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Friday, 22 November, 2002, 15:44 GMT
Analysis: Can Nato honour its commitments?
US Nato peacekeeping soldiers in Bosnia
The summit approved a raft of military proposals

Pre-scripted and pre-planned, the Nato Summit in Prague has achieved what it set out to do.

Iraqi man stands in front of portrait of Saddam Hussein
Nato could play a role in stabilising a post-Saddam Iraq

Invitations have been issued to the next batch of seven prospective members.

And alliance heads of state and government have endorsed a sweeping raft of proposals to establish a new rapid response force, streamline Nato's military headquarters and focus spending on the key military capabilities needed to confront the new challenges of the 21st Century.

The summit communique identifies terrorism as posing a grave and growing threat to alliance populations, forces and territory.

Accordingly, Nato is to improve its defences against nuclear, chemical and biological attack.

Still relevant?

But the test for the new alliance will be to honour the commitments made here in Prague.

Some analysts already wonder if the threat from global terrorism is sufficient to encourage countries to re-orientate their spending and to give this re-styled Nato renewed life.

Critics say that Nato - new or old - is increasingly irrelevant.

What, they ask, can the alliance contribute to a war against Iraq?

Clearly, Nato as an organisation is not going to join in any military campaign.

But the common standards and training of Nato forces will enable allies to work together on the ground.

Re-launching ties

Nato's political support for US action could also be important.

Russian President Vladimir Putin hands flowers to US First Lady Laura Bush as US President George W Bush looks on
Bush (centre) is currently meeting for talks with Putin (left)

And in the aftermath of any conflict, Nato could potentially play a role in helping to stabilise a post-Saddam Iraq.

Nato's relationship with a wider circle of countries was also under the spotlight here in Prague.

Some six months on from the Nato-Russia summit - which re-launched ties between the alliance and Moscow - this new partnership seems to be going surprisingly well.

Nato Secretary General George Robertson said that it was more than living up to expectations.

Russian pragmatism

When questioned after the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov politely side-stepped the issue of Nato enlargement.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma looking pensive at Nato summit
Kuchma: Ostracised at Nato summit

Russia's position on all of this was well known, he said, but he preferred to emphasise the need for progress in military co-operation between Russia and Nato and the common threat that they faced from terrorism.

A few months ago it would have been unthinkable to have a high-ranking Russian presence here at a summit which saw invitations extended to the three Baltic Republics - former Soviet territories - to join Nato.

The real diplomatic business will be done by US President George W Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg.

But, in foreign policy terms, Mr Ivanov's presence here was a signal of the new Russian pragmatism in action.

Ukrainian awkwardness

Nato has not allowed their uninvited guest - the Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma - to spoil the proceedings.

He has still not satisfactorily addressed alliance concerns that he may have sold sophisticated radar systems to Iraq.

Mr Kuchma has been ignored by most Nato leaders here though he was seen chatting cordially with the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Around the table the countries are usually arranged in alphabetical order.

This would have meant Mr Kuchma sitting near the US President and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The alliance deftly avoided any potential embarrassment by switching the seating plan to the other Alliance language - French - taking Ukraine well away from les Etats Unis (the United States) and the Royaume Uni, the United Kingdom.

Expanding Nato

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See also:

19 Nov 02 | Europe
22 Nov 02 | Europe
21 Nov 02 | Europe
14 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Oct 02 | Politics
20 Nov 02 | Middle East
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