BRUSSELS -- NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has showcased NATO's new strategic concept as a "blueprint" for the alliance's third coming.
Borrowing from computer jargon, Rasmussen described the alliance of the Cold War era as "NATO 1.0," followed by "NATO 2.0" between 1991 and 2011.
Now, Rasmussen said, "NATO 3.0" is being forged, "an alliance which can defend the 900 million citizens of NATO countries against the threats we face today and will face in the coming decade. The strategic concept is the blueprint for that new NATO."
The new concept will mark the first time in the alliance's history that Russia is not characterized as a threat.
Indeed, during a 40-minute speech, the NATO chief did not refer to Russia once. Pressed for details by reporters, he described the country as a "partner" in a range of collective endeavors ranging from counterterrorism activities to a possible joint missile-defense venture.
This spring, a report drawn up by experts led by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright noted that some of the allies have "strained feelings" when it comes to Moscow and are "more skeptical than others about the Russian government's commitment to a positive relationship."
End Of Article 5?
Rasmussen's conciliatory tone comes after months of fierce pressure from Moscow, which rejects characterizations of it as a threat. This tension is why Russia has not yet confirmed its participation at the NATO-Russia Council meeting that the alliance hopes to arrange on the sidelines of the Lisbon summit.
Diplomats say there is disagreement within the alliance as to how much prominence to give Article 5, which enshrines NATO's commitment to collective defense.
Speaking to Estonian TV on September 27, Estonia's ambassador to NATO, Juri Luik, said, "There are countries that would like to focus on new threats and stress that the world has completely changed and that everything that happened during the Cold War is no longer relevant."
The new strategic concept will be a "relatively short document," Luik noted, adding that "the question is how the issue [of Article 5] will be balanced vis-a-vis other issues."
Estonia, together with the other Baltic countries and Poland, has made no secret that it continues to view Russia as a threat. All four have protested vociferously against French plans -- now confirmed -- to sell Russia Mistral-class advanced amphibious-assault ships. All four also want NATO to draw up detailed contingency plans in case they should be attacked.
Another issue that continues to divide the allies is the future of nuclear weapons in Europe. Germany and France lead a group of countries intent on removing U.S. warheads from the continent.
Rasmussen said NATO's "fundamentals" would not change and the commitment to collective defense will remain the cornerstone of the alliance. He said NATO would strive for global supremacy unmatched by anyone else and remain the preeminent forum for political consultations between the United States and its European allies.
But Rasmussen also said that NATO was now facing "new types of threat" -- including cyberwarfare, attacks on energy infrastructure, and missile strikes. For that reason, he said, the alliance must renew its capabilities, with an emphasis on mobile and easily deployable forces.
The NATO chief also underscored the need for better coordination with the European Union and the United Nations and said the alliance needed its own civilian crisis-management capability.
Rasmussen avoided the phrase "out-of-area" and said NATO was not looking for "new involvements or new missions."
In an attempt to address other countries' unease when it comes to NATO's possible global ambitions, Rasmussen said the new strategic concept would spell out provisions for what he called "cooperative security."
"There is a third area where NATO must take the next step, engaging with the wider world to build cooperative security," Rasmussen said. "In [a] nutshell, the alliance must develop deeper, wider political and practical partnerships with countries around the globe."
Rasmussen listed China, India, and Pakistan as potential leading partners.
The NATO secretary-general also issued another impassioned plea to European allies to not let the economic crisis impact their funding contributions to the alliance.
He said some governments risked "cutting into [NATO's] muscle and bone" in their austerity drives, and warned that a militarily emasculated Europe might force the United States to look for partners "elsewhere."