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Czech Republic and other, newer member countries worry that their security may fall by the wayside.
In Prague, Albright also stressed the need to “reset our relations with Russia.” Many citizens in the former Soviet block remain traumatized by Moscow’s oppressive rule during the Cold War, and feel they didn’t join NATO so that they could become the Kremlin's new pal.
But outside the former Warsaw Pact countries there is near universal agreement among policy experts that better relations with Moscow is in everyone’s best security interests.
Dana Allin, a foreign policy expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said that while Moscow may have been back-sliding on democracy at home in recent years, there is little evidence that they pose a military threat to NATO members, even those on Russia’s doorstep.
“Could one hypothetically conceive of a threat in the future? Maybe,” Allin said. “But it is not in the interest of the alliance to make a big deal against the Russian threat, which doesn’t exist.”
He added, “That may make the Poles and Czechs somewhat nervous, but emphasizing a Russian threat would make Russia nervous.”
Beyond assuaging anxieties in Prague and other East European capitals inside NATO's protective shield, Albright and her advisory board are performing a top-down review of potential threats to the alliance in the coming decade — and how best to counter them.
Two days after her stop in Prague, Albright was in Oslo, Norway, for the third conference on NATO's strategic concept review. (The fourth and final conference will take place in February in Washington.)
The main focus of the talks in Oslo was on the comparatively benign issue of partnerships. It’s not that partnerships, with countries as varied as Russia and Australia, aren’t important, it is just that no one in the alliance is really going to get too worked up over the issue.
Albright noted that NATO now has more partners than members, and she described the role of cooperating non-member states as “central to any realistic vision of NATO’s future. ... One might think that as NATO membership has grown the need for outside partners would have been reduced. In fact, the opposite has occurred.”
Experts agree that an actual military threat is now quite limited. Weiss, the defense expert at Europeum, says current and future threats include, terrorism, cyber-terrorism, economic security and social security issues such as immigration.
So how can NATO members guard against these new threats?
“Well, what can it do against military threats?” Weiss asked rhetorically. “There is cooperation between the militaries, so it is similar in other areas. You need an exchange of information; common planning; cooperation; exchange of practices; standardization — this works in any area.”
Albright’s group is due to submit their report in April and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is expected to present a new strategic concept by year’s end.