Which issues divide NATO?

Meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Berlin, April 15, 2011.

From Jörg Himmelreich, Spiegel:  Today, the 28 NATO member states have profoundly different opinions about what the alliance’s future course should be , a fact that even the new NATO strategy plan adopted at a summit in Riga in November was unable to conceal. It contains little by way of answers to some of the most pressing questions:

  • What role should Russia be given in the efforts to develop a common missile defense to protect Europe from missiles that could be fired from the Middle East?
  • Should NATO act as the global police in every conflict hot spot around the world?
  • Should NATO troops be deployed to secure strategic marine trade lanes and commodity transports in the new era of African pirates?
  • Can cyber attacks trigger an Article 5 collective response from NATO?
Opinions among the member states diverge greatly on each of these questions. And the member states are currently unable to agree to a common NATO strategy on any of these issues that is politically palatable for each country. Indeed, NATO today lacks the kind of supreme strategic objective that united all NATO partners up until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

And as long as there is no solidarity or political will among all the member states to establish a substantial new strategy that goes beyond painless closing statements at summits that pay diplomatic lip service but add little in terms of content, NATO’s ability to act militarily will remain compromised. And the more it loses its ability to act collectively, the more we will see individual NATO member states seeking out "coalitions of the willing," if those alignments better serve their own strategic interests. The result is the loss of one of NATO’s key assets, the integration of the security policies of its 28 member states.

German Provincialism
In the face of this lack of will on the part of the Europeans, the United States’ readiness to rapidly and constantly support the pursuit of European interests out of solidarity to the alliance will also diminish, as is currently illustrated in the case of Libya. The consequence of this is that NATO may transform into a forum for nonbinding trans-Atlantic political discourse. With solidarity fading away within the military alliance, the Europeans would be relegated to ensuring their security on their own in the future.
That is a scenario that surely cannot be in Germany’s interests if it wants to pursue a serious, credible and responsible security policy. However, Germany’s present self-isolation leaves the international community with the fatal impression that Germany, the former main beneficiary of NATO, is no longer available to shape a NATO strategy for the future. And why isn’t it? Because of ignorant, nationalist-pacifist provincialism.  (photo: Getty)

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