NATO Summit Yields 'Good Document,' but What Will Come of It?

There's some disagreement

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Was the NATO summit in Lisbon a success? That really depends on whom you ask. Some think the summit was just spectacular, exceeding expectation and with no room--among rational folk--for improvement. Some think the U.S. screwed up the Russia part. Others say the new Russia relations were the best part. Nearly all have some misgivings about whether the fine words will be followed up with action. So here's your summary.

  • 'Exceeded All Reasonable Expectations,' gushes James Joyner at The Atlantic Council, before walking the statement back almost in its entirety by saying "yet [the summit] leaves critical questions about the Alliance unanswered." How so? Calling the "NATO-Russia issue ... arguably the most stunning success," and the nuclear talks helpful, he explains the dilemma:
Once upon a time, the meeting was supposed to launch a new NATO, building on the experience in Afghanistan and forging a path for the decade to come.  But the combination of disillusionment with that mission and the devastating impact of the global recession on European defense budgets cast a shadow of dread on the Summit in recent months.  Even the most ardent Atlanticists began asking themselves:  Is NATO still relevant?
  • They Didn't Stand Up to Russia  Ian Brzezinski, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO policy, thinks NATO's "new Strategic Concept is a good document," and the missile defense and fiscal austerity talks were progress. But he's a Georgia sympathizer, and was disturbed to see that "for the second summit in a row, NATO failed to give Georgia and Ukraine a clear roadmap for eventual integration." Meanwhile, "President Medvedev came and was recognized ... Perfunctory calls were mumbled for the withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgian territory. It is unwise for the Alliance to have confirmed there are no consequences for the Kremlin's continued violation of Georgia's sovereignty."
  • 'Went More or Less According to Plan,' judges Charles Kupchan at the Council on Foreign Relations. "NATO is seeking to adapt to a new array of threats and challenges. The summit in Lisbon charted a sensible way for doing so, but it remains to be seen whether the political will is available to back up NATO's plans."
  • 'Did All the Right Things'--But Will Reality Intervene?  "In principle, this is an extremely strong set up for NATO and the future," writes Kurt Volker. But the real world always "intrude[s]. And in 2010, the gaps between the vision held by transatlantic security experts, and the actual beliefs and actions of Allied publics and governments is as wide as it has ever been." Even "the best-laid policies" will just be bits of paper until we deal with that.
  • Big Picture: American Dominance in Trouble  The NATO summit was just the end of a "flurry of top-level international meetings that, from President Barack Obama's point of view, were frustrating," writes Clive Crook at the Financial Times. Republican intransigence on "the Start accord surprised even some cynics ... If Mr Obama cannot rely on Congress to back such agreements, his capacity to negotiate abroad is destroyed," explains Crook. "A broken Congress compromises US diplomacy in subtler ways too. In economic affairs, America's partners complain that the US demands adjustment everywhere but at home." Thus, his conclusion, looking at the Asia tour and NATO together: "In recent weeks the US has seen what it means to be merely first among equals. It will take some getting used to."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.