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Posts Tagged ‘NATO’

Top NATO Official Offers A ‘Do It Yourself’ Guide to Going Nuclear

Posted by K.E. White on March 3, 2010

For those who fret over nuclear proliferation, two persistent obstacles keep us awake at night.  First, most determined nations can start-up a nuclear program.  And, even more vexing, is the creeping fear that once a nation builds the Bomb any international fall-out will be rough but manageable. (Case studies: Pakistan and India.)

Now these obstacles are nothing new.  But Michael Rühle’s hilariously dark presentation is  At Spiegel, the deputy head of the NATO Secretary General’s policy planning unit offers a satirical ‘how to’ guide for nuclear aspirants.

From the editorial:

The last choice for you to make is whether to remain a “virtual” nuclear power or announce your arrival with a big bang, i.e. with a nuclear test that establishes your credentials as a Nuclear Weapons State. By this point, you will have spent billions of dollars and much political capital. You may have become an international outlaw, and if you do not control oil, your country may now be impoverished. A decline in relations with your neighbors is complemented by an increase in number of alliances against you. Does all this add up to a net gain? Well, perhaps not quite as good an outcome as you had initially hoped. But no one ever said that being a nuclear power is easy.

Posted in humor | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Russia Rearms: Why is the Bear Roaring?

Posted by K.E. White on March 17, 2009

President Dmitry Medvedev announced a “large scale rearming” of Russia’s conventional and nuclear forces in 2011. 

The NYTimes portrays it as a mix of diplomatic posturing for Medvedev’s meeting with Obama and the response to Russian military weaknesses shown in the recent Georgia-Russian war. The Guardian heralds the new arms race, putting blame squarely on America’s maximalist foreign policy. And views the announcement as geared more towards the Russian public. 

In short, the move is not welcome news—but it’s not entirely unexpected. And its meaning will take form over this year. Medvedev has drawn various lines in the sand: moves towards having airbases in Cuba, setting up bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, helping rid of an American base in Kyrgyzstan, and now a rearmament announcement. Keep in mind, Russia has for years protested expansion of NATO in Eastern Europe–and drew a bloodly red line in Georgia.

And let’s not ignore another possible cause of this announcement: the economic crisis. Russia may be signaling that current economic woes will not change their strategic objectives. 

But one thing is clear: The US-Russian relationship is entering a critical phase, and the Obama administration must tread carefully.  

Posted in Russia | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Smith Simpson Debate on Diplomacy 2009: WASH Wins Again

Posted by K.E. White on March 13, 2009

Summary: A half-heartedly serious re-cap of the Smith Simpson on Debate on Diplomacy from a very biased source.


It’s spring time in Charlottesville-the University of Virginia, to be exact. For some students this may bring groans: avoiding reinvigorated joggers and listening to the cries of streakers on The Lawn (a stretch of greenery encompassing UVa’s initial campus). But for some-or at least two debating societies-Spring brings the thud of a time-keeper’s hand against wood, the rapid-fire enunciation of debate points, the thrill of victory and, flowing from it, the sweet sting of defeat.

I speak of the annual Smith Simpson Debate on Diplomacy where the Unversity’s two debating societies face-off for pride, glory and a set of metal cups. 

The topic this year: whether or not the United States should push for Georgian membership within NATO in light of the recent Russian-Georgian tensions.

Photograph of Smith Simpson and Family in India, 1960

Now celebrating its 23rd year, the debate owes its existence to its namesake: R. Smith Simpson, a former labor advisor for the National Recovery Administration, diplomat, and passionate lecturer on diplomacy.  Mr. Simpson, a former student and lecturer at UVa, set aside a fund to have an annual debate on diplomacy in 1983. The participants: the university’s two debating societies, The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society (‘Jeff’) and The Washington Literary Society & Debating Union (‘WASH’).  


Representing the Jefferson Society and arguing in favor of NATO membership for Georgia were Emma K. King (’10) and Wm. Grayson Lambert (’09); their opponents: Jason Shore (’10) and Byran Henning (’10). Professors James T. Cargile, Jeffrey W. Legro and David W. Breneman adjudicated the debate.

So onto the substance!

Mr. Shore opened the round, structured his first affirmative around two board points: 1) Georgia’s drawbacks as a potenial NATO member before its conflict with Russia and 2) the greater folly of America supporting Georgian membership in NATO after the 2008 Georgia-Russian war.

Shore took what some may call a ‘traditionalist’ view of NATO: as a military alliance where additional membership should be judged on the ‘hard power’ calculations of its membership. As such, Georgia’s relative military weakness, its unreliable leader Mikheil Saakashvili and the current membership of Turkey-which, he contended, already provides overlapping benefits, made it questionable why America would push for its NATO membership. Shore then continued his line of argument in light of the Georgia-Russian war: with Russian troops now occupying land in Georgia, and Russia violently proving its desire to keep Georgia out of NATO, why risk alienating Russia? Particularly if the United States needs Russian support to effectively combat terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

Mr. Shore also wore an impeccably stylish tie.

Emma King started her case arguing that Georgia was, in fact, geographically and culturally European. In fact, she took the time to cite a geographical authority on the matter. This became, rather strangely, a key part of the Jefferson Society’s argument: since NATO is a European alliance meant to hem in Russian aggression, all European nations who wish to join should have American support (somewhat regardless of nation-state particulars, and let’s forget that NATO has ever evolved before or after the Cold War). But her real aim was on two fronts: 1) NATO membership would make a valuable ally in the region and 2) any current difficulties relating to the recent Georgia-Russian conflict should not bar Georgia-especially as obtaining NATO membership is a 10-15 year process.

             For the Jefferson Society, NATO membership for Georgia was a diplomatic tool to relieve tensions in Georgia, keep Russia from dictating NATO members, and the best tool to keep Georgia democratic and economically prosperous.  And any problems from membership would be worked out over the 10-15 year process of joining…somehow.                

Two moments stood-out: 1) Miss King claimed current Georgia-Russian tensions should not be weighed too largely because, like WWI, war between Russia and Georgia is inevitable. And 2) Apparently, harkening a near neo-conservative line, Miss King saw this moment as the moment for Georgia’s membership in NATO. The cost? That fell to her partner, Mr. Lambert to discuss latter.

But, fret not dear reader, even grander statements of world history and international relations were waiting-ever patiently-to hurl themselves into the proceedings.

Byran Henning started on the attack: pointing out, quite rightly, that according to Miss King Russia should be a member of NATO. He then bought the debate to back to Georgia’s weaknesses, and contended that NATO membership would increase tensions between Russia and Georgia. Such an outcome, Henning argued, would force the NATO members to risk direct military conflict with Russia-a steep price to pay if the status quo-American military support for Georgia-can continue with the added stress of NATO membership. He also pointed out that little-if anything-had yet to be stated against his partners earlier case that Georgia was never an ideal nation for NATO membership.

Henning, while under cross-secs, was pressed by Mr. Lambert on the following question: if active containment of Russia during the Cold War worked why not do it now? Henning’s response, causing a mild stir in the hall, was ‘Was the Cold War worth it?’

I believe that question would make a great 2010 round of Smith Simpson. Unfortunately, Lambert’s swallow response of ‘we won’ caused a deafening series of snaps from Jefferson Society supporters. (Added detail: ‘WASH’ members, in the Germanic tradition, pound one hand on an arm of their chair to applaud; ‘Jeff’ members prefer to snap their fingers)

Bryan Henning and Jason Shore

Bryan Henning and Jason Shore

While Miss King’s speech could be wound up as a geography lesson wrapped up in a delicious, cake-walk view of the future, Mr. Lambert’s speech was a historically drenched tirade against anyone who dear condone Imperialist Russian actions. Russia was no partner of the United States, Lambert contended, only a power-hungry state bent on retaking its former empire. He also extolled the virtues of democracy in Georgia, arguing NATO was the best strategy to ensuring a free society in Georgia.

Lambert made many other points-doubtless, some had to be compelling. Unfortunately I cowered under my chair during the vast majority of his speeching-time. His hyperbolic bolivating convinced me the Red Army was only seconds from invading Charlottesville, and killing every last capitalistic pig-human American they could find.

I recovered quickly enough to hear the closing rebuttals. The judges then left to decide the winning team.

Jason’s tie was still impeccably stylish.

After a lengthy discussion, the judges returned a 2-1 verdict in favor of the Washington Society.

 The only surpise? The lack of a unanimous decision. Kudos to Mr. Henning and Mr. Shore.


K.E. White (University of Virginia ’06) is a former Washington Society president and is a two-time winner of the Smith Simpson Debate.

Posted in Smith Simpson | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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 »