NATO has confirmed that it will rewrite its strategic concept. With this in mind, former Belgian Ambassador to NATO, Prosper Thuysbaert, has kindly sent us a reponse to Karsten Voigt's article The Next Steps for NATO setting out his vision for NATO's next strategic concept. The full text of Ambassador's Thuysbaert's article can be found here.
Ambassador Thuysbaert made a number of recommendations in reponse to Mr Voigt's article, a selection of which can be found below.
1. The future of NATO and the project of a new strategic concept
The biggest problem is the incapacity, at world level, to take action in dangerous situations that only will get worse if nothing is done. Solutions for problems of this kind can only be found through a reform of the UN Security Council. The two essential measures that are needed are well known: making the Council more representative of the world community and making it impossible for a big individual country to paralyse international security decisions for reasons of national interest.
There is a real need for regional security organisations, alongside NATO, in the other continents, possibly beginning with Africa where there are a number of failed states. NATO could help with its expertise, financial support, training and advice.
2. Improving NATO's cooperation
The establishment of a lasting and balanced relationship between the EU and the USA and Canada is crucial for the survival of the Alliance. The idea of a two-pillar construction within NATO that was often talked about in the past seems still premature. Priority should be given to build a strong bridge rather than to the pillars that will have to support it.
There is at present also a "window of opportunity" for a more structured cooperation between the EU and NATO, but rather by a step-by-step approach than by trying to make big jumps forward. There will have to be more precise guidelines and indications so as to give credibility to the engagements that are subscribed.
3. Prioritizing the Russia agenda
Relations between the West and Russia had moved closer, but have recently become more strained. There is the view that, because Russia is still an essential partner for the West, priority should still be given to dialogue and cooperation. A large range of international security problems cannot be solved without Russia's involvement, either because of its veto-right in the Security Council or of its geographic situation.
Russia uses energy as a leverage to increase its income and to regain political influence. Furthermore, for many observers, Russia is slowly turning its back on democracy, human rights, the rule of law and good governance, and there is a feeling within the West that the country cannot be treated as a decent partner any more.
These three policy lines are difficult to reconcile and there is no agreement among NATO members about their level of priority. The right balance has to be to found between them. It is crucial to reach consensus to make sure that Moscow cannot go on playing the policy of dividing the West.
4. Learning from Afghanistan
The new strategy should provide responses to the problems that present themselves both for the operation in Afghanistan and for other possible interventions in the future.
The strategic concept will have to encompass the lessons that have been learned in Afghanistan, such as insisting on the responsibilities of the local authorities to concentrate on the training and the equipping of local military and police forces to provide stability and security once the NATO and the other allied forces have left. The specific Pakistani dimension of the Afghan security problem deserves an increased attention.
5. Overall security threats
The new strategic concept is not going to become a "grand project" aimed at solving the world security problems of tomorrow. These are too large and to numerous for only one security organisation, even NATO. It is unrealistic to expect that emerging powers such as China, India and Brazil will accept that NATO should become the main instrument to provide for a more peaceful and secure world.
Prosper Thuysbaert is the former Belgian Ambassador to NATO
Related materials from the Atlantic Community:
- Karsten Voigt: The Next Steps for NATO
- Ian Davis: Public Must Help Shape a Better, More Open NATO
- Olaf Theiler: Cohesion Vital for NATO's Future