Foreign Policy Blogs

From West to East

On a few occasions, I have taken up the subject of how institutional relations among states are affected by events and common missions.  Writing on the Atlantic Council’s New Atlanticist blog recently, Magnus Nordenman offered his views on how the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns may affect transatlantic cooperation in the future.  His basic conclusion:

The confluence of shifting strategic priorities, along with a military increasingly unfamiliar with Europe at best or disdainful of America’s European allies at worst, could sever important military-to-military links that serve to underpin America’s current security relationship with Europe.  The loss of this link, and what it means for NATO, may be one of the longest lasting effects of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nordenman’s argument reflects commonly-voiced concerns over NATO’s future, but he puts a bit more substance to the idea.  Beyond worries over whether agreement can be reached on the definition of a common mission or levels of military funding, he believes the transatlantic alliance will be tested by, among other things, the uneven development of fighting capacity resulting from the division of labor in the war zones and the changing American security focus from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

(Courtesy: Google Images; BBC)

(Courtesy: Google Images; BBC)

In light of the upcoming November NATO Summit in Lisbon, Nordenman’s piece is an insightful read.  There is also an interesting corollary point worth considering: a change in U.S. focus from West to East suggests new opportunities for deepening existing partnerships in other regions.  How and where that will happen will depend largely upon events and the priorities of the Obama Administration and its successors.  Asia is very large, and the U.S. has many priorities throughout the continent from the Middle East to the Far East.  NATO states Canada and Turkey will continue to be important players in U.S. strategic calculations, and some of the more obvious non-NATO candidates for cooperation are (somewhat paradoxically, and in different ways) both India and Pakistan, as well as America’s allies in East Asia who share a common concern about an increasingly assertive China.

Then there is the Wild Card: Russia.  The Obama Administration has pushed back against China but has famously sought to “reset” relations with Russia.  Could this be a coincidence, or is the administration hoping to pull a reverse Nixon and reach out to Russia as a hedge against China?  It’s way too early to tell, but it’s something to watch.



Ryan Haddad

Ryan Haddad is the Senior Blogger for U.S. Foreign Policy at FPA. A foreign affairs and national security analyst based in Washington, D.C., he worked in European and Eurasian affairs at the U.S. Department of Commerce during the Bush Administration and is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Providence College. He can be followed on Twitter at @RIHaddad.