Saturday, September 6, 2008

NATO contemplates future with Russia and the EU

Brussels, June 16 - The European Union and NATO can pool their resources together to face the present-day global challenges, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, recently told a conference in Brussels, titled “NATO in the Next Decade.”

Citing cooperation in fields like transportation, cooperation on research and development, and harmonising force structures and training methods, De Hoop Scheffer warned both organisations will suffer “if we cannot bring them closer together.” Highlighting threats like climate change and energy shortages to the global security in modern times, De Hoop Scheffer insisted the alliance must look to a new “strategic horizon” to face the newer realities and challenges. Addressing the conference, the NATO Secretary General said, “Climate change could confront us with a whole range of unpleasant developments – developments which no single nation state has the power to contain.

“It will sharpen the competition over resources, notably water. It will increase the risks to coastal regions. It will provoke disputes over territory and farming land. It will spur migration and it will make fragile states even more fragile. The scarcity of fossil fuels is already leading to a renaissance of civilian nuclear energy – and this poses its very own proliferation problems. The next decade will see continuously rising energy prices and a scramble for energy resources,” he said.

“This will put a premium on energy security. And it will also put a premium on the political stability of the world’s major oil and gas producing countries.” Calling for more often contact between the North Atlantic Council and the EU’s Political Security Committee to brainstorm on the global flash points, the Secretary General welcomed ongoing instances of cooperation among the Western powers like pooling resources to fund a C-17 for strategic airlift which can be also done for the A400M.

He also cited the UKFrench initiative to upgrade helicopters and train pilots as a good example of common funding, negating the longstanding method of financing, which says “costs lie where they fall.”

The Cold War seems never to have gone completely cold as was evident when NATO Secretary General admitted that there were issues where NATO and Russia did not “see eye to eye,” such as Kosovo and Russia’s decision to suspend its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Calling Russia’s decision to send soldiers into Abkhazia in Georgia as “not helpful,” he stressed that it was important to engage with Russia because “I cannot see how NATO can do without Russia or how Russia can do without NATO.”

On the other hand, Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO lambasted the Western Military Alliance for misleading information on missile defence. Rogozin told the audience, “We are told that we should not fear plans to install missile defences in Poland and the Czech Republic as it is directed at the bad guys in Iran.”

“If NATO considers the threats are coming from the south, why are you enlarging to the east? Do you have a problem with the compass? We can install our missile defences in Cuba or Venezuela to protect our territory against the bad guys from Jamaica,” the Russian ambassador asked.

On the positive side, Rogozin agreed that cooperation between Russia and NATO works better at the military level than at the political or diplomatic level, and hinted at strengthening military cooperation in Afghanistan. Moreover, in the light of political agreement reached between Russia and the EU in April, Rogozin pointed to the Russian offer of helicopters for the EU’s ongoing peacekeeping mission in Chad.

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