From Jeanne Shaheen, Foreign Affairs: At this year’s summit, the West must push back and remind the world that the United States and its NATO allies still wield unrivaled power to shape the world for the better. This summit should demonstrate NATO members’ commitment to the principles that have fed its strength for two generations: perseverance and a dedication to meeting the challenges of the day. . . .
At the summit, NATO should not shy away from touting the success of its effort in Libya. But at the same time, it should acknowledge and attempt to address the significant capability gaps that the operation revealed, including in terms of targeting, surveillance, refueling, and shortages of ammunition. In addition, critics have noted that only 14 of 28 member states were involved in the operation. It is dangerous to judge a mission on such a measure alone. Even so, allies with much-needed capabilities, such as Germany, must bring those to bear when the alliance chooses to act. The United States cannot continue to shoulder so much of NATO’s military burden. . . .
NATO’s Smart Defense program, which is an effort to better prioritize projects and capabilities among NATO members, should be another focus of the Chicago summit. In a time of limited resources, there is no question that NATO will need to better pool and share them. There are several ways to go about this; for example, the organization can build on the successes of the Baltic Air Policing mission and the Strategic Airlift Capability, which brings together 12 nations to procure and operate C-17 transport planes.
There is a real danger, however, that Smart Defense will become an excuse for continued European underinvestment. This is a particularly difficult economic time in Europe, and the eurozone debt crisis will certainly bleed into the debate over military commitments. But as members of a global military power, European allies still have responsibilities and commitments abroad. Over the last decade, they have fallen short. They cannot continue to do so.
The NATO Strategic Concept outlined the capabilities the alliance will need to deter and defend against future threats. In Chicago, Smart Defense should be used as a way to focus on meeting those objectives, not as political cover to further diminish much-needed defense spending by our allies.
After discussing current operations and capabilities, members should turn to NATO’s open-door policy. NATO enlargement has so far been a success, bringing in critical allies in Eastern Europe and the Baltics, which have rapidly transformed from needing security to contributing to security. Poland and Romania will soon host critical missile defense sites. Estonia may be one of only a few NATO members to actually reach its defense spending requirements. And most of the newer members have also made significant troop commitments to the fight in Afghanistan.
But there are also signs of strain. NATO officials have emphasized that Chicago will not be an "enlargement summit," and the prospects for adding new members are slim due to outstanding political matters in several aspiring countries. For example, Macedonia is still locked in a dispute with Greece, barring it from joining.
One country that deserves to see progress on its membership aspirations is Georgia, which was first promised NATO membership in Bucharest in 2008. Despite the lack of movement since, Georgia continues to act as a contributing NATO partner country. It currently provides a full battalion to NATO forces in Afghanistan and has committed to adding a second. This would make Georgia the largest troop-contributing nation on a per capita basis in Afghanistan.
At Chicago, the alliance must recognize the important contribution Georgia is making to NATO and demonstrate, through the formal summit communiqué, some advancement toward the country’s ascension to NATO. If NATO’s open door policy is to remain credible, it must acknowledge and reward countries like Georgia that are meeting the alliance’s high expectations. . . .
The summit in Chicago should be a turning point — a time for the organization to redefine its role in a world where the security focus is shifting toward Asia and military budgets are shrinking. Chicago should be a chance to tell everyone that the U.S. and its transatlantic allies will remain the preeminent force for peace and stability now and for future generations.
Jeanne Shaheen is the Democratic Senator from New Hampshire.