NATO's strategic summit
NATO looks towards future with new strategic concept
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen doesn’t mince his words when previewing the NATO summit that will take place Nov. 19 and 20 in Lisbon. “I am confident this will be one of the most important summits in NATO’s history. The summit will put in place an alliance that is more effective, more engaged and more efficient,” Rasmussen said during a Nov. 15 press conference previewing the summit.With the 60-year-old alliance perched on a hinge of history, NATO has is set to unveil its third Strategic Concept during the summit. The last strategic concept was introduced in 1999. At the Halifax International Security Forum last week, a panel discussion on the future role of NATO provided a useful survey of some of the topics and the tenor that can be expected at the summit this week. The panel included former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay, General Stéphane Abrial, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation, and Murat Mercan, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in Turkey’s Grand National Assembly.
A clear reaffirmation
Echoing remarks made by other NATO officials, Abrial said he hoped that the new concept will be “clear, realistic and flexible” and pointed to a reaffirmation of the core values that draw NATO allies together. “I guess what the strategic concept should emphasize, reemphasize we’re coming to is Article five, collective defense of a member nation,” Abrial said. “It’s the core of the alliance. It has to be there, it has to be real firm. It has to be demonstrated.” Both Abrial and former U.S. Secretary of Defense Condoleeza Rice emphasized the values that bind transatlantic partners together – which will be needed to bridge the gap between NATO and EU relations. Canadian Minister of Defense Peter MacKay added part of the new strategic concept should be “how we interface with the European Union; how we, I hope, find a more functional relationship with the United Nations; how we make NATO work with other organizations and learn from the experiences of new NATO countries, I think, is also part of this modernizing process that we’re going through.”
For related discussion, read Can Buharali’s paper “Better NATO-EU Relations Require More Sincerity.”
Efficient and accountable
Likely to be addressed in the new strategic concept is the efficient deployment of NATO’s resources. NATO officials have been talking about trimming fat while building muscle – imagery that was also used in Halifax. Rasmussen in his press conference mentioned how important it is to consider allied nations’ accountability to taxpayers in rationalizing and updating NATO’s resources. These kind of budget realities elicited concern during Halifax from Rice, who said: “The real question is, will it be properly resourced? And I think is what is on everybody’s mind because we have allies who are looking at budget problems, as the United States is, but looking at austerity measures: What is going to happen to the resourcing for the NATO Concept?” Other panelists expressed concern that a two-tiered NATO, in which members such as the United States are primarily responsible for propelling the organization’s power into the future.
For an in-depth exploration of how transatlantic partners might retain economic and military sway despite strained budgets and increased challenges from other powers, read Peter Van Praagh’s “Foreign Policy and Civil Society: Or, Why the 21st Century Will Be An American Century.”
New partnerships for 21st-century challenges
NATO is an old-world alliance negotiating the changed terrain of the post-Soviet world – one marked by threats like climate change and international terrorism, that equally affect states that might traditionally be considered rivals – and the possible nature of new partnerships is a topic that carries considerable weight in the runup to the summit. Underlining that fact is the attendance at the conference of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
At the security conference last week, Rice described the kind of relationship she hopes NATO can have with Russia: “I’d rather describe a relationship in which Russia is a reliable partner in the war against terrorism, and I think they are for the most part; in which Russia is a reliable ally in managing proliferation issues around the world, which I think, we’re getting there; in which a part of the management of that proliferation might even be cooperation on missile defense through NATO and bilaterally with the United States; and finally, where Russia takes advantage of an international system that could very much use Russia’s capabilities on the high-technology side – not to be a problem, but to be a solution to even issues like cyber security.”
For a look at part of a discussion on how Europe might pursue deeper partnerships, read “Completing Europe: a Response to Ronald Asmus” by Iris Kempe.