Latest June 16th 2011
FEBRUARY 5th 2006
I am not a fan of Donald Rumsfeld - but we have to face facts.

Defense Chiefs Say NATO Must Modernize

By PAUL AMES, Associated Press Writer Sat Feb 4, 8:37 PM ET

MUNICH, Germany -NATO needs to launch a new modernization drive to keep it from sliding into irrelevance in the face of today's threats from terrorism and regional unrest, defense chiefs of the Atlantic Alliance warned on Saturday.

"NATO is not simply guaranteed to survive and prosper as the cornerstone of the collective security we need," British Defense Secretary John Reid said. "It must change. ... NATO today faces greater threats to its long-term future than ever it did at the height of the Cold War."

The alliance has been working for years to upgrade its armaments in an effort to narrow the gulf between U.S. military might and European armies — with only patchy success. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld bluntly told allies they needed to spend more to push that overhaul forward.

"Unless we invest in our defense and security, our homelands will be at risk," he said.

He complained that just seven of the 26 NATO allies spend more than 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense — compared with 3.7 percent in the United States. Rumsfeld's words were backed by his counterparts from Britain and France, who are among the bigger European defense spenders.

Besides spending more, the allies need to spend better, said NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

He urged allied governments to agree by an alliance summit in November to set up a joint fund to finance operations, to replace the current system whereby nations that provide troops for expensive missions such as peacekeeping in Afghanistan or the recent humanitarian operation in Pakistan have to cover their own costs.

"We need to share the costs more fairly," de Hoop Scheffer said.

He also expressed growing exasperation over what he called an "absurd" failure to improve coordination between NATO and the European Union's defense arm.

"It means we are duplicating each other's efforts," he told the meeting.

Although the two organizations share 19 members, cooperation has been held up by Turkey, which is reluctant to share sensitive information with EU member Cyprus, and by France, which fears efforts to develop a more independent EU defense policy could be threatened by closer ties with NATO.

De Hoop Scheffer also stressed the need for NATO to develop closer ties with like-minded democracies such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.

French Defense Minister Michelle Alliot-Marie warned that NATO should take care not to overstretch itself. In particular she cautioned against the alliance's "systematically" taking on humanitarian operations like those last year in Pakistan after a major earthquake and in the United States after Hurricane Katrina.

"This has to remain an exception," Alliot-Marie said. "NATO is not the best organization for civil reconstruction or natural disasters."

NOVEMBER 4th 2006 

From The Independent

France blocks Nato bid to create a global terror force

By Stephen Castle in Brussels

Published: 04 November 2006

Plans to boost Nato's co- operation with countries such as Australia and Japan in an effort to forge a partnership against terrorism have been blocked by France.

The moves were to have been at the centre of a summit of the alliance's leaders to be held in Riga this month. Nato officials now accept that only a loosely worded pledge to increase contacts with partners in Asia and Australasia will be included in the communiqué, which will be agreed by President George Bush and other leaders in the Latvian capital.

The French opposition comes as a blow to the US, which spearheaded the proposal and which would like to see regular Nato "forums" with countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea. But while the idea won support from traditional allies of Washington such as the UK, France has made it clear that it opposes a move it sees as part of a campaign to extend US influence.

Paris has always been suspicious of Nato because of America's domination of the organisation. In an article in Le Figaro this week, France's Defence Minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, spelt out her country's opposition to efforts to expand Nato's global reach.

She praised the contribution of Australia and Japan to peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan and said she was willing to improve the "practical arrangements" surrounding their military operations but added that this must be done "without changing the fundamental nature of Nato which must, in my eyes, remain an euro-atlantic military alliance". She argued: "The development of a 'global partnership' would riskdiluting the natural solidarity between Europeans and North Americans ... and above all, send a bad political message: that of a campaign, at the intiative of the West, against those who do not share its conceptions."

The alliance already operates a Partnership for Peace programme with 20 countries, including several from the former Soviet bloc. But neither New Zealand nor Australia have formal partnerships with Nato though both have troops in Afghanistan. Japan has a naval mission in the Indian Ocean providing support for US-led military operations in Afghanistan.

Nato officials have not abandoned the hope of having more regular consultations with non-alliance countries that contribute to the Afghanistan mission.

The French seem to be taking advantage of GWB's electoral kicking to work against NATO taking any responsibility for global policing. This is a very bad mistake. They should seize the opportunity to enhance European control in NATO and get involved in taking responsibility. That way Europe can influence the way things are done. The reason why Iraq is such a cock-up is because Europe did not have the right to assist in the planning, it had forfeited it by allowing the UN to be made to look toothless. The French let others do the dirty, necessary work and then complain. Allez, enfants de la patrie, and get off your selfish arses. [Blimey, they have! See April 2 2008]

NOVEMBER 24 2006

NATO's role to include counter-terrorism

 Friday November 24, 05:47 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - NATO countries will endorse a plan next week to widen the alliance's role to include counter-terrorism, prevention of cyber attacks and security of natural resources, the Financial Times reported on Friday.

The newspaper said it had obtained a copy of the plan, which sought to "provide a framework and political direction for NATO's continuing transformation ... for the next 10 to 15 years".

The plan said terrorism and weapons of mass destruction "are likely to be the principal threats to the alliance" over that period, the newspaper said.

The Financial Times said the plan would be signed by the leaders of the 26-nation alliance who are due to meet in Riga, Latvia on November 28-29..

The plan, which would be made public next week, had already been endorsed by NATO defence ministers, it said.

Setting out strategy goals, the plan said NATO should be ready to fight more than one big operation at a time, as well as an increasing number of smaller engagements.

It said NATO should put a premium on "the ability to deter, disrupt, defend and protect against terrorism, and more particularly to contribute to the protection of the alliance's populations, territory, critical infrastructure and forces".

Other areas for the alliance to concentrate on included defending information from "cyber attacks".

MARCH 23rd 2008
From e-politix

Warning over NATO 'mistrust'

Relations between NATO and the European Union are "plagued by mistrust and unhealthy competition", according to a committee of MPs.

The Commons defence committee warned that European defence policy risked undermining the US's commitment to the alliance.

In a report published on Thursday ahead of next month's NATO summit in Bucharest, the MPs said European governments did not have enough "political will".

Describing NATO as "indispensable", the committee said it was the "ultimate guarantor of our collective security" in Europe.

"Without US support, NATO has no future," said the report. "But US support depends on NATO becoming more capable, deployable and flexible, and on the European allies contributing more."

It stressed the importance of operations in Afghanistan, claiming that failure in the country would "deal a severe blow to allied unity".

The report claimed that the Europeans displayed a clear lack of political will in failing to spend more on defence, with only six of the 24 member states meeting pledges to spend at least two per cent on defence.

"If the European members of the alliance want to be taken seriously, if they want the United States to remain engaged in, and committed to, NATO, and if they want greater influence in the overall direction of alliance policy, they must commit the necessary resources and improve their capabilities," it added.

"We are concerned that an alliance with such large and growing discrepancies in defence spending will not be sustainable in the long term."

MARCH 30th 2008
The very last thing that is needed right now is to enlarge NATO by encouraging Ukraine and Georgia to join. There is no need for them and there is no need for NATO. Each needs to sort its own problems out and not seek to divert attention by frivolous growth without purpose. I am glad to see that there are those in Germany, Ukraine and Georgia who understand this and I assume the same applies to the UK and most EU and NATO countries. The current US administration seems, in its obsession with 'principles', to be almost as foolish as the rigid followers of Marxism. Principles, while useful and admirable are the refuge of those unwilling to face the real issues of life with judgment and action appropriate to the circumstances, not to say an inability to appreciate the full nature of space and time.

APRIL 2nd 2008
Good news. At today's NATO meeting in Romania it was decided NOT to offer membership to Georgia and Ukraine. This will make it much easier for those countries to get on with building their democratic institutions without an obviously divisive and unnecessary issue being dumped on them right at the start.

More good news: France is offering a substantial increase in troops to support NATO's operations in Afghanistan and this has been followed by other NATO countries. Albania and Croatia have been invited to join. Macedonia has a problem with its name, which is the same as a northern province of Greece. Greece has never accepted their right to the name and has vetoed their membership under that name. Hmm... this one needs thinking through © ® !

APRIL 3rd 2008
In spite of the the news above, NATO has told Georgia and the Ukraine they will be joining at some time in the future. That seems presumptious to me. They  can be invted to join of course. Whether they do or not depends on their governments at the time. There was agreement on the plan for a missile dfence system. Member states will endorse a communiqué backing the plan to position missile defence bases in the Czech Republic and Poland. Vladimir Putin attended the conference today but we are not told what he had to say. It has to be said that the system is purely defensive and only useful against missile agression by a small rogue state. It cannot pose a threat to Russia's deterrent.

APRIL 4th 2008
It appears that at least there is a reasonable dialogue behind the scenes between Russia and the NATO countries. Putin is straightforward about his objections and his concerns. He will be meeting personally with GWB tomorrow. I can quite see how GWB's way of glossing over these things must drive him up the wall, and the homespun "I call him Vladimir..." stuff is stomach-churning, but it is clear that the Bush approach is that the world is too complex to deal with these problems in any other way than gross simplification at the top level, forcing the elements downstream to sort themselves out. It's Jimmy Carter in reverse if you like. But that's how politics proceeds over the centuries, bouncing from one extreme error to the opposite, while we just hope that the extremes get knocked off the edges before they can cause more than non-total catastrophes. Let's face it, international diplomacy is going progressivley (with hiccups) better than it did 100, 70, 50, 20 or even 10 years ago. It certainly needs to, as the challenges get ever greater. The problems ahead will make the past seem simple.

APRIL 6th 2008
The language at the NATO meeting has been civilised. Putin has said that although he has distinct reservations about the anti-missile plans, a compromise looks possible. he makes it clear that although his personal relations with Bush are good, he has difficulty trusting US military policy for the future. Frankly I find this understandable. How is he to know what bunch of people will lead this in an emotional, democratic nation that sees it own history, geography and political heritage as containing all the wisdom required to judge the world. What GWB calls "Freedom" has worked in the US so far, seeing that civil war is not ongoing and the economy not yet collapsed, and they have had a whole continent to wreck with the errors that have accompanied their successes over the past 200 years. But Putin does not see Bush or US politicians of either party as realists or the policies they are trying to export as sustainable in the global context. That is not to say Putin is right, just that his point of view is very, very understandable.

JULY 29th 2008             Interesting stuff in the Herald Tribune

International Herald Tribune
Russian proposal calls for broader security pact
By Judy Dempsey
Monday, July 28, 2008

BERLIN: Russia, which under Vladimir Putin has shown increasing hostility toward NATO and other post-World War II security organizations in Europe, has put together a set of proposals that essentially sidelines these groups in favor of a broader one.

The proposals, to be presented to NATO on Monday in Brussels, clearly have no chance of being accepted by the United States and its allies in Europe. But they reflect the Kremlin's latest efforts to reassert itself on the world stage and to challenge longstanding diplomatic practices.

The Kremlin wants in particular to weaken the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which Russia is a member of, and NATO, which it is not. The Russian proposal would establish a broad security pact open to other countries, including possibly China and India.

Dmitri Rogozin, Russia's envoy to NATO, acknowledged that the alliance would not quickly embrace the proposals, but he suggested that the Kremlin was hoping to begin a dialogue.

"We do not expect immediate reaction on the part of our Western partners, or booing, or on the contrary, applause," Rogozin wrote in reply to questions about his proposals. "We are looking forward to teamwork and practical search of constructive approaches."

Putin sent Rogozin, who has a reputation as a fierce Russian nationalist, to the alliance this year in what was widely seen as an attempt to install a provocative advocate for Russia's interests in Brussels. Putin is now Russia's prime minister, and his protégé, Dmitri Medvedev, is president.

NATO will comment on Rogozin's proposals once it has received more details, James Appathurai, a spokesman for the alliance, said Sunday.

The Kremlin has already promoted changes in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Among the organization's roles, OSCE monitors elections in nations emerging from the former Soviet Union. Over the last year, the Kremlin has criticized its election observer teams as biased.

The new Russian proposals indicate that now that Russia's economy has revived after the chaos of the 1990s, the country is seeking new ways to expand its influence.

"Moscow believes that the current security architecture in Europe is a remnant of the cold war bloc ideology," said Andrew Monaghan, a Russia expert at the NATO Defense College in Rome. "Russia sees itself as the largest state straddling Europe and Asia which has the strength and capacity to adopt a global purview. This includes protecting and projecting its national interests and actively proposing solutions to international problems."

At the heart of the proposals, Rogozin said, is a new European security treaty that would be a legally binding document based on the United Nations Charter.

He said Russia would also convene an international forum that would include the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, NATO, the European Union, the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States and the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, which includes Central Asian countries.

The main reason for a new security pact is that Europe can no longer cope with the plethora of problems it faces, according to one of the proposals. "Modern European security is overwhelmed with problems, ranging from NATO enlargement to illegal migration, drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism," it says.

SEPTEMBER 13th 2008
The Russian proposals summarised above were duly ignored by the US and UK, perhaps as being  mischievous or vexatious. I think that is a misreading of the situation but the fact is NATO did not know how to handle the suggestions. They were presumably addressed not to NATO but the governments of the Western European nations.

Since then we have had the mistaken and clumsy political antics pursued by a US-led NATO (trailing the UK, represented by a now apparently juvenile and naive Miliband) to encourage Georgia and the Ukraine to apply for NATO membership. This has been handled in such a stupid, arrogant and provocative way that in my view it actually encouraged Saakashvili in his self-serving folly.

There is nothing to be gained for NATO or for Georgia or Ukraine as whole, in their joining NATO. Of course quite a few people could do very well out of it in the short term but this might be very short indeed. It would be destabilising rather than stabilising. The way to get in-depth political advance in Russia and its neighbours is by engaging them politically in a sensible way.

The way to get NATO into better shape and more coherent is NOT by enlarging it and certainly not making trouble in Europe. NATO has enough trouble on its hands in Afghanistan. I would certainly not go as far as Simon Jenkins in suggesting that NATO should be wound up, but it must be made fit for purpose and its purpose revised from expansion to sensible deployment when the UN needs more than peacekeeping. In Europe, Russia can and must keep the peace in a number of areas and this is not made easier by getting every country on its borders to join NATO.

With regard to the installation of missile defences systems in Poland, this has been so badly handled as to give unnecessary alarm to both Russia and other European countries and a propaganda victory to all anti-Americans. Why? The average Briton now thinks the US positioning of missiles in Poland is for nuclear warheads, the equivalent of Russia putting nukes in Cuba. Why are these politicians and diplomats so fucking incompetent? (I make no apology for  my language).

SEPTEMBER 19th 2008
It is significant that those countries nearest to Russia are least keen to press for Georgian and Ukrainian membership of NATO. Gates' undoubted experience is America based in its concept and perspective. His reading of history has been in my view asymmetric and flawed. Being a practical man rather than an ideologue there is hope that he can get his head round a different perspective.

NATO members wonder: Will defense promises hold?

By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer

In the aftermath of Russia's brief war with Georgia, the United States and its NATO partners face questions about the very foundation of their alliance — the pledge enshrined in the 59-year-old North Atlantic Treaty that an unprovoked attack on one member would be treated as an attack on all.

Georgia, while not yet a NATO member, is pushing for early entrance despite Russia's strong objections.

The Russian incursion in August raises questions for newer NATO members — like the three Baltic states that were part of the Soviet Union before the fall of the communist empire in 1991 — about whether and how NATO would respond in the event that Russia chose to invade their territory.

That issue forms a part of the backdrop to a meeting here Friday of allied defense ministers who are divided over how to treat their relationship with Russia and how to proceed with NATO military reforms.

No firm decisions are expected. The matter will be further considered by NATO foreign ministers in December.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was a specialist in Soviet affairs during his career at the CIA, said Thursday that while the crisis in Georgia has caused concerns within NATO, he does not believe the alliance faces the likelihood of war with Russia.

Gates, speaking with reporters in advance of a NATO defense ministers meeting, said there is a sharp division of opinion over what the Russian war with Georgia means for the alliance and its relations with Moscow.

"I think we need to proceed with some caution because there clearly is a range of views in the alliance about how to respond," he said. The split, he said, is between alliance members in eastern Europe and those in western Europe.

Germany and others in western Europe intend to block further U.S. efforts this year to give the go-ahead to put Georgia on a formal track toward membership, although they are leery of giving the appearance of caving in to Russia on this issue.

"There is a middle ground that I will suggest, where we do some prudent things that are consistent with the kinds of activities NATO has been engaged in for nearly 60 years in terms of planning, in terms of exercises — and at the same time are not provocative and don't tend to draw any firm red lines or send signals that are unwanted, at the same time it provides some reassurance to the allies in eastern Europe and the Baltic states."

Gates also said that while Russia's more aggressive actions, including its incursion into Georgia, are worrisome to many in NATO, there is no expectation of war with Russia.

"It's hard for me to imagine that those who are currently in NATO feel a real military threat coming from Russia," he said. "To the degree there is a sense of concern, my guess is it has more to do with pressure and intimidation than it does with any prospect of real military action."

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and envoys from all 26 member countries were in Georgia this week. The NATO delegation visited the central Georgian city of Gori, which was bombed and occupied by Russian troops during the five-day war in August.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said the Gori visit sent an obvious anti-Russian message. The NATO chief would have gotten a more objective picture by visiting the capital of South Ossetia, which came under heavy Georgian shelling during the war, the ministry said.

In remarks Thursday at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, de Hoop Scheffer said, "I do not believe the second Cold War is in the offing but the role Russia wants to play in the international system is uncertain."

"Russia has demonstrated a total disregard for the sovereignty of a small neighbor, and for international law," the NATO chief added. "This represents a challenge for our partnership. Russia has long demanded to be treated with respect. That respect has to be earned."

SEPTEMBER 19th 2008
I am glad to see there are those that agree with me, and they are classified as leading thinkers in strategic defence matters.

Nato should stop expanding, says UK think tank

By Anne Penketh and Mary Dejevsky
Thursday, 18 September 2008

Nato needs to stop expanding, according to a leading British strategic think tank. The International Institute for Strategic Studies challenged the Nato secretary-general today by warning against embracing Georgia and Ukraine in the light of last month's Caucasus war.

"The policy of Nato enlargement now, we believe, would be a strategic error," the head of the IISS , John Chipman, told journalists yesterday. Speaking at the launch of the organisation's annual review of world affairs, he criticised the 26-nation military alliance for viewing enlargement as an "institutional priority" - "as if riding a bicycle eastwards is necessary to keep the bicycle upwards."

Russia's implacable opposition to Nato expansion on its borders, by absorbing former Warsaw Pact states, was a critical factor in last month's war with Georgia, which was prompted by the Georgian government's decision to attempt to gain control militarily of the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

The IISS view conflicts with that of Britain and the US, which remain committed to future Nato membership for both Georgia and Ukraine and are adamant that Russia should not have a veto over alliance members. The issue will be hotly debated again at Nato's next summit in December.

The IISS noted that the West was divided on Nato integration and argued that "Europeans have a strong case to argue that it is in Nato's strategic interest to pause its enlargement policy." It accused the "irresponsible" Georgian government of having "weakened its case" for membership by ordering the 7 August assault on the South Ossetia capital which led to the "vindictive" Russian military retaliation. "It openly defied its main strategic patron, the US, by seeking to recover its lost territories" before calling on the West "to sort out the mess it created."

Regarding Ukraine, whose government has collapsed over the president's support for Georgia and Nato membership, the IISS said that a pause was appropriate because of the lack of unity in the Ukrainian population as a whole on the Nato issue.

The Nato chief, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who addressed a separate London think tank yesterday, took the opposite view however and defended Georgia's membership of Nato which he described as a "logical consequence of Georgia's democratic choice."

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute, the Nato chief - who visited Georgia earlier this week - said: "Nato must support Georgia in realising its Euro-Atlantic aspirations."

He also blamed Russia for fomenting the crisis with Georgia which led to the six-day war. Asked about Nato's handling of the crisis with Russia, he said: "There will be no U-turn by Nato vis a vis Russia. We have not gone wrong. The policy of constructive engagement is sound. There may be adjustments in the way of our approach, but there's no need for a new policy."

APRIL 4th 2009
Common sense has prevailed. We have a new American President. NATO enlargement is giving way to NATO strengthening, France is rejoining the NATO military planning committees. Russia and the US have agreed to a fresh start in their relations and are preparing a new Strategi Arms Limitation Treaty to take ove when the current one runs out.

Every so often some bright spark repeats the view that with the cold war over, NATO has lost its purpose and can be wound up. They point to its failure to resolve any current problems and question its utility and expense. But I have to say we have been through this argument in advance many years ago. Unless we are to expect one or more superpowers to be the enforcement agents of last resort  for the United Nations, the world needs an organisation that can cooperate in military actions, can agree on the political essentials that justify any such action, and can debate and discuss these things in a rational manner.  President Obama has made it clear that the US cannot be the world's policeman. NATO could be renamed, that is true, but why confuse things. Fix what is broke and polish up the rest.

STRASBOURG, France – European leaders pledged at NATO's 60th-anniversary summit Saturday to send thousands of soldiers and police to train Afghanistan's army and secure its coming elections, but they shied far from matching America's pledge to dispatch a large number of new combat forces.

AUGUST 21st 2009
Zbig Brzezinski writes in the New York Times/Herald Trib. today. He makes some good points.
August 20, 2009
Op-Ed Contributor

NATO and World Security


In the course of its 60 years, NATO has institutionalized three monumental transformations in world affairs: first, the end of the centuries-long “civil war” within the West for trans-oceanic and European supremacy; second, the United States’s post–World War II commitment to the defense of Europe against Soviet domination; and third, the peaceful termination of the Cold War, which created the preconditions for a larger democratic European Union.

These successes, however, give rise to a legitimate question: What next?

NATO now confronts historically unprecedented risks to global security. The paradox of our time is that the world, increasingly connected and economically interdependent, is experiencing intensifying popular unrest. Yet there is no effective global security mechanism for coping with the growing threat of chaos stemming from humanity’s recent political awakening.

Additionally complicating is the fact that the dramatic rise of China and India and the quick recovery of Japan within the last 50 years have signaled that the global center of political and economic gravity is shifting away from the North Atlantic toward Asia and the Pacific.

This dispersal of global power and the expanding mass unrest make for a combustible mixture. In this dangerous setting, the first order of business for NATO members is to define and pursue together a politically acceptable outcome to its out-of region military engagement in Afghanistan. This must be pursued on a genuinely shared military and economic basis, without caveats regarding military participation or evasions regarding financial assistance for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Such a resolution of NATO’s first campaign based on Article 5 is necessary to sustain alliance credibility.

However, the fact is that the qualified wording of Article 5 allows each country to do as much or as little as it thinks appropriate in response to an attack on a fellow NATO member, and NATO’s reliance upon consensus for decision-making enables even just one or two members in effect to veto any response at all — a problem made more acute by the expansion of the alliance to 28 members and the vulnerability of some members to foreign inducements. Hence, some thought should be given to formulating a more operational definition of “consensus” when it is shared by an overwhelming majority but not by everyone.

The alliance also needs to define for itself a geopolitically relevant long-term strategic goal for its relationship with the Russian Federation. Russia is not an enemy, but it still views NATO with hostility. Hence, two strategic objectives should define NATO’s goal: to consolidate security in Europe by drawing Russia into a closer association with the Euro-Atlantic community, and to engage Russia in a wider web of global security that indirectly facilitates the fading of Russia’s lingering imperial ambitions.

A good first step might be an agreement on security cooperation between NATO and the Kremlin-created Collective Security Treaty Organization, which consists of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In return for this concession — which Moscow has long sought — such an arrangement should be made conditional on provisions that confirm the right of current nonmembers to seek membership of their own choice in either NATO or the CSTO.

Better relations between NATO and Russia could also facilitate a cooperative outreach toward the rising Asian powers, which should be drawn into joint security undertakings. Such gradually expanding cooperation could lead, in turn, to a joint NATO-Shanghai Cooperation Organization council, thereby indirectly engaging China in cooperation with NATO, clearly a desirable goal. Indeed, given the changing distribution of global power, NATO should soon consider more direct formal links with several leading East Asian powers — especially China and Japan — as well as with India.

But to remain relevant, NATO cannot — as some have urged — simply expand itself into a global alliance or transform itself into a global alliance of democracies. A global NATO would dilute the centrality of the U.S.-European connection, and none of the rising powers would be likely to accept membership in a globally expanded NATO. Furthermore, an ideologically defined global alliance of democracies would face serious difficulties in determining whom to exclude and in striking a reasonable balance between its doctrinal and strategic purposes.

NATO, however, has the experience, the institutions and the means to become the hub of a globe-spanning web of various regional cooperative-security undertakings among states with the growing power to act. In pursuing that strategic mission, NATO would not only be preserving trans-Atlantic political unity; it would also be responding to the 21st century’s increasingly urgent security agenda.

Zbigniew Brzezinski was U.S. national security adviser from 1977 to 1981.

NOVEMBER 20th 2010

NATO backs security handover plan for Afghanistan  (see file)

This plan, made public and agreed by all NATO members, is a necessary condition to removing any excuse from the Karzai Government and its supporters for not cleaning up their act on the one hand, or from the Taliban, al-Qaida or any other insurgents on the other for citing a foreign occupation as the reason for murder, mayhem and destruction.

However, If the Taliban think that it means they can just wait for NATO to go home before another terrorist take-over in the name of either religion or ethnic or tribal imperatives they will be making a mistake.

June 10th 2010
Six months on and the lack of a way out of the economic imbalance between the hemispheres (east-west as well as north-south) and the strain on the north-west is apparent. In Europe, we need to take the defense load on board financially, collectively, if we are going to be complementary when it comes to boots on the ground.

America is now 75% of NATO, it is costing them and they are wondering if they need to bear this burden.

The outgoing US Defence Secretary Robert Gates is in that privileged position, and he's let rip about some of America's allies in Nato.

This is a critically important speech. It's no temper tantrum, and it is not, in any sense, a parting shot at his own administration

JUNE 16th 2011
It may well be that NATO is coming to the end of its political life. That does not mean of all life, as it will remain as a coordinating body for all sorts of standards and military cooperation and, where defence planning is required and in times of trouble, all those who these days do damn all or only safe jobs approved by their middle-class lawyers who live in style in the temporary peace, will come running back. But don't let us pretend at this time that there is anything like a coherent common attitude or even education that is turning out electoral majorities of level headed citizens in the NATO countries willing to take the world forward in a confident manner. Perhas it is just as well. Maybe we have to break down and re-form our understanding of what and who we are.