The Next NATO Summit: Setting Up For Disappointment
By: T.J. Cipoletti
NATO is preparing for yet another critical summit when allied leaders gather in Wales this September. As the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission winds down, NATO should pay tribute to the sacrifices made by brave men and women from Montreal and Manchester to Munich and Melbourne in such faraway places as Kunduz, Khost, and Kandahar. While our soldiers won’t be leaving behind a liberal Western-style democracy, NATO allies and partners should be proud of their hard-fought security gains. The Obama administration now needs to exhaust all efforts to reach a sensible agreement with the Afghan government for a post-2014 force to remain behind after combat operations end.
All that said, the alliance needs to turn its gaze forward and prepare for the unforeseen crises that could arise in places like Cairo, the Caucasus, Central Africa, or cyberspace. How will NATO ever be prepared for the conflicts of the twenty-first century given the deep cuts in European defense spending?
The officials at NATO headquarters and a few allied political leaders have developed some sound proposals such as Smart Defence and the Connected Forces Initiative in order to maintain necessary capabilities and preserve the quantum leaps in defense planning and interoperability achieved over the last decade. Enhanced partnership tools for cooperating with geopolitically important and operationally capable partners can provide the alliance with much needed flexibility to share the burden of complex security challenges using varied coalitions of nations who may have vested national interests in specific contingencies.
These good ideas need to be implemented by the nations who, despite their common values and shared worldviews, rarely seem to reach consensus due to divergent national interests or political sensitivities. Ultimately, it is up to policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic to show more political leadership or history’s most successful alliance will face yet another disappointment at September’s summit.