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Time to Unblock Macedonia’s Accession to NATO

Image by NATO.

The first visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Afghanistan last month underscored the changing nature of Western involvement in the country. Kerry, among other important discussions, finalised the transfer of the Parwan detention centre over to Afghan authorities. The centre has long been a symbol of the Afghan government’s demands for national sovereignty, and the transfer is indicative of a larger shift, which will see the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) withdraw by the end of 2014.

In the context of this reorientation away from Afghanistan, now is a critical time for Europe to re-evaluate its priorities. The situation at home should give it pause, with economic and political turmoil roiling the continent, and the European project of enlargement – once advanced under the optimistic banner of “Europe Whole and Free” – largely stalled. Now is the time for the continent to recommit itself to the original sources of its strength – integration and cooperation.

In practice, this means that European institutions, rather than commit to decades of nation building in Asia, should recognise those countries at home that contribute positively to the European project, in terms of economic prosperity, political stability, and international security. A leading example of such a country is Macedonia, whose contributions to the European community have far outstripped its modest population. Yet the leaders of both NATO and the EU have allowed the economic crisis and petty internal conflicts to put the brakes on one of their core missions: the expansion of European institutions to qualified regional partners.

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Pacific NATO?

NATO Ministerial meeting. Image by Secretary of Defense/Flickr.

The Atlantic Alliance is about to enter a tumultuous period of change both in Europe and the wider world. How we all conceive of our place in that world will be critical to the Alliance.

This dawning reality was brought home to me Friday when I had the honor of debating NATO’s emerging security challenges with the Norwegian ambassador to NATO and his colleagues on the Norwegian Permanent Delegation. Given changing energy patterns and the melting of Arctic ice, Norway will find itself on a new ‘front-line’ as the High North becomes a source of exploitation and friction. Moreover, with yesterday’s re-election of Shinzo Abe as Japan’s prime minister and the possibility of renewed tensions with China, a most profound question was also apparent: what, if any, is NATO’s Pacific role?

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International Relations Security

The NATO Global Hub

This blog is republished here as part of our special holiday selection.

NATO headquarters
NATO headquarters. Photo: Utenriksdept/flickr.

WASHINGTON, DC – What should an alliance do when its leading member and dominant pillar decides to shift its focus to the other side of the world? NATO leaders have been grappling with this question since US President Barack Obama’s announcement of his administration’s “pivot” to Asia last year compelled them to examine the Alliance’s global role.

NATO leaders have examined their approach to managing relations with countries, such as China and Russia, that still view NATO as a potential threat rather than as a genuine partner. And they have had to consider whether to engage in more missions beyond the North Atlantic, like that in Afghanistan, where 22 countries – including El Salvador, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, and Tonga – have deployed forces under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

Categories
International Relations Security

The NATO Global Hub

NATO headquarters
NATO headquarters. Photo: Utenriksdept/flickr.

WASHINGTON, DC – What should an alliance do when its leading member and dominant pillar decides to shift its focus to the other side of the world? NATO leaders have been grappling with this question since US President Barack Obama’s announcement of his administration’s “pivot” to Asia last year compelled them to examine the Alliance’s global role.

NATO leaders have examined their approach to managing relations with countries, such as China and Russia, that still view NATO as a potential threat rather than as a genuine partner. And they have had to consider whether to engage in more missions beyond the North Atlantic, like that in Afghanistan, where 22 countries – including El Salvador, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, and Tonga – have deployed forces under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

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International Relations Security Arctic

Is NATO taking over the Arctic?

A U.S. Navy SEAL freefall parachute onto a frozen a lake in Northern Norway. Photo: Flickr/AN HONORABLE GERMAN

Five of the eight Arctic Council states are NATO members. So far, 2012 has also been a year where Swedes and Fins have moved closer toward full membership of alliance. If Sweden and Finland were to join, which seems plausible, NATO members would occupy 7 out of the total 8 seats in the Arctic Council.

In advance of this becoming reality the blogosphere has, over the last couple of months, been littered with conspiracy theories on secret plans for “Arctic war” between the NATO and the only non-NATO member in the Arctic Council, Russia.