Eyes on NATO - A Report from Lisbon

In November, 2010, I traveled to Lisbon, Portugal where the 2010 NATO Summit took place. With my peers from many different countries, a parallel summit was held where we had the opportunity to meet and question leaders, such as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and General David Petraeus, among others. Before I left, I asked Mantle readers1 for questions that I could submit to NATO and UN leaders on their behalf. I took these thoughtful queries and a list of my own to Lisbon, where we tackled climate change, Afghanistan, women's rights, nuclear non-proliferation, Africa, and more. Here is my report from the Young Atlanticists Summit.2

On Climate Change

First, a look at what the Strategic Concept that came out of the NATO 2010 Summit has to say about climate security:

"Article 13. All countries are increasingly reliant on the vital communication, transport and transit routes on which international trade, energy security and prosperity depend. They require greater international efforts to ensure their resilience against attacks or disruption. Some NATO countries will become more dependent on foreign energy suppliers and in some cases, on foreign energy supply and distribution networks for their energy needs. As a larger share of world consumption is transported across the globe, energy supplies are increasingly exposed to disruption."

I pushed NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Article 13 and NATO’s climate position:

Oil money is funding terrorists around the world. We can’t drill our way out of our dependence on foreign oil. It is like bailing out the Titanic with buckets. It’s time to unleash climate solutions. What is NATO doing, what is its plan, in this regard? Is a green NATO in the plans?

It turns out that a green NATO is in the plans, in his plans at least. “The military should look into how it can save money with energy efficiency,” Rasmussen responded. “Also, the less fuel we need, the more efficient we are on the ground. This is one of the points that I would very much like to pursue.”

I admit that I was impressed by Secretary Rasmussen. He was very genuine in answering questions. On another matter, he remarked: “Another strong priority” of his is “the respect by NATO of UN resolution 1325”—the landmark resolution for women, peace, and security.3

(from left to right) Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, and Rutte's foreign minister Uri Rosenthal.

On Nukes

Did this NATO summit provide any progress toward a nuclear-free world? Yes and no. Check out the chicken and the egg language on nuclear weapons adopted by NATO, first from the preface to their Strategic Concept:4

"This Strategic Concept … commits NATO to the goal of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons—but reconfirms that, as long there are nuclear weapons in the world, NATO will remain a nuclear Alliance."

On the bright side, non-proliferation used to be a taboo subject at NATO summits. At least in the most recent strategic concept the topic is addressed:

"Article 26. We will explore ways for our political means and military capabilities to contribute to international efforts to fight proliferation. National decisions regarding arms control and disarmament may have an impact on the security of all Alliance members. We are committed to maintain, and develop as necessary, appropriate consultations among Allies on these issues."

I did manage to challenge my French colleagues to follow our South-African colleagues’ example when it comes to nuclear weapons.5 They are not convinced. Nuclear power seems to be entrenched in resilient remnants of French power on the global scene. My conclusion: dialogue, in itself, on the topic and in this summit venue, is encouraging. At the end of the day, however, I cannot help but wonder whether NATO loyalties will be an impediment in the opportunity toward the nuclear zero initiative.6 I am almost certain of one thing though: the French would be the last to disarm.

On Afghanistan and its Youth

I will start with the question I didn’t get to ask General Petreaus (I wasn’t fast enough to the mic on this one!):

The day President Obama asked you to lead ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan), what did he say to you?

If anyone ever gets to ask this question, please let us know what comes of it!

In any case, an animated discussion on Afghanistan between Mark Sedwill (NATO’s top civilian representative in Afghanistan) and Ashraf Ghani, Chairman of the Institute of State Effectiveness for Afghanistan, as well as a video conference with Afghan universities, were illuminating, to say the least. Extracts of the conversation between Sedwill and Ghani are worth quoting at length:

Mark Sedwill: “Afghanistan is not an ethnic problem; it is a problem of offering young people fighting with the insurgency a different future.” [My thought: Good point. No funding for insurgents, no future in insurgency.]

Ashraf Ghani: “The U.S. Military and NATO, in the past 9 years, have become listening and learning organizations. The adoption of reform by NATO [2010 Strategic Concept] is proof of that. On the other hand, though, civilian counterparts and diplomacy have gone backward. Political imagination is needed … the UN should shut down in Afghanistan; they are not transparent.”

MS: “It is important to build the Afghan State, not gratitude for foreign aid.”

AG: “NATO is in Afghanistan to 1) protect NATO people and citizens, and 2) protect Afghans. Afghans are dying, not NATO citizens. Europe shouldn’t become a fortress. This war wasn’t funded from the beginning. Finally the commitments are being made, and leaders should follow Obama.”

MS: “The rule of law task force in Afghanistan should have NATO command. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s essential to build a stable state. Those civilian-military distinctions are old fashions. Holistic approaches are needed for all in helping Afghanistan.”

AG: “If we want to do away with corruption, we have to get a hold of our natural resources. And then do it right.”

Ashraf Ghani made an incendiary statement about the United Nations, saying that if it couldn’t do away with internal corruption, it should leave Afghanistan. In response, the panel suggested a more coordinated effort, much like the Delivering as One UN experiences, in which the UN attempted to increase coordination across projects in eight countries.7 The panel also accentuated that state building in Afghanistan is not “external” and must be based on partnerships.

Hours later, we had a satellite dialogue with Afghan university students. It is difficult to assert how much freedom the students had in their comments—only a few of the students actually spoke. Nevertheless, the words from them included the following (paraphrasing):

They want jobs. Foreign aid should be directed towards Afghan priorities and not foreign aid priorities. Criminals and corrupt officials should be punished. They need computerized elections. They want NATO there and are wondering what NATO’s priorities are as for them it seems like things are up in the air (and they don’t seem to like it). On electricity: generators are not working. They asked for efficient, sustainable aid. They feel NATO assistance is not being delivered in a proper way to the people of Afghanistan. They pointed out more focus should be put on Pakistan.

The youth summit participants in Lisbon heard them, and also asked that they take their destiny into their hands. In Afghanistan and in Lisbon, all agreed that more dialogue was needed.


Ban Ki-moon’s Responsibility to Protect

There was a palpable excitement in the youth summit room when we knew Ban Ki-moon was next to visit us. I took that as a positive sign regarding the interest of our generation in global affairs.

Ban Ki-moon is a fervent advocate for the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).8 Asked what should happen when the Security Council is paralyzed, whether NATO should act in cases such as mass atrocities, Ban Ki-moon answered that the first step should always be the Security Council. He added that in many cases regional organizations have acted. This is apparently a sensitive matter (it shouldn’t, but it is) and the Secretary General wasn’t willing to go further.

And what about NATO’s capability with regards to crisis management? The Chair of NATO’s military committee offered that NATO is at the leading edge of capabilities aimed at stopping and preventing mass atrocities, but that NATO must be humble enough not to pretend it can solve those problems. Encouragingly, NATO is in fact engaged with the Mass Atrocity Response Operations (MARO) project,9 a genocide prevention effort. Humility, yes, but let’s not forget a point made in my interview with young scholar Victor Ochen:10 Africa matters for all regions surrounding the Atlantic Ocean, not just NATO members, from both security and, simply, human standpoints.

The author questions UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Questions Remain

And now, the question that went largely unanswered. One of the panels examined the impact of the shift of global wealth and power towards the East and South on the security and prosperity of NATO nations and partners. One of the question considered was “Should new partnerships be developed?” It was important for me to add to the question: Should new partnerships be developed and in what kind of global economy?

Three of the eleven pages of the Strategic Concept are dedicated to “Partnerships.” In brief:

"Article 28. The promotion of Euro-Atlantic security is best assured through a wide network of partner relationships with countries and organizations around the globe. These partnerships make a concrete and valued contribution to the success of NATO’s fundamental tasks."

UN-NATO, EU-NATO, NATO-Russia, -Ukraine, -Georgia, -Western-Balkans, -Mediterranean Region, -Gulf region, and NATO-Istanbul are all mentioned in the strategic concept. NATO-Africa, NATO-Brazil, NATO-Latin America were also mentioned during the talks. Yet, there is no mention of the injustices of the current global economic system in the strategic concept, and there were no real responses to my question in the talks which, really gives one pause.

While Africa has already paid off its debt more than once (Africa’s present debt equals additional interests on loans and aid solely), the United States’ debt is many times that of the entire African continent, and more. An exploration (or just a bit of common sense) of the dynamics at hand here, again, makes you pause, and this is just one aspect of the injustices involved in the present global economic system.

Consider the issues that the four continents have in common: drug trafficking, human trafficking, transnational crimes, mass atrocities, nuclear danger, security of the seas, climate change, global health and epidemics, gender inequalities, economic crises, jobs and professional development, social corporate responsibility, immigration, good governance, among others.

We all share an ocean, and the security of all depends on our collaboration. When girls don’t get an education and when women don’t get equal pay for equal work, it’s the growth and stability of us all that is affected. When some of us live in poverty, it’s the health of all of us that’s at risk. When some of us live in poverty and make the choice to join terrorist organizations to feed their families, it’s the security of all of us that’s at risk. When some us of are trafficked into slavery or prostitution, and the orchestrators feed their benefits into even more lucrative drug trafficking activities engendering gang wars, it’s the security of us all that is at risk.

I really wish my question, Should new partnerships be developed and in what kind of global economy? would at least have been considered at the NATO summit 2010, because unless the injustice is taken out of our linked economies, our security will not rest at peace. In other words, you, “the Heads of State and Government of the NATO nations, [who] are determined that NATO will continue to play its unique and essential role in ensuring our common defense and security,” (Preface of Strategic Concept 2010) won’t succeed.

I will end this report by mentioning two important facts pointed out by the youth representation at the summit: 1) the absence of forums concerning the South Atlantic region, and 2) the absence of a grassroots movement focusing on global health issues. Perhaps we can expand on them in the future.

I would also like to extend my thanks to a very sharp group of young people who drilled their senior leaders with no fear, to the organizations who sponsored us, and to our Portuguese hosts for their kindness and generosity.

February 1, 2011

frontispiece and NATO delegate image from Wikicommons

1. View the original post on The Mantle here: http://mantlethought.org/content/query-NATO-world-leaders.

2. Learn more on the Young Atlanticists Summit website: http://www.youngatlanticist.org/2010-summit/lisbon-forum.html.

3. Check out the Landmark Resolution on Women, Peace and Security here: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/wps/.

4. Read and download the full, 2010 Strategic Concept here: http://www.nato.int/lisbon2010/strategic-concept-2010-eng.pdf.

5. Despite having the technological capabilities, South Africa has fully renounced possessing nuclear weaponry. A brief history of South Africa’s nuclear weapon engagement can be found here: http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/rsa/nuke/index.html.

6. Learn more here: http://www.globalzero.org/en.

7.  Learn more here: http://www.undg.org/?P=7.

8. See The Mantle’s roundtable discussion on the topic, “Whose Responsibility to Protect?” http://mantlethought.org/roundtable/r2p.

9. http://www.hks.harvard.edu/cchrp/maro/index.php.

10. Watch Marie’s interview with Victor Ochen here: http://mantlethought.org/content/victor-goes-vision.

Afghanistan, Africa, Ban Ki-moon, Climate Change, NATO, Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Pakistan, United Nations, Women's Rights