Mar 21, 2008

UNPO Attends Seminar on Nato’s Future


In advance of the Bucharest summit to be held on 2 April 2008, the Netherlands Atlantic Association hosted a seminar outlining the views of Nato insiders and commentators on some of the outcomes that could be expected from the meeting. UNPO was there to observe the opinions expressed.

In advance of the Bucharest summit to be held on 2 April 2008, the Netherlands Atlantic Association hosted a seminar outlining the views of Nato insiders and commentators on some of the outcomes that could be expected from the meeting.  UNPO was there to observe the opinions expressed.

The Hague, 21 March 2008 - This year’s Nato summit in Bucharest will be crucial.  At its heart will be discussions over ongoing operations in Kosova and Afghanistan, the emergence of new security risks involving energy, ‘cyberterrorism’ and missile defense, and how to best manage future Nato membership expansion.  Yet it is may only lay the ground for greater change that will take place in 2009 - the sixtieth anniversary of Nato’s founding.  Nato is being transformed from a Cold War defender of self-defence and determination into a new role as a ‘global stability provider’.

The summit could also have ramifications for UNPO members, especially Kosova.  While the dust has still to settle on the newly independent state, Nato’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) has reaffirmed that its mission remains one designed to implement UN Resolution 1244.  That is, to prevent any partition of the territory and protect all those within Kosova’s borders.  The independence Kosova has achieved has also been deemed irreversible with the emphasis now resting on the prevention of any further violence.  It was also emphasized that no country has removed its forces from Kosova as a result of the declaration, something that should be seen as a clear sign of international support and commitment.

Similarly, there are no intentions to limit Serbia’s participation, and Serbian involvement is seen as a key part of Nato’s role in encouraging democracy and security within Europe.  But the open-door policy now comes with a security chain. The fear of potential conflict between members is proving a brake on Georgian and Ukrainian membership and it appears as if the Adriatic Charter countries (Albania, Croatia, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) will be the last states to enjoy Nato fast-track treatment (although in Albania’s case the fast-track has taken over a decade). 

Nor will the assistance offered to Kosova be granted to areas such as Abkhazia or South Ossetia which, it was declared, remain seen as falling under Georgian sovereignty despite the existence of historical, cultural, and linguistic arguments to the contrary.  Indeed, the prospect of Georgian membership, beyond any questions over the definition of Europe’s borders, was seen as raising the risk of disunity and potential conflict within Nato and with the Russian Federation.  This now appears to be the major stumbling block on any moves to full Georgian membership of Nato.

Despite such speculation, it will only be after 4 April 2008, when the summit closes, that the direction Nato intends taking will really become known.  But what is clear is that Nato is changing fundamentally as an organization. It is determined to focus on the new threats that face its members wherever in the globe they might originate.  But as it reinvents itself after the end of the Cold War, the question must be asked: how will the organization adapt to a world where borders are becoming increasingly meaningless and yet notions of territorial integrity remain so emotive?