Intelligence Brief: 42nd Munich Conference on Security Policy

Posted in Other | 03-Feb-06

German police officers guard access to the Bayerischer Hof hotel before the start of the 42nd Conference on Security Policy in Munich February 3, 2006.

On February 3, the 42nd Munich Conference on Security Policy will start at the Presseclub München. High level delegations from Germany, the U.S., and E.U. countries, as well as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, will attend the conference.

The main topics of the meeting will be the relationship between Europe and the United States, with special attention to how the future role of N.A.T.O. will affect E.U.-U.S. security cooperation, and the new direction of German foreign policy.

After the 2003 transatlantic rift, caused by the U.S. decision to invade Iraq, many decision-makers in Europe want to mend fences with the United States. The more explicitly pro-American stance of newly elected German Chancellor Angela Merkel provided a good opportunity to improve relations. As PINR forecasted on July 13, 2005, Merkel immediately tried to re-establish excellent political and strategic relations with Washington. [See: "Angela Merkel's Forecasted Win and Germany's Foreign Policy"]

The Munich gathering comes at a very delicate moment for N.A.T.O. and the transatlantic security policy. As requested by the United States, N.A.T.O. is deploying thousands of extra troops to parts of southern Afghanistan to allow a partial U.S. withdrawal; the southern region has seen heightened levels of violence. N.A.T.O.'s additional 6,000 troops will be provided by European members and will raise N.A.T.O. peacekeeping forces in the country to 15,000. [See: "Insurgents, Warlords and Opium Roil Afghanistan"]

PINR correctly predicted in August 2004 that the "most likely future for Afghanistan is chronic instability that Western powers, expending limited resources, will attempt to contain, but will not be able to resolve." This conclusion worries many European governments. For instance, any deeper military involvement in Afghanistan will result in more N.A.T.O. casualties. Additionally, financing peacekeeping missions will be a source of dissent in light of the European public's reluctance to accept any kind of military mission that is led by the United States. Moreover, today's N.A.T.O. is often perceived by Europeans as a tool to ensure U.S. leadership in the Western geostrategic realm. [See: "Afghanistan's Transition: Decentralization or Civil War"]

The Netherlands is struggling with these concerns. The Dutch Parliament appears divided on the proposed mission, which entails sending 1,400 more troops to Afghanistan. The Parliament will vote on this issue today.

Oppositely, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and London's Defense Secretary John Reid confirmed the U.K.'s determination to pursue an ambitious new three-year British mission in southern Afghanistan.

The backdrop to the Afghan debate is Washington's push for a transformation of N.A.T.O., with the goal of involving the alliance in more high-combat missions, projecting the organization across strategic distances.

Such a U.S.-led transformation of N.A.T.O. is likely to cause opposition in France, as Paris consistently favors a stronger European Security and Defense Policy (E.S.D.P.) to be the main common security effort by E.U. members. However, even more Atlanticist states like the Netherlands, seen through the concern over its troop commitment to Afghanistan, are bound to become uneasy over expanding the role of N.A.T.O.

Expect 2006 to be the year of attempted transatlantic strategic rapprochement, with significant resistance coming from continental Europe. If the Afghan mission becomes increasingly unsustainable for European members of N.A.T.O., U.S. plans to transform the Atlantic organization will be hindered.

The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an independent organization that utilizes open source intelligence to provide conflict analysis services in the context of international relations. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader. This report may not be reproduced, reprinted or broadcast without the written permission of [email protected]. All comments should be directed to [email protected].

Munich Conference on Security Policy

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