NATO and Asia – don’t underestimate Article 4.

Screen shot 2013-03-28 at 12.37.17Carnegie Europe has posted a new discussion piece on its ‘Strategic Europe‘ blog, in which Karl-Heinz Kamp, (research director of the NATO Defense College in Rome) says:

NATO needs to follow the US pivot to Asia

As for how, Karl-Heniz has the following ‘big hand, small map’-type suggestions:

“First, NATO has to consider new ways of transatlantic burden-sharing. If Washington focuses more on Asia, and if Europe benefits from America’s stabilizing presence in Asia, then Europeans should take on a greater role in other regions on Europe’s borders. NATO’s war in Libya, where some Europeans shouldered most of the fighting while Washington provided critical but limited support, could be a model for the future.

Second, NATO needs to overhaul its partnership concept. Many NATO partners in the Asia-Pacific are strong democracies, willing and able to contribute to NATO’s military operations. Together with democratic non-NATO members in Europe like Sweden or Finland, they need to be given a special say in NATO’s political deliberations. The alliance needs new partnership formats that include these democracies in its consultations on a wide range of security issues.

Third, if NATO has to act on a global scale, and if the Asia-Pacific region becomes more important, then the role of maritime forces able to deploy thousands of miles from home will increase significantly. Many NATO members need to rethink their plans for long-term military acquisitions to include more naval capabilities.

Those NATO members who still cultivate a Eurocentric view of the world should shift their strategic perspective. They need to stop navel-gazing and start looking toward the Far East.”

The first is not news, and hardly stands more chance of being realized now than any other time Washington sought ‘burden sharing’. The third is logical, but probably only applies to a small number of NATO allies. I think the second of Karl-Heinz’s three recommendations offers the most ‘bang for the buck’. The partnerships structure is overdue for a re-think.

But his last point about the NATO Allies’ mindset (or ‘euro-centric navel gazing’) is also worth pursuing. If NATO wanted to demonstrate an interest in Asia or look to Asia to demonstrate its relevance for the coming era (and those are big ifs), I would suggest that in parallel to a re-vamp of the partnerships structures,  NATO should exercise its Article 4 activity on Asian security issues. This means having more and better informed discussions about what is happening in Asia and how it affects NATO. E.g. discuss in the North Atlantic Council what the maritime disputes in Asia mean to NATO’s security interest. Surely this kind of discussion should come before any more structural or policy changes. Also, talk is (in a good way) cheap. It wouldn’t take any re-structuring and wouldn’t require extra resources. It would take a bit more analytical work, but the effect would far outweigh the cost of that. Of course, it would also take some political ambition on the part of allies – any takers?

Remember, Animus in consulendo liber” –

As Jamie Shea put it in an earlier blog post on the same Strategic Europe site:

“In the past, it was thought that consultation and analysis would inevitably commit NATO to act or create this perception among others. This assumption has often discouraged allies from discussing sensitive topics, such as Iran, North Korea, or the Middle East peace process. But the more NATO consults among its own members and brings in relevant partners as well, the less the outside world will expect action every time, and the more accustomed it will become to the Alliance being a political forum as well as a military power projector. It is good that NATO is much more than a “talking shop.” But equally true is that NATO does not have to fire a shot to prove its value. The NATO of the future should not build its raison d’être solely on the primacy of military action, but equally on its ability to achieve political coherence among its members and to identify solutions that other branches of government and other organizations can then take up—even if this means that NATO will as often as not be in a supporting rather than a leading role.”

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One response to “NATO and Asia – don’t underestimate Article 4.

  1. Pingback: NATO response to attack by North Korea | Europe Asia Security Forum

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