Wednesday, November 22, 2006

NATO Summit at Riga, Latvia

As I mentioned in a previous post, “NATO More Active on Global Security: From Brussels to Riga”, NATO summit will be held at Riga, the capital of Latvia on November 28th and 29th. This is a landmark of history from the following aspects. At this summit, leaders of Western democracies meet and talk vital issues on global security at the capital of a former Soviet republic. More importantly, NATO is expanding global commitment to tackle dreadful challenges in the 21st century, such as WMD proliferation, terrorism, and so forth. Despite the rift over the Iraq War, America and Europe are developing further cooperation for world peace and stability. The media talk so much about the impact of US midterm election on transatlantic relations, but it is meaningless.

At the Riga summit, leaders discuss the following issues: Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur, terrorism, global activities, partnership with non-NATO members, and membership expansion. Nonetheless importantly, missile defense system will be an important agenda at this summit. This system is vital for some non-member states like Japan, as it faces increasing threat by North Korea. Also, NATO assumes increasingly global role. Therefore, NATO summit at Riga is beyond transatlantic security conference.

In order to talk of positive changes of NATO, I mention two articles in Foreign Affairs. One is “From Prague to Baghdad: NATO at Risk” in November/December 2002, by Strobe Talbott, Deputy Secretary of State under the Clinton administration and President at the Brookings Institution. The other is “Global NATO” in September/October 2006, by Ivo Daadler, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and James Goldgeier, Professor at George Washington University and Adjunct Senor Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. While Talbott saw the alliance pessimistically, Daadler and Goldgeiger see it more positively and assertively. Let me discuss changes, which reinvigorate the transatlantic alliance.

It was just before the Prague summit and the Iraq War when Talbott contributed his article. He was concerned with antipathy to the United States among European allies. The Cold War was over, and the Iraq War was about to start in a few months. Talbott commented the transatlantic rift in the following way.

But Prague will also highlight a paradox: NATO's long-term potential is virtually limitless, but its cohesion is at imminent risk. That is largely due to another paradox. The strength of the alliance has always derived from American power, which has never been greater, and from American leadership, which has never been more assertive. Yet these days many allies are feeling not so much led by the United States as bossed around; for them, the exercise of American power has become less a source of protection and more a cause of resentment and a problem to be managed.

Also, unlike leading Western policymakers today, he was skeptic to the idea of global NATO. In those days, NATO was expanding partnership with Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. It was beginning to act outside Europe. However, he said “That is largely because of the absence in those other areas of a militarily capable and politically respected defense pact that can create an environment conducive to cooperation and integration.” Furthermore, he said “However, that does not mean there will ever be, or should be, a global NATO that brings together representatives from the nearly 200 countries on earth, ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, arrayed around a table far larger than that in Brussels or anywhere else. If that happened, the alliance might as well merge with the UN General Assembly.”

Things have changed now. NATO has overcome bitter discord between both sides of the Atlantic on the Iraq War, and exploring further global commitment. In “Global NATO”, Daadler and Goldgeiger points out the following changes. In the war on terror, NATO has recognized that it is necessary to defeat remote enemy at their homelands. In addition, as US forces stretch thin in Iraq, European allies are beginning to fill the gap for global commitments. In August 2003, NATO decided to send the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to Afghanistan. Since then, NATO has been operating out of Europe, from Kashmir, Indonesia, to Louisiana. As NATO is evolving global, the alliance has begun to consider strategic partnership with nations sharing common liberal democratic values, like Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. Unlike Strobe Talbott, both authors welcome Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer’s suggestion that NATO become an alliance with global partners. Daadler and Goldgeoger insist, “Broadening membership is preferable to creating ad hoc coalitions.” Because “For one thing, European militaries are stretched thin by the many new missions they are called on to perform in Afghanistan and in Sudan, Congo, and other parts of Africa”, and “For another, formal membership would strengthen the ability of countries to work together in joint military operations.”

Finally, I would like to mention an interview with John Colston, Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy and Planning of NATO. As briefly introduced on the web, he received degrees from Bristol and Oxford University, and worked for British Ministry of Defence for a many years. In the interview, he comments on critical issues for the future of NATO. As to NATO’s partnership beyond the transatlantic region, the following comments are noteworthy.

One of the key aspects of our working together with those countries is cooperation in defense reform. Partner countries are facing exactly the same challenges as NATO allies in terms of the threats of terrorism, the threats of proliferation, the threats of the 21st Century. And they face exactly the same challenges in adapting and modernizing their armed forces to meet those threats.

And as I've said, defense cooperation plays a very key part in that process. We are working with all these countries in terms of how best we can develop the ability of NATO nations and our partner nations to work together to confront terrorism, to confront the challenges of the 21st Century.

Those who are keenly aware of international politics cannot miss the Riga summit on 28th and 29th. Finally, I recommend readers to see Latvia Online Guide. This is a Latvian site, and onsite information will be available.