The NATO Chicago Summit, to be held from May 20-21, is fast approaching. The Summit could not come at a more critical time of the Alliance. Issues such as Afghanistan, falling defense budgets, smart defense, and NATO values and priorities will dominate the agenda. The following article provides a round up of commentary and current news stories related to the upcoming event.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmusse, as part of his pre-summit consultations with Alliance Members, detailed the various issues on the agenda:
Afghanistan certainly remains a priority. However, any discussion of Afghanistan's future comes amid falling public support in NATO countries:
Opinion polls in NATO nations show the popularity of the commitment has plummeted amid the rising the death toll. In the US, six out of 10 of those surveyed saw the war as not worth its costs...
The Summit also comes amid questions about US strategy, with some people believing that announcing 2014 as the end date for US operations was strategically unwise.
The Alliance must also confront financial reality. Smart defense is a large part of NATO's strategy for providing security in times of economic trouble. Smart defense is basically pooling and sharing defense capabilities. However, some observers are skeptical that the summit can reach any headway on the topic.
On defense sharing and specialization, Steve Saideman of the Canadian International Council wrote:
There is one major problem with specialization: If you are on the battlefield and you need an ally to show up with a key capability, such as helicopters, reconnaissance technology and personnel, light or heavy armored vehicles, etc., there is no guarantee that the ally will show up.
Jan Techau of the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace echoed similar concerns over smart defense and state sovereignty:
So military pooling and sharing would lead to political pooling and sharing; no wonder defense ministries are at best lukewarm about smart defense. They either don't understand its scope, or if they do they see it as a threat. Progress in Chicago on smart defense will therefore be small, with few tangible results to come out of the summit. Transatlantic drift will continue, but at least the remedy is known. It may seem like science fiction, but it is NATO's last hope.
Meanwhile, the NATO Summit has also raised local issues in Chicago since protesters are expected to descend upon the city. NATO has had to sooth the fears of local Chicago business owners about demonstrations and protests outside of their businesses; and some residents are being told not to leave their building when the Summit is taking place. In fact, there even appears to be a secret plan for evacuating Chicago residents in case protests get completely out of hand during the Summit. Of course, such planning could be overhyped. Nevertheless, the NATO Chicago Summit is definitely not shaping up to be a dull affair.