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NATO Final

  • April 4th, 2008
  • Posted by 7thmin

duffield-riga-11-08-reduced.jpgCOMMENTARY: NATO’s Bucharest summit (2-4.4.08) approved the entry of two more former communist countries – Albania and Croatia – into the Western alliance, and agreed to put more resources and effort into Afghanistan.

EXPANDING NATO

The presence of the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and several other leaders of non-member countries showed how the alliance has been extending its brief in the post Cold War period.

Expansion eastwards with the addition of new members from the former Warsaw Pact area has led to tense relations with Moscow; evident this week as the allies went ahead with plans for an anti-ballistic missile shield in Eastern Europe, and the possible future admission to membership of two more former Soviet Republics – the Ukraine and Georgia.

AFGHANISTAN

The intervention in Afghanistan, where Australia has a one-thousand strong contingent, was getting priority attention; and so leaders among the Asia-Pacific “contact group” countries (Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea), and others from outside NATO, joined the main group of 26 NATO members for the debate.

A total of 40 countries contribute to ISAF, the Afghanistan Security Assistance Force, which operates under a NATO command structure.

The communiqué from the gathering was to the point: “NATO leaders reaffirmed their determination and solidarity to fulfil operational responsibilities, in particular in Afghanistan.”

France proposed sending an additional battalion of soldiers, up to 1000 more, with indications of additional commitments from Poland, Romania and the United States.

The Australian Prime Minister supported, in particular, a new initiative to expand training for the Afghan armed forces; he indentified with demands for a general re-think on strategy in Afghanistan, to better coordinate military and civil aid, and demands for destruction of poppy crops to curtail the drug trade out of the country.

ISAF has been expanded from just over 30 000 to 47 000, since the last assembly of Heads of Government, at Riga in November 2006; when member countries were already coming under pressure to do more, especially from the United States.

Military leaders want caveats removed from the commitment of some of the European states, like Germany, Italy or Spain, which put limits on where their troops can be deployed — a dispute that was revisited at the summit in Bucharest this time.

PROBLEMS FOR PRESIDENT PUTIN

The NATO Heads of Government approved continuing moves by the United States to set up its proposed missile defence shield at bases in the Czech Republic and Poland.

President George Bush reported to the summit on the signing of an agreement on the bases with the Czech government; Poland is still negotiating, and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has continued to object.

He has objected also to the plans to invite Georgia and the Ukraine to prepare applications to join the Western alliance.

NATO admitted three former Soviet allies – the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland – in 1999; and then in 2004 there was extra discord when it signed up not only another seven Eastern European states, but among them Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – all previously part of the Soviet Union itself.

Mr Putin was expected to take up some of these issues at his man-to-man summit with President Bush at Sochi, on the weekend.

ACTIVITY FAR AND WIDE

The Eastward expansion has included formal Partnership agreements between regional groupings of countries, e.g. South-eastern European or Mediterranean group countries, and with both Russia and the Ukraine.

Possible membership accession for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and former Yugoslav Macedonia is at an exploratory stage; (plans to advance the Macedonian claim were not taken further at this year’s summit, due to the dispute with Greece over the country’s name).

Objectives since 1990 have been to transform NATO from a military bloc geared towards conflict with the then Soviet Union, towards a big, more mobile regional security organisation – with military force.

It had 50 000 troops in Bosnia at the height of its intervention in the civil war situation, in the 1990s; as well as the force in Afghanistan, NATO troops remain in Kosovo backing up initiatives by the United Nations, European Union and other international agencies towards getting a peaceful and democratic outcome of the drawn-out crisis there.

Reference:

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), “NATO decision on open-door policy”, 3.4.08. http://www.nato.int/docu/update/2008/04-april/e0403h.html, (4.4.08).

NATO, Bucharest Summit Declaration: issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Bucharest on 3 April 2008. http://www.nato.int/docu/pr/2008/p08-049e.html, (4.4.08).

NATO, Bucharest Summit takes NATO agenda forward, 4.4.08.
http://www.nato.int/docu/update/2008/04-april/e0403f.html, (4.4.08)

Picture: Lee Duffield reported on the intensification of demands for a build-up in Afghanistan at the last NATO summit, in Riga, in November 2006.

See:

“NATO, ‘transforming itself’, turns up heat on Afghanistan”, EUAustralia Online, 30.11.06.

“At its Riga Summit, NATO grapples with the problem of Afghanistan”, EUAustralia Online, 27.11.06.

“NATO Heads look at new Roles for Australia and ‘Contact’ countries”, 26.11.06, EUAustralia Online, 26.11.06.

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