Andrei KONUROV: NATO uses Afghanistan to turn into a global organization

7 April, 2009

NATO jubilee summit is over. The world leaders and prime ministers, who gathered in Strasbourg and Kehl, welcomed Albania and Croatia as new members of the alliance and agreed to establish a NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan within ISAF to oversee higher level training for the Afghan National Army, and training and ring for the Afghan National Police. Apart from this, the allies agreed to resume formal meetings of the NATO-Russia Council despite ‘the remaining differences’. Though Turkey was opposed to it, the participants of the summit managed to maintain visibility of reunion and elect the Danish premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the alliance’s new chief.

The NATO summit took place after the G20 leaders had met in London to discuss measures to fight the global financial crisis which still is far from over. After all jubilee celebrations were completed, the U.S. and the EU started negotiations focusing on economy issues. That is why such remarkable military and political event was held between the two economic forums (probably, not to bother Barack Obama to fly overseas once again).

First of all, it proves that despite all current problems with the dollar and the deficit of the U.S. budget and balance of trade, America does not seem to abandon its ambitions of world leadership. Or maybe it would be better to say that notional ruling circles yet have not changed their mind about America as their bastion. They do not plan to reform the existing global economic system, they will just make something to distract attention from the problems.

Ahead of the G20 summit the U.S. gave it to understand that the country would not tolerate any interference in their home financial market. Washington also did not like the idea to introduce a new world currency to replace the weak U.S. dollar. Washington also criticized protectionist policies which are becoming so widely spread almost everywhere. Americans believe there will be a way out of crisis only when goods and capitals are allowed to freely flow from one country to another. Others seemed to agree on this, although it is quite obvious that it is easier said than done.

Although the participants of the G20 summit managed to avoid debates, the agreement they had achieved appears to be very unreliable and as the crisis will go deeper, no signs of cooperation will remain. And the crisis will surely go stronger since all the measures the allies had agreed on, are actually in no way adequate to the real state of affairs.

It is very likely that somebody will be pressed to accept a compromise.

And this is where the NATO jubilee summit was to the point. For Barack Obama, who has been setting himself up as a peace-loving and diplomatic politician (unlike George W. Bush or John McCain), it was necessary to bring home to the potential critics of the U.S. anti-crisis bailout that it would be too naive to treat him as the U.S. Gorbachev as he, Obama, would never cross the line if it may harm his protectors’ business. In order to demonstrate something to the rivals, first it is necessary to make them become loyal and united on the issues which are really important for America these days.

The framework of the summit perfectly met the U.S. requirements. In recent years Germany and France have more than once expressed their dissatisfaction with the decisions made by the allies but this time they did not have even a slightest reason for annoyance and enjoyed respect as the countries hosting the events. Actually, in recent months the U.S. administration has done much to fondle its partners in Western Europe. No signs of arrogance like it used to be under George W. Bush. France was so touched that even sent back its troops to the NATO contingent before the summit. Being more reserved by nature, Germans yet have not undertaken anything of the kind. But they simply did not have any reasons for such ‘maneuvers’.

At the previous summit in Bucharest last year, Germany and France were against giving Georgia and Ukraine a Membership Action Plan (MAP), the last qualifying step for NATO aspirants before an offer of membership. This time nobody even tried to focus on the issue again. The atmosphere was friendly due to the celebrations over the acceptance of Albania and Croatia into the alliance. Many words were said about NATO’s readiness to accept all willing democracies. So, nobody was somehow heart to hear such vague phrases.

Regarding the decision to resume formal meetings of the NATO-Russia Council, the declaration read that although many differences remained as Russia was not an easy partner, still the country was an important participant in international policies as it is also interested in peaceful settlement in Afghanistan, in the fight against terrorism, in the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, e.t.c

Although Barack Obama used to say that relations with Russian would never be the same as they were before the war in the Caucasus, these words may be interpreted as an attempt to rephrase Heraclitus.

America backed the candidacy of NATO’s new Secretary General as very few allies were against. Though Turkey at first opposed to Anders Fogh Rasmussen (who did not apologize for the publication of caricatures of the prophet Muhammad in the Danish media), it is obvious that the candidacy of the Polish foreign minister Radoslav Sikorky would have caused even tougher debates.

All U.S gestures in Strasbourg and Kehl were aimed to gain agreement from the member states to increase NATO’s presence in Afghanistan. America had already unveiled its plans to send a part of the Iraqi force to Afghanistan but since this is a difficult task amid the crisis, they need assistance. It takes on a special meaning ahead of the August presidential elections in Afghanistan. Rumors say Washignton will not support the incumbent president Hamid Karzai and will find somebody who could replace him.

If the U.S. mainly focused on Afghanistan during the NATO summit, their concessions to Western Europe on other issues are easy to explain. Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and the alliance in general voiced their full support to the new U.S. Afghanistan and Pakistan startegy. Mr. Sarkozy told journalists NATO had no right to fail its Afghan mission, while Frau Merkel described Afghanistan as a ‘moment of truth’ for the alliance. The outgoing Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the NATO contingent could have a boost of 5,000 more troops.

There are currently around 70,000 soldiers in Afghanistan including 50,000 under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Now to modernize the Afghan army and the police it is expected to increase the forces up to 134,000 people. Currently, the potential of the Afghan police leaves much to be desired. The local forces of security will gradually receive the right to control all their territories as soon as they learn to repel the attacks without foreign support. In the meantime it is necessary to boost western presence in Afghanistan. Although France and Germany support the idea, they do not seem to be ready to send their troops there very soon. Spain and Estonia have confirmed their readiness to do this.

Why did the Afghan issue hit the agenda of the NATO jubilee summit? Many observers have repeatedly described the country as ‘crucial’ for the U.S. policy. Geographically, Afghanistamn is the heart of Eurasia, and to have military presence there means to have control over Russia, China, India and Iran, have a close eye on the Middle East and on the oil routes coming from the Caspian basin. Also it is a perfect way to gain profit from drug business, which has only blossomed since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

By trying to involve NATO members in the Afghan issue, the U.S. aims to make the alliance a global organisation, its interests spreading far beyond the Euro-Atlantic region.

If NATO’s increased presence in Afghanistan brings some results that may be described as success, the alliance thus will have more chances to be treated as a global organisation. This may even result in the UN ousted from the international scene as the organsiation has long been described as ‘not effective’, where democrats have to negotiatie with dictators, and both enjoy equal rights there. That is why it is necessary to establish another international organisation comprising only democratic countries in order to handle global processes more effectively.

NATO bureaucrats are perfectly aware of this tendency as they have their own interests there related to the status and prerogatives of the authoritative international officials. People from NATO HQ in Brussels have long become strangers to their own nations and turned into a united trans-national group with clearly defined identity. NATO bureaucrats are exactly those who make the alliance an independent part of the global policy, its interests being almost similar to those of the U.S.

In view of this, I wonder whether Russia will reduce its nukes.

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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