Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Western Alliance beyond NATO Chicago Summit

NATO summit in Chicago discussed critical agendas of global security in an era of fiscal austerity and new global challenges. While the anchor of Western democracies is exploring to deepen partnership with nations outside Euro Atlantic area; such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea; some splits within the alliance were seen at the summit. Let me talk about key issues at the summit and their global implications.

Prior to the Chicago summit, Jorge Benitez, Director of NATO Source, and Tomas Valasek, Director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the Centre for European Reform, raise concern that both the United States and Europe will lower defense capabilities in the Euro-Atlantic area, because of US pivot to Asia and financial crisis in the Eurozone (“NATO: Chicago and Beyond”; NATO Source; May 13, 2012 and “NATO ponders austerity and US 'pivot'”; Centre for European Reform Blog; May 18, 2012). Andrew Dorman, Associate Fellow at Chatham House, mentioned key points before the Chicago Summit. Currently, the most important agenda is Afghanistan after 2014 ISAF withdrawal, as it is the first joint operation outside the Euro-Atlantic sphere for NATO. In addition, Iran and Syria are crucial. While Middle East turmoil draws attention, relations with Russia casts complicated shadows on the trans-Atlantic alliance. In addition to missile defense and further NATO expansion, the West finds Russian influence hard to dismiss on Libya, Syria and Iran. On the other hand, each member state has a different view on Russia. While eastern frontier nations want staunch US presence with anti-ballistic missile defense system, Britain is more interested in using Russia a transit route to withdraw troops from Afghanistan via Central Asia. As NATO has to manage numerous challenges with limited defense budget, burden sharing and role division must be considered (“NATO’s 2012 Chicago summit”; International Affairs; March 2012).

Undoubtedly, the agenda of highest attention at the summit is Afghanistan, as this mission is NATO’s first joint military operation out of the Euro-Atlantic area, and it will end 2014 when ISAF withdraws from there. However, without Afghanistan still needs Western help after 2014. Leading coalition members like the United States and Britain strike security agreements for post 2014 involvement, while newly elected Hollande administration of France has decided earlier retreat from Afghanistan. In April, Senator John McCain gave a lecture at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to discuss Afghan security after 2014. First, McCain urged the audience to reconfirm the initial objective of the war in Afghanistan that resulted from America’s irresponsible mistake to leave this country confused after Soviet retreat, and awakened awareness of 9-11 terrorism threats. For basic understanding, he stressed that important progress in four years that Taliban was substantially weakened in the south and Afghan security forces were dramatically strengthened. However, McCain objects to premature reconciliation with Taliban as their terrorism still continues. He warns that perception of US withdrawal when security is still fragile can encourage Taliban terrorism, and counter terrorism achievements will be ruined. See the following video.

In line with warnings by Senator McCain, Britain is also considering keeping 200 special force soldiers for counterterrorism after 2014. Prime Minister David Cameron has not made the final decision about this plan yet (“Al-Qaeda could 're-emerge in Afghanistan after Nato withdrawal'”; Daily Telegraph; 21 May 2012). Even Pakistani media agree that such self defeatism would make NATO to lose gains in 11 years (“COMMENT: NATO summit in Chicago: old wine in old bottles — I”; Daily Times; June 5, 2012).

In addition to Afghanistan, there are numerous challenges that NATO faces in an era of fiscal austerity. Applying a new concept of “smart defense”, NATO must share equipment and facilities between allies and have countries specialize in different areas of defense, in order to meet global security requirements and upgrade defense capability including cyber warfare. Smart defense is beyond division of roles among allies. In order to realize cost efficient defense, the Chicago summit adopted the Deterrence and Defense Posture Review that declares nuclear weapons are key to deterrence for NATO. This is a deviation from 2010 Lisbon Summit that declared the world without nuclear weapon. The Chicago Review states that upgrade missile defense is one of smart defense against Russian missile (“NATO Maintains Nuclear Weapons’ Role in Deterrence”; Global Security Newswire; May 21, 2012).

Defense capability is not the only issue. Euro-American defense cooperation needs to be upgraded for new era. Jamie Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General of NATO, insists that the Libya model will be the paradigm for the alliance to explore efficient division of roles. While willing nations fight, others provide logistics, specialist support, and common funding. He proposes furthermore to keep NATO relevant while slimming down the military. In addition to hardware R&D and role division, the alliance must develop policy consultation and information sharing network. For this objective, cyber defense capability needs to be strengthened. In parallel with them, Europe has to reduce dependence on the United States, as two American brigades will withdraw from Germany. Shea mentions some European-led defense initiatives to fill huge gap in defense capability, such as joint European satellite Galileo and Anglo-French joint drone project (“Keeping NATO Relevant”; Carnegie Policy Outlook; April 2012). In missile defense, Europe may depend on US interceptors, but radars can be made by themselves (“U.S. to Declare Interim European Missile Defense Capability at NATO Summit”; Global Security Newswire; May 18, 2012).

Actually, most European allies “free ride” American security umbrella. Only 5 of them satisfy the guideline to spend 2% of GDP for defense. In a defense reluctant in Europe, Britain’s defense effort is well evaluated. Britain is one of few European allies that spend over 2% of GDP for military build up, and invests in key arsenals such as, helicopter, fighter, aircraft carrier, and submarine. Also, it is the second largest troop sender in Afghanistan, after the United States. Moreover Britain plays a vital global police force role in Africa (“The UK Will Continue to Be a Strong Ally to US and NATO”; NATO Source; May 19, 2012). However, Reuters reports to the contrary, and military shrink in the United Kingdom and Germany is a serious blow to the Western alliance, since they are large economies. In the Libya War, European forces led by Britain and France depended virtually all targeting and 85% of fuel for strike operation on the United States (“Europe's lack of key defense capabilities raises doubts about NATO's future”; NATO Source; Match 22, 2012). This implies inconsiderable gaps in defense capabilities between the United States and European allies.

New Obama strategy may have some impacts on NATO, but a staunch trans-Atlantic alliance is a precondition that enables the United States to focus on Asia (“US set to stand by NATO despite warnings”; Financial Times; May 21, 2012). NATO itself needs security partnership with Asia-Pacific nations like Australia and New Zealand to manage increasingly globalized challenges. Also, Smart defense should not be an excuse for poor defense (“What NATO Should and Shouldn't Do in Chicago”; NATO Source; May 18, 2012). Emerging security challengers are technologically catching up. China is enhancing A2/AD capabilities, and Iran is developing nuclear bombs. NATO and its partners outside the Euro-Atlantic region must make their own efforts to curtail those threats, instead of just free riding overwhelming technological advantages of the United States (“American Decline and the Future of Interventionism”; NATO Source; April 13, 2012). In such a security environment, Western democracies need to upgrade the alliance.

Currently, NATO faces dilemma whether to expand members and responsibility furthermore. While Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain envisions an outward looking NATO to tackle threats outside the region, Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra of Czech argues common defense within the alliance, instead of expanding membership and regional scope (“Analysis: Looming end of Afghan mission leaves NATO with identity crisis”; Reuters; May 22, 2012). At the Chicago summit, the United States urged Europe to be a producer of security, rather than a consumer. NATO’s role as the anchor of Western democracies can be undermined through benign neglect by America and declining military ambition in Europe. Something has to be done to reinvigorate the alliance (“The future of the transatlantic alliance: NATO’s sea of troubles”; Economist; May 31, 2012). NATO after Chicago needs more attention by students of global security.