NATO ill-equipped to defend members: Dutch advisory council

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg gestures as he addresses a press conference during the second day of a defence ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on November 9, 2017. (AFP / JOHN THYS)
Updated 10 November 2017
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NATO ill-equipped to defend members: Dutch advisory council

THE HAGUE: NATO is poorly equipped to defend members against aggression amid uncertainty over its unity under US President Donald Trump, which could allow Russia to exploit vulnerabilities, a Dutch advisory body warned Friday.
“It is becoming doubtful whether NATO will act responsibly and unanimously when it comes to it. There is internal division in an increasing number of areas,” said Joris Voorhoeve, chairman of the Dutch Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV).
“Uncertainty about the political leadership of the United States under President Trump is accompanied by concerns about the alliance’s unity,” he added.
The warning comes in a report issued Friday by the independent body which advises the Dutch foreign ministry and the government on policy.
“NATO is insufficiently equipped for its core task: protecting members against aggression via a credible deterrent and collective defense,” the AIV said in a statement.
But NATO hit back, insisting it is “the strongest alliance in the world — with 2.5 million men and women under arms and available to come to the defense of any NATO member.”
“The commitment of the United States to NATO is beyond doubt,” NATO deputy spokesman Piers Cazalet added in an email to AFP.
The Dutch body called on the 29-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), set up in 1949 in the aftermath of World War II, to strengthen internal cohesion and work to improve transatlantic relations as “the United States remains indispensable for Europe’s security.”
From the founding of the alliance the US has been its “political and military backbone,” but since Trump took office in January there has been “a lack of leadership” by the Americans.
Europe’s safety is under threat from “destabilizing actions by Russia” and from the current instability in the Middle East, it concludes.
Regions such as the Baltics are currently “not well protected (and) an assertive Russia could seek to abuse this situation,” the report, entitled “The future of NATO and the Security of Europe,” warned.
It recommends that military units on the alliance’s eastern flank in countries such as Lithuania and Poland “should be significantly strengthened” and NATO should consider deploying some kind of rotating brigade.
It also calls for the lifting of bureaucratic obstacles to allow military units and equipment to move more rapidly across borders if needed, by establishing what it called a “military Schengen” — a reference to the EU’s 26-nation borderless system.
But NATO deputy spokesman Cazalet refuted the idea that Baltic nations were vulnerable.
“Our Baltic allies are not just protected by their national forces and NATO’s multinational battlegroups, but by the sum total of Allied armed forces,” he said.
“In response to a more challenging security environment, NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement of its defense since the end of the Cold War,” he added, highlighting that four multinational battle groups have been deployed to the east.
He also stressed that the NATO response force has been tripled “with a new 5,000-strong quick reaction force at its core, capable of moving in days.”
Concerns, however, have grown about the threat to the alliance’s eastern region since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Nato is currently upgrading capabilities to combat a resurgent Russia, as part of the alliance’s biggest shakeup since the Cold War, with defense ministers on Wednesday backing the creation of two new command centers to help protect Europe.


Maldives’ top court dismisses outgoing president’s petition

Updated 21 October 2018
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Maldives’ top court dismisses outgoing president’s petition

MALE, Maldives: The Maldives’ top court on Sunday dismissed the outgoing president’s petition seeking an annulment of last month’s presidential election result.
The five-member Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the election was conducted within the law. No other details were immediately known.
The Election Commission had declared opposition alliance candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih the winner of the Sept. 23 election against President Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
Yameen’s party challenged the result, alleging vote rigging, fraud and corruption in the election process.
Four of the five members of the Election Commission fled after the election, citing intimidation by Yameen’s supporters.
President-elect Solih’s spokeswoman, Mariya Didi, said “the case was based on conjecture and conspiracy theory.”
“We are pleased that the court ruled unanimously to uphold the will of the people. There is zero evidence that the election was fixed,” Didi said in a tweet.
President Yameen “should do the honorable thing: accept defeat & ensure a smooth transfer of power,” she said.
The Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago nation known for its luxury resorts, became a multiparty democracy in 2008 after decades of autocratic rule. Yameen is accused of rolling back many of the democratic gains.
Solih was chosen as the Maldivian Democratic Party’s presidential candidate at a party congress in July after exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed abandoned plans to run because of legal obstacles.
Nasheed has been sentenced to 13 years in prison, making him ineligible to contest the election. The verdict was widely criticized as politically motivated.
The Supreme Court earlier this year ordered Nasheed’s release and retrial, but the government refused to implement the ruling.
Yameen had expected to contest the election virtually unopposed, with all of his potential opponents either in jail or forced into exile. Following the Supreme Court order to release and retry Nasheed, the government arrested the chief justice and another judge. The remaining three Supreme Court justices then reversed the order.
In the Maldives’ first multiparty election in 2008, Nasheed defeated 30-year autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Nasheed resigned in 2012 amid public protests over his order to the military to detain a sitting judge. He lost the 2013 election to Gayoom’s half brother, Yameen, who has reversed many of the country’s democratic gains.
Gayoom is now an ally of the pro-Nasheed coalition and was jailed by his half brother.
Yameen’s administration has also jailed his former vice president, two defense ministers, the chief justice and a Supreme Court judge, as well as many other politicians and officials.