One of the key issues on the agenda for NATO’s Chicago Summit on Sunday was the discussion of the transatlantic treaty’s future ambition and assertiveness at an international scale. News agencies and political analysts alike have been speculating upon a less significant future for NATO in the aftermath of the European debt crisis. However, NATO’s slow evolution towards becoming a “global” peacemaking organization would counter Europe’s expected military budget cut.
The big question stems around whether the United States is willing to be the torchbearer or at least financially hold this military organization together in the near future. The American stance at the moment, though, seems to be one of discontent. They have advocated for Europe to be a “producer” of security rather than a “consumer” and one wonders how long they’re going to continue investing in security with little reciprocity. Furthermore, despite France and Britain leading the successful front for NATO in Libya, Robert Gates (ex-U.S. Secretary of Defense) stated that his European allies failed to invest in capabilities the U.S. was forced to provide. However, while the U.S. may express dissatisfaction with the situation, they are far away from letting go of the label that a united front of intervention provides them. Under the banner of “NATO” international peacekeeping norms come to the fore as opposed to ideas of modern day liberal imperialism.
The Asian countries’ military spending is slowly overtaking Europe’s, but with NATO now becoming much more than an alliance solely for Europe, it doesn’t seem as threatening as some may perceive. In fact, Asian countries could be gradually introduced into the alliance, representing a progressive shift towards the dream of a “global NATO”. Plus, with swings in the balance of power under the U.S. stronghold inevitable, it doesn’t matter who provides more resources to the alliance, as long as cooperation is maintained. Moreover, Europe, in truth, has also strengthened its military mechanism. A new Ballistic Missile System has been deployed to defend Europe, an X-Band Radar was recently placed in Turkey, SM-3 interceptors were added in Poland and Romania, and Aegis Missile Defense Ships have been positioned in Spain. In addition, at least four countries are queuing up to join the alliance: Macedonia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Georgia.
NATO’s 2005 norm, “responsibility to protect,” coupled with their statement about “assurance of availability” suggests that if a threat does present itself, the international community will rally to defend itself under this united front. The current lack of intervention in Syria might revoke such thinking, but it is important to note that other political and moral factors are responsible for that outcome. Rather, a look at last year’s comprehensive achievement in Libya strengthens the belief that future success is attainable, even based on leadership by European states. Libya also set a precedent for NATO itself to have the confidence of triumph in modern day foreign military intervention.
NATO’s general secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s policy of “smart defense,” which entails doing more with less by pooling and sharing capabilities is, in theory, a beacon of hope for the alliance. In practice, major problems can occur, like Germany and Poland sitting on the sidelines in Libya and other members only giving lukewarm support by refusing to join the bombing raids. However, with NATO’s policy of “assured access” to the global commons coupled with “smart defense,” the future doesn’t look as grim as it’s often made out to be.
Whatever the consensus after Chicago, one can be hopeful that NATO maintains its ambition in the post-Afghanistan era and even grows into a “global” peacekeeping force in the modern world.
– Sameer Tayebaly