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2014 NATO Summit: ‘Crucial’ to Say the Least

Secretary General Rasmussen must help facilitate a new NATO policy towards multiple fronts of aggression

Secretary General Rasmussen must help facilitate a new NATO policy towards multiple fronts of aggression

As the leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) convene in Wales for a two-day conference, the world watches how the most important and powerful joint-military and political alliance will handle the myriad of problems it must face in many corners of the globe. With Russia knocking on the door of Eastern Europe  and ISIS running wild in the lawless lands of Syria and Iraq, the strategies developed during the summit will decide NATO’s response to strife on multiple fronts.

“Our Summit in Wales this week will take place in a changed world.  It will address the challenges of a changed world. And so I expect it to be a crucial summit in NATO’s history,” stated Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at a pre-summit press conference on Sep. 1, 2014.

Crucial indeed. This summit will define the West’s response to increased Russian aggression. After absorbing Crimea in March 2014, Russia has taken on a strategy of supporting pro-Russian rebels. There are allegations that Russia has actually invaded eastern Ukraine. The conflict has caused an estimated 2,600 casualties. While Russia continues to deny involvement, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently boasted that he could take Kiev – the Ukrainian capital – in a matter of weeks if he was so inclined.

The strength that Putin possesses is the West’s reluctance to enter into another armed conflict having wiped their hands clean in Afghanistan, after more than a decade of futile conflict. He knows that the US and EU citizens are reluctant to be dragged into another lengthy war, especially one with such high of stakes. Therefore, he is maneuvering from a position of power.

NATO is planning on forming a “quick strike force” of a few thousand soldiers, capable of responding rapidly to ‘Russian aggression’. However, whether or not this force is capable of slowing down the Russian advances on Ukraine is yet to be determined. So far the response from NATO and NATO member states has been more hand slapping – in the form of sanctions – than any real threat to Russia. Putin’s aggressive and influential global reach, combined with Russia’s abundance of natural resources put him at the top of Forbes Magazine’s “The World’s Most Powerful People of 2013” list.

How NATO responds to Russia will be paramount to how the world shakes out in the next few decades.

The second issue that is paramount at the summit will be the rise of Islamic extremist groups, notably ISIS – who has just released a second video of the group beheading an American journalist, Steven Sotloff. This is the second American journalist beheaded in as many weeks — the first was James Foley. While these brutal acts are designed to spark fear in the hearts of anyone that bears witness to the barbarism ISIS is capable of, the truth is that some of NATO member states’ allies – Saudi Arabia and Qatar – unknowingly funded ISIS to fight against Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

ISIS Rebel Leader Shakir Wahiyib

ISIS Rebel Leader Shakir Wahiyib – http://www.telegraph.co.uk.

ISIS has now been accused of  ethnic cleansing and poses a threat to global security. While Kurds and Shia groups fight to repel the ISIS onslaught, NATO — including the U.S. — may need to seek help from their enemy, Iran. ISIS is a Sunni extremist group and have been accused of killing anyone that is not Arab or Sunni Muslim. This puts many Shia Muslims in danger in both Syria and Iraq. The vast majority of Iran, including the Ayatollah Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, are both Shia and Persian, making ISIS a natural enemy. How NATO handles ISIS and Iran in the war-torn regions of the Middle East will certainly be a discussion at the summit.

NATO is ready to declare the Afghanistan mission concluded, but after more than a decade of fighting, the country is little better than when NATO invaded in 2001. With a presidential election smeared by allegations of fraud, as well as the return of the Taliban and news that Taliban affiliated groups were considering joining ISIS if they “meet the requirements for an Islamic caliphate.” 

However, ISIS is not the only Islamic extremist groups causing problems. In Kenya and Somalia, Al-Shabab continues to cause terror to both locals and Westerners alike. Additionally, Boko Haram has seized Bama in the Borno state in northeastern Nigeria. At the last census Bama had a population of 270,000 people.

In a world where a passenger plane carrying 298 civilians is shot down by rebels without consequence and where journalists are brutally murdered by extremists to strike fear in the heart of Westerners, NATO must do its job. Secretary General Rasmussen was correct when he stated that this was a changed world, and not one for the better. However, lessons need to be learned from Afghanistan and Iraq in that total submergence by Western forces will not work. Civilians killed by collateral damage is ineffective. A new age of alliances and collaborations is the only way to success in conflict zones. Otherwise, bitter resentment and inadequate and fractured political, social and military structure — on the local level — are left to pick up the pieces. The security of many civilian populations hang in the balance and the conversations, strategies and agreements made these next two days may define how the West will adapt to the global shift. While no one wants to see World War III with Russia or a new al Qaeda emerge, the new world of aggressiveness and civilian casualties needs to cease, and NATO must be the one to lead the charge.

 

Author

Daniel Donovan
Daniel Donovan

Daniel is the Executive Director of a non-profit development organization that focuses on building infrastructure and training in rural Sub-Saharan Africa called the African Community Advancement Initiative (http://www.acainitiative.org/) . He has a Master's degree graduate in International Relations with an emphasis on conflict resolution and development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Coupled with his extensive financial background, Daniel also works as a consultant for Consultancy Africa Intelligence in Pretoria and the Centre for Global Governance and Public Policy in Abu Dhabi. In addition to his work at FPA, he is also a regular contributor to The Continent Observer and International Policy Digest. He currently resides in Denver, CO.

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