SHAPE NEWS SUMMARY & ANALYSIS 21 MAY 2002
U.S. - EU
NATOs future role and transatlantic relations are a major concern. Media viewed NATOs relations with Russia, accession, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and the Middle East as key-issues that the Alliance has to tackle not to have its influence diminished.
Moscow chose after September 11 to be more of a friend, if less than an ally, so what should NATO become? Should it be modernized to remain the main instrument for projecting military power for the U.S. and its allies? Or should it take on the serious but less compelling mission of being a sort of political talking-shop that can help democratize the rest of Europe, stabilize the Balkans, modernize Central Asia and bring the Russians into a serious collaborative relationship with the West? The New York Times wondered. It quoted Ronald D. Asmus - a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe - as stressing that the basic question is whether the U.S. and Europe can come up with a common strategy to deal with this new challenge of the greater Middle East. "If NATO doesnt address the central strategic issue of our time, which is terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and the remaking of the Middle East, it will cease to be Americas premier alliance," Mr. Asmus reportedly added.
An editorial in The Washington Times calls on NATO to wake up as Russias virtual membership in degrades the Alliance that has successfully fought threats around the world for 53 years. At the top President Bushs agenda for his European tour, there will be how much power Moscow should receive in the new NATO-Russian Council, a decision which will reflect how relevant the U.S. administration believes NATO to be, the daily writes. It opines that the greater the power Russia gets, the more irrelevant the alliance is and President Bush must make clear that Russia will not have the capability to block decisions made by NATO members. Russia was able to skip the entire membership action plan process all other potential new members had to fulfill and was given a bigger voice in formulating policy on nine topics, including the war on terrorism, theater missile defense and crisis management, charges the editorial. It continues by wondering what does this Russias "preferred status" mean for the U.S. and NATO: at best, it further contributes to the Alliances deterioration from a military alliance into a political one, adding another dissenting voice to slow down decision-making, the newspaper concludes.
Media stressed that the low defense budget among the European nations, which causes a transatlantic military gap, could hamper NATOs stability and future.
Peter Finn in The Washington Post opined that military reform remains a difficult issue in Europe and even though Europe seemed to have revived its political commitment to NATO after September 11, in the long term, if the transatlantic military gap continues to widen, Europes ability to influence policy in Washington will dwindle, threatening the stability of NATO. There is no question that the capabilities gap is the most challenging issue before the Alliance and it has to be fixed for its future, the daily stressed. Each crisis produced a flurry of talk about the need to establish new priorities in European defense spending, but as each crisis ebbed, nothing much happened, the article wrote, quoting an unnamed European diplomat as stressing that "the gap is no longer an embarrassment, its a crisis." Without major reform, NATO risks becoming a two-tiered alliance in which the U.S. does the fighting and the Europeans pick up the garbage, in the damning description of Julian Lindley-French, a defense analyst at the European Institute for Security Studies in Paris, the daily noted. It further wrote that the U.S. would like individual European countries to use existing funds to build comparative advantage in niche areas rather than having broad but threadbare militaries. For example, Czech Republic is putting more resources into its biological and chemical response unit, and the Norwegians have systematically built up their special forces at the expense of Cold War armaments such as tanks and some NATO applicants, such as the Baltic states, have pooled resources to create state-of-the-art joint air defenses and form battalions. the newspaper singled out.
Secretary General Lord Robertson pressed for a modernized NATO with a global reach as "NATOs credibility depends on its military capability," The New York Times wrote. It continued: Lord Robertson and other NATO officials set out several military goals for the Prague summit: strategic lift, to get troops out of Europe by air; rapid-reaction forces; more precision-guided munitions; better air-to-air refueling capacity; secure communications and establishing missile defenses.
- Turkish Daily News on the Internet, noted that the SACEUR General Ralston met with Chief of General Staff, Gen. Kivrikoglu in Ankara, adding that no press information was given regarding the meeting.
- Denmarks Chief of Staff Gen. Christian Hvidt resigned Friday last week, six weeks before he was scheduled to retire, following a dispute with the Defense Minister over the cost of a retirement parade in his honor , AP reported. "The necessary political confidence to me as Chief of Staff doesnt exist any more. A continuous personal smear campaign must not affect the whole defense. As of consequence of this, I have decided to resign with immediate effect," General Hvidt reportedly stated.
- The expansion of cooperation between Russia and NATO "will unlikely help to stop the process of enlargement" of the Alliance, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov said at a joint session of the Duma and the Federation Council international affairs committees. Interfax quotes him as adding: "We still have a negative attitude towards this issue, but the continuation of criticism implies assuming a position certainly doomed to failure." The co-operation between Russia and NATO implies equality, "but the matter does not involve Russias NATO membership," he reportedly continued, adding: "The goal we are pursuing is to set up a new mechanism providing mutual responsibility for the resolution of international problems, first of all those pertaining to the campaign against terrorism and extremism." Regarding prospects for cooperation, Russia "will directly promote the creation of conditions for NATOs transformation," Ivanov reportedly said.
- President Bushs trip to Europe is meant to rekindle the European support that has been waning after September 11 under an impression that his administration is increasingly going it alone in world affairs , AP stresses. American officials reportedly said that President Bush will use a rare invitation to address the German Parliament, on Thursday, to underscore the need for continued cooperation in the U.S.-led war on terrorism and to explain his policies and decisions. The report further notes that tens of thousands, who call themselves "Axis of Peace," are expect to protest President Bush administrations perceived tendency to go it alone, including fears of a U.S. attack on Iraq.
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