Wednesday, February 23

Pundita cuts EU and NATO some slack

"You seem opposed to the US continuing with NATO. Some EU leaders seem to want to abandon NATO in favor of an EU defense organization. Yet President Bush is strongly in favor of keeping NATO and strengthening it, and I agree with him. I don't think the US should abandon what has been a very effective organization, and I think the East Europeans who have joined NATO are very strongly in favor of keeping it.
[Signed} Jan in Reston"

Dear Jan:
Pundita is opposed to the State Department being dominated by foreign policy that does not emanate from the White House and opposed to any White House defense/foreign policy that does not serve American interests first. There should be no conflict between an America-first policy and NATO--or between any member country's defense policy and NATO. The idea behind NATO is that member countries pursue their own course within the basic guidelines of NATO membership and come together in times of crisis under a shared leadership to fight a common enemy. Over a period of decades the idea fell into disrepair.

The idea worked during the Soviet era because the alliance countries saw the Soviet Empire as a common enemy, so there was cohesiveness in basic outlook and policy for deciding on which situation merited a NATO response.

The cohesiveness was retained after the dissolution of the Soviet Empire because the shared goal was breaking up the Warsaw Pact--bringing as many former Soviet regions as possible into NATO and integrating them in the NATO-allied European community. But where was the common enemy for this task?

The State Department drifted from a NATO-centric view into a Eurocentric view that was dominated by issues that went considerably beyond the narrow confines of defense. Meanwhile, State had gained more power in Washington than the Pentagon. The flaws in this state of affairs became patently obvious on 9/11.

Yet even after a catastrophic attack on the US exposed how little attention the American defense/foreign policy agencies had paid the world outside Europe, State continued to support a Eurocentric view. State 'went along' with the invasion of Afghanistan because Europe went along with it and so NATO supported it. State openly broke with the White House over Iraq because Europe broke with the White House and NATO followed.

In short, NATO suffers from mission drift and State drifted along with the drift. That doesn't mean the basic principle of the organization is now wrong or that America should abandon NATO. But there needs to be review of NATO policy and tightening up on the organization's purpose. Before this can go forward the major NATO member countries need to review and retool their defense policy for the modern era. The US has made a big start with Bush's Security Doctrine and initiatives, but the State Department has yet to be brought in line with the doctrine and the Pentagon is still retooling--and under wartime conditions.

Europe's challenge is far more complex and difficult. For all the fights inside the Beltway and the disputes between Democrats and Republicans, this nation is not only powerful, it's also very strong--the institutions are strong and cohesive. It's amazing if you look back on how far we've come since 9/11; Americans were able to get it together very quickly on a wide range of complex issues.

Europe, on the other hand, was hit by 9/11 at a time when they were profoundly immersed in integrating at a new level. They were trying to reshape the Continent along very cohesive lines and asking themselves how much cohesiveness they could take.

At the banking and intel levels Europe rallied with stunning speed to help the United States in the critical hours after the 9/11 attack. But once the financial crisis was averted and the initial shock of the attack wore off, Europe was almost resentful that in the middle of all their refurbishing, they had stop and figure out how to respond to the larger issues surrounding 9/11.

Then came Bush's swift actions--the decision to attack the Taliban, the declaration of the war on terror, and the preemption doctrine. Over a period of weeks, Bush threw together a new national security policy for the United States.

Europe wanted time to think and there was no time; the Bush war on terror came together like lightning. Then came Iraq. Part of Europe's anger at Bush about Iraq is a rooted in a 'Stop the World I want to get off' feeling. If the war could just stop for a year and let them sort out what they need to do with regard to working out EU adjustments, they'd probably come around to several of the ideas that Bush threw at them with dizzying speed--and they already have come around in some key areas.

And since 9/11 the Europeans managed to get in a great deal of hard thinking about the issues Pundita sketched with regard to NATO, and they've come upon a serious problem. They've put together an EU constitution that calls for one foreign policy for the entire EU bloc. Because foreign policy rests on defense policy, the question is how a singular European defense policy fits in with NATO.

Also, a defense policy for the EU that's not a joke rests on greatly beefing up the Eurozone military and there's all sorts of questions, including funding questions, to be dealt with in that regard.

Ironically, the need to respond to Bush's shoot-from-the-hip security strategy galvanized the EU leaders to think about all the above much sooner, and more deeply, than they had intended before 9/11. All these defense questions are very sticky, very complex for the Europeans. They thought they could kick the can down the road during the 1990s because there was no looming military threat. Writing in December 2003 about Europe's first draft of a security strategy, Steven Everts of the International Herald Tribune observed:
It has forced European leaders to debate strategies and policies, rather than seek refuge in more familiar discussions on institutions and processes. It has already produced a "new realism" that pervades current debates on EU foreign policy. A year ago it would have been impossible to get all countries to sign up for a European strategic culture "that fosters early, rapid and, when necessary robust intervention."
Not all the EU countries have yet ratified the EU constitution and it's not even clear whether England will accept the idea of a single Eurozone foreign policy run from Brussels. So there is still a lot of sorting out to be done. I think Bush and his advisors recognize this but clearly his approach is, 'America has a war to run.'

War gives no time to construct defense policy from the comfort of the armchair. From that view, sticking with the tried-and-true alliance and doing patchwork repairs to it on the fly makes more sense than trying to build up a new alliance framework or revise the old one from the ground up. So for now staying with NATO makes sense. However, America needs to stick with NATO's original principle; our foreign office and defense agencies need to be very clear on American policy as distinct from the country policies of NATO members and a 'NATO view.'

Short takes on EU security strategy:,,19269-1489226,00.html


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