Friday, December 5, 2008

US not thrilled with Russia's EATO idea

US officials dismissed a Russian proposal for a new international body to provide security for much of the Northern Hemisphere. Russia used a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Thursday to put forward a pet project of Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, sometimes called "EATO" or the Euro-Atlantic Treaty Organization. Medvedev sees EATO as a modern-day replacement for NATO, which he calls a "Cold War relic".

But the US officials in attendance weren't buying it. "There is no need for some new architecture," said US deputy assistant secretary of state Matthew Bryza. "I think it's about looking for an alternative to NATO, which has worked so well.

Er, maybe not...I think it's a little difficult to make the "NATO is working well" argument when you look at NATO's record recently. NATO has a large presence in Afghanistan, where things have been getting steadily worse recently and Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been getting more and more critical of the Western military forces operating in his country; NATO also sent several warships to patrol off of the coast of Somalia, but the number of pirate attacks have actually gone up since their arrival. A bigger problem for NATO is that few countries even send troops to missions like Afghanistan or Somalia, and some countries that do (like Germany) put restrictions on their troops' involvement, like keeping them out of combat zones, which would seem to defeat the purpose of sending troops to a conflict zone in the first place. And the idea of expanding NATO to include Georgia and Ukraine has been a source of great tension within Europe since it was announced, potentially making Europe less, rather than more, secure.

It’s hard then to buy the argument that NATO is doing a good job these days. But Bryza’s (and the United States') real reason for opposing the idea of EATO is that Medvedev has talked about bringing together Russia, the countries of Europe, even Canada; everyone except the US, so you can see why we wouldn't be exactly thrilled with the idea.

Few European nations at the OSCE meeting were said to be that excited about EATO either, but French President (and the current holder of the European Union's rotating presidency) Nicolas Sarkozy has promised to hold further talks on the idea.
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