ABU DHABI // The UAE’s attendance at this weekend’s Nato summit is necessary as global security threats and turmoil in the Middle East spill over into the West, experts say.
World leaders representing the 28-nation defence bloc will meet in Warsaw for a summit described by some as the most important in a generation.
Member states face the pressing task of reshaping the alliance to face a range of threats, from a hostile Kremlin to terrorist attacks and cyber threats.
Despite not being part of the military alliance, the UAE was given observer status at the previous summit, in 2014, and again for this year’s two-day meeting in Warsaw, Poland, beginning on Friday.
“The Nato summit is important for the UAE because it gives it access to training and education, counter-terrorism, counter-weapons of mass destruction, joint exercises and military interoperability,” said Dr Albadr Al Shateri, adjunct professor at the National Defence College.
Strategically, the partnership with Nato filled a vacuum left by the “receding influence” of the United States in the region, he said. “Regional powers want security guarantees from a powerful alliance such as Nato.”
Nato is a bloc of 28 countries, including the US, UK and Germany, set up to offer collective defence to member states against an external threat. Nato summits are organised periodically and are often used to introduce policies, invite new members, launch major initiatives, and build partnerships with non-Nato countries. This summit looks to be key in the development of the alliance’s future strategy.
“We live in a more dangerous world, with terrorism, with turmoil, especially to the south of the alliance, in Iraq, Syria, North Africa,” Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said. “But also with a Russia which is more assertive, has tripled its defence spending since 2000 and has used force against an independent nation in Europe, Ukraine.
“This has really changed our security environment. Nato has to respond. When the world is changing, we have to change.”
Johan Obdola, president of the International Organisation for Security and Intelligence, said the world was facing a “combination of known and new emerging security threats. These security threats are becoming more complex to deal with, requiring an urgent need to establish deeper regional and international security cooperation”.
“The latest terrorist attacks in Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, France indicate the urgent need for the UAE to become more active and further strengthen its defence and intelligence capabilities.
“Nato will discuss in a wider context three core tasks: collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security.
“The UAE has a key opportunity to present in the summit some new regional security initiatives, de-radicalisation programmes, intergovernmental dialogue, coordinated security operations, intelligence-sharing and prevention programmes.”
As heads of state and government assemble in Warsaw, the fallout from the UK’s decision to leave the EU will no doubt be on the agenda. So too will the greatest reinforcement of collective alliance defence since the collapse of the Soviet Union, including deployment of four reinforced multinational battalions, headed by the US, UK, Canada and Germany, to Poland and the Baltic states.
The new units, totalling about 4,000 troops, will serve as a reassurance to allies feeling threatened by Moscow and as a warning to Russia that a military incursion into the territory of frontline Nato states could bring it into head-to-head confrontation.
The measures to be ordered in Warsaw constitute “the most significant accomplishment of alliance deterrence and defence in decades”, said Polish Nato ambassador Jacek Najder.
Russian officials vowed to take unspecified countermeasures.
“The Soviet Union is no more; the Warsaw Pact has ceased to exist but for some reason, Nato continues to expand its infrastructure and advance toward Russia’s borders,” Russian president Vladimir Putin said recently.
In Warsaw, Nato leaders were expected to agree “on how we can do more in the fight against terrorism”, Mr Stoltenberg said.
Nato surveillance aircraft will probably be ordered to peer into ISIL-controlled areas of Syria and Iraq, and leaders are also expected to order Nato training and capacity-building operations in Iraq for its military.
The UAE, along with 60 other countries, will be an observer at the summit this weekend. The UAE delegation will be headed by Mohammed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defence Affairs.
The group will take part in a session involving 25 Nato partners with the focus on how to better work together and to the same standards in the field.
* Additional reporting by -Associated Press