The future of transatlantic alliance –will it survive the test of the time
THE FUTURE OF TRANSATLANTIC ALLIANCE:WILL IT SURVIVE THE TEST OF THE TIME? Keshav Prasad BhattaraiLondon based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), in its latest edition of „TheMilitary Balance ‟ has mentioned that on the current trend defense spending of Asia is likely toexceed that of Europe during 2012. This, inevitably will bring a global redistribution of militarypower that ultimately is ending western monopoly in key areas of defense technology andweaponries.Next month in Chicago, the 28 member NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)summit of Heads of State and government, the most powerful military alliance in humanhistory, will be reasserting its relevance in a new world that is quite different than atthe time when it was formally came into existence on August 24, 1949.Established 63 years ago, NATO in its Charter had reaffirmed its faith in the purposes andprinciples of the UN Charter with the “desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments... to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples”, who believe “on theprinciples of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law” and are committed to the unitedefforts “for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security”.Taking this into consideration, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates spoke about the future oftransatlantic security relationship between America and Europe in Brussels in June last year.According to him, just five of the 28 NATO allies – the U.S., U.K., France, Greece and Albania havefulfilled their commitment to allocate 2% of their GDP in defense.During Cold War period U.S. allocations accounted 50 percent of all NATO military spending butafter two decades after the fall of Berlin Wall, U.S share of NATO defense budget rose to morethan 75 percent. And between 2008 and 2011, 20 of the 28 NATO nations reduced their defensespending and this year for the first time Asian countries outstripped their defense expenditurethan the countries in Europe.
Obviously, when Europe is apparently unwilling to devote necessary resources for their owndefense, it would naturally not be easier to have the appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress at apolitically painful time of budget cuts and find money to spend more of American‟s taxpayer‟s moneyto compensate the burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.The future of Trans Atlantic alliance is “dim, if not dismal”. A future that “is possible but notinevitable” and if NATO alliances wish and are committed they individually or collectively havemeans to sustain and strengthen the transatlantic alliance and “produce a very different future”.Further Gates opinioned the time was “not too late for Europe to get its defense institutions andsecurity relationships on track” if European leadership themselves are committed to the allianceand to each other.“NATO 2020: SHARED LEADERSHIP FOR A SHARED FUTURE”NATO was created to protect post war Western Europe from the Soviet Union, but after the endof Cold War NATO had “gone global”. In a uni-polar world, according to Ivo Daalder and JamesGoldgeier – NATO is seeking new global role to bring stability to other parts of the world in termsof both - the geographic reach and the range of its operations from Iraq and Afghanistan toDarfur. It ran humanitarian assistance program to the victims of tsunami in Indonesia, HurricaneKatrina in the United States and of a massive earthquake in Pakistan.After Cold War was ended the threat terrorism became more pervasive and rooted in weak andfailing nations. Enveloped ethnic infightings began to develop into mass cleansing. And terrorismcoupled with ethnic infightings began to find a common ground and interconnectivity in theiractivities. This altogether forced NATO to expand its ambit in the new global politics as astabilizing power.The economic crisis that led the world in 2008 and that has hit hard to Europe and U.S. exhibitedthat NATO has to operate within a much narrow budget limit and a living within a shrinking andreduced defense capacity in their avowed area of commitment and with an ambition of modestnature.
But recently, NATO‟s energetic, ambitious and de-fatigable Secretary General and former PrimeMinister of Denmark Anders Fogh Rasmussen made a brilliant speech at Brussels Forum followed byan illuminating question answer session where he explained about his new strategic initiative of“smart defense” – that will set the right priorities together, encourage the Allies to specialize bydesign but not by default and foster better cooperative culture of defense.Rasmussen has expressed an exceptional level of optimism on NATO‟s future and confidently saysthat Chicago will rejuvenate NATO and ensure its strength and capability “by 2020 and beyond”that would be followed by a declaration on interim missile defense capability.This according to NATO Secretary General is an important first step in bringing together nationalcontributions to build an integrated defense against a real and growing threat to its membercountries and the alliance according to him is a unique community of shared values and interests.Rasmussen with complete enthusiasm claims that”NATO is the primary instrument for safeguardingour security and our values. That was its purpose when it was created. It remains its purpose today.And it will remain its purpose in 2020 and beyond”.As elaborated by Chief NATO official in its last Summit in Lisbon in 2010, they agreed a newstrategic concept identified with the three core tasks: collective defense, crisis management, andcooperative security.NATO wants to remain ready for years to come - to respond to the full range of security tasks, puttogether all kinds of complex joint operations at short notice with high impact, high precision andwith needed flexibility, rapid deplorability of forces with the right mix of military capabilities.But for this they also have a plan to share the responsibility to enhance their capabilities andforces make them work together effectively. This needs a rebalanced transatlantic relationshipwhere European allies are prepared to assume greater leadership role. That means - the sharedpurpose, shared responsibilities – and shared leadership.Rasmussen confidently says that the Chicago summit will be a “clear demonstration of connectivityand cooperative security, a strong demonstration of our partnerships with countries across theglobe, including countries that aspire to become members of NATO.”
WHY DO THEY NEED NATO?Europe‟s troubled economy, their political differences over Libyan cases and some of the Europeancountries unilateral decision in withdrawing their armies from Afghanistan and American pivot toAsia and Pacific, has left NATO a relatively less cohesive and relevant body.Richard N. Haass, the President of Council on Foreign Affairs and a noted former diplomat wrote aprovocative essay in the Washington Post dated June 18, 2011 with a title “Why Europe no longerMatters”. In his essay Haass asked a question and he himself answered - “If NATO didn‟t existtoday, would anyone feel compelled to create it? The honest, if awkward, answer is no.”Three veteran personalities - one a former U.S. secretary of Defense, another former U.S.ambassador to NATO and a former U.K. Minister of Defense and Secretary General of NATO -William S. Cohen, Nicholas Burns, and George Robertson in their joint article –“NATO on the Brink”published in July last year strongly responded “Yes, we would.” They admitted NATO desperatelyneeds reform and America cannot live in isolation without allies “in a dangerous, complex and highlyintegrated 21st century” and said U.S. would have been a much weaker power without NATO.NATO was created against Soviet Union, but after the end of Cold War they have become apartner peace -despite several differences over many global issues. And recently Russia hasexpressed its intention to allow NATO to build strategic facility in the city of Ulyanovsk – the birthplace of Lenin in the Volga region.Russia, that has allowed Afghan-bound NATO transport through its territory since 2009, hasformally expressed its displeasure over America‟s ill prepared troop withdrawal plan that accordingto Russia will left Afghanistan exposed to terrorist and drug traffickers – a bigger concern forRussia.This shows the new global strategic environment and of late USA and Russia seems moving closer onIranian and Syrian case. And for long NATO- Russia council is making a head way in resolving manyof their differences effectively.The World has changed and so has the NATO. What former NATO Secretary General ManfredWörner said two decades ago on December 21, 1991 has set the tone for future of NATO while hesaid “When I took office as Secretary General of the North Atlantic Alliance I could not evenreceive the ambassador of any of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in our headquarters.Our states were adversaries even if our peoples did not have this feeling of animosity. Three andhalf years later, here we are sitting around the same table celebrating the inaugural meeting of the
North Atlantic Cooperation Council. If ever history witnessed a profound turn around this is such aunique moment. A moment not only of highly symbolic but also of eminent practical value, Europe willnot be the same after our meeting today.” email@example.com The Reporter „Weekly‟ April 9-15, 2012 www.thereporter.com.np