From Andras Simonyi, the Washington Times: NATO has become a de facto two-tier alliance with some members doing the heavy lifting and others basically taking upon themselves only bare minimum roles. The financial crisis has clearly affected budgets, but it is also a good excuse to cover up unwillingness to engage in operations. NATO has thus become a blend of risk-takers and free-riders.
The [Chicago] summit should discuss the future of the whole concept of partnership. It is almost inconceivable that any future operation would be conducted by NATO alone. NATO needs – and should build – strong partnerships that can add value to NATO’s own activities. The organization’s recent engagement in Libya, for example, was assisted by many partners, including from the Arab League. In Afghanistan, NATO is joined in common cause with partners around the globe. It is unlikely ever to become a global alliance. But where it does engage, it will need – and should welcome – global partners. Partnership for Peace, formed in 1993, has been a magnificent tool to prepare countries for membership or bring partners as close to the alliance as possible. It brought into the community countries that are not ready to or not wanting to join the alliance. Among the latter, there are ones that are fully interoperable with NATO, meeting all the criteria of membership, but are not able to or willing to take the big leap because of political circumstances and history.
As NATO considers the next steps in its evolution, the Partnership for Peace needs an overhaul. It should be redesigned to expand NATO’s ability to work with many partners, even those beyond Europe. The concept of “global partners,” however, should not undermine the particularly strong partnerships NATO has developed with specific countries. . . .
Sweden’s recent participation in the Libya campaign, however, underscores the fact that some of NATO’s partners are more willing and more capable of contributing to allied missions than some of the full members. The Swedish sorties during the war demonstrated the fact that its air force is fully compatible and interoperable with those of NATO. Their participation was seamless.As part of reinventing the alliance, serious thoughts must be given to a clearer differentiation between partners. . . .
Arrangements must be made for these willing and able partners to have access to NATO planning and intelligence-sharing on a continous basis. In times of crisis and operation, the availability of these assets should be immediate and full.
Andras Simonyi is a former Hungarian ambassador to the United States and to NATO. (graphic: Patrick Neil)