Sunday, December 11, 2011

Changing NATO and its current most important tasks

Written by Tomáš Teleky

The international security environment has a very dynamic character. Due to quick progress in technology, increasing international interdependence, climate changes and many other factors, NATO has to face newly emerging threats like cyber terrorism, migration, energy security and many others. Situation now is much different than it was ten years ago. NATO in its new Strategic Concept (NSC) adopted in Lisbon summit in November last year, presented a vision of Allies for the next decade. This document is NATO’s roadmap for the next decade. The aim of the NSC was not only the reflection of the whole spectrum of threats (traditional and new) but also to provide guideline how to tackle them.

In the time of Cold War the majority of NATO‘s activities were closely connected to principle of deterrence. But after the big geopolitical changes concerning the end of the Cold War and breakup of the Soviet Union the role of NATO has changed. The war in Balkans and the threat of spreading instability from unstable regions showed that deterrence is not sufficient enough and NATO will have to intervene more in the future. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon from 9/11 showed us that in globalised world we are much more vulnerable than it was before. Today we have to eliminate possible threats also in distant regions before it is too late. NATO realized that out of area missions beyond Europe are inevitable.

The mission ISAF in Afghanistan launched ten years ago remains the biggest challenge for the Alliance. In Lisbon summit the Allies agreed that process of transition in Afghanistan will be completed in 2014. However it doesn’t mean that all coalition troops will leave the country until this date. NATO will continue to train Afghan army and police also after the end of transitional process. Afghans must be able to take care of security in the country. Major NATO’s effort in Afghanistan therefore consists in training. In March 2011 seven Afghan provinces already took responsibility for their own security. Despite the big progress in many provinces, Afghanistan still remains one of the poorest countries in the world with terrible economic situation, problems with producing and trafficking of drugs and high ethnic fragmentation. Afghanistan after 2014 will undoubtedly need (not only) financial help of NATO to meet the present challenges.

When we speak about stability in Afghanistan we just cannot forget on Pakistan which has a great impact on the stability in the region. Stability of Afghanistan and stability of Pakistan are mutually intertwined. It is a big challenge for NATO to settle disputes with Pakistan and find an effective way of cooperation especially today when the US-Pakistani relations have been getting worse because of US unilateral actions in Pakistan.

In the crisis management, there are many challenges for NATO. Operation in Afghanistan has revealed many deficiencies. There are 3 main lessons learnt from the expeditionary operation:

1. NATO needs more deployable troops

Territorial defence still remains the fundamental role of NATO but the majority of current security threats originate far away from the NATO’s border. The armed forces of NATO member states must also reflect the character of current threats. We do not need big armies no more because the major conventional attack on NATO is currently very unlikely. What we need is to have deployable armed forces which will be ready to response very quickly to new threats and intervene in distant regions.

2. NATO needs assets and capabilities to do same actions in different places

NATO must be not only able to deploy its troops wherever required but must also have suitable capabilities for realization of necessary activities which reflect character of particular geographical region and substance of the threats. Operation in Afghanistan demonstrates that military approach must be supported also with civilian aspects.

3. NATO must continue reaching out international organizations

Broader and deeper cooperation with relevant international organizations is inevitable. The NSC pays a big attention to importance of partnerships and cooperation with other international organizations especially EU, UN and OSCE. The both NATO and EU emphasize the necessity of constructive mutual cooperation with the aim to minimize unwanted duplication.

NATO must also focus more on enhancing cooperation with Russia. Since the end of the Cold War the relations between NATO and Russia have looked like a sinusoid. In Lisbon summit the both sides have decided to leave behind all disputes from the age of the Cold War and focus on constructive cooperation with the aim to achieve common goals. In Lisbon NATO and Russia agreed on cooperation in the field of missile defence. But one year after the summit it is more than clear that different visions on this issue represent a serious obstacle for the cooperation. Despite of this fact NATO cannot afford to worsen relations with Russia because Russia still remains a strategic partner for NATO. NATO cannot underestimate the historical context because it helps to understand today’s reality but NATO must also be aware of its position. NATO must keep engaging Russia to mutual projects because Russia is not the one that will push the other side to broader cooperation. There are many areas where the interests of NATO and Russia are identical and in which cooperation would be mutually beneficial and NATO must focus on them.

And last but not least issue I want to mention is Smart Defence. It is ambitious project presented by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Lisbon. The substance of this approach consists in multinational cooperation and specialization of the Allies. In foreign policy of the NATO member states, the national interest will always be crucial. However NATO members have to realize the benefits of the multinational cooperation from longer term perspective and rethink their policies. In time of austerity and decreasing of defence budgets it seems to be one of the possible solutions how to deal with current situation. In Europe we have several successful examples of multinational defence cooperation. In respect of necessity of specialization, NATO members have to also realize that nowadays it is not possible to keep full spectrum of capabilities. NATO members have to give up some capabilities in order to save money for financing and modernizing others, more important capabilities. This is of course a very sensitive political issue and many countries hesitate to do so. Smart Defence with the principles of “pooling and sharing” is undoubtedly a vital approach but it still lacks concrete political decisions.

NATO summit in Chicago offers an ideal opportunity to work out the details of the most important issues for NATO. Until May, there is a space for discussing relevant issues with a view to find compromises among Allies and set a better stage for the summit.

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