Wednesday, May 16, 2012

NATO Survey

I got to take part in this survey of experts on NATO.  Given all of the experience of the others surveyed, I guess my effort to tweet my way towards perceived expertise has paid off.  That and four years of wandering around national capitals to ponder caveats and other means by which countries manage their participation in NATO's missions in Afghanistan and Libya.

Anyhow, the survey produced a heap of common sense, such as:
  • Should NATO exist?  Duh. I finished the conclusion of the Dave and Steve book (not to worry, we still have other holes to fill with desired end-state probably not reached until end of May), and our argument about the limits of NATO was crucially conditioned by the reality that any substitute or alternative would have the same problems but worse.
  • Purpose--collective defense of Europe (and the Canadians would add--the North Atlantic).  Not so much focus on "keeping Russia in check" but deterring Russia might be in the former category.  Heaps of other on this one.
  • Should NATO go out of area?  Yes 56- No 3.  Too many problems near Europe and beyond perhaps.
  • Unanimity that US should not leave NATO.  Of course not, as NATO manages, if not solves, heaps of European security issues and beyond--and the US still cares about Europe.
  • NATO is essential to national security 50-8, 24-5 among North Americans and 26-3 among European respondents.  
  • Safer now than in 1001?   41-13-4.  Lots of uncertainty about Weimar Russia back then.  Good thing Russia is such a stable democracy now ;)
  • NATO's missions ranging in success: Bosnia > Kosovo > Libya >Anti Piracy > Iraq training mission (yes, but not in Iraq) > Afghanistan.  No brainers, really. 
  • Would European members be able to do a Libyan type op in three years? 34 No, 11 yes, 4 DK.  Hard to see how Britain could do the same with the massive defense cuts.  Same for much of Europe. 
  • Should NATO intervene in Syria?  11 Yes, 36 No, 10 maybe. 
  • Do folks agree with former SecDef Gates that NATO's future is dismal if countries do not devote enough to defense?  40 Agree, 12 disagree, 5 not sure.
  • Should NATO have both offensive and defensive Cyber capabilities: 52 yes, 6 no.  I am pretty sure that most of us experts have the least amount of knowledge to apply to the Cyber questions.
  • France still in integrated command in five years?  Yes 54, 2 unsure, 2 false.

It was interesting to see where there was significant disagreement among the panelists:
  • Who should be kicked out of NATO?  Greece with 18 votes lost to none of the above with 22.  Hungary came in, um, second or third with 5 votes, then Turkey (4), Iceland (3), Albania/Cyprus, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg.  Hmmm.  I said Greece--because it ends up being an obstacle to doing stuff, like dealing with Macedonia and, oh yeah, Turkey, while providing little.  Turkey, often seen as an obstacle, did provide significant numbers of troops to Afghanistan while Greece topped out at 15 for much of the mission.  Hungary makes some sense as NATO is a club of democracies (most of the time), and Hungary may be losing that badge.  Iceland?  Because it does not really provide anything besides its location, and that means that NATO countries have to rotate to provide symbolic protection.  I would have listed Cyprus if it were a member.  It is of the EU, violating the conditionality rules by its very admission.
  • If you had to admit one country, Sweden (13) edges out none (7), Macedonia (5), Australia (5), Ukraine (5), Israel (4) and Israel (3) [?!] and a few at 1 (Bosnia, Japan, Mexico, Norway and Russia [some of these experts don't have as much expeterise as they should--Norway has been a member of NATO for a long, long time].  Sweden does make sense since it has been a contributor to NATO activities in the Balkans and Afghanistan, and is otherwise quite compatible with NATO countries.  Macedonia makes sense if any of the Balkan band of dysfunctional states.  After all, if Albania can get in, why not Macedonia, besides Greece's obstructionism?  I am disappointed that ten folks would list either Georgia or Ukraine since either one would stretch Article V to the breaking point.  My geographically-blind vote was for Australia.  As a four/five eyes country, it is quite compatible with the Anglophone bloc in NATO, they have a very competent military that can provide added value (especially SOF apparently), and are unlikely to complicate/endanger the alliance (unlike the former Soviet cases or Israel).
  • Should Russia join NATO?  10 Yes, 29 No, 19 Not now.  Oy.  Given the complexities of gaining consensus now, would Russia really be a good addition?  No Kosovo, No Libya might appeal to some folks, but including President for Life Putin in the decision loop?  Cpaceebo, nyet.
  • Libya as a model?  31-28.  I think this has a lot to do with what one hoped/wanted/desired.  Libya is a mess now so it is easy to see the NATO mission as not a model.  Or one can see the refusal to take significant risks (no boots) as a moral failure. 
  •  AQ coming back to A-stan after ISAF ends: 24 yes, 26 no, 9 unsure.  Afghanistan always brings out the appropriate amount of confusion.
  • Smart defense initiative will: mask inability to make reforms (18), build capabilities together (15), produce innovation but not now (11), provide excuse for defense cuts (8--including me), other (8).

So, mostly consensus about keeping NATO around and its past but less about NATO's immediate future--enlargement, Russia, sequels to Libya. I am growing fond of saying that NATO is akin to democracy if one relies on Churchill's quote about being the worst save all the others.  NATO is a difficult institution, never reaching an optimal or efficient level of security production, but it does lead to the sum being greater than its parts, that the US is better off with NATO than without it, and the same is true for all of the other members.

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