The NATO Summit and G-8: Nuclear Policy, European Disarray, and the Future of NATO by Harry C. Blaney III

The NATO Summit and G-8: Nuclear Policy, European Disarray, and the Future of NATO by
Harry C. Blaney III

America will be hosting a NATO Summit in Chicago on May 20-22 and the setting is a difficult one for all its members. The question is whether any “grand decisions” can come out of it when Europe itself is in some considerable political and economic disarray, and the U.S. is facing elections in November. European governments are undergoing major changes in their politics and facing continued economic difficulties and disagreements.

In America, President Obama is facing strident criticism from the right-wing GOP which is trying to paint him as weak on security when just the opposite is true given a multitude of successes with getting the New START treaty, Russian cooperation on access to Afghanistan, the killing of Bin Laden and the major hits on terrorists, and not least, the withdrawals from Iraq and decision to draw down our forces in Afghanistan. The shame is that there is no serious discussion or cooperation by the Republicans on seeking common objectives and policies just more mindless opposition. This only increases the difficulties for Obama in shaping a unified foreign policy.

But this is still a challenging world that has to be faced. The problem remains that there are few simply “good” choices. Rather, there is often a series of less bad and more bad options. This is the case on the key issues before NATO leaders.

Many of the same key problems are being taken up in both the Camp David G-8 meeting, and later at the Chicago NATO Summit. Equally important will be the side-bar meetings between Obama and other leaders and especially the new president of France Hollande, Prime Minister Medvedev in place of Putin, and others.

First, the global economic crisis will impact all the topics and will be a constraining factor on decision-making. The European Euro crisis has already had a disturbing influence and its reverberations are being felt around the world. There will be considerable attention one way or anther on this key issue.

The other issues are all large and difficult. They include, the continued conflict in Syria which does not yet seem fully abated nor even a solution seen on the horizon. The question of missile defense remains a thorny impediment of the key Russian-U.S. cooperative agenda. The reality is that the proposed European missile defense system does not threaten the Russian deterrent so the Russian reaction has another agenda beyond that subject. Here diplomacy will be key since the Russians must also want some other objective.

Also on the table will be the future of Afghanistan and for that matter the entire related region. The Pakistanis have been invited as have the Afghans so there is recognition that the problem is region wide. It is unlikely that major new decisions will be made, but some announcements will come out of Chicago. One hope is that the Pakistanis will agree to let our truck convoys into Afghanistan and will end its blockade of this route for military supplies. We might announce our resumption of some assistance to Pakistan. Dealing with Iran and North Korea will likely also have to be discussed in the NATO context and perhaps in the G-8 context.

But the hard issue is whether Pakistan will make any progress on a key decision whether it wants to continue to support terrorism in Afghanistan or see its long-term interest in being our partner in a larger security regional endeavor and stop its duplicitous dual policy.

Obtaining long-term assistance by NATO and other allies for Afghanistan’s military forces post 2014 will be a key goal in Chicago. The aim is to get total pledges of about $4 billion a year with the hope that Europeans nation will kick in about $1 billion Euros. Here the question of “burden sharing” once more comes front and center. The UK and Germany appear to have pledged abut $200 million together and Australia nearly $100 million annually.

Obama will also have to deal with Frances’ new president’s promise to get out of military activities in Afghanistan by the end of this year. The hope is France will stay in some capacity to 2014 when NATO, as a group together will leave active military activities but perhaps stay largely in a training role. The betting is that Hollande will largely keep his election promise on the date to pull out its forces.

Also up for discussion is the critical question of nuclear weapons, not only in the NATO region and their role in NATO security, but also globally. The question is do we really need the numbers of weapons we have, should they be on hair trigger alert, what should be done to get rid of the dangerous tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, both East and West. At the NATO meeting the leaders are expected to approve its new Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR) report. The DDPR determines the proper mix of nuclear, conventional and missile defense assets for the alliance. No one expects radical change immediately including the deployment of some 180 U.S. nuclear gravity bombs in five European NATO countries. But we expect that there will be over time some significant changes and this will lay the foundation for those changes.

One question is the actual capability of Europe to provide for its security and to be effective members of the alliance when they are undertaking major cuts to their core military forces and support. This has been part of the NATO debate for decades and this will likely be part of discussions on the future of NATO in the coming decade.

There is also the large and long going issue of NATO’s “out of area” role and responsibility. Libya showed both NATO’s strength and its week points. Syria is also a challenge since NATO must act with the agreement of the entire alliance. NATO is also engaged in various other “external” activities and they will have to be discussed to decide their future as well as future “out of area” policies.

There may be some effort to discuss the so call American “tilt toward Asia” which may leave some uneasiness among some NATO countries. We are pulling some of our troops out of Germany much to the consternation of some elements in Germany and beyond.

The move toward the left in Europe and the wish for a growth policy rather than just austerity and the disaster it has created for the EU economies, will help Obama who has long led the side that held austerity was not itself the answer and that a real global stimulus was the first priority to stop the debacle of a downward spiral of the global economy.

Clearly, most of these issues will not get solved in a few days of meetings but there could be moves towards getting a better grip on the problems and moving toward better collective decisions…..leadership on these security issues has to come from the top in these key cases and this is both the worst and the best of times to start.

Obama’s European Trip: A New “Global Architecture”

You have to have a lot of sympathy for President Obama. The hand he was dealt was a bad one.  He has had to deal with some of history’s worst natural disasters, ruinous wars and conflicts, massive acts of violence and terrorism, as well as calamitous economic crises. His European trip embodies the enormity of the challenges he faces and miserable tools he has been given to meet them. It also showed him again as one of America’s most articulate, well briefed, stirring, and careful leaders of the last two decades.


The “best enjoyable” part of the President’s trip must have been the visit to his family’s ancestral home in Ballymoney.  The pints of Guinness, slaps on the back, Irish jokes and talks with government leaders gave him some measure of Irish hospitality and devilish humor.  Even a President must have some fun!


Obama quashed most of British criticism that he was not interested in Europe and cooperating with Europe. The special relationship became also the “indispensable relationship.” Not mentioned was the new government’s leaders  churlish statements that their relationship with the US would be “solid but not slavish.” He stayed in Buckingham Palace and there was a formal dinner in London with the Queen which must have been more fun than his meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron, who is conducting a “slash and burn” economic strategy against his own people.  Cameron must have pressed Obama to do more in Libya, as did President Sarkozy. Obama seems to have made clear that he expected NATO to remain in the lead. Continue reading