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Economist: Fewer Dragons, More Snakes

November 17, 2010

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Ahead of NATO's Lisbon summit, the Economist ponders the evolution of the alliance's "strategic concept" and its future in a world of increasing unconventional threats.

NEXT week's NATO summit in Lisbon is likely to be one of the most crucial in the 61-year history of the military alliance. Officially, the 28 members are meeting mostly to approve a new “strategic concept” that frames the threats NATO faces and the ways in which it should defend against them over the next decade.

It is 11 years since the last such concept was adopted. In that period, both the world and NATO itself have changed greatly. But attention will focus on more immediate worries: above all, the prospects for the long war in Afghanistan, the response to Iran's nuclear ambitions and the need to “reset” NATO's ambiguous relations with its old enemy, Russia, after the chill caused by the invasion of Georgia in 2008. All this comes at a time of tumbling European defence spending and fears that America, preoccupied by strategic competition with China and by global terrorism, sees NATO as less vital to its security than in the past.

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