News / Europe

NATO Leaders Meet Amid Array of Crises

Security fencing and police outside Cardiff Castle ahead of the UK-based NATO summit, in Cardiff, Wales, Sept. 3, 2014.
Security fencing and police outside Cardiff Castle ahead of the UK-based NATO summit, in Cardiff, Wales, Sept. 3, 2014.
Al Pessin

The 28 NATO leaders are gathering in Wales, in western Britain, for their first summit in two years, amid a new and challenging array of crises.
In 2012 in Chicago, they focused on Afghanistan, and continued the decades-long process of redefining the alliance for the post-Cold War world. They discussed issues like nuclear weapons proliferation, extremist violence, the Syrian civil war and missile defense.  
But the threats were distant or theoretical, leaving NATO to struggle to articulate a compelling mission, and to convince its own people to spend more on defense.
This summit “will take place in a changed world,” according to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Ukraine, Islamic State

NATO is being challenged by Russia in Ukraine and by the newly prominent Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria. Leaders are also concerned about the Ebola outbreak in Africa, China’s increased assertiveness in Asian border disputes, and fallout from the Syrian civil war, in addition to all of the less urgent issues of two years ago.
The problem, experts say, is that the world’s strongest military bloc finds itself unable to address any of those issues decisively.
“There isn’t a whole lot that NATO can do about this push-back by Putin,” said former British official Nick Witney, now at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “Maybe we in the West should console ourselves that before Putin started pushing back, we have, over the last two decades, pushed Russia a hell of a long way in the other direction.”
Indeed, NATO has absorbed all the former Soviet satellite states of Eastern Europe. But Russian President Vladimir Putin is drawing the line when it comes to actual former members of the Soviet Union, like Georgia and Ukraine.
To stop Ukraine from moving to join the European Union, and ensure it never joins NATO, Putin annexed Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine in support of a separatist rebellion he instigated. Since Ukraine is not a NATO member, the alliance has no obligation to help, and no wish to get into a war with Russia.
“[Russia] is not going to let go of its ability to influence events in Ukraine, and there frankly isn’t a whole lot we can do about it,” Witney said.
Summit agenda

Instead, NATO is planning a series of steps - to be formalized at the summit - to demonstrate its support for its relatively new eastern members and to improve its ability to respond quickly if Russia moves against any of them. That will involve creating a quickly deployable force, and stationing supplies and some personnel on bases near its eastern borders.
“We are faced with the reality that Russia considers us an adversary, and we will adapt to that situation,” Rasmussen said at a pre-summit news conference.
Regarding the Islamic State, which threatens the stability of Iraq and has been brutalizing non-Sunni Muslims in areas it controls, “specifics ... are going to be very hard to deliver,” said Robin Niblett, the director of London’s Chatham House.
The United States has been bombing Islamic State fighters, to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting them on the ground. And U.S. and other allied military aircraft have dropped relief supplies for trapped and besieged civilians. But it is not a NATO mission and is not expected to become one.
The summit is expected to call for more steps to fight the spread of extremism and to support Iraq’s new government, which is now being formed, but not much more.

The leaders will also review progress toward ending the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of this year, and deploying several thousand trainers and advisers. But that can’t happen until Afghanistan’s new president signs an agreement on the status of the new force, and a controversial recount of ballots is still in progress.
As always, NATO leaders will agree on various moves to try to increase the alliance’s military capability, to enable their forces to work together and to confront threats like missile proliferation and cyber attacks.
But Robin Niblett says the Ukraine and Iraq crises may have provided the leaders with a theme to tie such issues together, and to get the attention of their people.
“It is a critical summit,” he said. “It was all theoretical ... the world was not perceived to be as dangerous a place to the West as it has turned out to be.  This is a summit in which all NATO members and their partners need to step up and start to communicate to themselves and externally and to their publics - this is a dangerous world and there is a purpose to this alliance.”

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Counties Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: John from: USA
September 03, 2014 3:53 PM
Why can't NATO simply quit antagonizing Russia?

NATO under direction of the US has squandered the greatest existing chance for a fully peaceful Europe by insisting that the states formely within the Soviet sphere of influence once again become aligned. A truly monumental lack of vision and failure of leadership which will continue to have bad consequences.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs