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NATO Summit follow-up

Thursday 24 May, 2012

As the 50+ heads of state have left Chicago following the recent NATO Summit, I guess it’s safe to comment on it now.  Here’s what I picked up from McCormick Place, site of the summit.  Obviously, the principal topic & challenge was how quickly to pull out of Afghanistan.  Budgets are declining slowly & the EU isn’t yet spending it’s goal of 2% of GDP on military (1.6%), which can be done by pulling up the Baltic state members to get them interoperable with other members.  The Afghans need to learn that the level of corruption there is unacceptable & they need to solve the problem by themselves.   The people I heard from were cautiously optimistic.  Kabul is now relatively safe with only 6 violent crimes/100K people/year.  While it’s not as good as Europe’s 1/100k/year or the US @ 5/100K/year, it’s far better than 50/100K/year in Latin America or 150/100K/year in Caracas, VZ.  As I understand it, NATO has 4 goals over the next 2 years:

  1. protect the local Afghan civilians & bring their number of casualties down
  2. figure out what’s the right balance between diplomatic & military action.  I understand 8M students are now in school in Afghanistan, vs. only tens of thousands under the Taliban.  Infrastructure needs to be established.  Medical care has increased from 10% coverage under the Taliban to 60% now & needs to continue to improve.
  3. communications with local Afghans needs to improve
  4. obviously, train Afghan security forces, in great quantities, (up to 350K, I heard), & with quality as well.  Supposedly the military has an 80% approval rating & police a 70% approval rating.

As I understand it, the US will wind down from 90K troops there now, (& 40K other foreign troops), to 4K in 2014.  This also will have spillover effects, i.e. on how to deal with Pakistan & other neighbors.  We need roads to the sea get our stuff out of Afghanistan, so we need to repair our relationship with Pakistan.

On other fronts, Iran has missiles that can reach European capitals, so they are a threat.  NATO is implementing @ 1st a sea-based defense system that will expand to a land-based system in Poland & Romania with Turkey hosting the radar component.  The Balkans could still be an issue.  Those countries are now members of NATO, but tensions still exist.  There’s a little nervousness about Russia, but they are no longer hunkered down behind a wall.  NATO has been successful in Libya & against pirates, but cybercrime is a growing concern, to the tune of $2TR/year.  The threat is high & preparedness is low, & that’s a bad combination.  NATO wants to work with the private sector on this 1.

Increasing education in Afghanistan is a priority, especially given the 25% literacy rate for 25-30 year olds.  NATO needs more innovation to enhance it’s missile & defense systems.  They are now moving from joint operations with other military services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) & developing inter-agency relationships with Dept. of State & Agency for International Development, to creating public-private partnerships.  Smart power, rather than swinging around our military might will be the key to success.  The bedrock of NATO is article 5, which states that an attack on 1 member is an attack on all members.  This has only been invoked once, following 9/11.  Read it sometime.  It’s a short, simple document that says a lot.

My surprise is that no one is talking about China as a rising military power.  The Chinese are building up their naval forces in the South China Sea & even claiming territories in the Indian Ocean, mostly to secure trade routes & gain access to resources.  The Chinese are also gathering more troops near a disputed border area with India.  I understand that the countries a little bit west are the most immediate concern, but at some point, they’ll have to sit down with the Chinese & work out a hopefully amicable agreement on how to defend the world peacefully.

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