Ministry of Defence

Albania-US Relations: A Pillar of Stability in an Increasingly Uncertain World

By Ian J. Brzezinski

b_230_199_16777215_00___.._images_aktualitet_brezeinski.jpgWashington - It is in times of uncertainty that partnerships are both most tested and most important. The Albania-United States relationship stands solid in the transatlantic community at a time when that community is being buffeted by economic crises whose potential geopolitical consequences should not be ignored. For this reason, and also because we are approaching the July 28th 90th anniversary of the United States de jure recognition of Albania, it is important to consider how to further leverage this strong relationship to the benefit of Balkans and the wider transatlantic community.

The last decade has seen extensive reform and modernization in the Western Balkans. Croatia is on track to join the European Union, and Montenegro may soon joint it in the accession process. Albania joined NATO in 2009, and it is possible that Bosnia Herzegovina could join NATO's Membership Action Plan in the not too distant future.
            
But the Western Balkans may be approaching another crossroads. Macedonia's EU and NATO aspirations remain blocked by Greece for questionable reasons.  Another bout of ethnic tension occurred this spring in Kosovo. Serbia's recent elections generated concerns about its geopolitical orientation. And, Greece continues to dangle on the edge of an economic precipice. Its economic crisis could quickly generate ominous geopolitical implications for the Balkans, the European Union, and NATO.            
            
At the transatlantic level, Europe and the United States, if not drifting apart, are certainly not generating an image of shared ambition and renewed commitment. Indeed, both are preoccupied by their respective economic calamities and other priorities in regions outside the North Atlantic area. NATO's summit meeting in May in Chicago did not worsen the situation, but nor did it effectively address these concerns.
            
Under these circumstances one should not underestimate the value the U.S.-Albania relationship can bring to needed efforts to reinforce stability and progress in the Western Balkans and to revitalize the transatlantic relationship. The following six proposed initiatives are designed to serve these ends:
            
Military Reform: Over the last two decades the Albanian armed forces have undergone intensive modernization. U.S. financial assistance and advice has been instrumental, and the investment has yielded important returns. The Albanian military has always been among the first to stand with the United States in challenging out-area operations, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, in the latter theater, Albanian soldiers operate "outside the wire" in combat operations, a testimony not only to their valor, but also to the evolution of their operational professionalism and skills.
            
The United States should continue its military assistance to Albania, especially since it is such an active contributor to NATO and other international military missions. One inexpensive step to further deepen the U.S.-Albania defence relationship would be to embed a U.S. military planner in the Albanian general staff. A military embed would help to further harmonize planning processes and procedures used by the Pentagon and the Ministry of Defence. A military embed should not be seen solely as means to further reform. It is also a means to permanently sustain close links between the two staffs and to ensure smooth coordination in times of crisis.
            
Establish a JIATF-Adriatic: Much work has been undertaken to develop the abilities of Balkan countries to monitor and control their maritime and airspace domains. It would be useful to further integrate what are essentially national efforts into a truly regional network. Toward that end Albania and the United States should drive the development of a regional intelligence fusion center akin to the U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force - South (JIATF-South). That fusion center, located in the State of Florida, benefits from the participation of Central American, South American and Caribbean nations. It gathers intelligence through a variety sensors and shares intelligence to detect, monitor, and intercept illicit trafficking operations.  It has proven to be an outstanding tool against crime as well as a generator of regional cooperation and good will.  Albania and the United States should leverage this experience to establish a "JIATF-Adriatic."
            
Regional Crisis Response Capacity: Several years ago Albania attempted to create a crisis response capacity among the Adriatic nations. That initiative should be revived in partnership with U.S, the European Union, NATO or all three. The Adriatic would be a safer and more secure common if it were to benefit from a pooled, multinational capacity for search and rescue, environmental hazard response and, perhaps law enforcement.
            
Leverage the US-Albania-Turkey Relationship: Albania and the United States both benefit from close relations with Turkey, a country that for historic, cultural, and economic reasons is an important influence in the Western Balkans. It seems only natural that a forum involving these three Allies could serve as a creative mechanism for addressing security, economic and political challenges and opportunities in Albania and its surrounding region.
            
Energy Security: Albania has regionally significant deposits of oil and gas, and after a long decline, its petroleum industry is experiencing a revival.  However, the energy connections between Western Balkans and the rest of Europe and between the Balkans states themselves remain undeveloped. Moreover, major pipeline projects such as Trans Adriatic Pipeline, NABUCCO and others being planned or under development, all portend strategic implications for Albania and the region. Energy security should complement defence and democracy as a key pillar in the U.S.-Albania bilateral relationship. These pillars' objectives should include fostering U.S. investment in Albania and ensuring that Albania's security interests are accounted for in the evolution of the Balkan's energy infrastructure.
            
Completing Europe:  A key priority of the U.S.-Albania relationship should be to revitalize the process of integrating Europe.  The United States and Albania, as a new NATO ally, should work together to ensure that the next NATO summit features invitations to qualified applicant countries, including Montenegro and Georgia.  A Europe that is truly integrated and devoid of dividing lines will be a Europe that is more stable, more secure, and better able to work with the United States in addressing the global challenges of the 21st century.

Ian Brzezinski served as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Europe and NATO Policy. He is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council of the United States and leads the Brzezinski Group LLC, a strategic advisory firm serving US and international clients.

Originally taken from Albanian Screen’s website: 

http://news.albanianscreen.tv/pages/news_detail/41434

 

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