NATO READIES ITSELF TO RESPOND
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
03 Sep 14. On the day that we record the seventy-fifth anniversary of Britain declaring war on Germany we may be entitled to question whether the world is a safer place today than it was back then. I fear that the answer would be that it is not.
Conflict in Iraq, Ukraine, Afghanistan and elsewhere reminds us of the need to be vigilant in our response to constant threats to our security. Our sovereignty may not be being directly threatened but the sovereignty of others who we see as allies is being constantly challenged. This reminds us I hope of the importance of NATO and the need, as I wrote earlier this week, for the Alliance to be a potent and relevant force which I for one believe that it is.
Moreover it reminds us I hope of what Article 5 of the NATO treaty states (that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations will assist the party or parties so attacked by taking forthwith individually or in concert with other parties, such action as it deems necessary including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area) and that this remains at the very heart of this vitally important alliance of nations.
When we are forced to witness acts of murder and outrageous atrocities on the scale that we have witnessed in Northern Iraq very recently and in Syria over the past few months and even years we have needed to ensure that our response is both measured and considered. We have a collective responsibility in NATO and we must always remember that. Today the threat that we face in the Northern Iraq region is ISIL. In Ukraine it is the combination of Russian subversion, incursion and intervention in Ukraine and in Afghanistan, it is a combination of politics and potential election fraud. These three issues will I suspect in terms of geo-political events and conflict hazard dominate discussion at the NATO summit this week.
US foreign policy strategy in relation to how to challenge and meet the ISIL threat has been severely tested with the beheading of two journalists, James Foley and now, Steven Sotloff. ISIL militants have now threatened to kill a British hostage leading to calls on the UK government to join the US in air attacks on ISIL strongholds and a further meeting of the Cobra meeting chaired by the Prime Minister this morning. In response the Foreign Secretary has said that every possible option to protect the unnamed British hostage will be looked at although I do not believe that this should be perceived as including military based action.
Fragile as the situation in Northern Iraq clearly is the desire for a political as opposed to a military response will in my view be uppermost in the minds of NATO delegates. The UK response to the various atrocities is at it should be – considered, measured and recognising that it is far better to support the Kurds in providing reconnaissance, humanitarian aid and support through dropping military supplies than it would be to provide air strikes. Moreover there needs to be and will at the upcoming NATO summit be a collective response and one that sends a more dynamic message to ISIL militants that NATO is speaking with one voice and a single determination to meet the threats that it faces.
The UK will undoubtedly continue to provide all the support that it can to both the Kurds and provide other assistance such as reconnaissance to its US and other NATO allies here and to our allies in Poland and the Baltic States. Let no one say that Britain fails to take on what its NATO mandate requires. But as a direct response to the atrocities witnessed in recent