FrontPage | 5.15.12
By Alan W. Dowd
compared with the plans and pledges of recent summits, NATO’s goals for its upcoming
summit in Chicago seem small, even trivial.
with this year’s summit agenda. The over-arching theme is NATO’s new “Smart
Defense” program. NATO describes Smart Defense as “a renewed culture of
cooperation that encourages Allies to cooperate in developing, acquiring and
maintaining military capabilities” by “pooling and sharing capabilities,
setting priorities and coordinating efforts better.” Under Smart Defense,
alliance members will identify a goal and then designate a member to take the
lead in shepherding other interested members toward that goal. One report notes that the Chicago Summit will launch Smart Defense
efforts in logistics; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and force
protection. In addition, there are mine-clearing, helicopter-training and
maritime-patrol projects on the Smart Defense to-do list.
other words, Smart Defense is a low-impact, low-yield program for a NATO with lowered
sights and lowered expectations. The president’s fingerprints are all over NATO’s
un-ambitious 2012 summit. Not only is the summit being held in the president’s
old stomping grounds of Chicago; it reflects his discomfort with American power and with America’s
global leadership role (NATO being a vehicle for both).
compare the smallish plans of the Chicago Summit’s Smart Defense agenda with
In 1999, NATO pledged to
make “full use of every opportunity to build an undivided continent by
promoting and fostering the vision of a Europe whole and free,” underscoring
its commitment to that goal by inviting Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic
into the alliance. The Prague Summit in 2002 committed the alliance to the
global fight against terrorism and WMDs—and invited seven new members into the
fold. The headlines from NATO’s 2008 Bucharest Summit included formal
membership invitations to Croatia
and Albania, a promise
of membership to Georgia
and Ukraine and a
unanimous endorsement of the U.S.
missile defense system.
But in 2012 in Chicago, NATO’s 28
heads of state will focus on “a renewed culture of cooperation that encourages
Allies to cooperate.” Gone are those heady promises of using NATO’s unique
political-military capabilities to expand the zone of democracy, build the
scaffolding of security, erase the lines of Moscow’s old empire and fight
terror at its source.
spinners will argue that NATO is focusing on low-key, process-type goals because
so many big-picture goals are already being pursued. In truth, there are
several strategic items NATO needs to address now—items that are far more
important than mine-clearing or maritime patrols:
sure Article 5 is credible. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty is the
heart and soul of the alliance, committing all members to the defense of a
member that has been attacked. Yet Norwegian
Minister of Defense Espen Barth Eide recently expressed worries about
NATO’s ability “to deliver if something happens in the transatlantic
theater of a more classical type of aggression”—and understandably
so. Even as Russia
conducts provocative war games against a Polish “aggressor,” buzzes North
American airspace and builds up its military, the alliance is
slashing spending and deterrent commitments.
- Making missile defense a reality. To mollify Moscow, the Obama
administration unilaterally scrapped the Bush administration’s missile-defense
plans for Europe—plans
that had been approved by all of NATO. So, instead of planting a permanent
ground-based defense in Poland
and support radars in the CzechRepublic,
the Obama administration chose to deploy extra missile-defense warships to
the Mediterranean and land-based variants of the sea-based system in Eastern Europe.
One Czech official angrily rejected President Obama’s plans as “a consolation
prize.” A spokesperson for Poland’s
Ministry of Defense called the Obama administration’s reversal
“catastrophic for Poland.”
Just as bad, Washington
has allowed Turkey to get away with warning that it
will not allow U.S.
missile-defense radars that are deployed on Turkish soil to share info
Neither policy—deploying a watered-down version of missile defense to
placate Russia or allowing Turkey to dictate what America can do with its
technology—makes any sense, serves the wider interests of the alliance or
helps protect America and it allies from Iran’s growing missile arsenal.
NATO’s long-term relationship with Afghanistan. With NATO members
heading for the exits, the relationship is anything but clear. Washington
just signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) with Kabul
that raises more questions than it answers. For example, the SPA calls on
NATO member states “to sustain and improve Afghan security capabilities
seems unlikely as NATO nations shrink their militaries. The SPA views “any external aggression
with “grave concern.” Yet in this same document, the United States “pledges not to
use Afghan territory or facilities as a launching point for attacks
against other countries.” The document states that the U.S. and Afghanistan “reaffirm” their
commitment to “defeating al Qaeda and its affiliates.” Yet NATO plans to
reduce Afghan troop strength from 352,000 to 230,000 after 2014.
the 2-percent-of-GDP threshold on defense spending. The alliance wants to use Smart Defense
as a vehicle for “rebalancing defense spending between the European
nations and the United
States”—and for good reason. Two years
ago, just five NATO members—the United
France, Greece and Albania—met the alliance’s
2-percent standard. According to NATO’s latest report on financial and economic data, only three meet that standard today.
Not surprisingly, the United States
now accounts for 75 percent of NATO’s defense spending, exceeding the U.S.
share of 50 percent during the Cold War. The
consequences are already on display. In
Libya, with the U.S. leading from behind, NATO was found
woefully lacking in munitions, targeting and jamming capabilities, mid-air
refueling planes, reconnaissance platforms, drones, and
command-and-control assets—nearly everything needed to conduct a
21st-century air war. In Afghanistan, the United
States is contributing 71 percent of all forces, and
non-NATO members Australia,
Georgia and Sweden
have more troops deployed than several founding members of the alliance.
the alliance. Even though it was invited into the alliance years ago, Macedonia has been left on the outside
looking in because Greece
refuses to accept Macedonia’s
name. Whether it enters as Macedonia,
FYROM or Big Mac, Macedonia has done more than enough to
accommodate Athens and to show
its commitment to the alliance. So has Georgia. It’s time to offer
this tiny shard of the former Soviet Union a NATO membership
action plan, the next step toward full membership.
“The United States should not expect others to
deliver much,” former NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner once counseled. “They
are waiting for the Americans.” In other words, everything that happens—or
doesn’t happen—within NATO depends on U.S. leadership. When it comes to NATO,
American presidents don’t lead from behind. They either lead, or the alliance flounders
and frays—as it is today.