NATO Summit Ahead!

7 July 2016, 1432 EDT

Tomorrow, the NATO summit in Warsaw starts.   What do we expect, other than jet-lagged Steve being more incoherent than usual?

  • Lots of decisions to be announced, none to be made.  These summits are akin to academic conferences–events that force folks to do the work.  So, all of the work to come to agreements, make commitments, draft talking points has been done.  Now, it is about announcing them.
  • The big decision–a persistent presence.  Two years ago, many allies were reluctant to provoke Russia with a long-lasting deployment of troops to the Baltics and Poland.  The old agreement was “continuous” presence via an endless series of exercises.  But something could interrupt such exercises–like sequestration.  So, now, we have permanent basing that is by another name–persistent presence.  Four major force contributors are leading the effort, each in a different country, so Canada in Latvia, US in Poland, Germany and UK in Estonia/Lithuania (I forget which), but others will kick in some forces.  The numbers may or may not be announced here.  As always, as we got a NATO officer to admit in our book, “force generation is begging.”
    • Some language will be included about working with Russia to deal with the various crises, as Germany insists on talking with the Russians in exchange for its support of the persistent presence effort.
  • Spending! NATO released new numbers on who is spending what, putting pressure on countries to increase their defense spending.  I wrote about this earlier today from the Canadian perspective.  The hectoring to spend more happens at each NATO summit, as plenty of countries are spending less than their supposed share–2% of GDP.  This is not just about more Canada but more Italy, more Germany, more damn near everybody.  Countries have mostly stopped cutting but returning to 2% is not going to happen anytime soon.
  • The Southern front!  Lots of concern about ISIS and North Africa.  Why?  Mostly due to refugees but also due to terrorism.  Not sure what specific steps will be announced on this one, but do expect more noise about NATO providing training and capability development for African countries that could use some help developing their security sector.  Not much NATO can do to really improve the governance of places–that depends on the interests of the various actors within each society.
  • Arctic?  Probably not much as Norway wants more but wants to lead such efforts.  Canada is not enthused but is less hostile than the previous government.
  • Other stuff.  I have lost track of the other stuff as I have been focused on the persistent presence piece.

What am I going to do in Warsaw?  There is an Experts Forum run by the Polish Institute of International Affairs, and I plan to drink from the firehose–listen to a lot of interesting stuff and figure out what it means.  I will, of course, blog about it as it happens and then afterwards.

Clear skies to all of the participants!