'Time is pressing for NATO's future' says SP Senator Kox

27 May 2009

'Time is pressing for NATO's future' says SP Senator Kox

The debate over NATO's future demands greater involvement from the broad public and their political representatives. These were the sentiments expressed by outgoing NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in Oslo, where he was saying his farewells to members of the alliance's parliamentary assembly. On behalf of the Dutch delegation in Oslo, SP Senate leader Tiny Kox complimented de Hoop Scheffer on his enthusiasm for popular involvement, but pointed out that in many countries such a debate had still to begin. "Times pressing," Kox pointed out. "Next year there is supposed to be a new strategic concept. I hope that the Dutch government will now begin to take de Hoop Scheffer's call seriously. The SP is ready to debate a new global security architecture."

Tiny Kox Oslo saw a great deal of attention paid to Afghanistan. After eight years of fighting the Taliban seem stronger than ever, principally because of ever more support from within Pakistan. NATO no longer refers, therefore, to Afghanistan as "the litmus test for the alliance's right to exist." A military victory seems impossible. UN Special Envoy Kai Eide argues for reconciliation and negotiations with those elements of the Taliban which are not connected to Al Qaeda, and warns of more civilian victims should more troops be deployed and air raids continue. This would mean that support amongst the Afghan public would dwindle still further, Kai Eide told the parliamentary assembly, as well as the ambassadors of the twenty-eight member states who were also present, and de Hoop Scheffer himself. "We have said repeatedly that little can be won militarily in Afghanistan. The country deserves our support in its reconstruction, but you don't do that with bombs and grenades."

In Oslo it emerged also that NATO will probably not agree to the proposed global ban on cluster bombs. This was a disappointment to the Norwegian government, whose initiative moves for a global ban have been. Most NATO countries support the Norwegian initiative, but without US agreement NATO cannot endorse a ban, as unanimity is needed. Kox remains optimistic: "We've already come a long way. The SP has worked hard to support a ban. It's now up to the Dutch government to increase the pressure on Obama to sign the convention. When that happens we'll know that Bush is truly history."

A further topic of discussion in Oslo was what would happen as a result of the melting of the polar icecap, which will create opportunities for access to the huge reserves of gas and oil under the Arctic Ocean. Four of the five countries which have a claim to this new wealth are NATO member states, and the fifth is Russia. Kox could not see that it would be a good idea to militarise the Arctic or to give NATO a role in its future. "We should rather see the North Pole as part of the world's common heritage," he said. "This is a heritage which we must protect, not exploit and militarise."

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