“Is NATO Relevant?” Sarwar Kashmeri with UK MP Mike Gapes, on Skynews
What’s Next For NATO: A “Reboot or Delete?” Robin Young, host of Here & Now asks Sarwar Kashmeri
Sarwar Kashmeri & NATO 2.0 on Fox News
To preserve NATO bridge it to the EU
NATO used to be the world’s most formidable military alliance. But, its original reason for existence, the Soviet Union, disintegrated years ago, and its dreams of being a world cop are withering in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the European Union’s Common Security & Defense Policy (CSDP) has deployed twenty-seven successful military/civil missions from Africa to Asia in the last ten years. Through CSDP, Europeans are increasingly taking charge of managing their own foreign and security policy. NATO is no longer the sole and preeminent Euro-Atlantic security actor.
But watching NATO fade into irrelevance would be a mistake. It is a tried and true platform to harness the resources of North America and Europe. NATO’s future usefulness depends on its willingness to accept its reduced role, to let the EU handle the day-to-day security needs of Europe, and to craft a relationship with CSDP that will allow North America and Europe to act militarily together, should that ever become necessary.
It is time for NATO 2.0, a new version of NATO, to fit the realities of an ever more integrated Europe in the twenty-first century.
Allied Command Transformation (ACT) in Norfolk, VA is one of those stealth NATO commands. Not because NATO wants it to be a secret, it just never got the publicity that merits its important NATO function. ACT is NATO’s network for keeping up with the times. Lessons learnt from the battlefield are fed to ACT to be studied and turned around as improvements to NATO’s tactics, materiel and technologies. I had an opportunity to visit ACT a few weeks ago, and for a moment felt as though I’d been transferred to a French military base Including, that wonderful, strong, coffee!
General Stephan Abrial, the former head of the French Air Force now commands ACT and he has with him a complete compliment of French support staff. Abrial is a no-nonsense can-do officer who exudes confidence, elan, and vision. He is the first European officer to command ACT, is very sensitive to the impact of his command on transatlantic relations. and by all accounts NATO is lucky to have him in this position.
So what does ACT do? How does it do it? What is General Abrial’s vision for NATO? Here’s my interview with the commander of ACT.
General Abrial’s conversation with Sarwar Kashmeri/ MP3
Arnaud de Borchgrave is one of the most distinguished journalists of our time. There is hardly a war he hasn’t covered, or an important world leader he hasn’t met. His network and perspective are unmatched in contemporary journalism.
I interviewed Mr. de Borchgrave for my NATO 2.0 book recently. Towards the end of the converstion he had this hilarous story for me. It seems that General Dwight Eisenhower was to be sworn in as the first SACEUR on April 1, 1951!! Luckily, he caught the import of what it might mean for posterity that the very first Supreme Allied Commander Europe was sworn in on April Fools Day and insisted the date be changed to April 2.
Alas, then Secretary of State Dean Acheson was not so lucky. He toiled mightily to construct NATO. Finally, all the founding countries gathered in Washington, DC for the official signing ceremony, April 4, 1949. Acheson says in his memoirs, “The Marine Band added a note of unexpected realism…by playing two songs from the currently popular musical play Porgy and Bess–”I’ve Got Plenty of Nothin’” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”
There is a lot of action, many meetings, and a great deal of activity ongoing to arrive at NATO‘s New Strategic Concept for the next decade. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright chairs a group of Euro-Atlantic experts who will produce the initial draft report for NATO’s Secretary General. When all is said and done, all 28 NATO countries must approve the document before year end 2010. Probably at the Lisbon Summit in October or November. Quite a challenge.
But a greater challenge is what the document will say when an inquiring reporter asks, so what is NATO? Will the New Strategic Concept go on and on, or will it be able to provide as short an answer given an inquiring reporter in 1949 by NATO’s first Secretary General, General Lord Ismay. To just such a reporter who asked Lord Ismay to tell him what was NATO, the wise General replied:
The purpose of NATO is to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.
17 words that said all that needed to be said.
It seems to me that’s what we need today. An executive summary for the New Strategic Concept that is no more than 17 words long. Then the bureaucrats can take over with pages of diplomatic mumbo-jumbo. But at least the Executive Summary will ensure everybody knows what NATO is all about.
In what appears to be a clear signal about its intentions, Germany has let it be known it is preparing its own strategy for the future of Afghanistan and will annouce this at the London conference January 28.
“We will focus our concentration on civilian reconstruction efforts so that Afghanistan can begin to establish security on its own and determine its own future,” German Defense Minister Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg told the daily Leipziger Volkszeitung. Wow! But that’s what the U.S. and NATO strategy was and is. No?
He carries on
“Again and again, we are hearing calls to send an additional 2,500 soldiers, but that number is unrealistic. I am not somebody who is susceptible to peer-pressure, and I don’t need help from the United States to make my decision,” Guttenberg said. (my emphasis–sak)
Does this mean the Germans are tired of the U.S. and NATO leadership and want now to actively manage an exit from Afghanistan? Does it mean the Obama Administration has started to lose credibility? Or, what? We’ll find out soon enough, in about 3 weeks. I suspect a few people in Washington are in for some sleepless nights.
Its come to this—military commanders in Afghanistan must consult an operations checklist before virtually every mission. They must be sure the NATO forces being sent out are properly fitted to the mission. Some NATO member countries don’t want their soldiers in a shooting zone, others won’t let military intelligence be shared between all NATO countries, and so on. A bit different from General Eisenhower leading his superb integrated fighting machine up the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
If NATO can no longer deploy an integrated fighting force, for what can the venerable Alliance be used in the future? It is a serious threat to NATO’s existence as a military alliance.
I continue my conversation with Mark Mardell, North American editor of the BBC to flesh out my thoughts.