Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 09/2008

After the Summit: Long-Term Consequences for NATO

Karl-Heinz Kamp

June 2008

NATO Defense College


Weeks after the NATO summit in Bucharest there is an ongoing debate in academic circles and in the media on whether the meeting of the heads of states and government was a success or a failure. Some editorials express the disappointment of their authors with the allegedly meager results of the top level meeting in the Romanian capital. Decisions not taken were seen as proof of a divided NATO. Others acclaim the summit and saw those points the Alliance agreed upon as another proof of NATO’s ability to find consensus on major steps in its evolution.

On second thoughts, though, this debate appears to be fruitless, since there are no commonly accepted criteria for the success of a NATO summit. Neither the length of the summit declaration nor the quantity of items being discussed says anything about the relevance of the meeting. Even the number of agreed decisions can’t be regarded as a yardstick for its relevance, as one can always argue that it would have been better for NATO’s future if this or that decision had not been taken.

Of much greater relevance is the question of what the long term implications of the decisions and the debates of the Bucharest summit are. What trends will emanate from that meeting and what topics will remain on the agenda for the next NATO summit already scheduled for spring 2009 in Strasbourg (France) and Kehl (Germany)? What are the problems NATO will be confronted with?