• “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.

Denmark Rejects NATO Request For F-16s

Denmark has turned down a NATO request to send F-16 fighters to Afghanistan as it believes it has done enough for the international military mission there, the foreign minister said Thursday. “…[Denmark…has a strong desire to scale down its military engagement” in Afghanistan as the Danish defence budget was “under pressure” and the government “is under no obligation to do more” there. Denmark “can be proud” of its role in Afghanistan, she said, adding that “it’s up to other countries to play a role and meet (NATO’s) demands”…   <Read full AFP article>

Two points stand out in this report. First, Denmark has been a faithful NATO ally, it has suffered more troops killed per capita than any other NATO member. So this refusal to help cannot have been an easy task. My question is, the NATO Secretary General is a former Danish Prime Minister. Could he not gauge the political temperature in Denmark? Is he so oblivious to Danish political and economic reality? Political decisions don’t just come out from nowhere. They germinate and then after much give and take, sprout. So, Mr. Rasmussen, what happened here? Why ask for something you know cannot be delivered.

Second, Denmark’s refusal is yet another reminder of the consequenses from the financial crisis. The ground has shifted in the EU and the U.S. With the recent German military cuts, U.S. scaling back its military budget, france and the UK trying to join their offensive and defensive military operations and maintenance. There is a strategic change underfoot in Euro-Atlantic defense and security operations, and the sooner NATO realizes it the more the chances that it will continue to be effective in the twenty-first century.  As a first step NATO should begin top level discussion with CSDP [the EU’s security and defense establishment] to bridge operations and eliminate duplication.

NATO plans to stay in Afghanistan even after Afghans can handle their own security!

 

There’s an article in the August 22, 2010 edition of NewEurope that reminds me of the delusional world that some in NATO inhabit.

Right after a statement by President Karzai of Afghanistan in front of the representatives of 70 countries gathered in Kabul on July 20, 2010 that,

 …the new government can manage the country on its own, relying on its own armed forces and on a solid financial support of the international community…all responsibility for security and implementation of the national priorities and programs in the country would pass to the Afghan side as early as in 2014.

Pretty good news I’d say. A success for all concerned. But not for NATO’s Secretary General Rasmussen

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen talks to reporters in Kabul, Afghanistan |NEW EUROPE/KULPASH KONYROVA

who addressed reporters after the Karzai speech, at the press center, and told them,

A statement that the national forces of this country can assume the responsibility for their country’s security by 2014 does not mean that NATO troops will leave Afghanistan. They will continue to provide support. We will not leave the people of this country even after the transfer of responsibility to the national security forces; we will stay to help them.

Now that’s a pretty bold statement to make. Afghanistan’s elected leader says thanks for your help, we’ll take it from here after 2014, and the military alliance that has come to Afghanistan to help him says that they really don’t care what the President of Afghanistan says. Foreign troops will stay in your country until they decide to leave.

Did someone say “occupation?” “Colonialism?” Isn’t Afghanistan a soverign state?

It will be interesting to see how Mr. Rasmussen hangs on to NATO troops when the Dutch, Brits, Poles, Canadians, and many of the U.S. military have left.  Seriously, one would have thought the Secretary General would commend Mr. Karzai and say, “Bravo, more power to you.” But I guess that’s too logical.

NATO’s existential crossroads

The United States’ department’s of State and Defense did something unusual this week. They coordinated and orchestrated a tough but constructive message to NATO and the Europeans.

      

Sec. of State, Clinton spoke at a reception for NATO’s senior team and high level officials, Monday, April 22. It was the kick-off to the one day NATO conference, Tuesday, Mar 23, to help draft the Alliance’s Strategic Concept for the next decade. Defense Sec. Gates opened the conference at the National Defense University the next day with as tough a description as I’ve every heard about NATO’s European members. Here’s how brutal it was.

The demilitarization of Europe — where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it — has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st…

<Read the NYT/International Herald Tribune Article> Gates Calls European Mood a Danger to Peace

Both Secretaries referred to each others remarks, built on what the other would say, and provided a one-two punch that was unusual, to say the least, in transatlantic circles.

Both Secretaries want NATO to expedite an overhaul of its bureaucracy (EG: over 300 committees, no integrated financial systems to track budgets, expenses, and projects) and to think about collaborating with the European Union and its security establishment: ESDP. No more double billing both Secretaries said, after all 21 of the 28 NATO members are EU members.

I was at the NATO conference, which was held under Chatham House Rules. So cannot offer quotations. I will tell you this, the mood was grim but determined. Grim because of the late hour for NATO. Determined because every person at the conference realized the importance of NATO to security and to the transatlantic alliance.

NATO Will Protect Georgia From Russia. Ha! Ha!

If I lived in Georgia, I wouldn’t make any bets on being saved by NATO were Russia to flex its muscles again.

France today sold Russia an advanced, shallow water, attack helicopter carrier. Sales of 3 more are pending.  Had the Russians had them during their 2008 conflict with Georgia, the sophisticated warships would have allowed the Russians to capture Georgia’s Baltic ports in 45 minutes instead of the 26 hours it took them.

The indomitable Western Alliance!

Here’s the story from today’s Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe

In A NATO First, France Agrees To Sell Warship To Russia

(RFE/RL) — French defense officials say France has agreed to sell Russia a technologically advanced battleship and is considering a request to sell Moscow three more.

If the sale is completed, it would be the first such arms sale between Russia and a member of NATO.

<Read the full story>

***UPDATE ***

From The Laura Rosen Blog on Politico, February 9, 2010

Diplomatically, Gates opposes French ship sale to Russia

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told French officials Monday that he was concerned about their plans to sell Mistral-class amphibious assault ships to Russia, although there is little if anything the United States could do to block the deal, officials said.

<Read the full Politico column>

NATO in America?!

Photo Credit Bernard Sidler

  

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      

Swearing In the New SACEUR on April 1 !!

Some NATO levity to start off your week properly…

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.”

Who says the Marines don’t have a sense of humor!

Summarize NATO’s New Strategic Concept in 17 words

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.

 

Germany’s shot across the NATO bow?

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.

Read the full article from Deutsche Wella (Jan 6, 2010)

OP Ed: NATO’s Existential Crossroad

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. 
 
Listen to MP3 Podcast:

What is this alliance all about?????

 Excerpt from President Obama’s Dec 1, 2009 West Point speech on AFPAK strategy:

The 30,000 additional troops that I’m announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 — the fastest possible pace — so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers.  They’ll increase our ability to train competent Afghan security forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight.  And they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans. 

Because this is an international effort, I’ve asked that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies.  Some have already provided additional troops, and we’re confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead. Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan.  And now, we must come together to end this war successfully. 

For what’s at stake is not simply a test of NATO’s credibility — what’s at stake is the security of our allies, and the common security of the world.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Forgive me, I am a bit confused. Are NATO countries behind the President’s strategy?  If so where are the NATO commitments? Shouldn’t the President have been able to say something like:   ” I am here to announce that NATO is going to deploy x thousand troops to Afghanistan…half of these will come from our European allies, and the other half from the United States.”  

The EU now has a GDP exceeding the United States, with a greater population. So the question might well be asked: why couldn’t NATO countries deploy h.alf of the 40,000 troops General McChrystal requested.

Secretary of State Clinton will travel to Brussels today to beg NATO for more troops. She shouldn’t have to do any such thing. NATO’s Secretary General ought to travel to Washington to announce that America’s allies are going to fight shoulder to shoulder and are ready to deploy half of the troops required in Afghanistan and/or half the civilians that will be needed to stabilize the country.

 I am a strong believer in the transatlantic alliance of which NATO is a central piece. But today’s NATO is very hard to take. It is (was?) a great military alliance, but what do we do with it now? NATO’s new Strategic Concept is overdue.