NATO drafts new mission statement


NATO must win the war in Afghanistan, expand ties with Russia and even China, counter the threat posed by Iran’s missiles, and assure the security of its 28 members, according to the alliance’s proposed mission statement for the next decade.

The draft document, released Monday, seeks to bridge a growing rift between the U.S., which favours a greater international role for NATO, and European nations that want it to retain its traditional defensive focus, The Associated Press reports.
“NATO must be versatile and efficient enough to operate far from home,” said former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, head of the team of experts who wrote the document. “(But) in order to sustain the political will for operations outside its area, NATO must see that all its members are reassured about the security of their home territories.”

The document warned governments not to slash defence spending at a time of economic crisis, because of the growing discrepancy in military capabilities between the United States and Europe’s NATO members. Most European nations are not even meeting the minimal requirement of devoting 2 percent of their GDP to defence. America’s latest defence budget of over $710 billion dwarfs the combined annual military expenditures of its European allies, which total about $280 billion. Despite the added expenses of the Afghan war, many European capitals are planning further cuts or freezing their current outlays.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will use the draft as a basis for a new strategic concept that will be submitted for approval at the alliance’s next summit in Lisbon, Portugal, in November. Founded in 1949 to counter the threat of a Soviet invasion, the 28-member alliance is in the midst of a mid-life crisis as it searches for relevance almost 20 years after the collapse of its communist rival.

The previous strategic concept focused mainly on NATO’s peacekeeping role in places like Bosnia and Kosovo. It was adopted in 1999, soon after the end of the Cold War and before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States forced the alliance to take on missions such as counterinsurgency warfare in Afghanistan. The war is the largest mission ever attempted by the alliance. More than 100,000 NATO troops, about two-thirds of them American, are currently deployed there. Nearly 1,800 NATO soldiers have been killed in the conflict.
“In today’s world we may have to go beyond our borders to defend our borders. I can mention Afghanistan as a case in point,” Fogh Rasmussen said. “But Afghanistan is not a make or break situation for NATO,” he said. “NATO is about much more than Afghanistan … despite the fact that there is so much focus on Afghanistan right now.” The new document said the alliance should focus on improving ties with Moscow, which has helped NATO in Afghanistan by opening an overland supply route from Europe to that landlocked country.

NATO and Russia should work more closely together on other fields of mutual interest such as missile defense, counterterrorism, counternarcotics and maritime security, the document said. “It means a real partnership with Russia based on shared interests,” Fogh Rasmussen told reporters.

The draft statement emphasized the threat posed by Iran’s nascent ballistic missile capability. “Missile defense is most effective when it is a joint enterprise, and cooperation … between the alliance and its partners — especially Russia — is highly desirable,” the blueprint said. It favours U.S. battlefield nuclear weapons remaining in Europe, another legacy of the Cold War. Several European governments have requested that they be withdrawn, saying the outdated bombs no longer serve any military purpose. “As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO should continue to maintain secure and reliable nuclear forces … at the minimum level required by the prevailing security environment,” the document said.

Albright said the alliance must look to forging stronger partnerships with all global partners, not just the European Union and Russia, to foster security and resolve crises. “We were open-minded in terms of partnerships around the world,” she said. “We’ve looked into ways of partnering with China in various ways.”