Saturday, February 13, 2010

NATO Should Engage with Challengers and Rising Powers?

NATO Secretary General Anders Fough Rasmussen said that NATO develop strategic partnership with Russia, China, India, and Afghan neighbors furthermore, at the Munich Security Conference (German link here) on February 7. Secretary General Rasmussen emphasized multilateral cooperation to defeat terrorists in Afghanistan. However, Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian state Duma, expressed skepticism to the West (“Nato calls for more global partners”; Financial Times; February 8, 2010).

Although the Munich Conference is just an unofficial forum on global security among leaders of major stakeholder nations, it is noteworthy that NATO Secretary General proposed strategic cooperation beyond nation-state rivalries. As the Prime Minister of Denmark, Rasmussen was in close ties with President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He was one of the leading proponents for the Iraq War. Such a conservative is appealing for common security initiatives with Russia and China, regardless of political regimes and values.

In addition to Afghanistan, Rasmussen says “NATO should become the global forum with other nations on a host of security issues extending from terrorism, cyber attacks, nuclear proliferation, piracy, climate change and competition for natural resources.” However, the Kremlin has become increasingly suspicious of the West since the Georgian conflict in 2008 (“NATO should be global security forum: Rasmussen”; Washington Post; February 7, 2010).

Even though President Barack Obama showed conciliatory attitude to Russia during his visit to Moscow last July, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev approved a new military doctrine which indentifies NATO expansion as a threat and reaffirmed the right to use nuclear weapons unilaterally (“Russia names NATO expansion as national threat”; Reuters; February 5, 2010). Kremlin leaders see Ukraine and Georgia their sphere of influence, but NATO Secretary General Rasmussen refutes such state to state antagonism (“Russian doctrine does not reflect real world: NATO”; Reuters; February 6, 2010). The Russo-Western gaps are hard to be filled. On Twitter, while Rasmussen says NATO is no enemy to Russia (“AndersFoghR”; Twitter; February 6, 2010), Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin asks “Americans and their allies want to surround Russian bear's den? (“Rogozin”; Twitter; February 10, 2010)”

The dispute over US interceptor missiles in Romania against Iranian nuclear threats poses another critical problem to the Russo-Western relations (“Russia condemns US move to put missiles in Romania”; Daily Telegraph; 7 February, 2010). When the Obama administration withdrew the missile plan in Poland and Czech, the United States was to build alternative sites in the south, closer to intercept Iranian missiles. The Kremlin is more concerned with geopolitical zero-sum games with the West than nuclear non-proliferation across the globe.

In a rapidly globalizing world, the concept of security may change, and transnational endeavors are required. However, we should remember that the chasm between Western democracy and Russo-Chinese autocracy is growing, and this is the reason why Robert Kagan talks of intensified nation state clashes in his book, “The Return of History”.

As seen in the operation in Afghanistan, NATO is globalizing, and it needs new partners. It is right that NATO explore strategic partnership with Afghan neighbors such as India and Pakistan. As I mentioned before on this blog, NATO is developing ties with Asia-Pacific democracies, including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea. I have no doubt that NATO can cooperate with them to manage transnational threats extending from terrorism, cyber attacks, nuclear proliferation, piracy, climate change and competition for natural resources, beyond the Euro-Atlantic area.

The problem is, can NATO build trustful relations with Russia and China, though radical nationalism is rampant in both countries? Has the sovereign state rivalries really ended? The idea cited by NATO Secretary General Rasmussen and supported by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay, sounds too Kantian. The Munich Conference shows that the reality of word politics remains savage and Hobbesian.

Further reference:
NATO’s New Strategic Concept