Hard Choices for NATO: Expansion vs Commitments

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(This was cross-posted at www.YoungAtlanticist.org. Sameer will be blogging live from Bucharest from April 2-4 during the NATO Summit.)

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Leading up to the NATO Summit in Bucharest, the op-ed pages have provided a transatlantic policymaker’s feast of competing proposals, warnings, and framings of the critical events facing the 59 year old military alliance. NATO expansion and commitments to the ISAF in Afghanistan obviously rise to the top as critical tests of the alliance’s future, but at some level they seem to run into each other and potentially tradeoff with one another.
In response to criticism of European limitations on Afghanistan commitments and caveats on their deployed forces, Robert Kaplan offers a compelling argument for embracing a two-tiered NATO, one that offers the nation building/development expertise and resources, the other that ponies up military assets. However, if we were ready to embrace asymmetric burden-sharing for strategic ends, one could conceivably conclude that we should proactively seek some more non-Western, perhaps Middle Eastern or Islamic countries, to join a regional alliance rather than solely depending on NATO. Such deployments, much like those called for in Darfur, would at least provide an added political lift critical to winning over the Afghan population (considered to be 80% of the counterinsurgency equation).
As for NATO expansion, the Adriatic three seem to be nearly a forgone conclusion, but I can’t see the real strategic benefits they bring to the alliance, nor the countries suggested for the following round. Despite Donald Rumsfeld’s assurances, Georgia and Ukraine clearly seem to be landmines in the path of an expansion agenda.
Suspending all the imprecise and misleading talk of color revolutions for a moment, Ukraine and Georgia are too politically unstable –the former divided in their Western and Russian leanings and the later with parts of the country on the brink of declaring Kosovor-style independence — to be of much use to the alliance in the near term. And such a move would provoke real Russian anger far more than the phantom punches over the missile shield.
The Economist and the Eurasia Monitor both point out that Russia might likely move to open land and air supply routes to Afghanistan through Russia for NATO operations, a significant move both for tactical and symbolic reasons. And recent discussions with Russia on the missile shield in Eastern Europe have finally begun to show signs of progress. Foreclosing on these two potential strategic gains for a couple of ambivalent NATO members who bring few military assets to the table seems like a poor trade.
Rumsfeld laments the uneven commitment levels of various NATO countries in Afghanistan (which I concede to Kaplan is inevitable given that Europe is not immediately threatened like it was during the Cold War), but never makes an effective case for how expansion would actually bridge these gaps. I find it highly unlikely Ukraine and Georgia would be able to make greater and firmer commitments without further political upheaval.
Finally, a high level NATO official privately expressed that France’s much-anticipated declaration of rejoining NATO’s integrated command system and deploying approximately one thousand troops to NATO will not only free US troops to join and revitalize Canadian troops in the South (hopefully keeping them in the ISAF awhile longer) but also motivate some other European countries to follow suit and provide more boots and hardware on the ground, particularly the Germans and perhaps the Dutch to follow. But Germany is adamantly opposed to expansion to Georgia and Ukraine, likely due to its fear of Russian energy retribution. Privileging German concerns above the empty gains of NATO expansion is an easy choice — one that can maintain the existing alliance and perhaps secure its future with further commitments for long-term projects like Afghanistan.
— Sameer Lalwani

Comments

4 comments on “Hard Choices for NATO: Expansion vs Commitments

  1. Costas says:

    talking of nato expansion who can tell me what’s going offer the macedonian match. to put fire in balcans or what?
    last few months am watching greece as a nation been intimidated and clobbered by bush goverment regarding the name of ‘macedonia’ backing-up also that nation(?) in provoking greece .
    in few words what usa wants is greece to accept that the region of skopia is the actual macedonia and the slavs living there are macedonians.
    for the history bush goverment purposedly missing that
    1/ the name of skopia region until 1945 it was vardaska (can see that on stamps and maps),
    which tito changed by that time as macedonia having in mind future domination
    of the area and approach to the aegean sea.
    2/ during the 2nd ww, skopians & bulgarians hitler allies having same thing in their
    minds asked Germans as reward to conquer macedonia , which hitler denied .
    3/ macedonians language since and before christ was greek not slavish.
    the question is ,
    1/ bush goverment doesn’t know history,
    2/ they don’t respect what hitler respected or
    3/ they are misleaded.
    guys who are pulling the strings orchestrating this crime turning a whole nation (greece)against usa and rising flags of war in Balcans
    -victoria nulant , usa abassador in nato , jewish origin
    -robert kagan , husband of victoria nulant , jewish origin , head of german marshall fund
    supporting by all and any means this crime , training and guiding Skopians.
    -daniel freed , the diplomat with many tasks, jewish origin, architect of skopia recognition
    as macedonia by bush goverment .
    what a coicedence all of them are of Jewish origin .
    But also henry kissinger is of Jewish origin and persona non grata for many crimes
    against greece . he is the man who tried cut greece in slices , and he is the man who
    said if you want blot out greece deprave them from their history and ethics .
    nothing to insinuate but hope some people in bush goverment will open their eyes and stop
    such an atrocity unless they still believe best policy to govern is to cut nations in slices or
    get them on war.
    seven years of junta in greece because of usa are not very far and not forgotten.
    costas

    Reply

  2. Dirk says:

    Sameer,
    After reading Rumsfeld’s and Kaplan’s pieces I’m mystified that anyone would place any credence in their viewpoints. They both approach the future with no regrets; as if the lunatic past six years didn’t occur.
    The arrogance of tone and ignorance of viewpoints other than their own is breathtaking. Your endorsing and speculation based on the premises that they posit does not speak highly for you.
    While I can’t speak to all the nation’s objections to expanding their Afghan contingent, I can offer a few facts for Germany’s objection. (1) The coalition govt between the CDU and SPD woSameer,
    After reading Rumsfeld’s and Kaplan’s pieces I’m mystified that anyone would place any credence in their viewpoints. They both approach the future with no regrets; as if the lunatic past six years didn’t occur.
    The arrogance of tone and ignorance of viewpoints other than their own is breathtaking. Your endorsing and speculation based on the premises that they posit does not speak highly for you.
    While I can’t speak to all the nation’s objections to expanding their Afghan contingent, I can offer a few facts for Germany’s objection. (1) The coalition govt between the CDU and SPD uld very likely collapse if Merkel toke any action to put more troops into Afghanistan. (2) More importantly I think both the CDU and the SPD fundamentally disagree with the US approach with bombing, demonization of the Taliban and limited development aid.
    It should be noted that the Taliban played a huge role in ending the brutalization of the country by the warlords that toke over after the USSR left and played a positive role before becoming religious nutcase autocrats. Al Qaeda should be hunted down but almost all Taliban should be rehabilitated.
    You can take your arrogant approach if you want, but it will be vigorously ignored.

    Reply

  3. Jacek says:

    well, that’s nice in theory, Mr. Clemons, but I want a Democrat to be in office next year. I have a fiance suffering from MS, and we can’t afford to wait for another 4-8 years while the best minds and the best laboratories are sidelined during that time unable to research stem cells.
    So, while I appreciate the esoterical love of “democracy” in theory, the results of these elections have very very real effects on many of us. I will give up a little bit of wonder felt by the rest o fthe world for a Democrat in office.

    Reply

  4. jerseycityjoan says:

    From Kaplan’s article in the Times:
    “Critics complain that it has become an unequal, two-tiered alliance, with the troops of the United States, Britain, Canada and Holland taking the combat role while Germany, Italy, Spain and other members take refuge in the safe areas, refusing to put their soldiers in danger.”
    This seems like a very valid point to me.
    Kaplan goes on to point out that:
    “In the post-cold-war world, individual NATO members can’t be expected to automatically take part in missions outside the alliance’s traditional European sphere. Participation will be contingent on specific circumstances. And that will lead to an increasingly stratified alliance.”
    That’s another valid point.
    However, my question is: when will the nations who refuse to fight in Afghanistan ever fight?
    It seems to me that this particular call for realistic expectations is also a call for American soldiers to fight and die for Europeans who would not do the same for us — ever.
    And yet both you and Kaplan accept this as a good deal for the US. I’d be very interested in knowing why. I just don’t understand the reasoning here at all.
    P.S. I always read and enjoy your posts.

    Reply

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