NATO Summit UK: What’s next for the alliance

Read few comments.

Questions:

1. Russia’s action in Ukraine has been pretty surprising for NATO (not only for NATO). Months after Russia has invaded and annexed Crimea would you say that the upcoming NATO’s summit will show that the alliance is clearly better prepared for whatever what may come from Russia?

2. Out of Afghanistan, back to Europe – I know this definition is probably a simplification, but is it somehow a future of NATO?

Answers:

Manuel Muniz, DPhil in International Relations Candidate, Oxford University

1. I think the events in Ukraine have emphasised the need for a strong NATO, and, above a strong EU. However, I remain sceptical about the possibility of reversing much longer trends in transatlantic relations. These trends point to the US shifting its attention away from Europe and the Middle East, towards East Asia. They are driven, of course, by the rise of China and the way that rise is perceived in US policy circles, as well as by the emerging energy independence in the US driven by the shale gas revolution. So, I believe NATO will limit itself to the fulfillment of its Article 5 commitments, which is what it was always meant to do.

2. Out of Afghanistan and back to zero. That is probably more precise. Out-of-area operations for NATO are now an improbable thing, particularly after the not-too-positive experience of Afghanistan. In general my reading is a negative one with interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and other place (Lybia for example) having produced little results (or outright negative ones for that matter). So, military intervention is today a discredited policy tool. For NATO this means, just as indicated above, a return to the barracks, to deterrence and, possibly (hopefully not) fulfilling its Article 5 commitments.

The important question in all of this is, however, the future of the EU and its Common Foreign and Security Policy. It is there we will need to see changes and progress. Because Europe’s neighborhood is calling for leadership and action. Europeans should turn the page on security dependency from the US (who no longer wants to sustain that dependency) and take care of their own affairs.

Josef Janning, Senior Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations

1. Nato members will certainly not be surprised by current Russian moves, even though they did not foresee the latest escalation in the conflict. It has been obvious before that Russia does not want to see the separatists lose.

The current debate among NATO partners shows that they clearly see the need for reassuring neighboring EU-states and alliance members about their security. So, I expect the summit to take decisions or strengthening territorial defence in East Central Europe.

2. What looked like NATO’s future now seems to be its past: “Going global or going out of business”. The essence of NATO has always been the defence of Europe, but this looked rather questionable when everyone thought there was no challenge to the territorial integrity of member states. Now, quite a few countries strongly feel there is such a challenge, and in this sense NATO is now returning to its core mission.

Konrad MuzykaEurope and CIS Armed Forces Analyst, IHS Jane’s

1.  NATO needs to show resolve and readiness to deploy its forces quickly. On the one hand, we have seen increased number of NATO aircraft in support of missions, such as Baltic Air Policing, but on the other, little has been down to put soldiers on the ground. Eastern Europeans would like to see establishment of permanent military bases in their countries, but given that France, Germany and Italy oppose such moves, I only expect NATO to create logistical hubs in Eastern Europe/Romania.

2.  The variety of threats NATO is facing today has expanded significantly. Not only do we have aggressive Russia, but also ISIS in the Middle East and growing insurgencies in North Africa. But I think it is Vladimir Putin that has breathed new life into NATO’s purpose and in the near term, at least until the correct conflict is resolved, the focus will be on Eastern Europe.

Stephen SaidemanPaterson Chair in International Affairs and Associate Professor, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, Co-Author of book: NATO in Afghanistan

1. I think the NATO summit will provide some movement among the allies towards a more resolute stance.  As always, the best way to evaluate NATO is not to look at the statements and documents released at a summit but at the actions.  Will new sanctions be levied?  Will new basing arrangements be developed so that the US and other NATO members have some forces based in Poland and the Baltics either permanently or close to permanently?  I am sure there will be much tough talk, but better preparation means actually doing stuff.

2. NATO never really left Europe, as it has spent the past two decades not just engaged in enlargement but in helping East European countries transition to democracy via improved civil-military relations.  I do think the costs of Afghanistan, political, military, and economic, make it unlikely that NATO will engage in a significant expedition like that again.  So, the focus was inevitably going to return to Europe, with Putin’s moves making that more urgent.  So, yes, the future of NATO is its past—dealing with the threat to the east.

Sean KayProfessor, Department of Politics and Government, Ohio Wesleyan University

1. It should not have been a surprise at least in terms of NATO planning, I can recall experts warning 20 years ago, when the NATO enlargement process commenced, that if the expansion went too far, it would eventually provoke some kind of Russian response. Certainly we were cautioned by western reformers in Russia at the time about this. Of course, Putin is responsible for his actions, and his nation is paying a growing price economically. Ultimately, the west, and NATO, hold an overwhelming advantage in terms of the balance of economic, military, and political power – Russia weak – but obviously acting in dangerous ways. The challenge for NATO is how to balance a show of reassurance for its eastern members while also not inadvertently throwing fuel on the fire in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, NATO will also have to really focus hard on how to get European allies to assume lead responsibility for these kinds of security challenges, given the broader need for America to focus on the ongoing challenges around the Persian Gulf and the longer-term realities of the need to pivot to Asia.

2. Afghanistan is a mess. NATO was not well-equipped for the mission and the way it makes decisions led to serious problems in terms of unity of command, and a common sense of goals there. So its not likely something that NATO will want to see on its resume. The point is, NATO got over-stretched, but under-resourced in terms of “out of area” missions. The core foundation of the alliance is collective defense, and that got lost in the process. This is important because while it was engaged in out of area operations, it proceeded with enlargement – but enlargement was a primarily political operation. Many top experts warned at the start of the process in the mid-1990s, that extending political commitments without consideration of the collective defense requirements could lead to paralysis or risk of dangerous escalation in a crisis. So, yes, back to Europe. Now, however, the key challenge will be getting the European allies out front for advancing their security interests – not by spending more, but by better pooling their resources within NATO. But, as noted, trying to give credibility to NATO’s reinforcement plans, in the midst of a dangerous crisis also risks escalation. Meanwhile, the number one stability crisis in Europe remains the Eurozone, and that also will motivate how the allies are assessing the situation as it is.

Garret Martin, Professorial Lecturer, School of International Service, Editor at Large at the European Institute, American University

1. I would say that NATO is better prepared to deal with Russia’s challenge, but I am not sure it is yet sufficiently prepared. The so-called readiness action plan – including a new high-readiness brigade, a new command centre, weapons pre-positioned in Poland and deploying forces in Eastern Europe on a rotational basis – should be a step in the right direction. But the NATO member states are still divided insofar as how to confront Russia.

2. That definition has merit insofar as NATO’s short-term future. Certainly, the current events in Ukraine have strengthened the hand of the NATO states who want the organization to focus more on regional deterrence as opposed to taking on out of area missions. However, it is worth remembering that NATO has historically proven very capable of adapting itself to new threats and taking on new roles. I don’t think many observers in 1994 would have assumed that within ten years NATO would have become involved in 3 out of area operations.

Igor Merheim-Eyre, PhD Candidate in International Relations, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Kent

The problem with any alliance, especially a large alliance, is the willingness of its members to act in challenging situations. NATO is no exception; this was clearly highlighted by the reluctance of some governments to establish bases in Central and Eastern Europe and, as well as some in the region (such as Prime Minister) who did not welcome such initiatives.

Therefore, as a compromise, NATO created the ‘new’ high readiness force, to be dispatched within 2 days – ambitious, given that up until now its Rapid Reaction Force was going to take 5 days to assemble.

In a way, therefore, the so-called new force is not so new, but rather re-packaged. As with every packaging, however, the quality of the product comes down to substance. Therefore, if NATO is serious about its preparedness for global challenges (especially on its borders), it must more than anything show solidarity rather than re-package an existing product. On one hand, the announcement (just before the NATO summit) shows that the alliance is ready to take action to protect members however, on the other hand, the real test of preparedness can only come if such a force is requested for deployment. Let’s, however, hope that it won’t come to such a test.

2. NATO is, essentially, a defence community. During the Cold War, at the onset of which it was established, the alliance functioned essentially to protect the territorial integrity of its members. This, however, changed in the 1990s, with the so-called ‘out of area’ operations, such as during the Balkan war and most recently, in Afghanistan.

It is not that Europe was forgotten, but it was rather recognised that global challenges such as terrorism required a global response. On one hand, it can’t be guaranteed that another ‘out of area’ operation will not happen in the near future; on the other, however, there are increasing signs that the member states are currently not so interested in foreign ‘adventures’.

Central and Eastern European states are too concerned about the developments on their eastern borders; Germany seems as reluctant as ever (despite its defence minister’s statements) to deploy its armed forces, the United Kingdom seems currently to prefer only limited use of its forces (a result of political reluctance as well as the awaiting of new – chiefly naval – defence capabilities) whilst France is pre-occupied in sub-Saharan Africa. The US, however, despite some early signs of a scale back of US presence in Europe and calls for the European members to take on more defence responsibilities by the Obama administration, the war in Ukraine has essentially caused the White House to pivot back to Europe.

Therefore, it is likely that, in the upcoming years, NATO’s future will be more attached to the Euro-Atlantic area, which it was originally conceived to defend. Therefore, in a way, NATO is heading back to its basics – collective defence at a time when the continent’s security is being challenged. This is not to suggest that NATO is preparing for a new Cold War as some analysts have suggested. It is no longer facing an ideological enemy and its reluctant allies. Rather, it is facing a new threat that is challenging the very order that allowed it to deploy out of area in first place. It is, therefore, essentially back to defending its very core principles.

Iztok Prezelj, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana

1. Operational preparednes and capabilities of NATO are not questionable in relation to the Ukraine. Political unity and willingness is questionable due to different threat perceptions and interests among countries (trade with Russia, etc.). The message from the Summit will be likely the one of political unity. This is the purpose of the summit architects (as is the case in all other summits). The question is only how far the message of unity can go.

2. Yes, you are right. It is »back to the future« for NATO, but this time at the border with Russia. NATO went out because the Balkan crisis was ended and US needed help in Afghanistan. If the Ukraine existed at that time, NATO would be only minimally involved in Afghanistan

Todor TagarevHead, Centre for Security and Defence Management, Frm. Bulgaria’s Defense Minister

1. NATO already undertook ad-hoc measures by increasing the number and intensity of exercises, and thus the presence of Allied troops, on the territories of its Eastern member states and the Black Sea. It is most likely that, no matter how the situation in Ukraine evolves, there will be a permanent presence of allies in the Baltics, Poland, and Romania.

2. We may talk about a change of focus, or rather – a return to the defence function typical for the Cold War, but NATO will continue to prepare for and, when necessary – engage, in deployed operations outside the territories of its member states.

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