NATO's New Strategic Concept must define relations with the rest of the world

24 October 2009

NATO's New Strategic Concept must define relations with the rest of the world

NATO and its member states must recognise that in a fast-changing world new answers must be found to the security questions of the twenty-first century. They sometimes seem not to realise that the Cold War is in the past and that NATO must redefine its position in the global security architecture. In addition, the alliance should not be afraid to look for unorthodox solutions. That was the message of the seminar "NATO at 60- the future ahead” organised by the Dutch Senate on Friday on an initiative from the SP.

Fierce discussions are taking place at the moment inside NATO on a new strategic concept for the world's biggest military alliance. The new concept must be adopted at a NATO summit of heads of government scheduled for Lisbon. The old strategic concept adopted in 1999 is no longer satisfactory. Relations in the world have undergone far-reaching changes since then.

At the symposium, a range of experts from the Netherlands and abroad offered their vision of NATO's future. According to Prof. Julian Lindley-French, currently adviser to the US, British and French governments in their attempts to find a common standpoint, it is as things stand unclear just what role NATO wants to play on the world stage. The new strategic concept must provide greater insight. Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian parliament, argued that NATO should work together with Russia to bring about peace and security in Europe, noting that with a new president in America the chance was greater that the proposal from Russian president Medvedev for new European security agreements would be taken seriously. But time was pressing, Kosachev said, and there remain too many people in Russia and in Europe who see each other as enemies rather than partners. This standpoint contained great risks.

SP Senator Arjan Vliegenthart warned at the symposium of the danger of tailoring the new strategic concept to Afghanistan. “It is at least as important that the new strategic concept define relations with international organisations such as the United Nations and with other great powers such as Russia, China and India. What's important is that we carefully weigh our interests against those of other countries and try to discover common ground. Security is an indivisible concept and we should not, therefore, shut ourselves off from other countries which do not belong to NATO."

The seminar will hopefully form the overture to a broad social and political discussion on the usefulness of and need for NATO. Former Secretary-General of the alliance Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has called for such a debate. Otherwise, he feared, support for the alliance could be fundamentally undermined. Senator Vliegenthart heartily agrees: “The Netherlands must actively participate in the debate over the new strategic concept. If not then the danger is that soon a new strategic concept will be established on which neither Dutch politicians nor the Dutch people have had anything to say. That would not only be fatal to any support for the alliance, it would also deprive us of any possibility of presenting our ideas for a safe world.”

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