The 2014 NATO summit will be held this week in Wales. The last time the United Kingdom hosted the NATO summit was in 1990, when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, the Cold War was coming to a close, and the alliance was questioning its future role in the world. Today’s situation is not dissimilar. This will be the last summit before NATO ends its combat operations in Afghanistan and the first since Russia illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula and brought instability to eastern Ukraine. The U.S. should use this opportunity to refocus the alliance on the core tenets of the original 1949 North Atlantic Treaty: collective security and territorial defense.
In advance of the summit, The Heritage Foundation has published six Issue Briefs touching on important policy issues that President Obama and his NATO counterparts should address.
NATO Summit 2014: An Opportunity to Support Georgia
On June 25, the outgoing NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced that Georgia would not receive its long-awaited Membership Action Plan (MAP), which is one mechanism NATO uses to formalize a candidate country’s path to full membership. Instead of a MAP, Georgia has been promised a “substantive package” of support that will bring Georgia closer to NATO. Georgians have proven themselves to be gallant in combat. They are also undertaking a defense transformation program that is an example to all of NATO. The U.S. should continue to support Georgia’s NATO aspirations and ensure that the summit delivers a capabilities package that will enhance the NATO–Georgian relationship while improving Georgia’s defensive military capabilities.
NATO Summit 2014: Time for the Alliance to Get Back to Basics
NATO’s mission in 1949 and throughout the Cold War was to deter and (if required) defeat the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, to protect the territorial integrity of its members, and to stop the spread of communism in Europe. Although the nature of the threat might have changed, the threat itself has not gone away. NATO does not have to be everywhere in the world doing everything all the time, but it does have to be capable of defending its members’ territorial integrity. The 1949 North Atlantic Treaty is clear that NATO’s area of responsibility is “in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.” The U.S. must use the Summit as an opportunity to focus on collective defense, encourage Europeans to spend more on their militaries, and to keep NATO’s “open-door” policy alive.
NATO Summit 2014: Time to Make Up for Lost Ground in the Arctic
The Arctic region, commonly referred to as the High North, is increasingly becoming strategically important. Although the Arctic has been an area of low conflict among the Arctic powers, NATO should consider the implications of Russia’s recent aggressive military behavior. NATO is a collective security organization designed to defend the territorial integrity of its members. Five NATO members (Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and the United States) are Arctic countries. In addition, two closely allied nations (Finland and Sweden) also have Arctic territory. NATO has no agreed common position on its role in the Arctic region. Although NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept was praised for acknowledging new security challenges for the alliance, such as cyber and energy security, Arctic security was not included. In fact, the word Arctic does not appear in the 2010 Strategic Concept, the 2010 Lisbon NATO summit declaration, or the 2012 Chicago NATO summit declaration. NATO has waited too long to take the Arctic region seriously. At the Wales summit, the alliance should finally lay out a strategy for the High North.
It will be the last summit before NATO ends its combat operations in Afghanistan and begins its Resolute Support mission to train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The two most important issues at the summit regarding Afghanistan will be the financial funding for and size of the ANSF after 2015 and the number of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. More than 50 international leaders of those nations that are participating in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will attend the summit. This offers a unique opportunity to address these issues. One of the most crucial periods of the Afghan campaign will commence in 2015, when Afghans take the lead for their security. NATO should avoid using the summit as a victory lap for its mission in Afghanistan. Recent events in Iraq show what happens when the U.S. fully disengages after combat operations end. The end-of-2014 deadline for Western-led combat operations is not the end of the war but simply a continuation of the campaign led by the Afghans and supported by the international community.
Obama’s Trip to Estonia: The Right Visit at the Right Time
In advance of the NATO summit President Obama will visit Tallinn, Estonia, to meet with leaders from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. This visit is a welcome announcement. Up until the recent events in Ukraine, the importance of the Baltic region to NATO and the threat Russia posed to it was generally overlooked by the Obama Administration. The visit sends an important signal to friends and foes alike in the region that the U.S. takes Baltic security and its obligation under NATO seriously. The U.S. should seize on the momentum of the President’s visit and push for concrete actions to bolster security in NATO’s Central and Eastern European member states. As the Afghan mission winds down and Russian aggression increases, getting back to the basics of collective security should be the top priority for the alliance. There is no better place to start than the Baltic region.
On June 25, outgoing NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced that there would be no enlargement at the next NATO summit in Wales in September 2014. This announcement was a huge disappointment for the Republic of Macedonia, which has met all criteria to join the alliance but continuously has its application vetoed by Greece over a name dispute. Macedonia would be a welcome addition to the NATO alliance, and its membership would contribute to regional stability in southeastern Europe. The U.S. should continue to back Macedonia’s goal of joining the alliance. Enlargement of the alliance has greatly contributed to the security of all the member states and regional stability. The U.S. should work to ensure that NATO’s open-door policy remains in force and that qualified nations are allowed a timely accession to the alliance. Greece’s pertinacious opposition over the name issue, coupled with the illegality of its position under international law, has jeopardized NATO’s open-door policy. Greece should work with Macedonia to seek reconciliation, and the U.S. should play a leading role.
Do Not Waste This Opportunity
Since its creation in 1949, NATO has done more to promote democracy, peace, and security in Europe than any other multilateral organization, including the European Union. The 2014 NATO summit will come at a pivotal time for the alliance. It is essential that the U.S. continue to be an active participant in the alliance’s future and chart a course back to basics.
—Luke Coffey is Margaret Thatcher Fellow and Daniel Kochis is a Research Assistant in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, at The Heritage Foundation.