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Ronald Asmus' Strategy for the West: Expand East

Ronald Asmus has a new “grand strategy” for the west: it should continue to expand eastward (see Foreign Affairs, subscription only):
The challenge of securing Europe’s eastern border from the Baltics to the Black Sea has been replaced by the need to extend peace and stability along the southern rim of the Euro-Atlantic community—from the Balkans across the Black Sea and further into Eurasia, a region that connects Europe, Russia, and the Middle East and involves core security interests, including a critical energy corridor.  Working to consolidate democratic change and build stability in this area is as important for Western security today as consolidating democracy in central and eastern Europe was in the 1990s.
The west’s most important accomplishment following the Cold War has been its integration of central and eastern European countries that were previously part of the Soviet Union—countries that have undergone significant reforms to be accepted into NATO and the EU.  It is interesting that despite the ubiquitous negative publicity NATO is receiving these days, due largely to a perceived lack of teamwork in Afghanistan, there are several countries that continue to fervently seek membership—take the 71 percent of Georgian’s who endorsed NATO membership in a January referendum for example (see Today’s Zaman). 

Asmus warns that NATO expansion should be pursued strategically though, not rushed.  In a follow-up to the Foreign Affairs essay, Asmus argues in the Washington Post that the Alliance should be careful who it extends invitations to for full membership at the upcoming Bucharest Summit in April:
The [Bush] administration is proposing to extend invitations to Albania, Croatia and Macedonia. I was one of the earliest proponents of NATO enlargement, but I believe such a move would be a mistake. NATO enlargement must strengthen the alliance. That is why in the 1990s, in close consultation with the Senate, we set clear and high criteria for future members. By those criteria, perhaps one of the candidates under discussion -- Croatia -- is ready for membership. Albania and Macedonia clearly are not. We learned over the past decade that our leverage in pressing candidate countries to complete reforms falls considerably once these countries join.
This argument sounds logical… take Macedonia for example: President Crvenkovski has this week requested NATO membership sooner rather than later because he believes Macedonia is threatened by instability on its Serbia/Kosovo border (see Serbiana). Is it really wise for NATO to accept Macedonia who will likely become a net-security consumer rather than a contributor?

Of course, perhaps a NATO “grand strategy” based on constant expansion will mean there will always be unstable states on the west’s border.  Negative POV: every state annexed is a liability that reduces NATO’s geographic security cushion from the less friendly outside realm. Optimistic POV: it is like dropping a wet sponge on a map of Europe and watching the liquid goodness of democracy spread out, creating an ever expanding realm of peace and rule of law.

Cooperation with the west does not need to be black and white.  Alberto Priego’s recent article in the Caucasian Review of International Affairs focuses specifically on how NATO’s flexibility in partnerships benefits its relationships with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – three countries with varying degrees of affection for the west (yet all who are open to it, according to the EUobserver). 
By its own, what NATO has in mind concerning the South Caucasus is the idea of being a flexible organization to cooperate with all PfP [Partnership for Peace] countries.  NATO policy toward the PfP in general and toward the South Caucasus in particular could well be labeled as a form of a la carte cooperation… any of the three Caucasian Republics can select what kind of cooperation it prefers to develop in the framework of the PfP… we can point out that NATO Partnership for Peace programme is a flexible initiative that allows the partners to fill their foreign and security gaps. 
And of course the 800-pound gorilla in the room is Russia, who vehemently opposes past and future NATO expansion.  Will Europe be willing to take on Russia’s wrath?  Robert Kagan speculates in the Washington Post:
Postmodern Europe can scarcely bring itself to contemplate a return to confrontation with a great power and will go to great lengths to avoid it. In the United States, any fundamental shift in policy toward Russia will have to wait for the next administration. Nevertheless, a Russian confrontation with Ukraine or Georgia would usher in a brand-new world, or perhaps a very old world. Many in the West still want to believe this is the era of geoeconomics. But as one Swedish analyst has noted, 'We're in a new era of geopolitics. You can't pretend otherwise.'

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Reid of America on :

Kagan says "a Russian confrontation with Ukraine or Georgia would usher in a brand-new world, or perhaps a very old world." Europe has made a massive strategic error by becoming dependent (addicted) to Russian natural gas exports. Russia doesn't have to use it's military to coerce Europe. All they have to do is shut the gas valve and Europe is paralyzed especially in winter.

Kevin on :

Atwell, re: Asmus: "take Macedonia for example: President Crvenkovski has this week requested NATO membership sooner rather than later because he believes Macedonia is threatened by instability on its Serbia/Kosovo border (see Serbiana). Is it really wise for NATO to accept Macedonia who will likely become a net-security consumer rather than a contributor?... Negative POV: every state annexed is a liability that reduces NATO’s geographic security cushion from the less friendly outside realm. Optimistic POV: it is like dropping a wet sponge on a map of Europe and watching the liquid goodness of democracy spread out, creating an ever expanding realm of peace and rule of law." If the ultimate goal of NATO is a peace and stability, and if NATO is genuinely committed to achieving that goal for as much of Europe as possible, should potential short-term security detriments implied by accepting, say, Macedonia into the alliance carry more weight than that ultimate goal? In other words, is this sort of utilitarian decision-making (which yes, I know, is the standard) compatible with that goal? If Macedonia were to be accepted and a violent spat erupted a few months later, would not a measured quelling of that spat with NATO might do much to counter the notion that NATO is languishing? An alliance that avoids allying with like-minded weaklings principally because they're weaklings comes off as not only or even chiefly exclusive, but afraid. There's your reputation problem.

Kevin Sampson on :

We've already got all the like minded weaklings we can handle, thank you very much.

Kyle Atwell on :

I am not so quick to discount Kevin's (not Sampson's) comment. I can understand Kevin Sampson's frustration with NATO currently, especially since it can feel like some states are carrying a lot more of the burden than their European partners. However, we should not forget that the primary mission of NATO is not to intervene in countries that are already unstable like Afghanistan, but rather to maintain stability and cooperation between its member countries. By admitting countries like Macedonia, Croatia, Ukraine, and Georgia, we ensure that they continue to work toward and maintain higher degrees of stability and rule of law. That in itself is a major accomplishment toward a greater peace and security for NATO members. And if these "weak" countries who want to join are not able to become members of NATO, then they may spiral away from stable governance and in fact turn into a Kosovo or Afghanistan, in which case NATO members will be heading there anyhow for stabilization missions.

joe on :

Kyle Then one has to question why NATO invoked article 5 of the treaty, which committed NATO to Afghanistan. Words do actually have meaning. The entire premise of NATO has always been about SHARED risk. With this shared risk comes the responsibility of burden sharing. There is no longer a shared risk and there surely is no longer burden sharing. Of course, you might believe and want others to believe that nations like germany are sharing the risk and are discharging their responsibility of burden sharing. Sell that position to the likes of Jorg. He will buy it. If you want to use your description of what the primary purpose of NATO is not, you need to address two questions. The first, explain NATO’s intervention in the Balkans. The second, why should nations like Canada and the US remain members of NATO. If the criteria to become a member were whether a nation would be a net user or contributor to the alliance’s security, then the majority of current member nations would not be in NATO. As has been pointed out many times on this blog, Europe no longer faces a threat for which NATO was formed to confront. NATO therefore should be disbanded. Europe has the both the ability and capacity to provide for its own protection. Whether it has the will to protect itself is a question for the Europeans to address. What is interesting today in America is the growing realization NATO is a no longer needed organization and is a drain on the security of the US. This realization is growing on both the left and right of the political spectrum. With the potential election of a democrat as POTUS, NATO nations will become under even more pressure to assume both risk sharing and burden sharing. Hopefully the days of NATO are in their final countdown. This should please nations like france, germany and the other members of the chocolate summit who only find NATO to be useful for there own security but are unwilling to discharge membership responsibilities.

Kevin Sampson on :

‘However, we should not forget that the primary mission of NATO is not to intervene in countries that are already unstable like Afghanistan, but rather to maintain stability and cooperation between its member countries.’ It is?! Jeez. Here, I thought it had something to do with providing a common defense against outside aggression. Nobody ever tells me nuthin. So, explain to me how come Bosnia and Kosovo were NATO affairs? Yugoslavia wasn’t in NATO, and didn’t even pose a military threat to anyone who was. ‘By admitting countries like Macedonia, Croatia, Ukraine, and Georgia, we ensure that they continue to work toward and maintain higher degrees of stability and rule of law.’ LOL. I guess we better boot out Italy then. ‘And if these "weak" countries who want to join are not able to become members of NATO, then they may spiral away from stable governance and in fact turn into a Kosovo or Afghanistan, in which case NATO members will be heading there anyhow for stabilization missions.’ You do realize this statement is in direct contradiction to your first sentence, don’t you?

joe on :

Kevin S Hope you enjoy this circle jerk kind of discussion it is pretty much the norm. Talk a great game and do nothing. A discussion about being allies is even more funnier. Get use to the idea that America is both always wrong and always needed to do the heavy lifting.

Kevin on :

KYLE: "However, we should not forget that the primary mission of NATO is not to intervene in countries that are already unstable like Afghanistan, but rather to maintain stability and cooperation between its member countries.... And if these 'weak' countries who want to join are not able to become members of NATO, then they may spiral away from stable governance and in fact turn into a Kosovo or Afghanistan, in which case NATO members will be heading there anyhow for stabilization missions." KEVIN S: "You do realize this [second] statement is in direct contradiction to your first sentence, don’t you?" Kevin (S., not myself), those two statements of Kyle's are not at all in contradiction. Regardless of what the "primary mission" of NATO "is," there is nothing mutually exclusive about (1) existing primarily to maintain internal stability and (2) intervening in non-member countries when regional or global stability is threatened. Those statements contradict one another only if you understand internal stability to be completely independent of external stability--an understanding that would be, clearly, absurd.

Kevin Sampson on :

Perhaps not, however the fact remains that NATO was, and is, a mutual defense pact, whose primary mission was to deter or, failing that, repel a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. It’s organizational and logistical infrastructure was created with that specific purpose in mind. Could it be pressed into service for other purposes? Yes. Would it be particularly effective or efficient? Probably not, if Afghanistan is any indicator. If you really want a ‘Team NATO, World Police’ why not start with a blank sheet of paper and create a whole new organization designed from the outset to accomplish that mission? I believe we could all come up with plenty of reasons, but one would be near the top of everybody’s list; the fear that, having experienced European prevarication in Afghanistan, the US, and maybe Canada, would politely decline the invite. I believe this is why Europe, which has become increasing critical of US ‘interventions…where regional or global stability is threatened’ is curiously silent when it comes to NATO. By all rights, European demands for it’s dismantling, or at least divestment of the US, should be equally strident. That they are not shows that Europe is aware that NATO is the last, and increasingly tenuous, mechanism by which it can influence US policy. Therefore NATO must be preserved at all costs and a new raison d’entre must be found, or invented, for it.

Kyle Atwell on :

Kevin S and Joe, you make a lot of very good points. The semantics behind this argument can be confusing, so I will try to better explain myself: I agree Article V--mutual defense--is the primary goal of NATO. Of course, this is a broad definition with fungible application (and as Kevin astutely points out, will likely involve multiple specific objectives to address various threats): during the Cold War it meant detering a Soviet onslaught, and after the Soviet threat subsided NATO had to decide whether it still had a role to play in the world that would still support Article V. To my point, the primary success (I used the word mission, which perhaps is not the right word?) of NATO after the Cold War has been its ability to incorporate new member states who were in fact previously a part of the enemy. This is a major feat, that should not be taken for granted. Can you imagine what Europe would look like without this... perhaps just as stable as now, or perhaps more Belarus-style countries... but the point is that it is stable, largely because the NATO security guarantee that encouraged central/east european states to join. Then a new mission came, to stabilize the Balkans which are on the direct periphery of the NATO countries and still a part of Europe... therefore, this was really either: a) an extension of incorporating non-member European countries, or b) directly related to Article V since instability in Southeast Eurpe meant the threat of massive migration into Europe, bringing with it instability, or c) both of these, most likely. Anyhow, Afghanistan is another new experiment, very different from the Balkans (not to replace these other NATO objectives, but to add onto the stack of NATO priorities). It has no precident in NATO history. The Afghanistan experiment is showing that NATO has a lot of problems in this new kind of mission (far away, with a more ambiguous threat to NATO member states than say if there is a genocide taking place on your contiguous border). A failure in Afghanistan does not mean NATO should or should not exist, but rather it may instead mean that NATO will need to undergo some reforms before it decides to pursue similar missions in the future. Also, it is important to remember that NATO is a political/military organization, not just a military one . NATO has spent the majority of its life as a staging area for strategic dialogue between military leaders of various Alliance countries... this role in itself is extremely valuable, and should not be disbanded because of any one specific military failure.

Kevin Sampson on :

‘To my point, the primary success (I used the word mission, which perhaps is not the right word?) of NATO after the Cold War has been its ability to incorporate new member states who were in fact previously a part of the enemy. This is a major feat, that should not be taken for granted. Can you imagine what Europe would look like without this... perhaps just as stable as now, or perhaps more Belarus-style countries... but the point is that it is stable, largely because the NATO security guarantee that encouraged central/east european states to join.’ Yes, but at what cost? I trust you heard Putin’s remarks this week regarding a new cold war? Is Europe prepared to quadruple its defense spending in order to back up that ‘NATO security guarantee that encouraged central/east European states to join’, or will you look to us again? Does Europe even have the political will to confront the Russians, now that you get much of your energy from them?

joe on :

Kyle You fail on all levels to make a case for the continuation of NATO. I realize history is not studied a great deal in Europe and even less so when that history takes place outside of Europe. Still should you have time you might want to review another security alliance – SEATO. It too kept granting security guarantees to members without the ability or the will to support those agreements. While many would want to say there are differences between NATO and SEATO pointing to example article 5, the truth is there are no differences. Look how article 5 is being executed. I very much can imagine what Europe would look like without the security guarantees of the US. What seems to be missing is Europeans do not seem to imagine what Europe will look like without the security guarantees of the US. Let us be very clear about which nation provides the backbone to NATO and who provides the security guarantees. It is not germany nor is it france or the other members of the chocolate summit. It is not those heavy weight nations like Luxembourg who informed the US that the Balkans were a European problem and Europe would deal with it. We all see how well Europe discharged the supposedly threat – "the EU to the front". At the end of the day the Europeans for the most part hid behind the US as the US provided 98% of the combat power under the umbrella of NATO. Just as we are witnessing how well Europe is discharging its accepted mission to Chad. There has never been a strong case made as to why the US participated in the Balkans adventure. It should have been dealt with as the same way the french and British invasion of the Suez Canal. Of course you could argue there has not been a strong case made to the Europeans as to why they should deploy and conduct combat operations in Afghanistan. But that case was made by the Europeans when they invoked article 5. It is interesting to see your feeble attempts to link the Balkans and Afghanistan. SECDEF Gates is wrong about NATO becoming a two-tier alliance. It already has. It is now a coalition of the willing and the unwilling. In the willing camp are the UK, the Dutch, Denmark, Canada, and the US. The leaders of the unwilling are germany, france, members of the chocolate summit plus Spain and Italy. The problem with NATO and to a greater extent all of the European nations is that because they sign a piece of paper, they actually think something has been accomplished. Words are not actions. You grant security guarantees to other nations but never really considering those guarantees might actually have to be supported with blood and treasure. NATO is not needed as a vehicle to discuss military cooperation if those discussions only lead to more discussions. This is what is currently happening today. It is happening both within the concept of the ESDP as well as NATO. Do you really think Poland looks to the UK, gremany and france to guarantee its security? Pick any nation other than germany and you will get the same answer. The reason germany does not concern itself with security is because it is universally loved and sees no threats which cannot be discharged by its efficient police forces. As to the rethinking of NATO, it is past time for this to have occurred. However you should be warned that if you think NATO will continue to exist for the sole purpose of defending Europe, then you are going to be disappointed. NATO represents a threat to both the US and Europe. For the US, it is the false sense that NATO members are allies of the US. For Europe it is a false sense of security. So it is past time for NATO to be disbanded, leaving Europe to its peace loving citizns.

Kyle Atwell on :

“It is interesting to see your feeble attempts to link the Balkans and Afghanistan.” You mean my attempt to unlink them? I said, “Anyhow, Afghanistan is another new experiment, very different from the Balkans” Perhaps you did not catch that. You say, “Words are not actions. You grant security guarantees to other nations but never really considering those guarantees might actually have to be supported with blood and treasure.” I agree. I think NATO should not expand to new countries unless we are serious about defending them. Georia is a prime example. “NATO is not needed as a vehicle to discuss military cooperation if those discussions only lead to more discussions.” I may have failed so far to adequately articulate one of my central points: NATO has successfully converted states that would be potential threats to its membership, and turned them into allies. This is a massive security gain in itself for the US and Europe. When it comes to internal relations (NATO member to member relations), then this endless dialogue is precisely the benefit of NATO. Instead of differences being worked out through alternative means between members, they are more often worked out through dialogue, and furthermore discussion on how to cooperate against other threats occurs (and does lead into action, such as intelligence sharing, capabilities procurement, and missions). I certainly see several flaws with the NATO partnership--there have always been flaws from Suez to Afghanistan, of course. If there is a better way for the US to conduct its foreign policy, I am open to that and open to your ideas... I just don't see the US as better off in the world without NATO: If NATO is disbanded, what great relief do you think this will bring the United States? Do you think the US will revel in its free reign to conduct foreign policy whatever which way it pleases—place sanctions wherever unilaterally, invade whenever we want? Do you think the US will have a better standing in the world, more influence or success in its operations, or have more friends? Do you think the US will get more support in its operations from other countries—would it be better off in Afghanistan without NATO? You say, “NATO represents a threat to both the US and Europe. For the US, it is the false sense that NATO members are allies of the US.” Do you think there are better allies out there? Does the US need long term allies?

Don S on :

Kyle, I can't reply for joe, but I can lay out some of my thoughts for you on some of your questions: "I just don't see the US as better off in the world without NATO:" If NATO is disbanded, what great relief do you think this will bring the United States? Do you think the US will revel in its free reign to conduct foreign policy whatever which way it pleases—place sanctions wherever unilaterally, invade whenever we want?" I do see the US as better-off without NATO. There are allies which it is worthwhile to have in this world given risk-reward calculations, others for whome the gain is so slight that they do not justify the risks, and a third category of allies who are outright net detriments. Category one definately include the UK, Australia, Canada, Iceland, and (potentially) Brazil, South Africa, India, China, Mexico, and possibly Russia. Many of these are category one because the risks to the US are virtually nil, the others because they bring a lot of capability to the table without overwhelming risk. Category two allies or potential allies for whom the risk-reward ratio are closely-balanced. These include Japan (high cat 2), South Korea (low), Germany (low for reasons I will explain), France (middling), Turkey (middling to low) Spain (low), Italy (low), Ireland (high), Argentina (middling). Category 3 are net detriments, and include Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Taiwan, Macedonia, Georgia, and their ilk. Let's also remember that while the US almost certainly has the military power to protect almost anyone at the current time, we most certainly don't have the power to protect everyone. And the less a country or group of countries are willing to and capable of bringing to their own defense the lower they will slide on this scale. Germany is almost at the balance point where the debits of an alliance outweigh the benefits to the US, and the trend has been backward for at least 30 years. Looking at the European members of NATO, only the UK has been a standout in burden-sharing. Nederlands have been OK, as has Poland to a degree. Poland's low place on this scale is because of the risks of their position and their weird foreign policy, plus the inexperience of their military. Germany is a spacial case. The Germans have one of the most ill-funded defenses in NATO despite being relatively close to Russia. Spain, Portugal, or Ireland may be justified in being complacent by virtue of their remoteness from threat; Germany is not justified. Yet the Germans are among the most complacent of alliance members. If the US were to withdraw completely tomorrow and make the fact known, Germany would require several years to catch up and build enough capability to defend itself against the Russian army. Noentheless the German people (or most of them) have repeatedly let it be known how little value they place in the US contribution to German defense. This is nothing new, the trend goes back to Willy Brandt and has been been gathering force all that time. To the point today that because of German public opinion German government(s) have an extremely difficult time in cooperating in any significant way with any US government - it's just too risky with the curent political climate, and the major benefit of the US alliance (the security guarantee) is utterly taken for granted, despite the significant potential risk to US armed forces of defending Germany from Russia (with very little German help. Because of successful policies designed to implode the German army over the past 15 years, it is Germany's allies who will be expected to take the brunt of defending Germany (and Eastern Europe) from Soviet military attacks. That means the net contributors to NATO - the US, UK, Canada, and possibly to some degree, France. My analysis is that between the faltering German military and faltering German friendship the reward factor to the German alliance has disappeared completely since 1989. The risk from Russia also fell for many years, but has begun to rise again. Why? Two factors - money and experience. I've read reports that Russian military funding has been on a fairly steep rise for at least the past decade. Russia has fought two real shooting wars in the past 30 years; In Afghanistan and in Chechnya. This is FAR more experience in combat than all but a handful of national armies - those of the US, UK, Australia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Canada, and Nederlands. Military power a stool which stands on four legs; funding, technology, manpower, and EXPERIENCE! Compare Russia with Germany on these three areas - I think it's clear that Russia has the advantage in at least three of the legs, all but funding. Germany has not fought a shooting war since 1945; France has not fought since 1962. France is in a similar position to Germany but isn't as vulnerable for several reasons. French military technology is probably comparable to the Russian, and it's a LOT further away. I can't think of another European power which could affect the balance much - except the UK. But would the UK fight if the US withdrew from NATO? I doubt it! They do not love the Germans that much! So here is the present situation within NATO: Germany (and Germans) are 90% dependent upon the US for their defense, and have devoted much spare time in improving the aim of the stream of German urine trickling down the center of Uncle Sam's back. The stream has been noticed; Warnings have been made for a decade or more, with the net effect of increasing the flow; this situation will not continue indefinately. Germany is relying upon the net benefit of NATO to the US, but most of that benefit is provided by the US, with a little by France. The risk to the US is that if we left NATO we would lose the British alliance. But how likely do you think it is that the UK would not 're-up' either on a bilateral basis or as part of a new global security alliance mean to supplant NATO whilst leaving out most of the 'free-riders' in current NATO? I think the UK would join either alliance gladly. France might not - but France is not a major securoty provider to any country except France today.

Don S on :

"but most of that benefit is provided by the US," Pardon my error; I meant the UK!

Kevin Sampson on :

‘I think the UK would join either alliance gladly.’ I have to disagree on this one. Britain has been assimilated by the EU. They’re boned.

franchie on :

"but France is not a major securoty provider to any country except France today." how could a state that has the equivalent ressources as California, be a major security providor in the world's wide ? our mediterranean borders are quite a lot of our business (10 % of our population come from there) ; the relations are ambivalous, while we mustn't get in a grievance deal with them we have also to watch out for our backs that no terrorist attempt occurs from there. De Gaulle lauched the "Arab policy" when he left Nato in 1967, in order to find new marckets,(he was the first to recognize China for the same purpose) and I don't see that Sarkozy will end it. and if you say that we look for our large security, then it's right (On n'est jamais mieux défendu que par soi-même). Africa is a bit different, it's true that there was a post colonial policy till now (so did UK with its former colonies); because of the tribal concurrences, because only a small elite could handle the power there, we had to supply their weeknesses, not always with success and honnor ; the problem there is that their ancestral way to rule a country was destroyed : the concil of the elders. The new generation of politicians went corrupted, they only thought to gain money and place it in Switzerland accounts. I don't see now how this could end soon, now that they have found oil there, that they have metals like aluminium, uranium... that the new heavy economical countries are searching badly. Most of our army force are based in Africa, Senegal, Ivory coast, Chad Gabon, Central Africa republic. They aren't only there to protect the white population, but also the western foreign investment, ; I can't resist to recall that inIvory Coast the biggest investments are of american societies, chocolate anyone ? so, seems that we are pretty busy with that duty, not much money and troops to send elsewhere ; though Sarko makes an effort to content our great Bashing Allie.

Don S on :

"Do you think there are better allies out there?" Not too many, Kyle. I gave the sort list in 'category one' above. "Does the US need long term allies?" We need long-term allies who are willing to and capable of burden-sharing under circumstances dictated by their national interest, that should be understood. But does most of NATO qualify under this criteria? Remember that willingness and capability are necessary; Germany provides very little of either at the present time. France is a little better on capability but not on willingness; nonetheless there is some potential there. China, Russia, India, Brazil fall into the category of potential allies because they have the capability for burden-sharing. They also have the will, if not (currently) the willingness, and this probably won't change. I could see Russia gradually becoming neutral to the US over a generation of the US were to pull out of Europe, because the Barents Sea is not a major Russian irritation. China is probably a permanent rival but there is room for cooperation with the Chinese, but I could see friendly cooperation with India, Brazil, and South Africa because of shared interests.

joe on :

I am glad you view combat as an experiment. For those who fight, it is not an experiment. I must have missed the overarching security threat the Balkans presented to Europe. Why NATO or more to the point the US became involved? Do you have a reference to NATO’s article 5 declaration for the Balkans? Are you now equating the Balkans to Afghanistan? If you are, I can see some similarities in this comparison. The same nations who did the heavy lifting in the Balkans are the main lifters in Afghanistan. Had the Balkans became a ground war there would be no discussion about Afghanistan today. The house of cards known as NATO would already have collapsed. Do you actually think members of the chocolate summit would spend THEIR blood and treasure in the Balkans? That surely would have been a first, especially for germany. Just how do you think the Balkans would have turned out had the US supported that operation to same level of support that the members of the chocolate summit are supporting Afghanistan? Do you think germany, france, etc is serious about defending the Baltic nations or Poland? If you do, what would you base that declaration and willingness on? Their word, their creditability? Because an attack on one is an attack on all – common risk and common burden sharing? I think we have a historical example where such pledges were once made and then when it came time to support those pledges of security, they were not worth the paper they were written on. The examples you cite for the benefits of discussion are insufficant, they do not stand the sunshine test. I will cite you a two examples – level of defense spending and interoperability. Both agreed to by all members through discussions yet not acted upon by the vast majority of member nations. Let me understand what you are saying about this great transformation of potential threats. You saw looking into the future such nations as Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Romania, etc as threats to the security of Western Europe and the United States? I find that difficult to believe but then you probably have a more creditable sources as to the threats these nations individually or collectively presented than I do. Here I am bit confused as I thought these were all European nations with the stated goal of joining the EU. What happened to the “soft power” that is central to the EU? Would not such "soft power" protect Western Europe? My experience is there was little intelligence sharing. This had to do with protecting methods and sources. Today, if you follow the efforts to fight terrorists in Europe, you will find this problem still exists between nations. Then again your experience might be a lot different. I have no idea what you are trying to express when you say. “capabilities procurement, and missions”. If you listen to the Europeans they already think the US acts unilaterally, places sanctions where it desires and invades whoever it wants too. The US is also a huge violator of “international law”. Again ask any European and they will share this thought with you. The US already conducts its foreign policy in a way that pleases itself. As to your question about standing in the world and US influence, that is really a moot point. For it to be relevant it must have some value. The US’s influence is surely not very great with germany or france or Russia or China. Think back to how these nations worked directly against the US at the UN. It was in the interest of these nations to oppose the US and support Saddam. Nations join together when they share a common strategic vision and face a common threat. Using Afghanistan as an example, there are nations there with the US who view transnational terrorism as a threat and needs to be defeated. There are nations there who are allies of the US and are there supporting the US. There are nations there who feel as members of NATO and with NATO invoking article 5, it is their responsibility under the NATO charter to see that the Taliban is defeated. There are also nations there who do not really want to be there. They do not see transnational terrorism nor do they see any linkage between Afghanistan and this threat. So NATO in Afghanistan is both a coalition of the willing and the unwilling. The threat NATO represents to the US is unlike our so-called European allies, the treaty is codified into law. The POTUS would have no option but to commit US Forces in support of another NATO member if article 5 was invoked. This is why the treaty ratification process is so difficult in the US taking 2/3 of the Senate to vote to ratify a treaty. For the Europeans treaties are optional. One need only look at the long list of treaties the various European nations have signed and later ignored. Current operations in Afghanistan are but the latest example. Equally the US needs strong allies when allies are needed. NATO is an excuse for the European nations not to invest in their own security. I frankly could care less if germany invests one euro for its own defense. That is very much a decision for the citizens of germany. What I do care about is that Americans will end up paying the price for that decision. Are their better allies than those in Europe. Yes there are. I would name two Japan and Australia. Japan because of the dual threat of China and PRNK. Australia because of this threat and transnational terrorism. If you don’t understand this, then I suggest you do some reading and compare and contrast the differences on Japanese and US BMD efforts compared to those of our European allies. Japan shares the same sense of threat that the US does toward PRNK. Europe does not share the same sense of threat that the US toward Iran. And to answer your question about the need for long-term allies, I would say no. In fact, I am not sure if there is such a thing as long-term allies. But surely the US does not need allies such as germany, france, spain, Italy and the other members of the chocolate summit. So far all you have managed to do is to state the reasons why retaining NATO is in the best interests of Europe. You might think some of their leaders would agree with you. They probably do as long as it is a "cost free" treaty for them.

Kyle Atwell on :

Don, Joe, Franchie, Kevin, blogosphere at large: We all agree there are problems with NATO. Fundamentally, the problems have to do with incentive structure (political willingness to participate) and capabilities — as I see it NATO can be reformed in a way that that changes incentives so countries will be more willing to participate in operations. One way this may be done is to tie strategic input to contribution commitments. Also, not every mission should need to involve every member equally, but any member who wants a say in a mission will only have voting rights proportional to their force commitment. A disproportionate balance of power in NATO is inevitable of course, but burden sharing can be adjusted to be more proportional. It is a matter of NATO adjusting, which takes time. On capabilities: while European capabilities remain weak compared to the US, and European defense budgets are unlikely to rise and in some cases even stay level in the near future — Europe is making progress on capabilities development. Projects like European Battlegroups, NATO Response Force, European Rapid Reaction Force, Allied Command Transformation, and other programs (both NATO and EU based) are relatively young, but have nonetheless followed through. Through joint procurement projects, asset-pooling, and other innovative cooperation mechanisms European countries are able to get more capabilities for less money spent… all leading to enhanced capabilities that are also increasingly interoperable. The real question will be whether these European forces actually see combat, and I think the odds are that they will increasingly. ESDP has covered 19 missions in its infancy, though most of them non-shooting to date… they are preparing for full combat missions nonetheless. With the recent installment of new capabilities and force arrangements I can picture this happening: “oh, we have battelgroups now… lets use them in blankety-blank-blank mission” And of course Afghanistan is going to be a major lesson for Europe on what an expeditionary force requires. The idea that European countries would be able to completely restructure their military capabilities in only a few years is simply unrealistic. It takes time to asses capability needs, procure them, reorganize military infrastructure (downsize and increase investment per soldier), and train the new kinds of expeditionary forces needed for a mission like Afghanistan… but it is happening. Albeit, I wish it was happening more quickly with a little more enthusiasm from some capitals. Turning NATO into an organization that can address out of area missions, share intelligence more effectively, and overall operate better in the post-9/11 world will take time… but it is happening and to the benefit of all members. Here is where we may fundamentally differ: I believe that mutual western liberal values are a good basis to maintain a political and military alliance, and that maintaining this alliance is worth enduring these growing pains. I don’t think the US will be as well off on its own or with fungible coalitions of the willing. Don, what do we do when we find that not all members of our new first-tier alliance (that we miraculously convinced to join) are willing to help us in the next Afghanistan? [you proposed UK, Australia, Canada, Iceland, and (potentially) Brazil, South Africa, India, China, Mexico, and possibly Russia]. Do we get pissed off, quit, and start a new alliance? Joe argues we have no need or even possibility for long-term allies... perhaps we abandon any formal alliance structure? The problem with this is that a formal structure acts as a modicum for strategic dialogue which makes joint-missions much more effectively orchestrated. There are 40 countries working on the ISAF mission… the non-NATO participants work through the NATO infrastructure, because such an infrastructure facilitates the orchestration of such missions. The NATO infrastructure was also invaluable during the first Gulf War, and in the Balkans conflicts,and in coordinating support to the AU in Darfur. And as I have stressed, strategic dialogue in itself is a major benefit of NATO. There will always be struggles and debates within an alliance like NATO, just as there are always hard times in any relationship. This will be especially true as the transatlantic allies adapt to new threats and new requirements. However, with appropriate reforms that can change the incentive structure as well as continued capabilities improvement, NATO will continue to function successfully as a cornerstone and guardian of western values.

joe on :

Kyle, Spoken like a true liberal/moderate who views the existent of NATO as a vital US national interest. What you are saying is NATO is to become a coalition of the willing, which based on Afghanistan is pretty much what it has already become. Using this as the foundation of a future NATO, then there is not a great deal of difference between Iraq and Afghanistan or for that matter the Balkans. Of course, members of the chocolate summit would disagree with you about these comparisons. In Iraq, the US broke international law and we all know in what high esteem these nations have held international law and continue to do so. Afghanistan is on the other hand the approved European war. The Balkans, which did not threaten Europe was also optional making it more like Iraq and an initially a NATO approved war and later a UN approved war. Did you actually read that part of your reply about incentives prior to posting it? I surely hope this would have received a failing grade at UC Davis and would have made your professors blanch. This is what I think you said about incentives. If I am wrong then please correct me. A nation gets to vote on the conduct of an operation if it participates. The weight of that vote is proportional to its contribution. Members get to pick and chose which burdens and what risks they are prepared to assume and share. So a nation like germany chooses not to participate in an operation, they get no vote. So far that sounds good. It does address one of the key problems of the Balkans adventure. But to continue to use the Balkans as an example, all votes would have been with the US except for about 4% most of which would have belonged to the UK. Would Italy also get a vote since the US used the airfields there as launch sites for a large number of missions? It would also seem under this arrangement; the US could have just opted out of the entire adventure. It could have agreed with the other NATO members to sanction this adventure and then not contributed forces to it. Is that correct? If that is correct then this would have completed the circle started by the comments of the then president of the EU about the Balkans being a European problem and Europe would address it. How would this address the European constant complaints that the US has too much power in NATO? If the US chose not to participate, would the operation become a NATO mission or EUFOR mission such as the EU mission to Chad? Also how would NATO assesses such as AWACs be allocated? Here again I think of the run up to Iraq and the nut rolls associated with the deployment of these assesses to protect Turkey. It would also appear that even if a nation never chose to participate in any NATO operation it would still receive the benefits of mutual defense. What incentives would there be for nations to continue to contribute to the concept of mutual defense? I mean Belgium and Spain given there locations would be protected and never have to contribute anything. Here think Ireland. Also given this opt out option, then does a nation like Poland really have a security guarantee from NATO or not? It is possible Poland could be attacked and all NATO members chose to opt out leaving the over riding concept of mutual defense and shared risk in tatters and Poland to do the best it could. You also address the idea of strategic input. It seems before a nation can make input they first need to have a strategic viewpoint. I could be a smart ass and ask you just what do think the strategic viewpoints for Belgium or germany are, but I shall not. But what I would point out is this concept of strategic viewpoints seems to be counter to the current direction of the EU. The EU wants to have a single foreign policy. This would mean it has a single strategic viewpoint. So are we now talking about the EU’s strategic viewpoint and not those of Belgium or germany. It would seem then NATO would become the military arm of an EU/US alliance. This presents a bit of a problem given the EU is not a member of NATO.

joe on :

Kyle, You have to be kidding me when you bring up NATO Response Force (NRF). Do you ever do any current research before you compose your reply or do you think we all just fell off the turnip truck this morning? NATO has backed away from the NRF concept because it lacks the money, personnel, and the equipment to implement it. So once again we have strategic dialog resulting in an agreement which ends up as another signed document, lots of press releases and no action. This was designed to fail from the beginning as a large part of the NRF depended on the germans. This brings two questions to the table:1) would NRF ever be deployed given its mission was to include actually combat and the inclusion of german forces 2) given germany cannot increase its contribution to Afghanistan because it has no deployable troops, just where were the NRF german forces to come from? Look at some of the numbers: Germany's Armed Forces have shrunk from 333,000 in 1998 to 247,000 in 2007. France's Armed Forces have been reduced from 449,000 in 1998 to 354,000 in 2007. And the same is true for the Italian Armed Forces. Its size has been reduced from 402,000 in 1998 to 298,000 in 2007. Yet the US is increasing its force structure. So just looking at these numbers it is clear the national governments of these NATO nations feel very secure and do not perceive any future threats. Equipment, personnel, and funds are the same problems facing the EU battle groups. NATO and the EU are chasing the same resources. The EU battle groups will end up being the parade formations for EU celebrations, a chance to fly the flag. My question has always been who gets to ride the big white horse, which will lead the parade. Currently only 7 of the 26 members are meeting the benchmark of 2% GDP for defense. Another strategic agreement through dialog resulting in signed documents, press releases and no action by most members. You stated the European members of NATO defense budgets would not increase. I would agree under the current security structure now in place in Europe. Why should they. This is especially true when those funds are needed to support their social welfare states. You state going forward many might stay the same. I would present to you the more likely option is they will be reduced. Currently france is cutting its defense budget for 2008 All of this just illustrates the fault lines that have developed within NATO. There are strategic discussions, agreements are reached, and press releases made and at the end of the day all that has been accomplished is talk. So what happens? Another period of strategic dialog is initiated. The Europeans confuse talk with action. They think words have no meaning. Yet these are our partners in mutual defense who we are suppose to defend even if they are not prepared to defend themselves. You are telling me as an American taxpayer this is a wise use of my money. What do you think the response would be if the American people were asked – Would you rather pay 10-20 Billion dollars a year to protect Europe or would you rather spend that amount on providing healthcare for the uninsured? The political elites in Europe already know how their citizens would answer that question so the idea of spending more on defense never comes up. Equally the political class in the US knows what the answer would be and therefore are afraid to ask so it never comes up. As to ATC, one of its first major tasks was the NRF. That does not seem to be making a lot of progress. This entire exercise is one gigantic circle jerk. As for joint procurement again you have been reading too much from the Brussels press releases and not doing enough research. This is nothing more than a jobs program. Most of the equipment is vastly overpriced and underperforms.The same statement in many cases can be made about DOD's procurement but the difference is for Europe the US is paying for the R&D so their costs would be less than the costs of their programs. In many cases this equipment fails to comply with NATO’s standardization agreements. One need only look at the A400M compared to the C17. With the continued cost overruns of the A400M and the failure to include all R&D cost the unit and life cycle costs are going to end up being nearly the same as the C17. Toss in the exchange rate and the C17 ends up being a much more capable airlifter than the A400M ever will be. Then again this was never about airlift or defense capability; it was always about Europe’s aerospace industry. I could go on but I really think you have failed to make your case. You have written a lot warm fuzzy words about the value of NATO to Europe but little about the value of NATO to the US. But given you are in Europe and are an editor of a European blog which prides itself in being critical of the US in all things, I would expect nothing less. So EURFOR to the front... Rock On

Kyle Atwell on :

Kevin, thanks for first-time comment! You make interesting points, and I generally agree with you, I suppose. I am not so much against new countries joining, and neither is Asmus from what I gather--in fact, the basis of his argument is that NATO should keep the door open to new countries in South and Central Europe. Instead, I am opposed to new countries joining before they demonstrate that they are stable internally and have committed to internal political and military reform. OK, so I guess it is a different question if Macedonia's biggest flaw is with its unstable neighbors... I suppose I wouldn't reject Macedonia based on this alone. However, I wouldn't accept them based on their external threats, either, as the president seemed to think NATO should. Anyhow, Macedonia specifically won't get in now because Greece will VETO Macedonia's accession, due to their dispute over Macedonia's name (which seems really quite silly to me).

Alex on :

"Optimistic POV: it is like dropping a wet sponge on a map of Europe and watching the liquid goodness of democracy spread out, creating an ever expanding realm of peace and rule of law." Wouldn't a more apt analogy be "it's like the spreading warmth from a eight-year old peeing in the pool"

franchie on :

a guess, seems that the Americans will throw the baby with the water at the end of the year : Afghanistan, here we get out, bye bye the mess ; isn't it in Obama or Billary's program ? "This should please nations like france, germany and the other members of the chocolate summit who only find NATO to be useful for there own security but are unwilling to discharge membership responsibilities" what is anormal there ? I am not sure your kidding though ; well, Afghanistan was the first response after 9/11 ; it surely found an ear by us, we knew that Afghanistan was the favorite training place for AQ jihadists ; but if you digg in the whole story, you would see that going there it was also to defend the american chocolate : a pipe-line that they were arguing to the Argentinians and Talibans as an official registration, that the Talibans didn't want to denounce. Then the evenments gave the opportunity to lauch a war there, in Bush's mouth : a crusade ! though the Afghanis don't find an interest in an american, russian or chinese pipe-line, what's the hell they'll get there ? no profit ! though they are gang tribes till the ages, remember Marco-Polo's travel, that was the "silk road" at that time, and made sure that the travellers paid their customs fees ; so I bet that an "oil road" that doest belong to them is not in their agenda. now, wether America will leave the ground and let the Afghanis organise their business, or may-be the Russians or the Chineses will take the relay ; but it surely does imply for us, as Nato partners, to ask ourselves what the use of it. Seems Pakistan is the nowadays reserve for jihadists,as Saudi Arabia, as Iran, bizarre, none wants to invade them

Don S on :

Franchie, The US would only be following the precedent which Charles D Gaulle set for them in 1967. No? ;) "you would see that going there it was also to defend the american chocolate" Ah, so THAT@S why France/Germany voted to invoke article 5, then refused to actually back that committment with much substance. It was a filthy evil war to create an (American) pipeline and not about the Taliban's sheltering of Al-Q at all! Franchie, all nations have their interests - witness the French interest in propping up Saddam because of advantageous oil contracts and banking arrangements. France was supporting one of the most evil dicators on the planet for purely french advantage, yet their allies bore it. The French find the overturn of Hussien and a much smaller US economic interest in Afghanistan unsupportable? Participating in an alliance means living with such things, at least until they become insupportable. The problem for NATO is that there seems to be little incentive for alliance members to tolerate the interests of other members of the alliance, this because the original point of NATO (a supremely threatening USSR) is no longer there. So France and Germany have turned to seeing the US as the supreme threat - and therefore every and any US national interest is suddenly now seen as 'evil' and to be resisted at all costs! I don't think NATO can survive this - how can it survive when suddenly the largest member is being treated diplomatically as an adversary (if not yet an enemy) by two of the three next-largest powers in the alliance?

joe on :

froggie, I am a bit disappointed in you. You need to dig much deeper. Th I very much can imagine what Europe would look like without the security guarantees e 9 11 attack was a Bushitler/CIA plot so the US could take over the oilfields. Why screw around with a pipeline when you can own what is in the pipeline. This plot is well known. Ask three germans and at least one will agree with you. Then again I hold you to too high a standard. The french have never been known to having much depth about anything. Look at how you screwed up the oil for food program.

franchie on :

Don, yes, there are these "interests", but seems that only the "plebe" talk about them, cause our "political" elites find their own business there, and act "selon leur bon plaisir", that's the "globalisation" of politiy ; and yes we are probably helping the US to take care of our commun energy supplies ; I am OK with that, it's just that I like to make sure that none is blind about the "hidden faces" ; now, as far as Irak is concerned, I have been attacked many times on the subject by your compatriots, I have a response there : http://mysoupis.blogspot.com/2008/02/droit-de-reponse.html in any case, none of the western countries is "white", and certainly neither Russia nor China

franchie on :

yeah, your very clever in researches, that are mainly "clichés"

franchie on :

#5.1 post was for "OK Joe"

Don S on :

There is a basic issue which makes 'Expand East' into complete nonsense. The problem is that it's not 'NATO' who will be defending Georgia/Macedonia/Ruritania. No, it's the net contributors to NATO who will be doing the defending, an ever-shrinking club. It's supremely easy for Germany/Spain/Italy/France to vote to expand NAT but much less aeasy for the US. UK, Nederlands, and Canada to do so. Because it it's the latter group who bear the burden almost exclusively in the current 'state' pf the alliance. The free-riders aren't even bearing the burden of their own defense (possibly excluding France) much less contributing to weaker members.

joe on :

Don Read the below from VDH. It seems to summarizes where we are and where we have been. “Afghanistan is not seen as a line in the sand to stop the spread of jihadism, but an embarrassing entanglement that can be blamed on George Bush’s inordinate anger following 9/11. The European attitude toward America seems to be “you must intervene in the Balkans to lead us in the fight against the twilight, but we won’t follow you into Afghanistan to battle against abject darkness.” So expanding NATO is a cost free excerise for Europe.

Don S on :

"So expanding NATO is a cost free excerise for Europe." Cost-free for all the growing club of free-riders. ANTO expansion offers benefits for Europe, it can be seen as a pre-vetting club for future EU members, and at next to no cost to msot EU members! Grow your economic hinterland and send the bill for it's defense to Uncle Sam! Great game if Uncle Sam is fool enough to agree.... Kosovo was costly of course, but small change compared to the war the US was prepared to fight with the USSR on behalf of Europe. Of course that was with something resembling equal burden-sharing with Germany, France (maybe), Canada, and other allies. Now only the UK and Canada do any burden-sharing, and even then it's not proportionate.....

Sophia - Space Private Message on :

At first I wanted to write much, byt then janged my mind... you know politics is so controversiva, that only the God knows the truth because all we may know, is learned from the mass-media, and they are laso influenced by someone...

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