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NATO and the R-Words: 10 Takes on the Chicago Summit

A plethora of op-eds in the US and German media argue that the Alliance needs to be rescued, revitalized, resurrected, and reinvented. The think tankers want to reaffirm or renegotiate the transatlantic bargain and look for a revolution to overcome geostrategic irrelevance.

Many editorials and op-eds paint quite a gloomy picture of NATO on the eve of its Chicago Summit. Secretary Rasmussen's signature project Smart Defense is seen most skeptically. A review of eight articles and two Senate testimonies:

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Accepting Our Limits Makes for a Stronger Alliance

I was part of a group of 59 politicians, scholars, and other observers invited to take part in the Atlantic Council and Foreign Policy Magazine's survey on the future of NATO. It was an honor to participate in this survey and a good opportunity for reflection as well as to think about some big questions.

In addition to 28 multiple choice questions, we were asked to complete four sentences and I believe there is a common theme in my answers:

NATO today is... the best "insurance policy" we have to remain free and secure, when (not if) we are once again surprised by a new threat.

NATO's biggest mistake in the past 10 years has been... giving up the light footprint policy in Afghanistan in 2003. We have since expended huge investment in the country out of proportion to our achieved objectives or the level of threat that Afghanistan poses.

NATO's mission in Afghanistan is... an important reminder of our limited capabilities for state and nation-building as well as for big expeditionary out-of-area missions.

The biggest problem with NATO today is... the constant pressure from many politicians and pundits to prove its relevance beyond the Article 5 guarantee.

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What Americans Should Remember about NATO

Mark Ducasse from the Center for Transatlantic Security Studies, writes in a blog run by the National Defense University of the US:

As a European living in the United States and working in the realm of policy, I have realized that public diplomacy, strategic vision, and concise justifications are scantily held skill-sets among Europeans. Perhaps this stems from the differences in working cultures, political systems, or simple confidence? Who knows? The point is that NATO’s public relations machine has done little in the build-up to Chicago to counter with fact and logic the plethora of thumb-sucking articles from shortsighted political commentators with banal titles such as, “Whither NATO,” or “The End of the Alliance.”

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Germany's Lost Credibility at NATO

The Spiegel article "Germany's Reputation in NATO Has Hit Rock Bottom" by Ulrike Demmer and Christoph Schult is the most convincing criticism of Berlin's role at NATO I have read in a while. And there were soo many articles recently.

When reading the usual attacks on our vote on Libya, the Afghanistan mission and the low defense budget, I am often drawn to defend my country's policies. This article, however, argues convincingly with many examples that our government does not care about NATO's future. Berlin lacks the will to staff senior positions with Germans and is not committed to making Smart Defense work.

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Promoting NATO's Success

Everytime he travels to the US, the NATO Secretary General Rasmussen hears "voices expressing concern about burden-sharing in the trans-Atlantic alliance. Their message is clear: the Europeans do too little." In his NYT op-ed he goes on to explain European contributions or rather commitment to sharing the security burden.

I don't think this short op-ed is very convincing. The best and most exciting part of his op-ed is this announcement, which I had missed in all the other articles about the Chicago summit:

At Chicago, we will set the goal of "NATO Forces 2020" - modern, mobile, connected forces able to operate together in any environment and to conduct complex joint operations at short notice, and equipped with the right mix of military capabilities.

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The Alliance's Shrinking Resources

F. Stephen Larrabee and Peter A. Wilson are concerned about NATO's shrinking resources:

Germany plans to reduce defense spending by a quarter over the next four years. Britain's defense budget will be slashed by 7.5 percent until 2015. The defense budgets of some smaller European nations have taken even larger cuts. These cuts come after several decades of decline in defense spending by the European members of NATO. As these allies have become more affluent, their readiness to appropriate funds for defense has declined markedly. Since the end of the Cold War, defense spending by European members has declined by 20 percent.

The Libyan crisis underscored the dangers of such underspending. While the European members of NATO contributed more militarily to the Libyan campaign than they did in the Balkan crisis in the 1990s, many missions could not be carried out or sustained without significant U.S. military assistance.

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GUTS instead of BRICS

"The West is not in decline, at least not in its entirety. Rather, the financial crisis has created a two-speed West. Four large countries -- Germany, South Korea, Turkey, and the United States -- are actually increasing their international influence." write Bruce Jones and Thomas Wright in Foreign Policy:

Germany stands apart as a rising power amidst a weakened Europe. Its unemployment rate is at a post-Cold War low and its timely market reforms have allowed it to export its way out of the recession. The euro crisis is Germany's greatest challenge but, ironically, it has also made Germany the continent's preeminent diplomatic and geoeconomic power: For better or worse, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has won argument after argument about the future direction of the EU, often despite deep reservations from other member states. Francois Hollande's election in France will complicate but not erode Merkel's position. And even if she loses power next year -- an unlikely prospect despite her recent setbacks in regional elections -- a different German leader will continue to profit from Germany's economic strength within Europe.

A new Atlantic Council report states that "Germany must match its economic power with the strategic ambition and military capability to contribute more strongly to Alliance operations worldwide."

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US Nukes in Europe

The removal of US nukes from German soil is an official German government goal. Westerwelle is also keen on changing NATO's nuclear policy. Both goals met resistance from our allies, but the government made decisions that support such a development anyway.

Brookings on the future of the US nuclear weapons in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey:

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