The conference of the world’s mightiest heroes – otherwise known as the NATO Summit – captured a lot of attention this week. And not just from those surprised to learn that NATO is still a thing. New “enhanced partners” were inducted, and a number of measures directed toward’s the crisis in the Ukraine were announced. From the White House’s official blog (emphasis added):

“…we agreed to be resolute in reassuring our Allies in Eastern Europe. Increased NATO air patrols over the Baltics will continue. Rotations of additional forces throughout Eastern Europe for training and exercises will continue. Naval patrols in the Black Sea will continue. And all 28 NATO nations agreed to contribute to all of these measures — for as long as necessary…

…to ensure that NATO remains prepared for any contingency, we agreed to a new Readiness Action Plan. The Alliance will update its defense planning. We will create a new highly ready Rapid Response Force that can be deployed on very short notice. We’ll increase NATO’s presence in Central and Eastern Europe with additional equipment, training, exercises and troop rotations. And the $1 billion initiative that I announced in Warsaw will be a strong and ongoing U.S. contribution to this plan…

…our Alliance is fully united in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and its right to defend itself. To back up this commitment, all 28 NATO Allies will now provide security assistance to Ukraine. This includes non-lethal support to the Ukrainian military — like body armor, fuel and medical care for wounded Ukrainian troops — as well as assistance to help modernize Ukrainian forces, including logistics and command and control…”

NATO is well and truly throwing it’s lot behind Ukraine, then. Finally enacting the Rapid Response Force that countries like Poland have been calling on for so long, and adding more fig leaves (a.k.a “partners”). But as quick on the trigger as ever, here is The Economist with some insightful analysis, biting criticism, and suggestions for how the West should be going even further($):

“Above all, Mr Putin cares more about the outcome than the West does. His geopolitical paranoia, his obsession with the territory lost at the end of the cold war, and the personal prestige he has staked on victory make it essential. And he has a modern army he is willing to use. Because of these imbalances Mr Putin is winning, at least by his own warped calculus…

…it is past time for the alliance to junk the undertaking it gave Russia not to base troops in the Baltics: that was made in an era of goodwill, which Mr Putin has trampled. The Europeans must do more to wean themselves from Russian gas, by diversifying supplies and introducing new rules and infrastructure to trade energy across the continent. Mr Putin is not a good commercial partner…”

But these are all democracies, after all. What do the people have to say? According to the boffins at The Conversation, it seems like the populations of some core NATO countries are ambivalent at best.

“it seems the British public takes a more favourable view of NATO than the French. A slight majority of UK respondents (51%) favoured greater military co-operation between NATO and their own military. The appeal of this option is slightly lower in France, at 45%…

…Only one third of British and French respondents believed that expanding NATO troops into Eastern Europe would serve to provoke Russia. But they didn’t show great enthusiasm for sending troops from their own country into the area…”

And now we come to the darling of realists, Professor Stephen Walt. Walt pummels the steps that have allowed NATO to survive so long, and stops just short of accusing NATO bureaucrats for engineering the whole situation in order to inject some more meaning into the dwindling alliance:

“NATO’s survival after the Cold War remains something of an anomaly. Alliances normally arise in response to threats, and many previous alliances collapsed quickly once the external danger was gone. Mindful of this tendency, NATO’s proponents have been searching for a convincing rationale for its continued existence ever since the Berlin Wall fell…

…Until the Ukraine crisis arose, NATO looked like a nearly extinct dodo that had somehow managed to last into the 21st century…

…The real challenge NATO faces is the classic dilemma of collective action, made all the worse by the modest nature of the threat to which NATO is now trying to respond. This problem is why NATO’s new members are working overtime to convince others — and especially Americans over in the Western Hemisphere — that Russian President Vladimir Putin is History’s Greatest (or Latest) Monster…

…There will be the usually pious declarations about enhancing defense capabilities, and a new set of exercises will be planned, provided they don’t cost too much. But eventually the war fever will break, and NATO Europe will return to its enfeebled military condition and diplomatic disarray.”

Australia is one of NATO’s newly minted “Enhanced Partners“, a promotion undoubtedly kindling the fire of those with Southern Cross tattoos. But almost immediately questions arose; what does this mean exactly? What benefit is derived from such a status, and does it come with obligations? Will Australia be expected to take on an even larger role in America’s military adventures? Here is an extended interview I did this week with Dr Adam Lockyer, Fellow at the United States Studies Centre here in Sydney, to get some answers to these questions:

(Image: UK Ministry of Defence/Flickr)

As before, I am unable to embed audio in the email blast. You can take a listen at Soundcloud.

After our interview Dr Lockyer took to the ABC’s Drum to unpick the implications on Australia’s foreign policy a bit more. On the whole it is a rather scathing review of the current government’s policies, which he views as consequence of having drunk the “Western values Kool-Aide”:

“This move is designed to tie Australia even more closely with countries that share its values and ideology. The change in Australia’s status in Brussels will do little to directly improve Australia’s security. But, that is not the intention. It is designed to make it easier for Australia to join with the Western European nations in the defence of its values around the world…

…Shared values are not synonymous with strategic and national interests. In fact, they are completely unrelated. Strategic and national interests are the basis for sound foreign policy making, not shared values. At times, shared values and interests overlap, like in relation to the US-Australia alliance. But this is largely a coincidence and the alliance’s value to both parties has fluctuated over time.

That’s all for this week. Catch you again next week. Same bat channel.

 

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