NATO’s new instincts

Whether there is an adversary or not, the United States is there to stay in Europe. The consensus at Lisbon among the NATO member-states and Washington to develop a missile defence shield to protect the territory of all NATO states in Europe is one of far-reaching consequences.

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Published: Sun 21 Nov 2010, 9:57 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:47 PM

But there won’t be any smooth sailing as Russia, which itself is in the process of reprioritising its security preferences, will be a hard nut to crack. Though US President Barack Obama believes that Kremlin in the long run could be a formal member of the military-politico alliance, it is nothing but merely a theory of sorts. A border conscious Russia that has evolved a new sense of pride in its nationalism and is an emerging economic power, notwithstanding its inherent weaknesses, will always be a competitor and in conflict with an expanding Europe eastwards. This is why the metaphor of brainstorming at Brussels and Pentagon has always been to invent an enemy, however virtual that may be, so that Russia is compelled to identify its priorities with the Western camp intrinsically.

President Obama, however, has a reason to celebrate. His engagement in Europe has not only won back the US the leadership role it was forced to abdicate in the last many years, but has also come as an economic bonanza for the struggling economy. A staggering investment of $280 million to link existing anti-missile systems to the US system is no small deal. Moreover, Washington’s intention to see a forward airbase and radar system installed in Turkey and the Scandinavia means big business for American arms merchants, who have been keeping their fingers crossed for a long time. Obama’s Asian yatra and now a renewed security deal in the heartland of Europe has immensely added to America’s political prestige as well, which had been in the doldrums owing to the two controversial and undesired wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yet, the homework on the political front is far from over. NATO’s expansive drive will be contested if Turkey doesn’t find a berth in the European Union. Obama’s contention that emerging democracies are welcome to join the club is a promising one, but what ails Brussels from embracing Ankara, as a full member is not difficult to guess. Apart from Turkey, Afghanistan would always remain a test case for NATO. There is no going back as far as the commitment is concerned in rebuilding the war-weary country. NATO and the US, in their mission of detecting and destroying the terror infrastructure in Afghanistan, would be poised with a tough challenge, and that would be more cumbersome than the surveillance of the entire continent. If NATO accomplishes its mission in Afghanistan with success, its utility as a military alliance will be sought-after by other countries elsewhere in Asia and Africa. Otherwise, it will end up as a mere footnote of political adventurism in times to come.

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