Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Wales Summit as NATO’s Watershed

NATO’s Wales Summit from 4 to 5 September was a landmark to turn the trans-Atlantic alliance to refocus on Europe from a global NATO after the fall of the Soviet Union, in view of Ukraine. In other words, this summit symbolizes the end of the post Cold War era. In early August, the Lower House in Westminster released a report to stress NATO’s strategic shift from counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan to interstate deterrence against Russia (“Towards the next Defence and Security Review: Part Two — NATO: Third Report of Session 2014–15”; House of Commons Defence Committee). Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, Director of the Paris office of the German Marshall Fund, even argue that Putin’s aggression to Ukraine redefined raison d'être of NATO (“NATO Should Act in Europe’s Defense, Not Ukraine’s”; New York Times; September 9, 2014). European allies welcomed President Barack Obama as he sent a clear message to stop dangerous expansionism of Russia, even though Ukraine was not a member of the alliance (“Putin Has Done NATO a Big Favor”; New Yorker; September 2, 2014). NATO reaffirmed Article 5 to defend East European members to override the challenge posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin (“NATO Summit Steels Alliance Members for Future”; DoD News; September 5, 2014). Let me talk about summit agendas and the future of the alliance.

The most critical issue was Ukraine. Since the Crimean crisis this February, Russian proxies destabilize eastern Ukraine by provoking pro-Russian uprisings. Just before the Wales summit, Russian proxy intrusion prompted an alert among NATO members (“Russia Moves More Troops Across Ukraine Border, NATO Says”; NPR; August 29, 2014). Despite the ceasefire between Ukraine and pro-Russian insurgents on September 5 (“Ukraine's unhappy ceasefire”; Economist; September 7, 2014), and Russian troop pullout since then (Majority of Russian troops have left Ukraine, says Petro Poroshenko”: Daily Telegraph; September 10, 2014), Putin harnesses the weakness of Western democracy by consummate propaganda. He deceives war reluctant Western public that it was local separatists, not Russian proxies. Pacifists are willing to accept such lies (“Putin Attacks the West's Soft Underbelly”; World Affairs; 12 September, 2014). However, Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov who leads an opposition coalition The Other Russia, testified that Kremlin sent troops to invade Ukraine in an interview with BBC on September 4. See the video below.

Therefore, the West should not act on the basis of pacifist wishful thinking against Russia. NATO declared to adopt Article 5 to prevent Putin’s aggression to member states. This is not “a game changer” but “NATO announced military readiness to defend eastern Europe.” See the video below.

The West needs further action to withstand Russian power beyond the current NATO member area. Though Putin cut the scale of troops deployed in eastern Ukraine, it is unlikely that still remaining 1,000 of them leave there. After two weeks since the agreement, NATO commander General Philip Breedlove of the US Air Force told that the ceasefire was in name only, and remilitarization of Crimea was a grave concern. Actually, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said it was Russia’s top priority to increase forces in Crimea (“Ukraine ceasefire is "in name only" – NATO”; Reuters News; September 21, 2014). In face of formidable Russian military presence and Kremlin sponsored seperatists, President Barack Obama offered only $46 million military aid to his counterpart Petro Poroshenko including body armor, engineering equipment and patrol boats, instead of deadly needed antitank weapons and drones. That is worthless, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee urges $350 million military aid in 2015 to counter Russia (“Provide Ukraine with the military aid it needs to deter Russia’s aggression”; Washington Post; September 19, 2014). The West needs to explore further help to Ukraine.

Corresponding to Russian aggression, NATO declared to found the Rapid Response Force to apply Article 5 to east European member states. This joint troop is composed of 4,000 soldiers, and capable of being deployed within 48 hours (“NATO Weighs Rapid Response Force for Eastern Europe”; New York Times; September 1, 2014). Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Spokesman of the Department of Defense, said “It's about making sure a strong message is sent” to Russia (“US Backs Improved NATO Reaction Force in Europe”; Military Times; September 2, 2014). New response force requires command and control reform, logistics innovation, and information sharing among allies, According to Secretary General Anders Fough Rasmussen (“NATO leaders take decisions to ensure robust Alliance”; NATO News; September 5, 2014). Keir Giles, Assiciate at Chatham House, comments that NATO must show the spearhead forces are not just verbal, and act furthermore to stop Russian expansionism (“Ukraine and Estonia are on the Front Line of a New Division in Europe”; Chatham House Expert Comment; 9 September, 2014). In other words, the Wales declaration is just the beginning.

Any declaration or policy must be backed by sufficient defense budget. Putin’s nationalist resurgence was well before the current crisis in Ukraine. However, NATO members cut defense expenditure so drastically in the post Cold War period, as if there were no security concerns in Europe, and even on the global stage. The United States that urges Europe to increase defense spending faces sequestration as the Obama administration failed to manage the Congress. In addition to traditional threats, NATO needs to make preparations for countering cyber attacks (“NATO Set to Ratify Pledge on Joint Defense in Case of Major Cyberattack”; New York Times; September 1, 2014). Leaders from 28 member states agreed to increase spending at the Wales summit (“Allied leaders pledge to reverse defence cuts, reaffirm transatlantic bond”; NATO News; 8 September, 2014). The problem is how it is implemented at each sovereign state level. Poorly coordinated defense policy among allies will not make proposed rapid response forces sufficiently effective.

Though the Wales Summit is a turning point for NATO to refocus on Europe, security challenges outside the Euro-Atlantic sphere have grown substantially. Though the rise of Islamic extremism was not an original agenda, UK Prime Minister David Cameron who hosted the Wales Summit called for a multinational coalition, along with President Barack Obama. The problem is the objective. Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger questioned whether this anti-ISIS operation was to contain them or crush them ("Obama, Cameron to push for coalition against ISIS at NATO summit”; FOX News; September 4 2014). Obama shows lukewarm attitude as he is still weary of firm commitment to send ground troops. Also, despite mentioning to ISIS in the final declaration of the Wales summit, the coalition is dependent on willing sovereign states like France and Arab nations. Cameron himself still must overcome parliamentary objection as he faced over air strike to Syria last time (“Britain close to joining U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State”; Reuters News; September 24, 2014).

Without Putin’s aggression to Ukraine, Afghanistan was supposed to be the top agenda at the Wales summit. ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) will withdraw from there by the end of this year, but continual Western commitment is required. On the eve of the NATO summit, security went worse (“Afghan turmoil threatens NATO's 'mission accomplished' plans”; Reuters News; September 2, 2014). Secretary General Rasmussen urged the Afghan government to sign the BSA (Bilateral Security Agreement) and SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) with the United States as early as possible (“NATO reaffirms continued support to Afghanistan”; NATO News; 4 September, 2014). Three pillars of NATO engagement in the post ISAF Afghanistan are resolute support missions, contribution to build a sustainable Afghan National Army, and strengthening long term political cooperation with Afghanistan (“NATO leaders reaffirms continued support to Afghanistan”; Khaama Press; September 4, 2014). These concepts must be backed up in practice. NATO increased military aid to Afghanistan from $4.1 billion to $5.1 billion after 2014 (“NATO increases funding of Afghan forces to $5.1 billion”; Khaama Press; September 4, 2014).

In addition to stated policy goals and declarations, we need to pay more attention to unstated political moves within the alliance. Turkey’s repivot to the West is a notable one. Ever since Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP (Justice and Development Party) took power in 2002, Turkey shifted away from Kemalism, and pursues more Islamist foreign and domestic policy. However, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, long term political advisor to Erdoğan, tried to repair ties with the West as it faces the war in Syria in the neighborhood. The Syrian civil war has made relations with Iran worse as it sponsors the Assad regime. Turkey lost Islamist allies as a result of the fall of Muslim Brotherhood affiliates in Egypt, Libya, and Syria. Also, Turkey’s sponsorship to the Kurdish against ISIS strained its relations with the Iraqi central government (“Turkey's Middle-East Dream Becomes a Nightmare”; Wall Street Journal; September 3, 2014).

Turkey’s return to the West gives vital implication to global security. Remember Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Erdoğan not to buy air defense missile systems from China that would leak NATO’s sensitive information to potential adversaries. The official declaration mentioned defense expenditure, but it is important how that is spent. The alliance needs to meet dual requirements, which are new Cold War with Russia and possibly with China, and asymmetrical warfare against Middle East insurgents. Just an increase of defense spending does not necessarily satisfy them. Defense policy among allies must be well coordinated to make everything work effectively.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Trans-Atlantic Defense Spending Gap in NATO

On the eve of NATO’s Wales Sumit on 4 and 5 September, the Wall Street Journal showed critical tables ("As Russian Threat in Ukraine Grows, NATO Faces Thorny Spending Questions"; Wall Street Journal; August 29, 2014). Though the size of the economy of the United States and the European Union, most of which are NATO members, is roughly the same, Europeans spend considerably less amount of money on defense than the United States. Agendas at the Wales summit include the Ukrainian crisis, post ISAF Afghanistan, burden sharing, and so forth. Issues like collective security are supposed to be an exemplary model for Japan that is currently turning toward proactive pacifism. However, stark gaps in defense commitment erode NATO’s role model credential among democratic allies.

Let me talk about the two tables. In terms of defense spending share by member state, the portion of the United States rose from 68% in 2007 to 73% in 2013. Currently, sequestration has drastically cut American defense budget, and policymakers are making every effort to revert negative impacts of it to refinance the spending. Despite that, the European share in the NATO defense spending declined. In view of the rise of diversified security challenges, not just increasingly nationalist Russia and widespread Islamic extremism, it is quite strange why Europeans spend so little on defense. As Robert Kagan argues, the gap between American Mars and European Venus is obvious. See the table above.

For further understanding, I would like to mention the other table as shown below, which shows defense expenditure share in GDP of each member state. While NATO recommends 2% for defense, at least, only four countries, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Estonia, meet this. Some of them, including Canada, Spain, and so forth, spend 1% or less for defense, which is the same level as that spent by old passive pacifist Japan. Startlingly, Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania spend only 0.9% and 0.8% respectively. Both of them are front line nations against Russia, and NATO sends air squadrons there, as tensions over Ukraine grow. Some people argue Europeans need to sustain their welfare states, and they cannot pay for defense so much. That is no excuse. They spent 4 to 5% of GDP for defense during the Cold War, while maintaining the standard of social security.

Whatever the strategies are, and however well-designed they are, none of them can be implemented without sufficient size and quality of defense. In the name of a global NATO as seen in operations in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, the alliance downsized its military power since the fall of the Soviet Union. Now, NATO is pivoting to Europe, because Russia reemerges a critical threat as seen in the Ukrainian crisis. However, none of the threats, whether regional or global, can be managed by poor defense.

Remember that Pax Americana is based on the alliance of the willing, whether in a unipolar, multipolar, or even non-polar world. The trans-Atlantic alliance is the keystone of it. A split NATO, leads to a weaker alliance and weaker democracy around the world, and in the end, that will give re-rise to the Dark Age, dominated by autocratic great powers and medieval religious fanaticism. Ask what makes the alliance viable. That is a universal question.