"Sustained turmoil" might be a metaphor for the presidential whirlwind that just blew through Europe, but the phrase is actually a heading in the German Marshall Fund's (GMFUS) survey of the NATO Mediterranean Dialogue. Last Friday, when the wheels of Air Force One were just up from Brussels, GMF hosted a round table to launch their in depth study of this NATO initiative which began in 1994. Though some of the participants, during the coffee before the proceedings got under way, marveled at sighting "The Beast" or FLOTUS in person, it must be said that the name of DJT himself was never mentioned.
Shows you that not everything revolves around the Man Baby, and that serious NATO business goes on, despite his tantrums.
Well attended by a roster of diplomats, journalists, and civil society people from a number of Mediterranean countries (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia are the seven non-NATO member partner countries), as well as NATO International Staff from the Political Affairs and Security Policy Division, the round table showed how NATO goes beyond traditional East-West concerns (NATO's "comfort area," as one of the participants called it) and engages with countries whose stability matters to NATO member states.
"Beyond crisis management, NATO and partners must address protracted instability," summarized one of the participants. Several lamented NATO's role in Libya, which was seen as unfinished business, contrary to the extensive stabilization work done over years in Bosnia.
The Med Dialogue is relatively unknown outside specialist circles, and is seen as under-resourced. With all the shouting about "2 percent" or even "4 percent" at the summit last week, how much will trickle down to this effort in preventive diplomacy? Luckily, the European Union (EU officials were present too) knows the value of this NATO effort, and is increasing its cooperation in the same region.
This long term and low profile engagement with its southern flank shows that NATO defines security in a holistic fashion. Limiting the discussion to how much countries devote to military spending - the POTUS doctrine of spending = security - is way too simplistic an approach to collective security. What if encouraging Med Dialogue partners to invest in coast guard patrols contributes way more in the long run than buying a couple of F-35s?
The Med Dialogue, like much of great value at NATO, has no warships or tanks at its command. But it does have a network of experienced people committed to dialogue, and the GMF is to be commended for its serious evaluation of this program that contributes to human security, among NATO countries and their neighbors to the south.