VARIOUS: Russia and NATO are set to tackle Afghanistan and missile defence at upcoming Lisbon NATO summit
- Title: VARIOUS: Russia and NATO are set to tackle Afghanistan and missile defence at upcoming Lisbon NATO summit
- Date: 18th November 2010
- Summary: KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (NOVEMBER 13, 2010) (REUTERS) AFGHAN ARMY SOLDIER GUARDING NEAR THE WRECKAGE OF THE SUICIDE ATTACKER CAR, U.S. MILITARY CONVOY PASSING BY A U.S. MILITARY VEHICLE TOWING ANOTHER DAMAGED MILITARY VEHICLE U.S. SOLDIERS WALKING TOWARDS THE SITE OF THE ATTACK
- Reuters ID: LVA87I7O9ZAEGM4JGARX2LMXVN1
- Duration: 00:00:17
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: International Relations,Defence / Military
- Story Text: NATO and Russia will hold their highest-level talks in 2-1/2 years on Saturday (November 20) in Lisbon, with the aim of burnishing their slowly improving ties and narrowing differences over Moscow's role in missile defence.
Relations have improved substantially since August 2008, when Moscow sent troops into neighbouring Georgia, a NATO candidate. But the process remains in a rebuilding phase, with stark differences still to be resolved.
The Nov. 20 summit in Lisbon, part of a two-day summit of NATO leaders, will examine what input Moscow might have in a U.S.-backed missile defence system and discuss coordination on issues from Afghanistan to piracy and counter-terrorism.
With the Afghan war deeply unpopular in America and Europe, allies are looking for an exit strategy.
Haroon Mir, who heads up the Afghanistan Research And Policy Center, in Kabul, said that could be a disaster because Afghan security forces are no way near ready to take over.
"Unfortunately Afghanistan is not yet ready, not only in terms of capacity the security forces because we don't have enough security forces, even though the recruitment of the Afghan security forces has been going on for quite long time, and certainly there are more recruitments but at the meantime the rate of attrition is very big as well but security is not the only challenge, we have for example governments challenge corruption, justice and in all of that and Afghans without having the support in presence of NATO forces in Afghanistan will not be able to meet all these challenges alone," Mir said.
If NATO can hold the alliance together into seeing it out in Afghanistan and there isn't an upsurge in allied casualties, then the alliance may just emerge from the long Afghan operation with it's reputation just about intact. If not, then it could spell the beginning of the end for NATO, said Jonathan Eyal, Director International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
"What will cripple the alliance is a humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan and more importantly a feeling that somehow the Americans, who got us there in the first place pulled the plug on the operation at the last moment for internal political calculations in the United States. If these dangers are avoided then I suspect that NATO will limp on, if they are not, then the damage to the alliance will be pretty severe," said Eyal.
An area where more concrete progress may be made is Afghanistan. In preparatory talks in recent weeks, Russia has indicated it is ready to help assist NATO operations there, including allowing its territory to be used for the movement of equipment, and coordinating on counter-narcotics operations.
It is also expected to sell 18 Russian Mi-17 helicopters to the U.S. military and donate three more to Afghan forces.
But the sticking point will remain missile defence and more broadly how NATO forces are deployed in Europe, especially in alliance states that were once in Moscow's sphere of influence.
Eyal said there's still distrust between Russia and NATO and the two entities are not always pulling in the same ideological direction.
"What the Russians really want is to talk to individual key European countries not to the small eastern Europeans who used to be Soviet colonies. What NATO is offering is to talk as an alliance of 28 states with Russia. So, in short, what the Russians are hoping to get they can not get and what they are being offered they don't find particularly interesting. So I suspect we will get a lot of very warm feelings but in practice the outcome is unlikely to be very significant," he said The challenge for NATO on missile defence is how to assuage Russia's concerns about what the system aims to do, and involve the Kremlin at some respectful level without compromising the years of work that have already been done.
Part of the problem is defining what the system is designed to defend against. In the decade after the Cold War, protecting against potential Russian aggression was a major consideration.
Now the concerns are more focused on North Korean and Iran, but Moscow is reluctant to specify Tehran as a missile threat, as is Turkey, a NATO member and a neighbour of Iran.
At the same time, Russia is still not completely convinced that the system might not be used against it.
A one-day summit is not going to resolve all those concerns, but it should be able to keep the positive dialogue going.
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