NATO’s biggest security threat is now economic

May 25, 2012

CHICAGO — As measured from President Obama’s re-election campaign perspective – the White House’s litmus test for foreign policy issues through November – last weekend’s G-8 and NATO Summits were bell ringers.  Obama campaign strategists couldn’t have scripted their outcomes better – perhaps because they did script them.

Given the potential for dissent, President Obama could be satisfied that his guests adhered (mostly) to the desired story line. At Camp David, President Obama was the jobs-and-growth champion. In hometown Chicago, with leaders of some 60 countries arrayed around him, he was the president who would wind down an unpopular war. (That his Chicago White Sox trounced the Cubs during NATO Night at Wrigley Field, in a game that opened with an honor guard carrying flags from the 50 countries engaged in Afghanistan, was an added benefit.)

The only problem with this pretty picture is that getting the campaign message right is a long way from getting the world right. What really connected the G-8 and NATO meetings was a growing realization that the biggest threat to the alliance – and, for that matter, to Obama’s re-election hopes – is the euro zone crisis. That risk comes at a time when U.S. debt and political dysfunction makes the West far less resilient. So for all the talk in Chicago about common purpose in Afghanistan, NATO’s most existential danger now comes from within, and its root causes are economic.

When NATO strategists weigh the many threats facing them, they tend to focus first on their founding treaty’s Article 5, which requires all members to defend a single ally against an external security threat. Insiders also often discuss Article 4, which allows for a member country like Turkey to seek urgent alliance consultations when it foresees new dangers, as was the case during the Iraq war and is now again the case concerning Syria.

Yet it’s time for NATO to dust off its long-forgotten Article 2, known at the treaty’s writing in 1949 as “the Canadian article,” because of that ally’s early insistence that military strength couldn’t be separated from economic health. It committed all NATO members to “strengthening their free institutions” and “promoting conditions of stability and well-being. They will seek to eliminate conflict in their international economic policies and will encourage economic collaboration between any and all of them.”

That article was put forward by then-Canadian Foreign Minister Lester Pearson, and was enthusiastically supported by the U.S., because both countries feared NATO would become too much of a military assistance program without sufficient economic cooperation or benefit. Under the logic of Article 2, ambitious free trade and investment agreements – of the sort the Obama administration is currently postponing with Europe – are as strategically important as defense programs.

Some have argued that NATO need not consider such matters, since they have become the domain of the European Union. Indeed, as part of NATO’s recent reforms, it got rid of its economic directorate altogether. Yet now that the EU itself is under threat, it’s time for the alliance to consider the security implications of financial and economic shifts – and how they could alter the strategic balance of power.

According to Article 2, it is also a NATO matter whether Greece leaves the euro zone, given its European, transatlantic and global repercussions. How France and Germany settle their dispute over the policies of growth versus austerity, again, is an issue of deepest concern to the alliance. The growing divide that the euro crisis is creating between the north and south of Europe has significant implications for the future solidarity of NATO members that goes far beyond, but also includes, the sharp decline of defense budgets.

The wider implications of the euro crisis go right to the heart of the geopolitical and security issues that concern NATO. The problems stem both from the European Union’s flagging energy for external engagement and its eroding attractiveness to the outside world as the model of prosperity and stability – to be emulated and, when possible, joined.

A weak, introverted Europe and a debt-laden and distracted United States are encouraging Russia to reassert its influence, in part through its new Eurasian Union, which would be far less attractive were it not for the EU’s troubles. In the Balkans, recent Serbian elections that favored a more nationalist candidate, who represents an anti-EU party, were influenced by the euro crisis. Across the Middle East and North Africa, a battle for hearts and minds is under way: Less attractive influences emerge when the U.S. and Europe are no-shows.

“As more crises may develop, the danger is that we will be so introspective we won’t address them,” says Michael Clarke, director general of the Royal United Services Institute in London. “Europe is losing the ability to be an actor even in its own continent, let alone in world politics.”

NATO leaders can rightly congratulate themselves for coming away from Chicago with a good amount of agreement on the three major agenda items: ending combat engagement in Afghanistan by 2014, pooling more defense capabilities in the face of austerity, and deepening relationships with their most capable partners.

Yet they didn’t begin to address this far more fundamental threat. It’s time for the North Atlantic Council of allied leaders to convene, as provided for under Article 2, to address economic issues that have become matters of strategic consequence.

PHOTO: President Barack Obama holds a news conference on the second day of the NATO Summit in Chicago, May 21, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young


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Long article when a couple of sentences would do.

So, what are these nations going to do to solve the problem?

Nothing they do will solve the problem. The European economies will work it out without help or the economies will continue their slide.

For those that need it in black and white: the politicians are totally incompetent.

Posted by ALLSOLUTIONS | Report as abusive

It is time for the US power elite, which includes both “political parties” and much more, to demonstrate to the American People why they should be retained.

Focus on foreign interests has left an entire country that we cannot “afford” to take care of or keep their promises to — the USA. The utter failure of our system to give a voice to most people who live here is the utter failure of the system built, supposedly, on our old 1789 Constitution. Can freedom and representation be salvaged from the mess we must currently endure? If it can, it is time to slash corruption by at least half and to give a 5% voice to a 5% voting bloc. Or a 49.9% voice to a 49.9% voting bloc, for that matter.

The clock is running out. No one has to demonstrate what will take the place of the current system. No one ever does. Systemic failures are always swept away. Wake up time.

Posted by usagadfly | Report as abusive

FK: Yet now that the EU is under threat, NATO should consider the security implications of financial and economic shifts

False assumption …

Q&A comparison between the EuroZone (only a part of the EU) and the DollarZone (all of the US):
*Q – Which zone has the larger population!
A – EuroZone population is 332 million, US population is 314 million

*Q – Which zone has the larger total public debt as a percentage of GDP?
A – EuroZone (86%), DollarZone (103%)

*Q – Which zone has the larger GDP?
A – EuroZone (€8.4 trillion), DollarZone (€11.2 trillion)

*Q – Which zone has the larger aggregate consumer market (i.e., population)
A – EuroZone (317 million), DollarZone (314 million)

*Q – Which zone has the larger part of world trade ?
A – EuroZone (14.6%) ; DollarZone (9.7%)

*Q – Which zone has the larger Export Market Value (as a percentage of GDP)?
A – EuroZone (21.7% GDP) ; DollarZone (10.8% GDP)

*Q – Which zone has the larger Import Market (as a percentage of GDP)?
A – EuroZone (20.9% GDP) ; DollarZone (16.6% GDP)

*Q – Which zone has the larger level of unemployment?
A – EuroZone (10.9%), DollarZone (8.1%)

Is there any real, fundamental difference in their economic situations?

And if not, why is there no news-reporting about an impending Debt Implosion in the US – which, after all, does have a much larger debt burden?

Of have the journalistic Summer Folies begun early this year?

Posted by deLafayette | Report as abusive

Obamy couldnt manage a soup kitchen – everybody knows that
The hypocrites who listen to his verbal diarrhea are equally incompetent

Posted by jackdanielsesq | Report as abusive

The threat to Europe is socialism.

Posted by mulholland | Report as abusive

How ironic that Greece, the country that gave democracy to the world, now presents anarchy and chaos. These are portents for the United States.

Posted by Psychologist | Report as abusive

NATO is the biggest threat. It must be eliminated. I has become nothing more than the goon squad of the Oligarchy.

Posted by Renox | Report as abusive

Its very surprising that the west considers itself to be the cradle of civilization or democracy! There have been ancient civilizations like Indian or Chinese where many concepts of science, technology & democracy were born!

The west needs to come out of its overconfidence! Its time it engages itself sincerely with the rest of the world and promote world’s economic and social growth as also its own!

Reforming the old international institutions like the world bank and UNO shall be a first positive step!!

Posted by RK_France | Report as abusive