October 15, 2010

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Rift in NATO Even as Rasmussen Pushes for Unity

Defense | October 14, 2010, Thursday

Bulgaria: Rift in NATO Even as Rasmussen Pushes for Unity
NATO Secretary General Rasmussen addresses the Alliance ministerial meeting in Brussels. Photo by EPA/BGNES 
 
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has urged the Alliance to adopt the US missile defense in Europe as a NATO-wide system.

Rasmussen addressed ministers from the NATO member-states in Brussels Thursday in preparation of the Lisbon Summit of the Alliance next month, where a final decision on the missile shield in Europe will be adopted as will be the new Strategic Concept of the Pact.

"NATO's core task of defending its 900 million people will never change, but it must be modern defenses against modern threats. The threat is clear, the capability exist and the costs are manageable. Starting today, NATO is in the sprint to the summit. The decisions we take in the next two weeks will shape the future of the world's most successful alliance," Rasmussen told the ministers of the member states.

Some of the European allies, including Germany, however, have not expressed great enthusiasm over the missile shield, saying that other matters such as arms control should be just as important on the NATO agenda.

A major issue that emerged among the NATO ministers on Thursday had to do with the defense spending cuts of many of the member states.

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates particularly expressed concern with respect to such measures intended by the European countries. Gates has demanded cuts of the USD 1.5 B budget of the alliance.
The meeting further underlined a rift in the visions of some key European states and the USA with respect to the global "policing" capabilities of the Alliance, with America insisting that NATO should be equipped for expeditionary missions outside its traditional sphere in Europe and North America, not unlike the current ISAF mission in Afghanistan.

It is yet to be seen how the new Strategic Concept of NATO will reflect this difference of vision that the USA and key Western European and Central European allies have for its future role.
Another issue on the NATO reform agenda is the idea to provide the Secretary-General with independence to act on their own in times of crisis.
 
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