NATO Summit: Rudderless in Riga

NATO must regret fixing a summit date for the end of this month in Riga. The angry words about who is to blame for deepening problems in Afghanistan have set the scene. As with all such high profile meetings of national leaders, the preparatory work needs to be done over many months. Yet NATO difficulties over the Afghanistan mission have dominated recent discussions, and as a result there seems to have been little time to focus on the Riga agenda.

The World Today
4 minute READ

Tim Garden

Visiting Professor, Centre for Defence Studies, King’s College London

Most member governments will be content if they can limit formal discussions to areas of consolidation rather than bold new initiatives.

The 2003 intervention in Iraq triggered a particularly difficult period for the Organisation, members were divided about its legitimacy and wisdom. As action depends on consensus, NATO stood aside. Slowly, the diplomatic damage has been repaired, but the alliance contribution to the desperate problem of Iraq remains small and limited to a training mission. Despite the strains felt by the United States and British forces, there is little prospect of discussion in Riga about extending that mission.

Nevertheless, NATO has in this period established a major and expanding mission well outside its traditional area of responsibility. After the short operation led by the US against Afghanistan in late 2001, an international reconstruction effort was mounted, supported by an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

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