U.S. needs its European partners in changing world

Stanley R. Sloan, American leading expert on NATO, speaks about persisting importance of The United States, future of the Alliance, and upcoming security challenges.

Stanley R. Sloan is the founding Director of the Atlantic Community Initiative, a Visiting Scholar at the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs at Middlebury College, and President of VIC–Vermont, a private consulting firm. Stan began his more than three decades of public service at the Central Intelligence Agency, serving as NATO and European Community desk officer and followed with Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress. Further he is an author of many publications concerned with Transatlantic relations, about which also lectured at many prestigious universities.

Regarding the decline of Europe and insufficient involvement of the European countries in NATO´s activities, could it force US to search direct cooperation with local countries or regional security organizations (for example SCO) instead of actions through NATO? Is there a possibility that the U.S. might find it more strategically efficient and financially beneficial to freeze its contributions to NATO and invest in ad hoc coalitions of countries willing to act in case of a security crisis?

 In my view, NATO will remain the framework of first resort for the United States in Europe.  It is possible that, in some circumstances, it might not be able to get a full NATO consensus on behalf of some actions. In such a case, the United States might look to build a coalition of the willing.  In any case, the United States maintains and will continue to maintain bilateral political and security cooperation ties with all NATO members in parallel with cooperation in the alliance.  In a poll just published by the Atlantic Council of the United State, many of the top US and European experts and former officials gave a strong vote of confidence in maintaining the alliance, even if it doesn’t always work perfection and if it continues to need reform to adapt to constantly changing international circumstances.

Let us move on to the NATO´s role in crises resolution. Could the model employed by the U.S. in Libya become a precedent for future NATO´s actions or was Libya a specific case?

Neither the Libya operation nor NATO’s role in Afghanistan provide “models” for future alliance activities.  Each future crisis will undoubtedly have its own specific political and military context to which NATO will have to adjust in order to respond.  However, both the Libya and Afghanistan experiences must be mined by the alliance for “lessons learned” that could improve future allied crisis responses.

Europe counts on US technical and arms support, while offers to provide a command. Is it sustainable? Moreover are the European countries capable to provide an effective and accountable leadership?

The major European allies with force projection capabilities – France and the United Kingdom – have significant military capabilities and leadership potential.  The European Union has leadership capacity for relatively small and less demanding operations, for example those related to counter terrorist attacks on international shipping off the coast of Somalia.  However, larger and more complex interventions will for some time require a central NATO role and active involvement of US resources.

Having in mind the shared values of Europeans and Americans, is there a state which could eventually replace Europe as US´ primary ally?

The European allies are a unique source of like-minded allies for the United States.  In Asia, there are US allies, but most have some limitations on the extent to which they would be able to support US military operations.  Australia is the most important Asia-Pacific ally with the political will and military capability to be of help, as it has been in Afghanistan.  However, no one country or group of countries is as important a source of allies to the United States as is Europe.

Nowadays, as in the past, one of the main NATO´s concerns is Russia. Two things are currently disturbing. Russia is re-building its out-dated military capacities and Russian uncertain political scene doesn´t promise any wider democratization in the near future. The U.S. under Obama tries to “reset” problematic relations with Russia. How do you perceive this attempt at the end of Obama´s first term in the office?

The Obama administration’s attempt to “reset” relations with Russia was a worthwhile initiative.  To produce results, however, it required a willing Russian partner.  At this point in Russia’s internal development, in which the country is largely under a form of authoritarian rule with self-created paranoia about NATO and the United States, significant progress in either the bilateral relationship or in NATO-Russia relations remains challenging.

Do you believe that the reset should eventually lead into Russia´s NATO membership? Would Russian engagement lessen security threats or more likely complicate decision making in NATO?

If Russia were ever to meet the guidelines established in the NATO Enlargement Study and, at that point, applies for admission, it should be given sympathetic consideration.  I do not see this happening in the foreseeable future, but one can never discount it in the longer view.

Speaking of Obama´s presidency, how do you see his future foreign policy and attitude towards NATO if he´s re-elected? Could we expect more decisive actions as it is common for second presidential term?

A second Obama administration would, in my opinion, be a strong leader for continued reform of NATO structures to prepare the alliance to be a major factor for peace and stability in the coming decades.  This will come at a time when the administration is simultaneously making reductions to defense spending and focusing increased attention on security challenges outside Europe.  In this scenario, the challenge for the European allies will be to figure out how most effectively to become “part of the solution” to international security challenges, now that Europe is no longer the source of the main threats to international peace and stability.

What would and should be the NATO role if the Israel-Iran conflict escalates?

The answer to this question depends very much on the circumstances.  NATO involvement would require a consensus among all members which might be very difficult to realize, particularly if escalation of the conflict is seen as the result of Israeli actions.

How could NATO establish its importance in remote future? Can we expect bigger shift towards humanitarian actions, state-building operations etc.?

NATO will require a broader mandate and new tools to deploy a comprehensive approach to future security challenges.  The alliance needs the possibility for the allies to work together in the NATO framework to try to prevent crises from becoming violent; to play a role, when necessary, to re-establish peace in a conflicted setting; and to help build peace and reconciliation in a post-conflict environment.  The allies will have to overcome resistance to enhancing NATO’s role in order to make it possible for NATO to coordinate more effectively non-military instruments of security that today are largely beyond its mandate.

Are there any plans to sustain NATO presence in Central Asia after the withdrawal from Afghanistan?

I assume that the Chicago summit outcome will include a commitment that parallels the new US agreement with the Government of Afghanistan and which calls on allies to contribute to continuing efforts to train Afghan military and police forces and to assist with other steps to help promote Afghan stability after NATO forces have quit their combat role.

Finally, let me conclude with a little prediction. Will the NATO gradually change its policy from being a reactive actor to become a complex security subject ready to prevent the crises to unfold?

I believe, as I suggested earlier, that this is an absolutely critical step for the alliance to take in the “post-Afghanistan” era for the alliance.

Johana Typoltová, Filip Tuček

Created 21.5.2012 13:57:25 | read 4459x | Frank