The early reports out of President’s Bush’s trip to Europe for tomorrow’s NATO summit in Bucharest all seem to focus on the U.S. backing of Ukraine’s and Georgia’s bids to join the alliance. While NATO should pursue membership for those two former Soviet republics, there is so much more at stake.

The Bucharest summit comes at a crucial time for the future of the alliance. The International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan has exposed strategic and political shortcomings that the U.S. must address. Afghanistan is the alliance’s first out-of-area mission and its ultimate success or failure will go a long way to determining if it represents a vision of the future for the alliance, or a one time exception.

If NATO members want the organization’s interests to extend beyond Europe, some in the alliance will have to assume a more equitable share of the burden. NATO is already showing dangers of turning into a two-tier alliance, with some members unwilling to send troops to southern Afghanistan. The U.S. must push to end such caveats and should also push NATO members to meet their previously agreed upon benchmarks of 2% of GDP spending on defense.

What must be avoided at all costs is France’s one-time offer of additional troops for Afghanistan in exchange for U.S. and British backing of an independent European Union defense structure and a leading French role in NATO’s command structure. President Bill Clinton resisted a similar French effort to infiltrate NATO command in 1997 and Bush should do so again at Bucharest. France should only be welcomed back into integrated military NATO command structure when Paris affirms NATO supremacy in European defense and security.

There will always be serious threats to global security. If Europe’s major powers genuinely believe that the world’s response to these threats should be multilateral, they should invest in a thorough reform and revitalization of NATO. Anything less than a high-level endorsement of NATO on both sides of the Atlantic will doom it to marginalization.

Quick Hits:

  • A new poll of more than 3,400 officers holding the rank of major or lieutenant commander and above from across the services shows nearly 9 in 10 believe the counterinsurgency strategy and surge of additional troops into Baghdad is raising the U.S. military’s chance for success there.
  • New polling shows just 25% of Republican and 50% of Democratic primary/caucus voters said they would support such an effort giving eventual citizenship to illegal immigrants. Of Democrats who favored causing illegals to return home, more than 7 out of 10 strongly supported that view; on the other hand, fewer than 6 out of 10 who favored legalization strongly supported that view.
  • As U.S. border security has tightened, Mexican drug cartels are now using their expertise to bring illegal immigrants into the United States.
  • The triple-and double-layered fence in parts of Arizona that “most Americans imagined when the Secure Fence Act was enacted in 2006” has decreased illegal immigration by 72% in the Yuma sector.
  • A federal judge ordered the Service Employees International Union to pay as many as 28,000 non-union state workers about $135 each for taking money directly from their paychecks in 2005 to spend $12 million trying to defeat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.