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Chicago summit exposes NATO's dilemma   2012-05-22 15:30:34

The leaders of NATO's 28 member nations wrapped up their two-day summit here Monday with a set of measures and steps that brought to light the military bloc's deepening dilemma.

The so-called Smart Defense approach adopted by the alliance and the network of partnerships it is seeking to build around the world, coupled with a detailed exit from Afghanistan, all point to a declining and less capable NATO.

Capability building, partnership and Afghanistan dominated the Chicago summit, the biggest of its kind in history.


The Smart Defense notion was first broached by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in February 2011, in response to the financial constraints facing the transatlantic community and the yawning gap in defense capabilities between Washington and its European allies as a result of reduced European spending on defense for years.

The approach calls for pooling resources and capabilities of member states to maintain and develop capabilities needed to confront the complex challenges in the 21st century, as stated in the strategic concept adopted in Lisbon in November 2010, when NATO leaders last met.

The Chicago summit saw a number of multinational projects unveiled, including a declared interim ballistic missile defense capability as an initial step to establish NATO's missile defense system, the deployment of a highly sophisticated Alliance Ground Surveillance system, and the extension of the air policing mission in the Baltic states.

In addition, the summit sought to have on board more partner nations to make up for the capability deficiency resulting from member nations' refusal to engage in operations, as was the case in Libya.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday afternoon hailed the role of partners as critical to NATO's operations after representatives from 13 partners engaged in the Afghan mission joined NATO leaders on the sidelines of the Chicago summit.

At a press conference, the president even talked about the role partners could play in helping thwart terrorist threats in Yemen, Somalia and Mali, pointing to their "more effective intelligence operations, more diplomatic contacts."

Building on a transition plan agreed on at their Lisbon summit, NATO leaders finalized details in Chicago of the exit strategy from Afghanistan, foreseeing a change to a support role from the current combat mission by mid-2013 for NATO forces and the withdrawal of most NATO combat forces by the end of 2014, when the Afghan forces are expected to take over the security lead across the country.

Though the Afghan war has entered its 11th year, the Taliban-led insurgency still has the ability to launch coordinated attacks in the most heavily-fortified part of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, and NATO's rushed exit will not contribute to a stable and peaceful Afghanistan.

However, the military alliance can no longer afford a prolonged war in Afghanistan both financially and politically, if not morally.


At the Lisbon summit, NATO leaders pledged to adapt what they called the world's most successful political-military alliance to confront the 21st century security challenges.

Analysts say Washington hopes NATO will continue to evolve to protect its members from new threats like ballistic missiles and cyber attacks, by preserving and developing essential defense capabilities.

The United States values the military bloc's role as the world's only institution capable of rapid and effective multilateral military action.

However, the Libyan operation laid bare not only the limited capabilities of NATO's European allies, including Britain and France, but also their lack of political will to join discretionary non-collective defense operations, as only eight of NATO's 28 members participated in the operation there.

As Washington's inclination and ability to act alone in case of contingencies are declining, there is a growing chorus of calls for future resort to the so-called Libyan model, in which the United States led from behind by having other allies and partners take the lead.

The proponents, among them Brent Scowcroft, a former two-time national security advisor to U.S. presidents, call for the establishment of a coalition of the willing, involving allies and partners alike and using NATO structures, to operate in future contingencies as NATO is winding down its intervention in Afghanistan.

source : Xinhua     editor:: Ma Ting
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