NATO Phone Home

I didn’t see a whole lot new, other than the name of NATO’s secretary general, in this Steven Erlanger interview with Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Afghanistan and Russia are still the alliance’s top priorities, Europe still needs to do more for the former, and the alliance’s rhetoric still doesn’t quite match up to the status quo on the latter.

This did catch my eye, though, in response to a question about France’s reintegration of the alliance’s military command:

“The French decision has removed a lot of suspicion internally”within NATO, he said. “It opens big and interesting perspectives fortrans-Atlantic relations and the NATO-E.U. relationship, in a much morerelaxed and less ideological way than we had before. Don’tunderestimate what happened in Europe.

“The U.S. and Canada willsee quite a new attitude from the European side,” especially onquestions of NATO’s assuming further roles outside its traditionalEuropean region, he said.

Substitute an “EU” for that very last “NATO” and I would have found it less curious. The EU has a better track record for picking its missions, especially when it comes to exit strategies. What’s more, Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski recently assured French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner of his country’s support for “more EU defense.” Given the complicated Old Europe-New Europe cleavages of the recent past, that’s a major pick-up, even if Poland will remain a staunch Atlanticist for its own historical reasons.

But the idea that the lesson Europe is going to take from the Afghanistan War is an increased enthusiasm for NATO as an out-of-area instrument seems a bit farfetched.

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