Aznar slams NATO, calls for terror focus

By GARETH HARDING, UPI Chief European Correspondent

BRUSSELS, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- NATO's relevance in the modern world depends on severe rebranding, a new FAES pamphlet insists.

The new NATO should become an "Alliance for Freedom," with a focus on defeating Islamic terrorism, urges the study by former Spanish premier Jose Maria Aznar and members of the conservative think tank.


Aznar's controversial statement was joined by a recommendation to reach beyond traditional NATO borders and invite Israel, Australia, and Japan to join the security body.

"NATO is at a crossroads," writes Aznar in the foreword to the pamphlet.

"It may choose the path of continuity, risking becoming marginal to the security needs of its members, or, alternatively, it could walk the path of strategic change."

The changes proposed by Aznar and the report's authors amount to nothing less than a complete overhaul of the 26-member alliance, which was founded in 1949 to contain the threat posed by the Soviet Union.


"Nazism gave way to communism as an existential threat to Western democracies," writes Aznar. "After living in a decade of a false peace, we, today, are facing a new existential threat, Islamist terrorism, and NATO must give an answer to that."

At present, the report contends, the alliance is ill-equipped to deal with the threat posed by Islamic Jihadists. It accuses the organization of stumbling from crisis to crisis in search of a post cold-war raison d'etre, of having no shared mission and of failing to protect its citizens from both internal and external terrorist attacks.

"It is very difficult to explain how the biggest and best military apparatus of all time could become a decisive tool for ensuring the security of others, as in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, but fail to play a role in Europe when it comes to guaranteeing the security of its citizens against Islamic terrorist attacks," the report states.

The solutions proposed by FAES are as radical as the criticism it heaps on the alliance. It calls for NATO to be renamed the "Alliance for Freedom" and for its members to agree a new mission statement that would put defeating Islamic extremism at the heart of its policies.


It urges a new homeland security dimension to NATO's activities, bringing interior ministers into the body's decision-making process.

And it says the alliance should take a more muscular approach to stop weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists and rogue regimes.

Aznar, whose party lost power after a series of deadly terrorist attacks on commuter trains in Madrid last year, believes terrorism will only be defeated if the alliance uses a combination of military hardware and political persuasion.

As well as nation building, NATO should promote democracy building, says the center-right politician who lead Spain for eight years. Among the report's proposals are to set up a "partnership for freedom" -- aimed mainly at the countries of the greater Middle East -- that would mirror the alliance's partnership for freedom project with former Soviet states.

The report acknowledges that the eastern enlargement of the bloc to take in former communist countries has been a success story. However, it calls for an expansion of the military club that would make most Brussels officials choke on their sprouts. It says Japan, Australia and Israel should be offered NATO membership and that Colombia and India should join the partnership for freedom.


The paper, which was presented in Washington Wednesday and will be launched in Brussels at the end of the month, concludes by saying that if NATO fails to reform it will not only become irrelevant, but that the security of its citizens will be compromised.

"Failing to take action or taking measures too late in this era of mass terrorism is tantamount to condemning large numbers of compatriots to death."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a NATO official told United Press International that 10,000 alliance troops were already fighting terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan and warships from the military club were busy keeping the Mediterranean safe from terrorist threats.

However, the official added: "NATO cannot do everything. The bulk of the counter-terrorist work lies with nation states and the role of the military in defending against terrorism is limited."

Pouring cold water on another of the report's suggestions, the official added there was no consensus to use NATO to conduct counter-terrorism operations in alliance member states and that any extension of the bloc to take in non-European countries would require a change to the alliance's original charter.

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