For most of the stories covering the recently concluded NATO summit in Chicago, the lead was that the war in Afghanistan will wrap up in 2014. After 11 years spending blood and money to run the Taliban out of office only to then invite them back to the bargaining table, America and NATO will pull out and leave the future in the hands of Afghans — mostly.
While the drawdown of forces from Afghanistan is certainly newsworthy, there was something in the dictum of the record of the summit that seems to have slipped past most media outlets, but in the long run probably merits more attention.
Although President Obama has indicated that he intends to “shift the focus” of American military alliances to Asia in an effort to keep China from running roughshod over its less-martially inclined neighbors, statements made by the hometown boy while in Chicago indicate he considers the strengthening of the European coalition to be high on the list of priorities.
What threat exists in Europe that would prompt the President to bolster NATO? The Asian gambit makes sense in that China is a legitimate threat to Asian military and economic stability, but there is no such obvious foe in Europe. Russia once played that pivotal role, but it has all but left the stage and there is no apparent understudy.
Perhaps, as some posit, it is the largely innumerable cache of nuclear weapons still sitting in the Russian arsenal that worries the President. He is concerned, it could be argued, that should those weapons fall under the control of the wrong strongman, America’s NATO partners could be targeted for nuclear destruction.
There is, as has been touted, the anti-nuclear shield protecting NATO, but even without that impediment to a Russian rogue, the United Kingdom and France both have the bomb and surely stand as deterrents.
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Photo: President Barack Obama during his meeting with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, not shown, at the NATO Summit in Chicago, May 20, 2012: AP Images