web analytics

What’s on NATO’s latest Agenda?

Earlier this month, United Kingdom hosted the NATO summit from 4-5 September in Wales.  It was the largest gathering of the world leaders in UK since 1990 when Britain hosted the NATO summit under Prime Minister Thatcher. The summit was attended by the Heads of States and Ministers of 60 different nationalities including US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Summit happened at a time when the global security perspective is changing rapidly. The rise of the new global players   does not only pose challenges to the transatlantic nations but also ignite considerable debate over the role and influence of NATO.

Historically, the perception based on humanitarianism and world security, was indeed catchy especially in the third world. It led to strengthening of the American bloc, in particular, when alignment was taken as a defensive shield against any perceivable threat from the Soviet Union and its communist ambitions. In competition, therefore, both blocs formed alliances and counter alliances, like North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) of America and Warsaw pact of Soviet Union. The United States acquired it containment policy against the Soviet bloc. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was signed on 4 April 1949, between the United States, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Great Britain. Greece and Turkey became its members in 1952; and Federal Republic of Germany, in 1955. Article 5 of the NATO Treaty is the central proviso, stating that an attack on any member NATO would be considered as an act of aggression against all others.

Regionalism despite collectivism in the world politics took another shape when globalization endeavors of each superpower in self-interest effected ‘sub-global’   unification as well. For instance, in 1960s, Charles de Gaul, the charismatic French leader, raised the popular slogan of ‘Europe for Europeans’ and hands off signal to NATO. Hence was initiated the campaign in Europe to break America’s military hegemony since the advent of the Cold War. This kind of development had a two-way impact. In the first place, the provision of NATO’ nuclear umbrella, a blessing of America undoubtedly enabled Europe to Sustain Cold War pressures. Then the slogan of hands off was not just a slogan but movement, which accumulated manpower and material resources of Europe and eventually proved the region to self-survival as the present day European unity having its uniform currency and European parliament. NATO has established itself as the core of the ‘Euro-Atlantic Security System’. The process of change, however, has not been concluded. It is conceivable that NATO’s political functions will continue to grow to become still more important.

This year, first item on the formal agenda was the heads of government meeting on Afghanistan, where leaders discussed how NATO can support the country after the last troops leave Afghanistan at the end of this year. The Summit is hoped to start a new era in Afghanistan at the end of the NATO’s longest ever combat mission, by welcoming the new president of Afghanistan. However, NATO has not yet been able to finalize its collective status of forces agreement with the Afghan government – a prerequisite for keeping troops in the country beyond 2014. In the recent past, U.S. tried to talk Hamid Karzai into singing the Bilateral security agreement (BSA) to justify presence of reportedly 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after the longest military campaign in American history will be officially over. But the stubborn Karzai has been consistent in turning down all kinds of proposals to sign the security deal with the U.S. Although Russia, China, India, and Pakistan have all publicly supported the BSA. But Karzai’s refusal to sign the security pact, along with his increasingly anti-American and anti-Pakistan rhetoric strained Afghanistan relations with both U.S. and Pakistan. If all U.S. forces must leave Afghanistan within the next few months, its NATO allies would depart as well.   This may result into Talibans’ return to power. The future of Afghanistan is uncertain as the results of Presidential election are still disputed by the rival candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. This uncertainty is a cause of rising insecurity in the country.

The summit was dominated by the Ukraine crises where 2600 lives are already lost and over a million people have lost their homes in eastern Ukraine. Russia was widely criticized by the world leaders for destabilizing the Ukraine. NATO member states warned that pressure on Russia would be increased if it did not change course in eastern Ukraine. Eastern European members, including Poland, appealed to NATO to permanently deploy thousands of troops in the Eastern European region to daunt any possible Russian aggression. But other members have rejected that idea, partly due to financial constraints and partly because they do not want to break a 1997 agreement with Russia under which NATO agreed to reconsider and improve its cooperation with the Russian Federation and committed not to permanently deploy significant combat forces in the Eastern Europe. The allies however has agreed to continue (not permanently) NATO presence in Poland and the Baltic states. As the NATO Treaty provided only for limited commitment and obligations, as well as undefined organizational structure. The Alliance also approved plans for increased defense cooperation with Ukraine, as well as with confirmation that individual allies could begin providing lethal arms to Ukraine. But no NATO member state has clearly committed to provide Ukraine any weapons for its defense.

Responding to the decisions of the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that NATO was using rhetoric over the Ukraine crisis to “resuscitate itself” and noted that Russia had warned repeatedly that it would have to respond to such moves.

The crisis in Iraq and Syria was not on the formal agenda but it dominated discussions at the sidelines, as Barack Obama and David Cameron attempted to build an international coalition for tackling ISIS militants. The Summit responded to the challenges posed by the emergence of the ISIS whose “barbaric attacks” pose a “grave threat to the Iraqi people, to the Syrian people, to the wider region, and to European nations.”  The Allies committed to provide new military assistance to local forces in Egypt and Syria combatting ISIS. While none of the allies want an involvement in a direct ground military operation, several of the European allies, Canada, and the United States already have begun providing lethal military capabilities as well as humanitarian assistance, including small but important capabilities on the ground. The Wales summit made a clear statement in support of Ukraine, in opposition to ISIS, and in favor of strengthening the alliance. The real tests are yet to come.

Facebook Comments