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Archive for the ‘NATO’ Category

Trouble in Afghanistan: Wither NATO?

Posted by K.E. White on February 10, 2008

The Canadian-led NATO mission in Afghanistan has run into some considerable trouble.

Canada called for more troops from NATO partners, even threatening to pull out if their request went unanswered.

While Germany has softened its opposition to granting more troops, the United States has increased diplomatic pressure on NATO allies to solve the Afghan dilemma.

Speaking at an international security conference in Munich, Defense Secretary Robert Gates openly pressed NATO members to send more troops to Afghanistan.

From the New York Times:

After weeks of calling on NATO governments to send more combat troops and trainers to Afghanistan, Mr. Gates made his case directly to people across the continent in a keynote address to an international security conference here. Mr. Gates summoned the memory of Sept. 11, 2001, to say that Europe is at risk of becoming victim to attacks of the same enormity.

“I am concerned that many people on this continent may not comprehend the magnitude of the direct threat to European security,” Mr. Gates said. “For the United States, Sept. 11 was a galvanizing event one that opened the American public’s eyes to dangers from distant lands.”

In a hall filled with government officials, lawmakers and policy analysts from around the world, Mr. Gates added: “So now I would like to add my voice to those of many allied leaders on the continent and speak directly to the people of Europe. The threat posed by violent Islamic extremism is real and it is not going to go away.”

While Iraq dominates headlines in America, Afghanistan remains a vital front in the war on terror. The Afghan-Pakistan border still stands as a critical hotbed of extremist activity.

But getting more troops from war-weary allies is no easy task. France has elevated political success over military success in Afghanistan; Australia refuses to send more troops; and Merkel faces stern opposition to any German troop increase.

From AFP:

According to an opinion poll due to be published in Monday’s edition of the magazine Focus, 84 percent of Germans oppose sending combat troops to the south.

And 63 percent believe the current deployment in northern Afghanistan does not serve German interests, according to the TNS Emnid poll.

Germany, whose troop level deployment in Afghanistan currently stands at about 3,200, earlier this week announced it would take over responsibility from Norway in July for a quick reaction force in the north of the country.

The Sunday Herald—a Scottish newspaper—illustrates just how high the stakes are for NATO in Afghanistan:

The problem is that Nato is not geared up to that kind of thinking, even though it is beginning to concentrate on training the Afghans to take over responsibility for their own security. The alliance was formed to defend the West against attack from the Soviet Union. During that time it never fired a shot in anger, and now it has been tasked to fight what many believe is the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Afghanistan is still considered by the security community as the make-or-break mission for Nato, and the urgency of the situation cannot be overstated,” argues Kate Clouston, an associate of the Royal United Services Institute, in a paper on the alliance’s operations in Afghanistan for the independent think tank. “Substantial reform by Nato allies is needed now if the alliance is ever going to be ready to hand over control of the currently unsecured provinces to Afghan national forces.”

The British publication Telegraph has a detailed article on John McCain’s foreign policy, in particular his views on Afghanistan:

A future President McCain would be expected to win favour with European governments critical of the Bush administration’s approach to combating Islamic extremism, by closing the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in the first weeks of his presidency and declaring that the US will no longer tolerate torture.

British and American pressure on Germany appeared to bear fruit yesterday when it emerged the German government might send an extra 1,000 troops to Afghanistan. But Mr McCain will continue to work to broaden its restrictive rules of engagement.

The Afghanistan offensive will form a major plank of Mr McCain’s outreach to the world, as he battles to win over conservatives in his party.


Posted in Afghanistan, NATO | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tensions in NATO’s Afghanistan Mission: Canada Wants More Troops, US Paints Dire Picture, Germany on the Fence

Posted by K.E. White on January 30, 2008

Canada—who heads up NATO operations in Afghanistan—is becoming a bit antsy about its peacekeeping role. Earlier this month, a review of Canada’s military operations in Afghanistan—chaired by John Manley—demanded more NATO troops be sent or Canada should terminate its mission there.

Canada’s departure from the NATO mission could be a major blow to the alliance. From

“I think if NATO can’t come through with that help, then I think, frankly, NATO’s own reputation and future will be in jeopardy,” Harper told reporters after endorsing that recommendation from a panel headed by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley.

Canada, with roughly 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, has lost 78 soldiers and one diplomat. All three opposition parties are pressuring Harper’s Conservatives to end Canada’s combat mission by no later than February 2009, with the NDP and Bloc Quebecois demanding an immediate withdrawal.



The response from other NATO countries? Not fantastic. From Spiegel Online:


Meanwhile, Germany‘s Green Party warned on Wednesday that the deployment of combat troops to northern Afghanistan could lead to the spread of the German mission to the volatile south of the country. Party defense spokesman Winfried Nachtwei told the Leipziger Volkszeitung that the Quick Reaction Force should not “open the door for the Bundeswehr in the south,” and that the government should “guarantee that the limits of the mandate up to now are maintained.” Nachtwei insisted that the combat troops should only be allowed to support troops in the north and not be sent to fight the insurgency.

The German media on Wednesday looked at the implications of the NATO request, which could see Germany further embroiled in Afghanistan.

How coalition partners react to the deteriorating situation is critical to American security. The Afghan-Pakistan border is a terrorist hotbed: threatening not only Afghanistan’s security, but that of the volatile–and nuclear armed–regime in Pakistan.


President Bush pledged to send additional American troops to Afghanistan during his State of the Union address:

“In Afghanistan, America, our 25 NATO allies and 15 partner nations are helping the Afghan people defend their freedom and rebuild their country. Thanks to the courage of these military and civilian personnel, a nation that was once a safe haven for al-Qaida is now a young democracy where boys and girls are going to school, new roads and hospitals are being built, and people are looking to the future with new hope.

“These successes must continue, so we are adding 3,200 Marines to our forces in Afghanistan, where they will fight the terrorists and train the Afghan army and police. Defeating the Taliban and al-Qaida is critical to our security, and I thank the Congress for supporting America‘s vital mission in Afghanistan.”

A report released today paints a bleak picture in Afghanistan. From

The study by former UN ambassador Thomas Pickering and retired Marine Corps General James Jones is due to be released later on Wednesday.

“The progress achieved after six years of international engagement is under serious threat from resurgent violence, weakening international resolve, mounting regional challenges and a growing lack of confidence on the part of the Afghan people about the future direction of their country,” it says.

Posted in Afghanistan, Canada, Foreign Policy, international relations, Manley, NATO | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Russia Update: Still Denying Blame for the Georgia Missile Flap; Russia Expels British Diplomats; Joint China-Russia Terror Exercise Performed

Posted by K.E. White on August 22, 2007

Summary: The bear is roaring in Russia. Russia is maintaining its hard-line stance in Georgia and on the Alexander Litvinenko murder. The reason? Russia is reasserting its diplomatic weight. And, in even more SCO news, China and Russia hold their first joint terror drills.

Two independent groups agree with Georgia in the missile dispute between Russia and Georgia.

But, if accurate, what was the rationale for this peculiar action?

The most recent PINR report delves into this issue. Seeing Georgia as a “catalyst of Russo-Western tensions in the wider Black Sea region” Dr. Federico Bordonaro confirms the ‘missile’ verdict: finding Russia guilty of violating Georgian airspace.

The reason? Push back against Western influence in the region. Russia has taken harder positions on Kosovo and US-backed plans for a European missile shield. There seems to be a battle for influence: with Russia preferring OSCE to be the central playing ground in Europe, not NATO. The reason? Russia’s veto power in OSCE. The Western preference is NATO, naturally.

From the PINR report:

The timing of the incident also raises questions. Russia is saber-rattling: strategic bombers are now regularly flying again beyond Russian airspace, like in the Cold War years; military expenses are on the rise; Moscowannounced a moratorium on the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and openly accuses\nWashington of unilaterally destroying the\nEuropean strategic balance by setting up a B.M.D.\nsystem without consulting Russia. At the same\ntime, the Kremlin has adopted rigid stances on\nKosovo, Transnistria, and Georgia. The impression is that Russia wants to\nreposition itself clearly as a re-established\nglobal power before the United States elects a\nnew president in the fall of 2008. American\npre-election tactics, Washington’s difficult\nMiddle East campaign, and high oil and gas prices\ngive Russia an opportunity to accelerate its\ncomeback. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that\nMoscow will seek an extreme diplomatic crisis\nwith Washington in the coming months and years.\nInstead, it will presumably formulate a broad\nproposal, designed to re-negotiate its strategic\nrelations with the West. Briefly said, Russia\nwants to re-negotiate what it had to do in\n1990-1992 from a weak position, during its deep\npolitical, economic, and military crisis that\nfollowed the perestroika years. The Tsitelubani incident\nand the following inquiry have some important\nramifications and implications for both global\nand regional actors. The U.S. and E.U. low-key\nprotests signal the weakness of the Euro-Atlantic\nalliance at this moment. Apart from some\nsensationalist articles in the press, which try\nto validate the theory of a full-blown neo-Cold\nWar, Western diplomatic reactions have been\ncautious. Western divisions, which\nstem from the different security and strategic\ncultures in Europe and the United States,\ncontinue to hamper the birth of a comprehensive\nAtlantic geostrategy in the wider Black Sea\nregion — notwithstanding the sea of printed\nproposals and studies on the issue. Russia is\nsuccessfully exploiting such a void, especially\nat a time of U.S. fatigue in the Middle East and\nAfghanistan. As a consequence of such\nWestern tactical difficulties and strategic\ndilemmas, Russia will remain confident and at\ntimes threatening in the South Caucasus, despite\ninternational condemnation for actions such as\nthose carried out in Upper Kodori or South\nOssetia.”, and openly accuses Washington of unilaterally destroying the European strategic balance by setting up a B.M.D. system without consulting Russia. At the same time, the Kremlin has adopted rigid stances on Kosovo, Transnistria, and Georgia.

The results of the missile incident’s ongoing inquiry appear to contradict Russian claims and will presumably augment Moscow’s negative image among Euro-Atlantic decision-makers. However, this seems to be a calculated risk by Russia. At the moment, the Kremlin gives less importance to its international image than to its ability to put pressure on some geostrategic hotspots.

Driving a wedge between pro-Western elites in former Soviet states and the enlarged N.A.T.O. is critical for Russia’s geopolitical interests. Therefore, look for Moscow to insist on a series of negotiations on the wider Black Sea region’s frozen conflicts and Kosovo, which will seek to secure Russian interests and influence. The and E.U. will now have to make a fundamental decision: either they opt for a harder stance and try to continue the expansion of the Euro-Atlantic geostrategic realm deep inside, or they will need to take Russian interests seriously. This latter possibility would mean that the broad arc of instability extending from Belarus to Central Asia through the wider Black Sea region will assume a bipolar structure (the Euro-Atlantic combine and Moscow being the two poles), where Russia will be able to project power and influence, notwithstanding the E.U. and N.A.T.O.’s enlargement.

Now an accommodation can be made, but the Russian broadcast is clear: Europe will have to take Russian interests into account.

In other news, China and Russia are conducting joint terrorism exercises next month in Moscow:

China‘s armed police and the interior forces of Russia will conduct for the first time a joint anti-terrorism drill in Moscow in early September.

“Cooperation 2007” will be the first international anti-terrorism exercise for China’s armed police outside the country.

The drill was in accordance with the principles of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and related agreements signed by the two countries, Xinhua news agency reported.

And remember the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko? Britain does. And Britain’s demand for answers continue to brew trouble against the countries. But fret not:

“I think British-Russian relations will develop normally. We are interested in the development of relations both from the Russian side and from the British,” Putin said on the sidelines of an ethnic festival in western Russia.

“I am sure that this mini-crisis will be overcome,” he added.

Posted in Alexander Litvinenko, Britain, China, Federico Bordonaro, Georgia, missile, NATO, OSCE, Putin, Russia, SCO | Leave a Comment »

Russia Roars: Putin Blasts NATO Missile Defense; Diplomatic Combat Over Kosovo

Posted by K.E. White on April 27, 2007

Numerous news-sites commented on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to withdraw from The Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe arms treaty (CFE), voiced during his final annual address to the Federation Council (Russia’s upper house of Congress).

Reuters offers a succinct summary of what such a diplomatic withdrawal would mean. The treaty restricts armaments throughout Europe–from Atlantic and Russia’s Ural mountains. But more important is the treaty’s symbolic significance: to foster a cooperative security environment between Europe and Russia.

Putin’s move signals to Europe and America his unhappiness with the geopolitical status quo, and perhaps a willingness to shake that norm up.

PutinReuters points out that lately Russia has felt the CFE has become a diplomatic tool to box Russia in and accept pro-West policies.

But Putin pointed specifically to NATO’s missile defense plans—spearheaded by the United States—as a reason for possible CFE withdrawal.

This issue directly relates to speculation over the possibility of a new nuclear arms/war technology race.

If large regional powers—China and Russia—feel their nuclear deterrents are no longer effective, their security concerns could derail cooperation with the United States and their allies on a host of over issues.

And Kosovo may be the first casualty. Russia is currying opposition to Kosovo independence, contrary to American and European aims. While Russian opposition has other–and more substantial–roots, the feuding over missile defense certainly does not help.

And to top things off, a WWII monument is severely souring relations between Russia and Estonia.

The Russian bear is roaring, and putting the world community on note.

Posted in Kosovo, missile defense, NATO, Putin, Russia | Leave a Comment »