inteview) about the present relationship between the US and all the other NATO participants in Afghanistan. Former U.S. ambassador to NATO Robert E. Hunter says that the NATO alliance is under pressure from the United States to increase force levels in Afghanistan. He says that very few European countries believe that prevailing in Afghanistan "is necessary for their own security," but they go along with Washington to keep the United States focused on dealing with possible threats from Russia.

"Everybody in Europe understands that managing the future of Russia in regard to Europe can only be done with American engagement and, yes, to a great extent, American leadership. And they want to keep the United States equally engaged in Europe as a European power, not just as an insurance policy but also as the principal manager of Russia's future."

President Obama in his major speech announced he would send thirty thousand new troops to Afghanistan, but he also said forces would begin to withdraw in July 2011. This was followed by rollback statements from his top aides, saying, "Well, we still may be there for many years." Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, on his way to Afghanistan said, "We are in this thing to win."What does NATO make of all this?

What Obama said is a conditions-based withdrawal. It doesn't give any final dates for actually withdrawing. But that I think it also led to a good deal of confusion in Europe. In the first place, Europeans always complain about the nature of consultations. They always argue that there has never been enough, and that has been true in this case as well. The decision was an American one, which was then given to the Europeans, some of whom have had some role in it, but very few. Some people would argue that they would rather have a fait accompli by the American leadership, thereby relieving them of any responsibility; others would say, "once again the United States is dropping something on us, and expecting us to go along."

How many troops are in Afghanistan now? What about after the new "surge"?

There are two operations in Afghanistan: One is Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), which is almost entirely United States now, and has thirty-six thousand U.S. troops. The other one is the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)--which is the NATO-commanded operation, but U.S. Commander General Stanley McChrystal also commands these forces. ISAF now has about sixty-eight thousand forces from forty-two countries, and with the thirty thousand extra U.S. troops announced by Obama, plus the seven thousand promised by the Allies, there will then be nearly one hundred thousand-plus troops in ISAF, plus the Americans in OEF.

In terms of motivation, very few European countries believe that winning in Afghanistan--that is, dismantling, defeating, and destroying al-Qaeda and Taliban--is necessary for their own security. A few believe that, but most do not. When they add forces, it is to protect the credibility of NATO now that it is there. NATO has never failed at anything it chose to do. Many of these governments wouldn't repeat what they did in 2003 when they sent troops, but that's water over the dam, and they don't want NATO to be damaged by a failure to persevere in Afghanistan.
the rest of the inteview can be read here:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Russia on its mind, Georgia makes hefty Afghan contribution By agreeing to deploy nearly 1,000 troops to Afghanistan, Georgia is making investments i

Amid continued tensions with Moscow after last year's war with Russia, the former Soviet republic is keen to strengthen ties with Nato and is making one of the largest contributions to the US-led surge in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Tbilisi is hoping the move will not only boost its links with the Western military alliance, but also give its troops much-needed combat experience that could be used in another conflict with Russia or with Georgia's Russian-backed separatist regions.

President Mikheil Saakashvili said that Georgia's contribution in Afghanistan is directly linked with the country's security in the face of threats from Russia.

"While our allies ... are concentrating on other issues, our enemy is becoming active. The sooner the Afghan situation is resolved and the sooner the war in Iraq is over, the more Georgia will be protected," he said in a speech on Friday to soldiers from one of the country's artillery brigades.

Pointing out that unlike some European countries Georgia is not barring its troops from combat operations in Afghanistan, Saakashvili said that the mission would also bring valuable experience.

"This is a unique chance for our soldiers to receive a real combat baptism. We do not need the army only for showing off at military parades," he said.

Georgia is sending two light companies and a heavy battalion, slightly fewer than 1,000 soldiers, to Afghanistan next spring to serve under US command.

An infantry company of about 170 Georgian troops is already in Afghanistan, serving under French command after arriving last month.

Georgia was also a key contributor to US-led forces in Iraq, where 2,000 of its soldiers served in a dangerous zone near the Iranian border until 2008, the second-largest presence among US allies in Iraq after Britain.

Its troop commitment in Afghanistan, which might qualify as the largest contribution of any country per capita, has taken place as more than 40 nations prepare to boost total troop numbers to around 150,000 for a new offensive against insurgents.

Georgian officials say this is to prove that after five years of actively seeking membership, Georgia belongs in Nato.

"Georgia is aspiring to become a full-fledged Nato member so we need to demonstrate that we want not only to consume but also to be a provider of security," said Giorgi Baramidze, minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration.

Few expect Georgia to join Nato anytime soon.

But Tbilisi is hoping for some benefits even without membership and that its contributions won't be forgotten if Georgia faces another conflict with Russia, said Tornike Sharashenidze, an analyst with the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs.

"Our participation in peacekeeping operations is the kind of contribution that will be remembered when we want to appeal to our friends for assistance," he said.

Last year's conflict saw Russian troops pour into Georgia to repel a Georgian military attempt to retake the rebel region of South Ossetia, which had received extensive Russian backing for years.

After occupying swathes of territory and bombing targets across Georgia, Russian forces withdrew into South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, which Moscow recognised as independent states.

Tensions remain high around both rebel regions. Tbilisi has accused Russia of illegally occupying South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and of boosting its military presence in both territories. Moscow meanwhile has accused Georgia of rebuilding its army and preparing to retake the regions by force.

Baramidze said Western backing was crucial for Georgia during the conflict and could be vital again.

"Russia would have swallowed all of Georgia without the Western support we had," he said.

"Certainly Georgia is seeking security (by participating in international missions). If we want to survive as a democratic, free, European nation, we need security guarantees."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

NATO Ministers invite Montenegro to join MAP and encourage Bosnia and Herzegovina to step up reforms

Allies decided on 4th December to grant Montenegro its request to join the Membership Action Plan (MAP), a NATO programme of advice, assistance and practical support tailored to the individual needs of countries that wish to join the Alliance. Allies also stated that Bosnia and Herzegovina will join MAP, whenever there is progress in reforms.

“I congratulate Montenegro on their success. It’s the result of hard work,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. “And with a sustained effort at further reform, today’s invitation to join the MAP will be a stepping stone to the ultimate goal: full membership in the Atlantic Alliance.”

Allies agreed that Bosnia and Herzegovina will also find its home in NATO and that it is not a question of if it will join, but of when. At the same time, Allies noted that while progress has been achieved in defence reform, there is not enough progress in other important reform areas.

During the discussion, NATO Allies welcomed the broad national consensus behind Bosnia and Herzegovina’s request for MAP.

“The fact that three armies that so recently fought each other are now one, under one Defence Ministry, is a real achievement,” the Secretary General said. “But it is also true that Bosnia-Herzegovina has to do more. We have therefore decided that Bosnia-Herzegovina will join MAP once it achieves the necessary progress in its reform efforts and we will keep Bosnia-Herzegovina's progress under active review.”

There should be no doubt in Bosnia-Herzegovina: we want to see you in MAP, and to see you in NATO,” said the Secretary General. “We will work hard to support your hard work.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Report on the Rome Atlantic Forum by Inês Narciso (Portuguese Atlantic Youth Association)

Report on the Rome Atlantic Forum
‘NATO New Strategic Concept and The Future of Transatlantic Relations’, held in Rome November 23rd 2009.

The Conference was divided in two parts (morning and afternoon) and aimed to promote the discussion on the challenge that represents the drafting of a NATO New Strategic Concept, as well as the relations between the two shores of the North Atlantic region[i].

Towards a New NATO Strategic Concept

During the morning several speakers shared their opinions, suggestions and comments on what should be included in the new NATO Strategic Concept. For that matter one of the most repeated idea was the importance of knowing what is today’s NATO’s, and what is its purpose regarding a new strategic environment, both internal and external.
In fact environmental scanning is the first phase of the strategic process of drafting a strategic concept that both emphasizes the strengths of the organization, knowing its weaknesses, and, thus, allows it to take advantage of the opportunities and minimize potential threats that other actors might constitute to its existence and activity.
One of the factors identified has having gained weight in comparison with the former process of drafting the NATO’s strategic concept is public opinion. In fact the importance of civil society was emphasized by most of the speakers who underlined the importance of the legitimacy of governments’ decisions, particularly regarding the deployment of national troops into war/conflict scenarios.
The importance of civil society is not only related with the support or not that it might give to the organization’s actions. Indeed there is a new understanding of what security means which has implications in the interpretation of one of the NATO’s bedrocks: Article 5.
Article 5 of the Washington Treaty was also highly discussed. Although its existence and importance were not questioned, many argue that its meaning has changed.
Defense has overcome a geographical meaning and became more “individualized”. States have not only the need to protect its territory but also their citizens. That fact changed the type and scope of interventions, and some say the very nature of war. What is exactly an ‘armed attack’? How preventive and out of area can NATO go? How can NATO remain effective as a political-military organization in a ‘world with no borders’, in a new strategic environment?
These are some of the questions that defy the geographical feature and a restrictive interpretation of the nature of the action that triggers Alliance’s actions. Hence, and regarding the changed and changing strategic environment, what should be NATO’s role in terms of its capabilities and operations?
The scope of NATO’s actions is, thus, highly debatable. Indeed, Ambassador Aragona (Member of the NATO Group of Experts on the New Strategic Concept) emphasized the non-traditional feature of international security and international threats, which lead to the need of the maintenance and revision of the comprehensive approach. Nonetheless, NATO shall avoid become a global police. Instead the solution might be a more effective interlocking with other actors which will allow NATO to act globally, protecting its interests and pursuing its objectives without becoming too wide and, potentially, void.
The danger of ‘acting global’ is precisely the lack of capabilities, but also of political will to do so. No speaker supported a global NATO (in scope and action). Nevertheless a better balance between article 5 and 4 of the Washington Treaty should assure a better approach to new threats and conflicts, which is then complemented by a multilateral dimension based on cooperation with other international actors.
Very succinctly Dr. Stephen Flanagan (Director of International Security Program) divided the issue of the new Strategic Concept in two dimensions. First it shall be determined the very own need of a new strategic concept; and secondly the type of threats it should address.
The fact that threats reflect “the dark side of globalization” – as said by Dr. Karl-Heinz Camp (Director of the NATO Defense College Research Division) - leads to the need of NATO to redefine itself as a collective defense organization. Thus, and again, the linkage between article 4 and 5 is needed in order to respond to a ‘continuum of security’. For this matter the speaker underlined the importance of creating a more effective consultation mechanism between the member states that covers essentially crisis prevention, crisis management and defense response issues.
The balance between the political and military components of NATO should be met, and, more importantly, NATO should define both its structure (eg: decision-making process; consultation mechanisms) but also its capabilities, meaning both its decision and executive/operational dimensions.
Indeed the mission, objectives and plans and policies are defined by the political leaders, but they have to be adequate, acceptable and attainable at a more operational level, by the military.
For this reason the formulation phase of the drafting of a new strategic concept must identify in a clear way the objectives of the Alliance, prioritize them, and make them commonly accepted and supported objectives of the North Atlantic community.
How can a growing Alliance accommodate the individual interests, objectives and threat perceptions of its members? How can the definition of a new Strategic Concept through the lowest common denominator make NATO a credible actor?
Nevertheless, the debate on the diversity of NATO member states is not only related to threat perceptions. Indeed an issue that greatly influences the performance and credibility of the Alliance is burden sharing, whose importance was argued by most of speakers, but particularly by General Vincenzo Camporini (Chief of the Italian Defense Staff). Indeed, General Camporini argued for the importance of the solidarity between member states, as it is crucial to the success of the operations on the ground, and thus affects NATO’s success and effectiveness.
The way pointed out by General Camporini to get over the budget issue is the integration of common capabilities, either by specialization of countries or by leadership of one coordinator.
Thus, the financial dimension is also to be taken into account when formulating a strategic concept, as it will be one of the proofs that will validate (or not) the formulation phase.
One of great challenges that was continuously mentioned is Afghanistan. The outcome of NATO’s involvement in this theatre has a crucial importance for the credibility of the Alliance as a remaining pillar of international security. For this matter it is important to evaluate the situation and consider the lessons learned, but also be simultaneously cautious and ambitious in what concerns the involvement in other operations.
In fact Afghanistan and the Lisbon Summit to be held in the end of 2010 will be the two theaters where NATO has to prove that it still is an important and effective organization. In these two places both the formulation and operationalization of a new strategic concept will have a major importance not only to the allies but also to the image of NATO and its position in the strategic environment.
Besides the debate on the diversity of perspectives about what is and should NATO be (that might turn out in a disappointing and rapidly inadequate strategic concept), the external environment, namely partnerships, Russia, BRIC countries, and also the EU seem to be points of disagreement between the member states.
Thus, the strategic position that NATO wants to assume might not be all that clear about with whom to cooperate and in what way.
To sum up, the first part of the debate was very fruitful and diverse. There was great agreement on the changing nature of threats, namely to include climate change, energy security, outer space, maritime security and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Nonetheless each speaker, due to its functions or origins, offered different interpretations, comments and suggestions as to the strategy NATO as to engage in the post 9/11 world.
The main convergence was around the fact that NATO remains a pillar of international security. The guarantee of NATO’s adaptation to a new strategic environment is thus crucial to international peace and security.
Yet the way to get there might be difficult to find, and there is great danger that the lack of ambition of the Alliance’s member states in giving NATO the capabilities to act leads to an excessively flexible (or even loose) strategic concept.

The Future of Transatlantic Relations

The Mars vs Venus debate, i.e. USA-EU security approaches, was addressed in a more detailed manner in the afternoon session of the conference where it was debated ‘The Future of Transatlantic Relations’.
In this context the main actors referred were the USA, the EU, Russia, and the BRIC emerging powers.
In what concerns the USA, some speakers mentioned the potential increase of cooperation promoted by the Obama’s administration, which strengthens the multilateral approach of the new NATO strategic concept. The danger though, is the fact that the epicenter of American foreign policy might now be dislocated to the Pacific, rather than the Atlantic.
US foreign policy is of major importance for the definition of NATO’s attitude and policy, once the USA is the major contributor for NATO’s budget. Therefore, one has to acknowledge that unless this trend is reversed, that fact still grants the USA great leverage and legitimacy to set the Alliance’s agenda.
As for the EU, the definition of a clearer ESPD and the implementation of the changes brought by the Lisbon Treaty cause some skepticism or, to say the least, precaution as to if the EU wants to share the burden and assume (together with the USA) the transatlantic leadership in a more effective way.
The search for a balance between the two shores of the Atlantic is crucial for the effectiveness of NATO. Europe has given a positive sign in terms of its participation in a more operational phase, namely with the reintegration of France in NATO’s military structure.
Nonetheless there is a need to show political will to solve some issues that might weaken Europe, particularly the EU (e.g. Cyprus and Turkey issues), and commitment in what concerns the budget and the deployment of troops to NATO missions.
Ambassador Di Benisichi (Vice President of the Italian Atlantic Committee) mentioned three main issues in the relation between the USA and the EU: political commitment and attitude towards defense; structural differences (institutional framework); and at the operational level, the risk of duplication.
There is indeed a need to “update political ties”, as said by Min. Plen. Sandro de Bernardin (Vice Secretary General of the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs).
At the same time there are other actors that need to be taken into account in the new Strategic Concept. Russia is one important actor to be considered in the environmental scanning, but also to the definition of objectives and posture of NATO.
In fact Russia triggers both internal and external issues that might weaken NATO. On the one hand Russia is an important player when defining an enlargement strategy and policy (the sensivity of the ‘near abroad’), on the other hand the posture of NATO towards Russia as an external actor which can confront NATO by threatening the accomplishment of the Alliance’s objectives, or contrarily be engaged in a strategic partnership to guarantee a broader concept of North Atlantic security.
One way or another, Russia has to be considered and included in NATO’s strategic calculation and, therefore, in the new strategic concept.
A clear example of the importance of the improvement of NATO-Russia’s relations is the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and thus, the ability to reduce nuclear as a growing threat to international security, which can only be met if involving both actors.
Of course this is not an easy-to-solve issue. Convergence (or to say the least cooperation) seems difficult (but attainable). NATO has now 28 member states, and its most recent members came from the East Europe, their history of confrontation and oppression are still fresh in these nation-states’ memories. Russia-NATO relations seem, thus, a delicate issue, yet one that cannot be avoided if member states want to establish a clear strategy, and an effective NATO.
BRIC countries were also mentioned as actors which should be taken into account. This is so as it was strongly argued that NATO should seek global partnerships to make more effective and credible its actions, but also to deter possible threats.
Non-state actors were mentioned by Mr. Marco Vicenzino (Executive Director of the Global Strategy Project) as other aspect that might influence the future of transatlantic relations due to the importance of civil society for the success of NATO’s strategic concept.
This said, the future of transatlantic relations needs both a multidimensional and a multilateral approach which demands a greater engagement of all its member states and partners, but also other actors which are important for the maintenance of a more or less stable international security environment

The belief that NATO is and will continue to be an essential actor in the international security architecture was reinforced by this conference. Thus the exchange of ideas and values which allow that fact continues to be one of the most positive aspects national ATA’s and YATA’s generate, through the mobilization of civil society for the debate on the new strategic concept.

[i] The discussion was based on a discussion paper proposed by the Italian Atlantic Committee (Strategic Concept Working Group).

Friday, December 4, 2009

NATO allies face U.S. pressure on Afghan troops

Washington's NATO allies face pressure on Thursday to commit more troops and money to the war in Afghanistan, supplementing President Barack Obama's announcement of an increase in U.S. troops.
European leaders have welcomed Obama's Afghanistan strategy, which includes sending 30,000 more U.S. troops to join the fight against a Taliban insurgency.
But they have been in less of a hurry to commit new forces to an uncertain, 8-year military campaign that is increasingly unpopular at home because of rising casualties. NATO foreign ministers will discuss the issue on Thursday and Friday.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday he expected U.S. allies to provide at least 5,000 extra troops and probably a few thousand more -- still short of the 10,000 troops and trainers Pentagon officials had sought.
NATO officials said about 1,500 of the 5,000 would be election reinforcements sent in earlier this year. At the same time, the Netherlands and Canada plan to withdraw combat forces of 2,100 and 2,800 in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

U.S. officials say Washington is now seeking up to 7,000 more troops from allies to supplement the U.S. increase. Italy said on Thursday it would send up to 1,000 more troops.

A senior U.S. official said the United States had put forward its views on what it believed other countries were capable of providing, either militarily or financially.
"The decision on whether they will is up to them," he said. "We expect that other allies will look very seriously at how they can contribute to that effort."
"This is the time to think about how we can do better, and perhaps do more, not the time to figure out how we can do less."
Dear friends,

beside video serie "Do we need NATO" published on Monday we are pleased to present new set of video- interviews on atlanticist values, now available on
All the best,

Miroslav Mizera
YATA Vice- President

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The surge in Afghanistan The beginning or the end?

Obama rushes troops in, but promises to start bringing them home soon.
MOMENTS after President Barack Obama announced a surge of 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan, his commander on the ground, General Stanley McChrystal, quoted Winston Churchill: it was not the end, nor even the beginning of the end, but it might be “the end of the beginning”.

That General McChrystal should be implicitly comparing Mr Obama’s speech to military cadets at West Point to the defeat of Rommel’s army at El Alamein says much about how hard the bureaucratic battle has proven to be during Mr Obama’s three-month policy review.

General McChrystal did not get all of the 40,000 troops that he had asked for as his main recommendation. But with NATO promising that its other members would provide at least 5,000 more troops, the total was close enough for him to tell his subordinates that “a tremendous amount of things are going to happen, and they are good things”. At the very least, NATO hopes, some bad things will stop happening in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have grown in strength and deadliness by the year since they were toppled in 2001. Mr Obama’s decision to rush his troops in by next summer, something many commanders had ruled out, given the “narrow straw” through which supplies must pass, indicates a desire quickly to try to sap the Taliban’s momentum.

Mr Obama had to send insurgents a message of American determination, while reassuring Americans that he would not be fighting “an endless war”. So the president trod a middle path. American forces would start withdrawing from July 2011. But the pace of the drawdown, and the final departure date, would depend on “conditions on the ground”. Mr Obama had also to attempt the difficult task of stiffening Pakistan’s resolve to fight the Taliban in their havens across the border.

The core of the reinforcement is expected to be the equivalent of about four brigades. One is to train Afghan forces and the other three are for combat duties. First in the surge is likely to be a 9,000-strong contingent of marines for Helmand province in the south, where a 10,000-strong marine expeditionary brigade is deployed alongside a similar number of British troops.

They will probably be followed by an army brigade for the neighbouring province of Kandahar and another for eastern Afghanistan. General McChrystal wants to focus on “protecting the population”. Troop deployments in the ethnic-Pushtun heartlands of Kandahar and Helmand will look like a dumbbell: in the east NATO would hold Kandahar city and its environs; and in the west it would secure the fertile farmland around Helmand’s main towns, Lashkar Gah and Gereshk. Forming the bar between the two areas will be extra security on the road connecting them, to allow the unencumbered movement of commercial trade for the first time in years. Meanwhile the increasingly shaky north and west of the country will be beefed up with penny-packets of extra troops largely drawn from other NATO countries.

Not all are convinced by the new strategy. A number of important Afghans close to President Hamid Karzai are unhappy about the focus on population centres, saying the extra troops will simply attract trouble for ordinary people. “We have a lot of problems on the border, with the Taliban coming in from Pakistan, and the foreign troops should be sent to deal with them instead,” says Shukria Barakzai, an MP.

It will be in places like Kandahar city, the country’s second-biggest and the main fount of the Taliban, where the strategy will be most severely tested. For months NATO has fretted that the city was on its way to being taken over by the Taliban—not by invading bands of insurgents but an insidious campaign of intimidation and the Taliban’s proven ability to arbitrate local disputes in a fairly reasonable way. “One morning we will all wake up and realise that all the sources of local power are no longer with the government—it would essentially be a Taliban city,” says one of the few foreigners living there.

Thousands more American soldiers, ignorant of the ways of the Pushtuns, may be able to do little to stop the Taliban’s infiltration. Rear-Admiral Gregory Smith, the top military spokesman in Kabul, concedes that the mission will be difficult; the task will be to “change the governance structures” to tackle a corrupt system, especially the police, that preys on civilians.

That will rely on President Karzai’s support for a serious clean-up which, many argue, would require the removal of his half-brother, Ahmed Wali, the dominant political force in Kandahar and an alleged drug lord. The president, though, may see his powerful brother as all that stands in the way of a complete Taliban takeover. It is unclear how to reconcile this with Mr Obama’s demand for accountable government, and his stern warning that “the days of providing a blank cheque are over”.

Mr Obama pointedly rejected the idea of an open-ended commitment to the war, “a nation-building project of up to a decade”, as unaffordable and out of line with American interests. He was keen to instil a “sense of urgency” to ensure that Afghans “take responsibility for their security”.

For General McChrystal, training Afghan security forces is now “the most important thing we do in the future”. The general had asked for Afghan forces to be nearly doubled to 400,000 soldiers and policemen. But Mr Obama had little to say on this Afghan surge, which is arguably even more important than the American one. White House officials explained that expanding Afghan forces will be done in “annual increments”.

By evoking the economic crisis, and setting some kind of time limit of America’s involvement, Mr Obama is acknowledging the qualms of his own party. But the danger is that the Afghan people, and the Taliban, will conclude that America is tiring of the fight and can be outlasted. For America’s hopes of success that would be the beginning of the end.