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NATO Heads Look at New Roles for Australia and “Contact” Countries

  • November 26th, 2006
  • Posted by 7thmin

jaap-de-hoop-scheffer.jpgHeads of government of the NATO alliance are dealing with a mix of diplomacy and war, at their summit in Riga, capital of Latvia (27-29.11.06).

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation today finds itself operating far-afield, leading the international military and reconstruction effort in Afghanistan.

One topic for the NATO heads of government, America’s George Bush and twenty-five other government leaders, is how they might defeat the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

NATO generals say that when NATO expanded its operations there, it met stronger resistance than expected.

They say they have corrected that, but they have been asking member countries of the international force, for more troops – to add to 32000 already deployed.

NATO’s Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, says the organisation has moved far-afield since the days of the Cold War, when it concentrated on Europe.

However, as he told a media briefing at NATO headquarters in Brussels (24.11.06), it was still determined not to become a fully global military force.

“NATO is not seeking a role as a global policeman,” he said.

Despite that resolve, new challenges have arrived, some a long way off.

So the allies this week are debating how to make closer ties with the so-called “contact” countries, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, which are not in the alliance, but are taking part – in military or civilian roles- in the Afghanistan operation.

“NATO needs also global partners who are going to be rather far away.

“We are talking of the antipodes here, when we are discussing Australia.

“Still Australian forces are fighting side by side with Dutch forces in Oruzgan, in Afghanistan, for the same cause.”

He had explained to the Chinese Ambassador to NATO, among others, that the contact countries would be invited to take up “pragmatic” links, such as collaboration on anti-terrorism, or civil emergencies.

No “deep structural” affiliation was planned.

Whatever new arrangement is made between Australia and the other contact countries, with NATO, it may have to be the result of a diplomatic tussle.

Members of some governments, including France, say the alliance has already spread itself too far, towards becoming a “globalised” operation.

There may also be some international tension over the choice of Latvia as the host for the meeting.

It used to be part of the old adversary, the Soviet Union.

The Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government may not like the symbolism of that incursion into their own country’s former domain.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was formed in 1949 by Western European countries, Canada and the United States, as a counter to Soviet military power. It expanded after the collapse of the Soviet Union, taking in former Soviet republics or former allies, to become a more generalised security organisation, with 26 member countries. The summit of heads of government at Riga, capital of Latvia, from 27to 29th November, will be the first such gathering since the organisation increased to its present size.

Picture: Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer; NATO