For us the NATO debate has begun. What next?

1 May 2009

For us the NATO debate has begun. What next?

by Senator Tiny Kox (SP)

Tiny KoxIn the twenty years since the fall of the Berlin wall, the 'old' NATO has developed into the 'New NATO'. The originally territorially-based north Atlantic defence organisation is bigger than ever, most of its former enemies having joined, and cooperation agreements with the others in place. It has made a umber of attempts to become a global policeman behind it. Or, better than 'global policeman', in the words of NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, 'the supplier of global security'. But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the threat of a reprise of the Cold War in Europe, demonstrate that this new NATO is no success story. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 almost destroyed the alliance, the self-proclaimed litmus test for the Alliance in Afghanistan has been a failure and the return of the Cold War is a third proof that the new NATO is not the answer to the question of how the world can be made more stable, more secure and more peaceful. To achieve these ends, other steps must be taken. NATO's decision, in the light of recent global developments, to present, in 2010, a new strategic concept for the organisation, offers an opportunity to instigate a broad debate on the issue.

Thinking about NATO's future necessitates thinking about new global security arrangements.
The world is so closely interwoven that global agreements on the means whereby we can together maintain stability, peace and security are unavoidable. This state of affairs demands in its turn a sense of political reality as well as political courage - and in every corner of the world, including from NATO's member states.

New structures

Anyone who is realistic can see that the old military structures have cancelled themselves out. At the same time new structures have arisen internationally, a network of political-military relations, and military alliances. NATO has made allies of old enemies, entering into military cooperation with countries throughout the world. Countries participating in these activities, such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, are calling with increasing frequency for a greater say over the operations in which they are involved. Beyond NATO, the US also enjoys military links with countries in the Pacific region. Elsewhere, new military alliances are arising, for example between Russia, China and a number of other Asian countries in the form of the Shanghai accord, between Turkey and its neighbours in the Caucasus, and within a Latin America no longer willing to be used as the United States' backyard. In the African Union decisions have been taken to undertake common peace-keeping missions on the continent. From every corner of the world signs increasingly indicate that global military cooperation has become unavoidable, and working to construct this a case of Realpolitik. To ignore this would be dangerously short-sighted.

Renewal of the 1945 agreement that a monopoly on violence should not lie with individual countries or military alliances but exclusively with the United Nations could provide the initiative which would enable the overcoming of old enmities and their replacement with new instances of cooperation. Such cooperation could offer, in exchange, a UN guarantee that their sovereignty would not be eroded by other countries or other alliances. Should the UN decide that some form of military action is necessary to preserve or restore peace, member states and alliances could, within the limits of their capabilities, offer support, using their military power to execute decisions taken by the only organisation which can legitimately authorise its use. Unilateral actions, other than for self-defence, would not be permitted.

International treaties

Any such new structure will also need to be based on international treaties dealing in a thorough fashion with disarmament, weapons production and the supply of arms. Member states attempting to back out of such agreements could, if necessary, be subject to sanctions. In an ever more interconnected world it is becoming impossible for countries to remain aloof from global agreements which serve to maintain peace and security. Conflict prevention and sanctions can prevent an overhasty resort to military means which, as the last few years have demonstrated, often create more problems than they solve.

New world disorder

Many recent conflicts have been sparked by the disregarding of international law. The US and Russia have often been at the forefront of this, obsessed as they are by the need to dominate international power relations. The Russian overreaction to the irresponsible Georgian attack on South Ossetia speaks volumes. Other countries, too, are attempting to assert themselves within the new power structure. These include Great Britain, often found shoulder to shoulder with the US, but also the Netherlands, where the army is being completely rebuilt to give it global operational capability and therefore more reliability as a military partner, and more influence.

The new world order based on power has, however, brought about a world disorder. Respect for the international rule of law must be restored, and recognition of a global system of justice is needed for that to be achieved. The United States must give up its active resistance to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), beginning by repealing its insane law giving its army the right to invade the Netherlands should any American soldier be arraigned by the ICJ – which is based in The Hague – for crimes against humanity. Russia and China should also ratify the treaty which underpins the ICJ.

Global security structure

Small countries as well as big should be reconsidering their place in a global security structure. No country can allow itself to remain outside the architecture of global security. Regional alliances must put themselves at the service of the United Nations, and should be replacing competition and confrontation with more cooperation.

Strategic concept

NATO is in the process of developing a new strategic concept which will be adopted next year. This is supposed to be preceded by a broad public debate, and in the Netherlands we will be using this debate to consider how the dangerous development of the 'new' NATO into a global policeman can be halted. How can the alliance be reconstructed to become an organisation of countries explicitly prepared and ready to act militarily only with the agreement of the United Nations? This would imply a fundamental change from the developments which we have seen in recent years.

Peace and security are in the general interest of the people of the entire world. The short-sighted attitude that one's own interests come first, the seeking of wealth at the expense of others, and one-sided military actions all clash with this. Collective preservation of peace and security, on the other hand, are essential, and a fine thing to rouse oneself for, in the Netherlands as much as anywhere else.

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