Mayor Rahm Emanuel views Chicago hosting the upcoming NATO summit, May 20 and 21, as an opportunity for the city to boost its international profile. Protesters say the summit equals the city legitimating NATO’s use of military power to kill innocent people in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (right), the NATO Secretary General from 2004-2009, expressed neither view, especially the thoughts of protesters, Tuesday at a talk hosted by the Chicago Council of Global Affairs.
De Hoop Scheffer – who is from the Netherlands and currently president of the Security and Defence Agenda, a think tank based in Brussels – focused on the status of NATO, the North American/European military alliance that formed after World War Two.
Assessing such a grand topic – NATO has 28 member countries and 22 partner countries – can lead to sweeping statements. For example, De Hoop Scheffer said, “I think the 21st Century will be a very important century for Navies.”
There were interesting nuggets for Chicagoans trying to grasp what will happen at the upcoming summit, to be lead by current Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark.
NATO expanded its reach over the last decade, including interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. “Is NATO a global police man or a regional organization,” De Hoop Scheffer rhetorically asked, answering that it has become both.
He argued that in too many instances these interventions involved only a few nations. For example, eight of the 28 member nations participated in the Libyan interventions. “Let’s prevent NATO from becoming too much of a voluntary alliance,” De Hoop Scheffer said.
He then pivoted to a common theme – that too much of the world’s military might is in the U.S., claiming that America has three times the military might of the European member nations combined.
His solution was not less American military, but that European Union nations continue to pay for strong militaries. He argued that European nations should coordinate with each other to preserve militaries in a time of unprecedented economic crisis.
De Hoop Scheffer also wants summit attendees to keep some kind of presence in Afghanistan, even as NATO troops leave the country over the next two years. “A lot has been achieved,” he said of a war that has gone on for more than 10 years. “Let’s not close the door behind us.”
Tuesday’s talk was the first of four hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on NATO. Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State in President Bill Clinton’s administration, gives the final talk, May 4.