East Europe Feels Ignored by NATO, Report Says

NATO is ignoring the security concerns of its Central and East European members to such an extent that several of those countries are pursuing separate bilateral security arrangements with the United States, says a report issued by a group of experts on the eve of the presentation of a major new proposal on strategy for the alliance.

If the alliance continues to play down the security concerns of the region, several of these countries will remain reluctant to conduct NATO missions outside Europe because they do not feel safe at home, says the report, published by the Center for European Reform, an independent research institute in London.

“If they feel secure at home,” the report says, “they will have less need to invest in equipment needed for self-defense and have more reasons to buy the hardware needed for far-off missions such as Afghanistan.”

The report was issued as Madeleine Albright, a former U.S. secretary of state, was preparing to propose on Monday a new strategic concept for NATO, the first major review of the alliance’s goals for more than a decade.

Over the past nine months, Mrs. Albright has led a team of defense and security experts to examine what NATO has to do in the coming years to deal with new challenges, remain relevant, decide how far it should enlarge and whether to include such countries as Georgia and Ukraine.

“Some of the allies worry that NATO would not be able to come to their defense in a crisis,” said Tomas Valasek, one of the authors who is also advising Mrs. Albright’s team.

Some NATO member states believe Russia could provoke small, regional conflicts, which are hard to plan against or deter, the report says.

NATO was unprepared for Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, the report continues. It lacked intelligence sharing and a sophisticated crisis management mechanism. It has also ignored nonmilitary forms of intimidation such as cyberattacks, including one faced by Estonia two years ago.

The report says that sense of insecurity among East European countries, and members like Norway and Iceland, will make it more difficult for the Alliance to “reset” its relations with Russia, which is the ambition of the NATO secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. NATO is divided over reassuring its eastern members or resetting its relations with Russia, the experts said.

“It is a false dilemma,” the report says. “It should have a dual track strategy that accomplishes both.”
The New York Times