NATO, preparing for summit, is still looking east
As more of the agenda emerges for NATO summit that will take place two weeks from now in Lisbon, it's highlighting how much, two decades after the end of the Cold War, NATO is still focused on its eastern flank.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was in Moscow yesterday and met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Few details of their talks have been released, but they did of course discuss the proposed NATO missile defense plan and what role Russia might play in it. Before the talks, Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, was skeptical:
"If it is simply a US system built on European soil with European money and without any guarantees that will not be targeted against Russia, that is unacceptable to us," he said. "We hope that some cards will be opened before the document is officially made public."
But Lavrov, after the meeting, was somewhat more optimistic:
"We are willing to take part in such a joint system and a joint analysis... Of course, on an equal basis and aimed against joint threats," Lavrov said.
While in Moscow, Rasmussen told the BBC that Russian participation in counterdrug raids in Afghanistan would continue, despite protests by the Afghanistan government.
And the Wall Street Journal reports that coalition commanders in Afghanistan are hoping to use the NATO summit to firm up European support for, and participation in, the war in Afghanistan, in particular trying to keep countries like Italy and France from pulling out altogether:
Coalition commanders in Kabul want troop-contributing nations to "reinvest" their forces that free up after a transition into another part of Afghanistan that needs stabilizing instead of just pulling them home, something that would be politically difficult for some countries....
"When you start talking about specific provinces and districts, it sounds like departure. We don't want this to end with just Americans and the Brits doing the fighting," one senior coalition official in Kabul said. "This is an international effort."
It's not clear to what degree Georgia will be on the agenda but In an interview with the New York Times, Rasmussen said NATO was still committed to admitting Georgia, "some day":
Asked what he would tell anxious Georgians about the “reset” with Russia, Mr. Rasmussen said that the alliance would not recognize the independence, autonomy or annexation of the two provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia; that it continues to respect Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity; and that NATO would keep its promise to some day admit both Georgia and Ukraine.
He argued that a closer alliance relationship with Russia would help Georgia regain its territory, saying, “I do believe that an improved relationship between NATO and Russia is the best chance to ensure peaceful solutions to such disputes.”
The touchiest issue, however, remains Turkey's participation in the NATO missile defense program. The issue. as EurasiaNet has reported, is that Turkey is wary of NATO's intention to explicitly direct the system toward Iran, which would run counter to Turkey's "zero problems" foreign policy direction in general and its improving ties with Iran in particula. Some U.S. officials are apparently framing it as a stark "East or West" choice for Turkey, reports the Daily Telegraph (UK):
"Essentially we've told Turkey that missile-defence is an acid test of its commitment to the collective security arrangements it has with its western allies," a senior US official told The Daily Telegraph.
Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet Davotoglu, in comments made over the weekend, suggested that Turkey didn't intend to block the missile defense system, but still made clear that Ankara had several conditions for its participation:
Mr. Davutoglu laid out three principles on which he said NATO member Turkey would base its approach to the missile shield. But in the Turkish government's most detailed comments to date on the proposal, he gave no indication of whether Ankara would agree to host the system's radar sensors.
"NATO can develop defense systems by taking into consideration security risks," and Turkey's opposition to such NATO measures "is out of the question," Mr. Davutoglu told reporters while in Shanghai on a trip to China, according to Anadolu Ajansi, the Turkish state news agency.
"NATO is obliged to take into account the security of all allied countries. Accordingly, a system excluding some parts of Turkey is unacceptable," he said, according to Anadolu, confirming that Turkey is demanding the shield cover the entire country. Diplomats say Turkey is the preferred, but not the only, choice to locate the missile shield's radar sensors, because of its border with Iran.
The third and final principle, Mr. Davutoglu said, was that Turkey wouldn't allow itself to become a frontline state for NATO, as it was during the Cold War. "We do not have a perception of threat in our adjacent areas, including Iran, Russia, Syria and the other adjacent countries," Anadolu quoted him as saying. "NATO should exclude any formula that confronts Turkey with a group of countries in its threat definitions and planning. … We do not want a Cold War zone or psychology around us."
The "no Cold War psychology" would suggest that forcing Turkey into a choice between East and West is not likely to be helpful.