The Church Jesus Built, German version

What Happens After Death?, German version

Is The Bible True?, German version

Heaven or Hell?, German version

Bible Prophecy, German version

NATO's midlife crisis

April 14, 2008: NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop-Scheffer was probably looking forward to the NATO summit that took place two weeks ago in Bucharest, Romania. After all, the alliance plans to celebrate its 60th anniversary next year, and de Hoop-Scheffer has visions of a new Atlantic charter encompassing a new strategic direction for NATO's 26 members. But the summit had its tense moments, reflecting NATO's midlife crisis. This time, however, a good bit of the disharmony came from a NATO member that has rarely been anything but in lockstep with the United States for the last 59 years – Germany.

In his last year of office, George W. Bush apparently wanted the Bucharest conference to be a positive showcase for his foreign policy initiatives. Bush NATO flag pushed for a fast-track admission of Georgia and the Ukraine as new NATO members. Bush's plan was a direct challenge to German chancellor Angela Merkel. With tensions between Georgia and Russia rising and energy disputes between Russian energy giant Gazprom and the Ukraine in recent years, Merkel was concerned that Bush's plan would offend Russia. After all, Germany gets a lot of its energy from Russia, too, so good relations between the two countries are important. "It's too early," was Merkel's comment upon her arrival in Bucharest.

In a newspaper interview German foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier emphasized that his government sees no reason for adding another potential issue with Russia this year. The Russians just had to accept Kosovo's independence, and Germany does not want the conflict between Georgia and Russia to become part of NATO's agenda. Before the summit, Russia's foreign minister Sergej Lawrow had warned NATO against "playing with fire," and Russia's NATO ambassador Dimitri Rogozin announced a "dramatic shift" in his country's relationship to NATO if the two countries were put on a fast-track for membership.

With the fast-track admission plan derailed, Secretary General de Hoop-Scheffer stated his belief that membership for Georgia and Ukraine would be just a matter of time – if the two countries wanted to be part of NATO.

The other major issue for NATO is the war in Afghanistan. Although the differences of opinion among members were not addressed during the Buchaest conference, they will continue to be a serious challenge for the alliance. Recent terrorist attacks in Kabul itself will likely increase American pressure on its NATO allies to supply more men and material for NATO's Afghanistan mission. The French recently agreed to send more troops to Afghanistan, but Germany has repeatedly refused to redeploy any of its troops to the southern portion of the country. To some extent Germany sees America's military efforts in the south as being part of the U.S. war on terror, rather than as part of the overall NATO mission in the country. A redeployment of troops would likely require approval by the German parliament, the Bundestag, which may be hard to obtain. The losses of NATO members in the south have been greater, prompting the Canadians to say that they will go home unless others do their part.

Those sentiments don't sound like a positive framework for next year's anniversary. Quo vadis, NATO?


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Gospel of the Kingdom, German version

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