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Potusphere • Issue º6 • NATO

November 2009

Paris, November 16, 2009

As the US administration faces a myriad of “most important” foreign and security policy
dossiers, the sociology of the key actors involved in influencing and creating American
strategy and policy becomes ever more important. Understanding the political positions of
these figures, the most relevant elements from their paths to power, and their
personal/professional allegiances helps to clarify what stances they espouse and why. By
knowing this information, it is possible to better assess who surrounds the president, what
they are advising, and the possible impact on US exterior action.

Potusphere, an analysis previously known as Potus Watch, will systematically assemble key
positions held by members of the current administration on central foreign and economic
policy issues. The goal is to highlight tendencies among the Cabinet and close advisors to
the President. Potusphere will define majority and minority opinions, examine who holds
those views, and identify the relative power of different actors in the decision-making
process. By outlining major political currents, Potusphere aims to spotlight the emergence of
power blocs and trends in order to better understand America’s foreign policy-making

Please be sure to visit the companion website – -- for this and
previous Potusphere available for download, as well as frequently updated
commentary, analysis of breaking foreign policy developments, various media
appearances, and a link to subscribe by email to blog updates.

Amy Greene

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The Atlantic Alliance is at a turning point in its history and a crossroads regarding its
relevance and effectiveness. NATO faces the difficult tasks of redefining its post-Cold War
mission to suit its current threats and ensure ongoing global importance, rallying allied
support to win the war in Afghanistan, engaging new powers and smaller powers in
meaningful cooperation, and struggling to rewrite its grand strategy for the decades to
come. In the current US administration, the actors closest to the day-to-day management
of US-NATO relations tend to subscribe to a series of common views. The first is ardent
support for enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe (and for certain, even beyond that).
A second is the insistence on more aid to the US for the joint mission in Afghanistan. And a
third major tendency is worry over alliance incoherence over its broad strategic approaches.
Nonetheless, the NATO principals all strongly support the alliance, believe it to be an
essential alliance and force for global security, and wish to see further US rapprochement.

Key Administration Actors

Joseph Biden, Vice President (White House)

In the day-to-day management of European relations, Joe Biden has become the go-to
figure, dispatched several times to Europe to deliver major policy addresses (Munich), to
mitigate the reaction to Obama’s reversal of antimissile defense (Czech Republic, Poland),
and to drum up ally support for operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Biden’s long-
standing personal relationships with European leaders is critical to easing transatlantic
tensions and in garnering NATO allies’ support for key missions.

In the US Senate, Biden co-chaired the NATO Observer Group and has since been
outspoken about NATO’s evolution. During the Balkans crisis, Biden strongly supported
NATO air strikes, and it was his “lift and strike” resolution (lift UN arms embargo, arm
Bosniaks, and threaten air strikes against Bosnian Serbs) that helped convince Clinton to
use force. At this time, Biden became fervent about NATO enlargement to any country
that applies and meets entry criteria, expecting new members to eventually rely less on the
US as they gained confidence in their own security standing. Indeed, Biden laments what
he sees as lack of coherent action surrounding outstanding MAPs, especially those of
Georgia and Ukraine.

Biden calls himself “deeply worried” about NATO incoherence in recent years, dismisses
“national caveats” as making a mockery of the Alliance, and urges more support for the
“forgotten war” in Afghanistan. A firm believer that US and European collective security
(and the future of NATO) hinges on Afghan success, Biden opposes major troop
escalation and was reportedly furious after the October 2009 closed-door meeting between
NATO defense ministers and General McChrystal that resulted in broad support for the
General’s heavy escalation proposal.

Ivo Daalder, Permanent Ambassador to NATO (State)

A Clinton veteran, Daalder was Director of European Affairs at the NSC from 1995-1996
and responsible for coordinating US policy to Bosnia. As early as 2006, he argued that
since NATO’s primary challenges are global in nature, so too should be the alliance by
“admitting any democratic state that is willing and able to contribute to the fulfillment of
the alliance’s new responsibilities.” Daalder views the transatlantic framework of the
organization as its main impediment to unifying countries with similar interests and goals.

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According to Daalder, since current NATO allies are overstretched and at capacity in terms
of ongoing missions like Afghanistan, Iraq, and in parts of Africa, the alliance must extend
a hand to nations that have made important contributions to NATO missions (Brazil,
India, South Africa, South Korea, etc.).

A critic of the alliance for having undertaken a task as daunting as stabilizing

Afghanistan and then denying it the means necessary to win, Daalder believes that too
many of NATO’s members still view it as a regional defense organization. The solution, he
says, is for NATO to develop and procure military power that will allow it to project itself
far and fast while providing a path to membership to criteria-meeting non Democracies
(often referred to as a “global NATO”). Otherwise, Daalder considers the Macedonia-
Greece deadlock a major blow to the credibility and integrity of NATO enlargement and
strongly criticized French and British opposition to granting Georgia’s and Ukraine’s
MAPs out of simple fear of Russian ire.

Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense (Defense)

In February 2008, Gates criticized what he saw as the evolution of NATO into a “two-
tiered alliance of those willing to fight and those who are not” that would “effectively
destroy the alliance.” Although he praised allies’ contributions to the Afghan mission,
Gates continued: “In NATO, some allies ought not have the luxury of opting only for
stability and civilian operations, forcing other allies to bear a disproportionate share of the
fighting and the dying.” Gates lamented the lack of European public awareness of the direct
impact of Afghanistan on Europe’s collective security. Minimal public support for the war
has heavily constrained governments’ contribution of resources, much to Gates’ frustration.

In October 2009, he pressed for more support from NATO allies for Afghanistan insisting
that McChrystal’s additional needs should not be the exclusive responsibility of the US.
Though his skepticism for lackluster alliance contributions may not have disappeared,
Gates’ tone now reflects the more conciliatory discourse of the sitting president. And Gates
will surely use his position to lobby NATO defense ministers, speak to European publics,
and negotiate astutely to widen burden sharing in NATO’s first beyond-borders mission.

Phil Gordon, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (State)

Gordon is a strong supporter of NATO enlargement, having asserted that the process
begun in the 1990s has been an incentive for countries to “reform their political systems,
liberalize their economies, root out corruption,” resolve regional disputes, and improve
military establishments. Once in the alliance, new members have contributed vitally to
missions in the Balkans and Afghanistan, and even Iraq. Gordon points out, like Biden, that
NATO membership ultimately provides enough of a security guarantee that new members
turn inward to improve citizen wellbeing and ensure the continuation of the reform process.

While urging Europe to find internal political cohesion in order to have more clout with
the US, Gordon calls for increased contributions to Afghanistan to both demonstrate a
commitment to shared allied missions and to recognize the link between Europe’s common
security and the fight against terrorism there (terrorists stopped in 2007 in Germany,
Denmark, and the UK belong to the same group found in Afghanistan). And recently,
Gordon has been in discussions about extending a MAP for NATO membership to
Montenegro while continuing cooperation with Georgia, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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General Stanley McChrystal, Commander, ISAF; Commander, US Forces Afghanistan


McChrystal will work closely with NATO defense ministers and the SACEUR as the
leading commander of the US effort in Afghanistan. A noted counterinsurgency expert
whose successes include leading the unit that captured Saddam Hussein and overseeing
secret ops that dramatically reduced sectarian violence there, McChrystal is now promoting
the adoption of his proposed troop escalation in Afghanistan of 40,000 additional
troops to bring the total number of American soldiers stationed there up to almost 100,000.

The findings of the General’s strategic review leaked to the press as early as September
2009, much to the administration’s chagrin. NSA General Jones accused McChrystal of
disobeying chain of command. In fact, McChrystal’s overtures – first by turning to the
press then in an October closed-door meeting with NATO defense ministers, which
garnered broad support according to Secretary General Rasmussen – seem a systematic
pressure campaign designed to emerge with presidential support of his propositions.

Admiral James Stavridis, SACEUR; Commander, US European Command (Defense)

The first naval officer to hold the post of SACEUR, Admiral Stavridis is hailed for his
previous work at Miami-based Southcom where he increased the presence of the State
Department, emphasized the importance of the soldier-diplomat, and reassigned certain key
roles to civilian government employees. It was here that Stavridis also succeeded in
building military-to-military relationships in Latin America while fighting against
Colombian insurgent forces and the drug trade. This experience will serve as NATO
seeks to define its contribution to the mission and counter-insurgency fight in Afghanistan
and aims to recalibrate in the face of new threats. An optimist about the continuing value of
NATO, Stavridis has called it America’s strongest alliance and “best pool of partners.”

As SACEUR, Stavridis says his three major concerns are (1) the NATO role in
Afghanistan; (2) developing a constructive relationship with the EU, US, and Russia since
the alliance’s future hinges on its Russian relationship; and (3) securing NATO’s continuing
relevance. To achieve success, he plans to focus on strengthening international
partnerships, improve interagency coordination within the US government, and harness
strategic communication by defining a coherent message then distributing it via new
channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (sites all of which the Admiral is a member).

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Senior Director for European Affairs (NSC)

A longtime NATO expert, Randall has written extensively on the alliance’s future, notably
on questions of strategy redevelopment and planning. She warns about the lack of
internal reflection and warns that this gap could mean NATO irrelevance in coming
decades. She urges the US to lead the discussion about a strategic reorientation, to help
unite European partners to have a frank and critical dialogue. To this end, Randall
proposes a “Transatlantic Declaration,” a member state consensus on a new NATO
mission statement that better considers the new nature of threats and geopolitical
challenges facing the Alliance. Included in that declaration must be cohesive elements
regarding policy towards Russia, China, terrorism, and the reinforcement of mechanisms for
quelling internal friction among NATO allies.

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Ellen Tauscher, Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security (State)

Appointed to serve on NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly during her tenure in US Congress,

Tauscher has implicated herself in US security affairs for more than a decade. She has
spoken out at great length on her positions vis-à-vis NATO, criticizing the Bush
administration in 2007 for pursuing missile defense outside the context of a
coordinated NATO. Instead, Tauscher urged the US to rally support of all NATO allies
for this type of program as a way to demonstrate that “the days of “Old Europe” and “New
Europe” are over and done with.” In fact, Tauscher would like to see NATO fractures
resolved both internally and externally, starting with a reassertion of what NATO does. In
Tauscher’s opinion, NATO’s primary role is that of a security organization that is capable
of, and will use, force to address emerging threats that merit involvement, which means that
NATO must also clarify its role vis-à-vis Europe’s defense identity.

Regarding the most noted ongoing external mission, Afghanistan, she has criticized allies’
“caveats” about deployments and mission limits as undercutting to the alliance. A loss
there would support the idea of NATO as unable to modernize itself when most crucial.
NATO’s need to modernize does not begin and end with Afghanistan, as Tauscher notes the
need to cooperate on climate change and other issues like the denunciation of torture
policies. Moreover, NATO must also look to promote more coherent external message
by forging a closer dialogue between the publics and parliaments about NATO’s role
beyond its borders.

James Townsend, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and NATO Policy

Jim Townsend’s Europe and NATO expertise has won him widespread praise among
defense experts. A believer that NATO “remains the West’s best hope for generating
strategic effect” in the coming years, he has written on the urgency of NATO reform,
noting that NATO faces challenges but not a crisis. Although allies do not agree on
approaches to Afghanistan, they share the belief that the alliance cannot afford failure there.
Still, if NATO does not possess the political will to provide the commitment, men, and
capabilities to new kinds of missions, its utility is called into question. Townsend urges for
deep strategic renovation and has warned that the entrenched bureaucratic culture
created to meet past challenges risks to overwhelm advances to meaningful strategic
reform. He has described in detail possible modalities for NATO strategic renovation
(modernizing the architecture of Article V; combining defense planning and defense
investment into a central planning function; open its doors to like-minded non-Western
partners) while also calling for both an effective grand strategy and capable, cost-effective
regional organization.

Previously director of the International Security program at the Atlantic Council,

Townsend has worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense where he honed his finesse
for US/Central and Eastern Europe relations, Northern Europe issues, and the financial
aspect of European security assistance. He also worked on US policy to NATO and Europe,
helping to manage day-to-day relations with the alliance.

Additional Actors

Tobin Bradley, Director for NATO and Western Europe (NSC)

A career Foreign Service Officer who was previously the special assistant to the
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Bradley was awarded for organizing 15 local

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elections in southern Iraq and for developing the voting system that the UN used as its
basis for the January 2005 elections.

Daniel Fried, Special Envoy to Guantanamo Bay (White House)

His current role is to manage the closing of the controversial US prison in Cuba, but
Fried’s experience runs deep in European/NATO affairs. In Clinton’s NSC, Fried was
implicated in the development of US security policy in Europe, focusing particularly on
NATO enlargement, which he strongly favors. Beyond enlargement, Fried supports
NATO missions beyond its borders; approving eventual membership for Ukraine and
Georgia; and offering a path to Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia. Based on past jobs, Fried
is very familiar with Eastern Europe, Poland, and relations with Russia. His close ties to
Europe serve in his negotiations with those nations to accept Gitmo detainees.

General James Jones, National Security Advisor (NSA)

The former SACEUR spent his childhood in France and has spoken out strongly about the
consequences of NATO failure to stabilize and win Afghanistan, emphasizing that
losing that mission means nothing short of a fundamental shock to the credibility,
legitimacy, and future of NATO as an institution in the post-Cold War world.

Alexander Vershbow, Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs (Defense)

Vershbow worked on NATO issues from 1994-1997 and on devising US strategy to end the
wars in Bosnia and Kosovo while he was at the NSC. He was a lead architect of Clinton’s
NATO enlargement blueprint and led the US effort to draw NATO’s relationship with
Russia. He was US ambassador to NATO from 1998-201 before moving to the US mission
in Moscow (until 2005) and South Korea. Vershbow spent time at the Pentagon as an
assistant secretary overseeing the Pentagon’s relationship with NATO.


What role will the US play, and in what depth, to revitalize NATO and to secure its
relevance in the face of “new” threats and powers? NATO must better formalize its
cooperation with rising powers like China, India, and Japan as well as with Russia. How
can NATO quell Moscow’s hostility towards it while concretizing sustained and closer EU-
Russia ties? How can NATO persuade Beijing to buy into closer engagement?

What should NATO’s enlargement policy be? Should the alliance become a global network
that admits any eligible democracy willing to contribute? Would any emerging powers even
join such a NATO? And what would this mean for the EU-US relationship? Or rather,
should NATO become the hub of the many existing regional security organizations,
working to ensure its centrality and relevance in a post-Western world?

Concerning internal concerns, will NATO redefine Article V to better account for non-
unanimous majorities in the decision-making process? And on Afghanistan: can NATO at
28 muster the political will to contribute effectively? How much more can Europe give and
what will the US ask for? Does NATO defense minister support for the McChrystal option
indicate European willingness to increase its share of the combat burden?

Amy Greene • POTUSPHERE •

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