The threat to Nato


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The threat to Nato
Daily Telegraph Link
Rarely in its 57-year history has Nato looked more fragile than it does today. The heads of government summit in the Latvian capital, Riga, will be dominated by the fighting in Afghanistan, the alliance's first engagement outside its core Euro-Atlantic area. Specifically, the alliance's secretary-general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, will seek to close the loophole that allows member states to opt out of military action. In Afghanistan, this has allowed four of Nato's most powerful members — France, Germany, Italy and Spain — to avoid the sharp end in the south of the country, leaving the British, the Americans, the Canadians and the Dutch to do the fighting and take the casualties.

Afghanistan exemplifies a deeper problem. The divisions between Old Europe and the more pro-American member states that so infuriated Washington in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq continues to dog Nato. It has left the United States feeling increasingly detached from an alliance of which it is the very bedrock, frustrated by what it sees as Europe's pusillanimity and refusal to pull its military weight.

The Core Role
The Times Online
One issue will dominate the Nato summit this week in Riga: Afghanistan. The 26 prime ministers and presidents must decide how to respond to the challenge facing the 32,000 Nato troops deployed with the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), which is hard pressed in fighting the resurgent Taleban and in trying to extend the Kabul Government’s authority. For although all members have contributed troops to the Nato operation, only a few have sent troops to the turbulent south, where, understrength and underequipped, they have come under intense attack. President Bush and Tony Blair want those members reluctant to move their forces from safer and more comfortable deployments in the capital — especially those of Germany, Italy, France and Spain — to pull their weight and join the stretched Britons, Canadians, Dutch and US troops in the south.

Unfortunately, too many European countries sometimes find it easier to criticise than to contribute. They declare themselves ready to help to stabilise Afghanistan, but are unwilling to risk the opposition of sceptical public opinion, which is as defeatist in its assessment of the mission as it is hostile to joining the US in active operations. There will be excuses and prevarications, but President Bush’s weakened political position make it unlikely that his European allies will change their present pusillanimous stance.

Europe must shoulder its share of the Nato burden
Guardian Online Link
Peace can never be taken for granted, and the first responsibility of any government is security. That is why France wishes to contribute to a political structuring of the world that averts perils. It wishes to help in the exercise of shared responsibility within the framework of strong, legitimate and accepted international institutions, particularly through reforms of the UN and the security council. It is working to build a political Europe capable of meeting its international responsibilities in the service of peace.

The Atlantic alliance has a central place in this project. For 10 years France has been involved in the effort to adapt it to the new realities while preserving its original mission. That is why, at tomorrow's summit in Riga, I shall reaffirm the pre-eminent role of Nato, a military organisation, guarantor of the collective security of the allies, and a forum where Europeans and Americans can combine their efforts to further peace.

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