One of the clearest mission statements was to stay in Afghanistan and see the conflict through as the US shifts its weight and focus to Asia and the Pacific. The representatives of the member states have decided to inform their citizens as well as the Pakistani and Afghan people, including the Taliban, that NATO will go on striving to build lasting peace and sustainability for the regime in Afghanistan.
The Chicago meeting revealed a stark truth: European policymakers have been immersed in their domestic affairs and have lost the sight of global security challenges. The US has been so dominant and resourceful that European countries and policymakers have virtually turned over the security of their continent to this country. It is in this atmosphere that European nations have lowered their defense budgets in accordance with their expectations. This situation has seriously hampered the EU defense cooperation and integration system envisioned in the 2010 Lisbon Treaty.
Austerity measures and budget cuts also force the US to be more frugal in defense matters at the global level. Needless to say, NATO will be seriously affected by Washington’s choices.
The Chicago meeting reaffirmed NATO’s resolve to integrate European ballistic missile defense programs with that of the US. In this way, NATO member countries would be better protected. One end of the system would be in Turkey (radar facilities), the other floating (US ships) off the coast of Spain.
However, deliberations at the summit have revealed the stark truth that Europe’s ability to play the role of a global power is rather limited. Even in Afghanistan, Europe’s role as a security agent is limited, and European NATO members want to get out as soon as possible.
Given this limited capacity, how would Europe cope with potential but imminent security liabilities surfacing in the eastern Mediterranean? Tensions are rising from the growing conflict over the exploitation of gas reserves in the seabed off the shores of Cyprus. Greek Cyprus has struck a deal with Israel to utilize these natural resources to the dismay and protest of Turkey, which claims that the status of the island and the offshore reserves are not defined.
On May 14, news agencies reported that Turkish fighter jets engaged in a dogfight over the Turkish side of the island. Immediately after the incident, Turkey issued a warning to the international companies that if they had any commercial involvement in the Cyprus offshore gas deals, they would be denied to take part in any of the energy projects in which Turkey is involved.
Following the warning, Israel announced that 20,000 commandos will be deployed to Greek Cyprus with their families to remain on the island to protect joint economic concerns. It is obvious that this news was a part of the psychological warfare between Turkey and Israel.
These developments took place at a time when the Greek Cypriot government is getting ready to assume the rotating presidency of the European Union this summer. Cyprus’s term will last six months starting in July. Expecting that Greek Cypriots will do everything in their power to disable Turkey in its relations with the EU, Turkey has announced that she will freeze most of her relations with Brussels and possibly with NATO during these six months.
Would these conflicts lead to an armed confrontation in the eastern Mediterranean? Probably not. But would Europe be able to cope with such disputes if they escalated? Europe’s past performance in the Balkans has been disappointing. No one knows what kind of moves it will make if an EU member (Cyprus) and a NATO member would fall into a dispute with Israel onside.
EU members in the NATO alliance and US officials have agreed that greater security collaboration between NATO and the European Union could increase the EU’s defense security capabilities. However, representatives of the two organizations could not agree on joint operations. Nor did they agree on conducting mutual crisis-management exercises.
One thing became apparent: “Without Turkey’s full support, neither the EU nor NATO will be able to realize important security goals in the Arab world.” (Richard Weitz, Global Insights: NATO’s Modest Chicago Summit, World Politics Review, May 22).