Freitag, 25. Mai 2012

Letter from Chicago – A NATO Summit Review

No conference without a bag. The NATO conference
offered a Nato cake and a hand-written note
from a high-school student.

Last weekend I was given access to NATO's summit in Chicago, as part of a delegation of Young Atlanticists, from some 35 countries. Being in Chicago for the NATO summit was, I confess, a pretty thrilling experience, which might have something to do with all the cakes and pastries that were in abundant supply. Then, of course, that sugar was more than needed, since Herman van Rompuy was about to give a speech that bordered on the surreal. Asked for specific successes of Europe's soft power, he said something along the lines that Europe won the Cold War without hard power, but would otherwise refrain from commenting on what he understood as hard and soft power. Also the European crisis is limited. One seriously has to fight the urge to stand up and tell him that the West won the Cold War because there were hundreds of thousands American soldiers on German soil, to make sure we were not overrun by Soviet tank divisions. And whenever someone says the Cold War was won without firing a shot, I really want them send back to high school. Its not only that there were numerous proxy wars, but people were shot at the border itself.

Anyway, I wasn't in Chicago to give van Rompuy a good scolding, but rather to enjoy the city and the summit. I was surprised to hear that the Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen acknowledged that the problem with pooling and sharing was assured access. Put differently, how does the alliance ensure that the pooled resources are available to nations in need. That might be manageable, but what if there is a weapons systems that needs soldiers from more than one country to be operational and a crucial member state objects. On that note, SPIEGEL today ran a story that has the parliamentary speaker saying that any deployment of German Army forces will remain in the sole authority of the German parliament. So much for assured access (I've pointed out to SPIEGEL that there is no new strategic Concept, so that's been taken care of) Which clearly demonstrates the major problem with pooling and sharing: we are not going to share the resources we really deem essential, which means the really expensive systems are probably going to remain national assets or will be shared only with partners that are deemed reliable (and following Libya, that basically means no one is going to share anything important with us). But the major problem is this: pooling and sharing is a fiscal rather than a military initiative. Its a smart way to cut budgets, and not in any way intended to close the capability gaps, NATO clearly has. Look no further than the one project that is being touted as a major success for the entire initiative: In the first 48 hours I spent in Chicago, I heard the Strategic Airlift Command purchase of three C-17 Globemasters by twelve nations being touted as a success of pooling and sharing no less than four times. Mind you, what happens when two or three nations happen to need these planes at the same time, I do not know. And I am guessing that nobody really knows.

On my way out, I got a copy of Colin Powell's latest book—It worked for me—which I really cannot recommend. I always liked Powell, but the book only offers advice along the lines of, work hard, but do not work so hard that you forget what matters like family and stuff. Find a balance. And seriously, 280 pages could have been put to better use (he received a pretty solid scolding at Slate today, not totally undeserved).  

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