Just a few observations from President Bush's speech in Brussels today after a NATO meeting. (The text of the speech is here, and a useful FAQ on NATO is here). Secretary General De Hoop Scheffer gave a warm introduction. He used the word "strong" 11 times in his introduction of the President. Given what I read earlier from columnist Mark Steyn, NATO may be in long-term trouble. I felt that Sec. Scheffer was trying to convince his audience that it is "strong", rather than stating what NATO truly is and will be.
First, let me start with interesting observations that President Bush made (President's comments in blue):
- of NATO's 26 members (Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States), 9 of them are of the former Cold War era "Warsaw Pact", all of which remember "a society that wasn't free".
- Pres. Bush alludes to certain members who take NATO for granted by saying, "One thing is for certain. The newly admitted countries don't take NATO for granted. As a matter of fact, they add a vitality to the discussions that I find refreshing and hopeful."
- Pres. Bush sat next to invited guest and non-NATO member Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko saying, Yushchenko "...had just led a revolution, a peaceful revolution, based upon the same values that we hold dear. And it was a remarkable moment, I thought."
- Pres. Bush extended the circle of NATO membership to President Yushchenko if Ukraine follows through on democratic reform. "We welcomed President Yushchenko, and reminded him that NATO is a performance-based organization, and that the door is open, but it's up to President Yushchenko and his government and the people of Ukraine to adopt the institutions of a democratic state."
- President Bush spoke with PM Blair and President Chirac about the EU plan to sell advanced military hardware to China and the US opposition, as outlined by Sec. Rice to the sale. It sounds like the governments are still debating what ultimately will be sold and how much "a transfer of weapons would be a transfer of technology to China, which would change the balance of relations between China and Taiwan."
- He also thanked each member nation that had sacrificed one of their own in combat.
- With respect to Iraq and the need to move forward, he is straightforward: "The major issue that irritated a lot of Europeans was Iraq. I understand that. I can figure it out. And the key now is to put that behind us and to focus on helping the new democracy succeed. It's in our interests. It's in your country's interests. It's in my country's interests that democracy take hold in the greater Middle East."
- To a reporter, Mr. Bush smartly replied, while advancing his spreading democracy idea: "Millions of people of voted in Afghanistan. I doubt many of you here were writing articles about, 'Oh, gosh, the elections in Afghanistan are going to be incredibly successful.' It didn't seem like it was possible, did it? But, yet, there's something in everybody's soul, in my judgment, that desires to be free. And the people of Afghanistan showed that by the millions -- not by the handfuls, but by the millions -- when given a chance to vote. Same in Iraq. And there was an election in Ukraine -- two elections in Ukraine. And then there was the election in the Palestinian Territory. Freedom is on the march, is the way I like to put it. And the world is better off for it. And I look forward to continue to articulate how we can work together to keep freedom on the march."
NATO needs to become more political if it is to survive. The European nations of the EU spend only 39% as much on defense as the US does (a subject of a future post I am working on). The future of NATO does not lie in European contributions but rather expanding the membership to include formerly communist regimes, like the Ukraine, that can strengthen their new democracies by having a seat at the table of European security. By this means, Russia loses more power to its "near-abroad" of former Soviet states and hopefully will better embrace democratic reform as well.