Alphen, Netherlands. 12 August. Wales - the land of Celtic myths, legends and fantasies. W.B. Yeats once wrote, “Take, if you must, this little bag of dreams, Unloose the cord, and they will wrap you round…” Indulge me. Pretend for a moment that the NATO Wales Summit in September really mattered. Pretend for a moment that NATO's political leaders had the vision and the will to really understand the strategic potency of that Welsh ‘moment’. And, pretend for a moment that for once NATO leaders were prepared to put strategy before politics and prepare NATO for the future rather than the all-too-comforting but dangerously illusory past. What would my Welsh Fantasy NATO look like?
Fantasy NATO would face the world as it is, not as our leaders would like it to be and take its rightful place at the hard core of a world-wide web of secure democracies. A strategic force multiplier Fantasy NATO would forge new relationships between members and partners as the West ceases to be a place but is re-born as the winningest idea of the twenty-first century in an age of dangerous hyper-competition.
Fantasy NATO would reflect today’s realities, not yesterday’s with a strategically-serious Europe easing the pressure on failing, flailing America; the world’s only indispensable power hopelessly indispensably present in all the world’s fractious regions. In Fantasy NATO flexibility and agility would be the mantra of power. Sometimes coalitions of willing and able members would lead; sometimes coalitions of willing members and even more able partners would lead; and sometimes a Fantasy NATO-supported Fantasy EU would lead. All would be bound together by NATO Standards for the effective doing of effective things effectively.
Fantasy NATO and Fantasy EU would be unjealous of each other in my Welsh fantasy; united in practical partnership. Fantasy EU would be organised and integrated around Germany and the Eurozone and at last able to manage crises beyond itself not simply within itself. Britain, the great brake on European integration and Continental Europe’s increasingly desperate search for a twenty-first century balance between sovereignty, strategy, and affordability would be cut free. Cut free to take its rightful place alongside America, Canada, Australia and others that share its strategic culture and that are prepared to properly share risk and burdens at the point of contact with danger.
In NATO security might be indivisible, but the sharing of burdens is clearly not. Fantasy NATO would finally face reality and have two new pillars; the New Atlantic pillar and the New European pillar. Nations would be free to move and indeed choose between the two pillars for they would represent the two very different strategic cultures now enshrined at the heart of the Alliance. Fantasy NATO would also have two very different levels of membership built on the principle of more pay more say. The New Atlantic pillar would be for the full-on full members, whilst the European pillar for the half-membered and half-hearted. Whilst the Atlantic Pillar would be a small, exclusive club containing all the ‘two-percenters’, the latter would be a kind of strategic rest home for those who have decided to park themselves on the margins of history – the ‘one percenters’.
Partnership as much as membership would be the dynamic ethos of Fantasy NATO with new relationships forged between stability partners, strategic partners and members. To that end, Fantasy NATO would find a natural place in a family of reinvigorated international institutions. Indeed, Fantasy NATO could act as a brokerage for the effective sub-contracting of legitimate forceful action and the mutual reinforcing of institutions vital to the prevention of extreme state behaviour and states of extremism the world over.
Above all, Fantasy NATO would be a big, global military picture NATO; an Alliance of the strategic mind that would reach across the globe. It would have a clear, core mission to act as the true world standard for the legitimate generator of democratic force and its effective command, control and interoperability.
Fantasy NATO would be organised around three strategic commands; Allied Command Operations, Allied Command Transformation (finally free to transform); and Allied Command Knowledge. All three would be open to Member and Partner alike. Critically, in Fantasy NATO ‘Transformation’ would act as the transition between knowledge, understanding, influence, deterrence and effect with ‘ACT’ at last equipped to properly scan global horizons freed from the mixed metaphorical shackles of dangerous one-lensed and rose-tinted glasses.
Knowledge would be aggressive; gained as much by doing as thinking. At last exercises would test the unknown, the uncertain and the necessary rather than the known, the comfortable and the irrelevant. With outcomes assessed, lessons-learnt and wisdom shared across this free association of free nations via the rigours of science.
At Fantasy NATO’s all-important hard military core a true Welsh monster would emerge Phoenix-like at the behest of visionary leaders; a twenty-first century Article 5 collective defence Welsh dragon ready to defend today and tomorrow not yesterday. Missile defence, cyber defence and advanced deployable force would be hard-merged by knowledge into a fast-flying, fire-breathing, sharp-eyed, sharp-clawed but discerning beast. “This is the Land of My Fathers” it would snarl. “So, don’t even think about it”.
September in Wales should see light break where no Welsh sun shines as Dylan Thomas would have it. So, will NATO fly in Wales? Will leaders finally put strategy before politics? No, for that would be a pure fantasy and for most of them my Fantasy NATO would be far too much reality.