Monday, September 22, 2008

Go South Young Man ...

One way to regenerate NATO and perhaps to restore some degree of alliance cohesion is to focus attention on what are joint threats to all NATO members, whether north, south, east, or west in Europe or across the Atlantic. That's why I have been arguing that securing the trade links and the vital energy corridors upon which the West depends for its economic health should move to the top of the agenda.

As the financial and credit crisis here demonstrates, there is no effective military or security response if the economic foundation has been eaten away. (Just as one can argue that Russia's resurgence is linked to the growth in its own treasury--cash is a prerequisite for combat, one can argue).

And I am worried about the eastward focus of the alliance as opposed to consolidating its southern flank. And no, I don't think we've shown ourselves to be good at walking and chewing gum at the same time; so some degree of reprioritization may be in order.

From your linked article:

"Drawing up contingency plans for how NATO might defend and support the Baltic states, for instance, is a prudent action..."

I have difficulty seeing any plans for the Baltic states that would really secure them unless NATO can be depended upon to reject any compromise that Russia might propose after invading them.

" is hard to envision how protecting the maritime security of the Euro-Atlantic world could do anything but enhance alliance cohesion and solidarity at a time when both are otherwise weakening."

Yes, although I would have thought a mandate for maritime security already exists. But if the mandate needs a push at the ministerial level then it should certainly get it.
A mandate might exist, but it doesn't get the attention needed. And Russian tanks aren't going to be rolling into Europe, but there's a good chance for a major interruption in the oil supply.
This is totally bizarre. Russia has no plan to invade any of the Baltic countries. How can we build future with this kind of cold war thinking?
Anonymous 5:21,

Since the United States and the other NATO allies are required to defend each other if attacked, I see nothing bizarre about having plans to implement a defense in a range of possible situations.

Contingency planning is about things we hope do not happen but must be prepared to deal with if they do. Having plans for self-defense in no way implies that Russia will invade. It only implies that if Russia invades there will be a plan to respond.
David Billington said:

“Contingency planning is about things we hope do not happen but must be prepared to deal with if they do.”

If we follow this logic then all Russia’s protests regarding AMD in Poland and Czech Republic look reasonable too. US has no plan to attack but Russians have to be prepared and have “a plan to respond.”

I don’t like it a bit. The entire premise is too divisive and will lead to new arms race. We need more confidence building measures and less military preparations. Cold war is over and NATO has to come up with its own "perestroika."
Anonymous 8:40,

Contingency planning is not public so that it is not confused with actual policy. I would imagine that Russia also has contingency plans, including ones for the situations you describe. I don't see these as inherently destabilizing. What would destabilize the situation are actual military movements by one side that threaten the other side.

I certainly hope there isn't another arms race but that will depend on how each side perceives the other in terms of intentions and capabilities. For confidence building measures, what would you propose on both sides?
Conventional military confidence building measures won’t do the job. A new thinking is required to see partners’ interests. Europeans are beginning to realize that today’s Russia is our own creation. Putin was quite different at the beginning of his presidency. He spoke very candidly with his foreign colleagues about the need to transform Russia and about the role of the West in this process. Unfortunately, US policymakers got carried away by their illusory greatness and power. They chose to build a new “Berlin Wall” (in the form of AMD system and numerous new military bases in Eastern Europe). Some have gone completely nuts. For example, a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan wrote a couple of weeks ago that he was sorry that Ukraine got rid of nuclear weapons. In his article he was trying to figure out the damage it could have delivered to Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian towns/regions.

It was an inexcusable mistake not to accept Russia's offer to join NATO in the 1990s. (This process could have taken many years, of course.) I am sure that many military analysts would disagree. However, they disagreement makes my case even stronger. They are trained to think “military,” which makes their opinion useless in this situation.
Anonymous 12:04,

"It was an inexcusable mistake not to accept Russia's offer to join NATO in the 1990s. (This process could have taken many years, of course.)..."

I agree. Things could have turned out very differently if we had seen Russia as a potential partner.
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