Go­ing Strong At 65

An agent of pos­i­tive change for 65 years, NATO continues to face emerg­ing chal­lenges in the realm of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Ta­hera Sa­jid

NATO continues to strive to re­main rel­e­vant in the geopo­lit­i­cal arena as an evolv­ing, vi­brant and com­mit­ted or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Our strength and ca­pa­bil­i­ties are in­her­ently based on form­ing, sus­tain­ing, equip¬ping, and train­ing an adap­tive force in which the only con­stant in the geopo­lit­i­cal ter­rain is change.” (Gen­eral Philip Breedlove,

Com­man­der SACEUR)

The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to­day is con­stantly un­der threat from ter­ror­ism and eco­nomic chal­lenges that af­fect and en­dan­ger so many na­tions. As in­di­vid­ual coun­tries strug­gle to find so­lu­tions, of­ten more suc­cess is seen through for­ma­tion of al­liances. The most suc­cess­ful of these al­liances uti­lize analy­ses from di­verse per­spec­tives and com­bine re­sources to ac­cel­er­ate pro­cesses of change for de­sired out­comes. The North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion has been one such force of pos­i­tive change through­out its 65 year his­tory and has proved it­self to be the most durable al­liance in his­tory.

Signed into ex­is­tence in Wash­ing­ton, DC on April 4, 1949, with 12 mem­bers, to­day this ro­bust 28-mem­ber al­liance is a unique model of co­op­er­a­tion and strength. Achiev­ing sub­stan­tial suc­cess in its mis­sions over the years, NATO has ac­tively worked with its mem­ber states and part­nered with 41 coun­tries and in­di­vid­ual stake­hold­ers from across the globe, im­pact­ing strate­gic de­ci­sions and pro­vid­ing in­formed global per­spec­tives.

The first Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of NATO, Lord Is­may, had fa­mously stated – what would ap­pear very short-sighted and naïve now – that the or­ga­ni­za­tion's goal was "to keep the Rus­sians out, the Amer­i­cans in, and the Ger­mans down." Need­less to say,

the per­spec­tives on part­ner­ships and pri­or­i­ties have changed sig­nif­i­cantly since then, and adapted to shift­ing geopo­lit­i­cal re­al­i­ties. NATO has formed strong bonds with Rus­sia through the NATO-Rus­sia Coun­cil (NRC) since 2002 and both have worked to­gether on many fronts. As Gen Breedlove re­cently ob­served in the Turk­ish Pol­icy Quar­terly, 2014: “While NATO has dif­fer­ent views with Rus­sia in cer­tain ar­eas such as mis­sile de­fense, there are many other ar­eas in which we are work­ing to­gether in or­der to achieve the goals set out at the NATO-Rus­sia Coun­cil sum­mit in Lis­bon in 2010.” Ar­eas of co­op­er­a­tion in­clude coun­ternar­cotics and piracy, sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal fields, civil emer­gency re­sponse, nu­clear weapons is­sues and cri­sis man­age­ment, etc. Since 2008, Rus­sia has also pro­vided land tran­sit routes to the NATO-led In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity As­sis­tance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan across Rus­sian ter­ri­tory.

Tak­ing up the cause of women and chil­dren suf­fer­ing the reper­cus­sions of liv­ing in cur­rent or pre­vi­ously ac­tive war zones, NATO also sup­ports the UN in im­ple­ment­ing its Women, Peace and Se­cu­rity agenda, out­lined in the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion (UNSCR) 1325. This and other sim­i­lar UN res­o­lu­tions, “call for full and equal par­tic­i­pa­tion of women at all lev­els in is­sues rang­ing from early con­flict preven­tion to post-con­flict re­con­struc­tion, peace and se­cu­rity.”

Over the years, NATO has evolved into a vi­brant or­ga­ni­za­tion, fo­cused on re­solv­ing con­flict and sup­port­ing the cause of peace, draw­ing ever more strength from adapt­ing to chang­ing times. It has been ac­tively in­volved in sup­port­ing the cause of peace in coun­tries around the world.

Af­ter the col­lapse of the Soviet Union, which her­alded the end of the Cold War, the fo­cus on ac­tive crises brought NATO into Bos­nia in the 1994 Bos­nian war and then into Afghanistan as part of the se­cu­rity and train­ing force work­ing with the Afghan govern­ment, start­ing 2003 to date, and into Iraq for tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance and train­ing from the op­er­a­tional phase span­ning 2004 to 2011, to a sus­tain­ing role dur­ing 2012 and 2013. Since 2008, NATO has also suc­cess­fully con­ducted counter-piracy op­er­a­tions around the Horn of Africa to pro­tect the busy sea route, es­pe­cially for in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian ves­sels, in­clud­ing those of the UN World Food Pro­gram. NATO also par­tic­i­pated in the 2011 air cam­paign in Libya to im­ple­ment the UN Res­o­lu­tion, UNSCR 1973.

Of all the mis­sions, how­ever, NATO’s in­volve­ment in Afghanistan re­mains its long­est and per­haps tough­est com­bat com­mit­ment to date. Since 2003, work­ing in ac­tive con­flict ar­eas, NATO has sup­ported peace ini­tia­tives in Afghanistan “to en­able the Afghan au­thor­i­ties to pro­vide ef­fec­tive se­cu­rity across the coun­try and en­sure that the coun­try can never again be a safe haven for ter­ror­ists”. This ob­jec­tive seems to have been achieved in that the core lead­er­ship of Al-Qaeda has been ren­dered largely in­ef­fec­tive and the ISAF continues to train the Afghan Na­tional Se­cu­rity Forces to man­age their coun­try’s se­cu­rity. Af­ter 2014, a smaller num­ber of NATO troops - be­tween 10,000 to 12,000 - will take on train­ing and ad­vi­sory roles for as long as mu­tu­ally agreed upon by NATO and the Afghan govern­ment.

Pak­istan has long been a ma­jor non-NATO part­ner. In 1994, the UN re­quested Pak­istan to be­come part of the NATO mis­sion in Bos­nia. Since 2001, fully ac­knowl­edg­ing the value of peace in Afghanistan as be­ing di­rectly linked to its own se­cu­rity, Pak­istan has pro­vided ex­ten­sive con­tri­bu­tion to Afghanistan in mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion and lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port which has been widely ap­pre­ci­ated as be­ing in­stru­men­tal in the fight against ter­ror­ism. In 2007, the Pak­istan Mil­i­tary and NATO jointly es­tab­lished the Joint In­tel­li­gence Op­er­a­tions Cen­tre (JIOC) to im­prove co­or­di­na­tion be­tween NATO, ISAF and Pak­istan. How­ever, the tragic Salala in­ci­dent in 2011 was a ma­jor set­back in their re­la­tions. Con­tro­ver­sially at­trib­uted to op­er­a­tional mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the Pak­istan Army and the NATO-led ISAF troops, it re­sulted in the death of 24 Pak­istani soldiers and cre­ated sig­nif­i­cant ten­sion be­tween the part­ners. Pak­istan blocked NATO sup­ply routes through its ter­ri­tory un­til a for­mal apol­ogy was de­liv­ered by the U.S. Nonethe­less, Pak­istan continues to work in close co­op­er­a­tion with NATO, terming the re­la­tion­ship to be largely one of mu­tual co­op­er­a­tion and geared to­wards up­hold­ing peace and se­cu­rity in the re­gion.

Go­ing for­ward, if a les­son from Afghanistan has been most con­sis­tent, it is the high cost of war in terms of pre­cious lives lost that will al­ways bear down heav­ily on our col­lec­tive con­science. Hence, the most im­por­tant fu­ture chal­lenge for NATO will be to stay pro-ac­tive and non-re­ac­tive, and en­gage po­lit­i­cally to find so­lu­tions to se­cu­rity threats be­fore full blown con­flicts de­velop.

Sec­ondary to that, and yet equally sig­nif­i­cant, is the eco­nomic chal­lenge due to the global re­ces­sion. As NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­ders Fogh Ras­mussen ac­knowl­edged in a joint press con­fer­ence with the Prime Min­is­ter of Bul­garia, Martin Raykov, in March 2013, “I am con­cerned about the de­clin­ing de­fence bud­gets. It is a mat­ter of con­cern be­cause we will need suf­fi­cient in­vest­ments in de­fence if we are to ad­dress fu­ture se­cu­rity chal­lenges ef­fec­tively and con­tinue to pro­tect our pop­u­la­tions ef­fec­tively against new threats, like mis­sile threats, like cy­ber threats, like ter­ror­ism.” Hence, as Mr. Ras­mussen went on to ob­serve, pool­ing of re­sources, also known as Smart De­fence, would of­fer a prac­ti­cal so­lu­tion for NATO to tap into.

Gen­eral Philip M. Breedlove, the Com­man­der of U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand and NATO Supreme Al­lied Com­man­der Europe (SACEUR) in the Turk­ish Pol­icy Quar­terly, 2014, also pro­vides some as­tute anal­y­sis and in­sight re­gard­ing NATO’s role: “Through­out the last 65 years of NATO his­tory, the fo­cus of the Al­liance has evolved and adapted to its geopo­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment; this is no dif­fer­ent to­day. NATO’s strength and ca­pa­bil­i­ties are in­her­ently based on form­ing, sus­tain­ing, equip­ping and train­ing an adap­tive force where the only con­stant in the geopo­lit­i­cal ter­rain is change. The global se­cu­rity cli­mate continues to shift and evolve around us, de­mand­ing our con­stant vig­i­lance”.

In con­clu­sion, at 65 years of age, NATO continues to strive to re­main rel­e­vant in the geopo­lit­i­cal arena as an evolv­ing, vi­brant and com­mit­ted or­ga­ni­za­tion. The NATO lead­er­ship clearly un­der­stands, and is fully com­mit­ted to, the value of timely en­gage­ment, adapt­abil­ity and pre­pared­ness in or­der to ef­fec­tively man­age emerg­ing chal­lenges in the realm of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions.

The writer is a free­lance colum­nist. She lives in Mas­sachusetts, USA. Her writ­ings and vol­un­teer work fo­cus ex­ten­sively on so­cio-eco­nomic is­sues, in­ter­faith di­a­logue and US-Mus­lim re­la­tions post 9/11.

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