FPA Profile: Sarwar Kashmeri, Fellow

Sarwar Kashmeri is a fellow of the Foreign Policy Association, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s International Security Program and senior advisor for transatlantic security at ISIS-Europe. He is recognized on both sides of the Atlantic as a specialist and commentator on U.S.-European relations. His latest book is “NATO 2.0: Reboot or Delete?” (www.2nato2.com) Kashmeri spoke to Sarah Marion Shore about his involvment with the FPA and views on the future of Euro-Atlantic security.

How long have you been a fellow of the Foreign Policy Association, and how has it contributed to or influenced your career and interests? 

About eight years, and it has had an enormous impact on my development because of all the events that the FPA has and the people that I’ve come in contact with.  To give you a tangible result of all this I have written two books during the time that I’ve been a fellow of the FPA, one on the transatlantic relationship and its future after 9/11 and Iraq, and the other on the future of NATO.  So from Noel Lateef to the people, the staff, and the events, I’ve gotten a lot more than I’ve given.


What drew you to the subject of collective defense and transatlantic security?

My background as a businessman.   I spent a lot of time in Europe and I realized that Americans were not paying enough interest to what was taking place in Europe, that we were too fixated on the technical issues, often integrating Europe and European Union, and weren’t thinking about the strategic issues, the geopolitical issues, the impact of the European Union on American foreign policy, security, business, and so on.


The title of your most recent book is NATO 2.0: Reboot or Delete: why is NATO and the subject of collective defense at a decisive moment in history?

For two reasons.   One, I continue to believe that the American relationship with Europe, the transatlantic relationship, is still by far the most important relationship that America has.  NATO, which used to be a strong peg holding that relationship together, is now chipping away at it, for many reasons that I outline in my book. And so to preserve the relationship with Europe, and to continue it to grow, as we face the emerging powers in the East and so on, we need to find a way to make NATO much more adaptable to the new century.

Secondly, the critical center of gravity of Europe has shifted to Brussels with the European Union.  But we still seem to be in two minds about whether we should have a special relationship with the UK, even though the UK is very Europe-skeptic.  My feeling is that the special relationship ought to be with Brussels, that’s where the future is.  NATO is still very important but it needs to be adapted to the new century, because if NATO does disappear or become irrelevant, it won’t be very good because we’ll need it someday, and then it will be, with the present political climate and financial climate, impossible to recreate.  


Do you think the Obama administration has made good use of NATO? Can Libya be seen as a model for or an exception to missions of international security? 

It is too early to tell how Libya is going to be viewed. In my opinion it is not going to be viewed in as rosy a light as people are talking about it now, and I’ll give you two examples.  One, NATO was used for regime change, and that was a huge mistake.  It shows up in the way Russia and other countries are now voting in the United Nations in regards to Syria. From being given permission to defend civilian lives in one town, NATO went on for six months and succeeded in regime change, so that was a big mistake. And I think in time it will come back to haunt the alliance, and it will come back to haunt the transatlantic relationship. I hope it’s not true, but as Libya now seems to be headed to much more of a civil war than we had thought possible, if that doesn’t change it will further smear the reputation of what was done there.

What can we expect from the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago?

The United States has made up its mind to leave Afghanistan, and I think the foremost thing we’ll see from there is a management issue, how to finesse the American desire to leave and make it look as though all of NATO wants to do the same thing. So that’s issue number one that we will see.  Secondly, we’ll see an attempt to put a good gloss over what’s taking place in Afghanistan.  After 10 years we’re no closer really to making a country any safer or more stable than we have 10 years ago.  Thirdly we’ll see a gloss put over the fact that it’s really the United States that’s been doing all the hard work and NATO is basically a brand name, which helps to some extent but is largely irrelevant to what’s going on.  So I think it will be a damage control issue, it will be a branding issue, and that’s what I believe we are going to see coming out of Chicago.