|The remaking of NATO|
|November 16, 2008|
AMONG the knotty issues President-elect Barack Obama will have to address are the future shape and mission of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO has outlived its original purpose, and the lack of a clear mission now is causing tensions that are avoidable.
Because of Russian anxiety about NATO expansion, Obama will need to reach an understanding with allies about whether Ukraine and Georgia can join the organization. He will also have to resolve the difference between NATO's Cold War mission and the version being improvised by some NATO members in Afghanistan.
The original 1949 charter was rooted in a one-for-all and all-for-one defense against an attack on any member. The area to be defended was Western Europe.
In the Cold War lexicon, the current war in Afghanistan - where some NATO troops fight while others perform reconstruction tasks in relatively safe zones - would be called an out-of-area conflict. Because it is conducted outside Europe, each alliance member is free to make its own decision about sending troops and determining what those troops will do.
The easier decision for Obama should be the one about new members. France, Germany, and other European nations do not want to provoke Russia by placing Ukraine and Georgia on a fast track to membership. Obama should heed this counsel.
But the purpose of NATO in the new century, and its particular role in Afghanistan, will be better addressed in response to unfolding events over a few years, and in consultation with all members of the alliance. NATO was not created for the security environment of this era, and it will have to be remolded to cope with evolving threats.
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