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The Maastricht Diplomat

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[Al Jazeera] The truth behind NATO debates

On Friday afternoon, an anonymous source exposed France's discourse on disregarding civilian lives during NATO debate, revealing the true colors of the NATO member. 

France stated “sometimes in conflict, civilians die” during an off-topic discussion on the feasibility of distinguishing civilians to state actors during a conflict. The debate concerned Lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs), which are non-human weapons, and the possibility of those to overthrow human directed weapons. 

To defend its position, France blamed the leak on misunderstanding and miscommunication, stating that, as a native French speaker, their statement might have been distorted or not delivered as intended. France clarified their speech by saying that their intention was to represent the struggles for LAWs to separate civilians and combatants. 

France corrected their statement saying that “war is war, collateral damage will happen”, a statement they claim is more accurate than the one taken from the heat of the debate. 

France also clarified a similar statement from this morning saying “We should make Ukraine a testing ground” when mentioning LAWs and the exclusive use of AI weapons. 

Though reluctant at first, as analysts reported, France justified their statement by exposing the intensity of the debate. The representative admits that emotions took over their objectivity and the sentence was simply an analogy. 

Reporters have said that France's statements represent the lack of control coming from Western countries, being no better than their ‘enemies’ who are often criticized for being driven by anger. 

France also put the statement in context, reminding Al Jazeera of the United States's argument to use exclusively LAW's, to which France would have responded sarcastically to use Ukraine as a testing ground considering the controversial opinion of the US, according to France. Al Jazeera was not able to verify France's justification. 

The Secretary General (SG) of NATO supported France's explanation, claiming that they were overwhelmed by emotions, only further enhancing the lack of control coming from France. The SG also defended the latter by arguing that the country was simply countering the thought that LAWs distinguish civilians from military. The SG emitted the possibility that France wanted to highlight the inhuman aspect of LAWs and not the unimportance of humans in a conflict. 

Staff employees, who asked to remain anonymous, told AL Jazeera that the same Secretary General did also contradict their justification behind closed doors by stating: “To be in NATO, you just have to be bitchy”, an information Al Jazeera was not able to verify. 

Both statements concerned the ongoing debate around LAWs that still has not reached consensus and perhaps will not reach one, similarly to other topics mentioned in NATO. A member of NATO shared their frustration facing the lack of agreement on previous themes, including the definition of cyber warfare  which was long debated but abandoned, an information Al Jazeera was unable to confirm.  

The lack of consensus within NATO members simply represents the impossibility for Western countries to cooperate and make compromises, as observed by reporters, explaining their on-going debate on LAWs. The latter is followed by the never-ending lack of agreement around the idea of accountability concerning LAWs, as autonomous weapons still have to be confirmed by someone, questioning the accountability of that person when the weapon is used unethically. 

While the concept of accountability was mentioned during conversations, no further solutions or propositions were put forward, further questioning the capability of NATO to solve military issues, as analysts reported. The feeling of being stuck in a rut was shared by Finland, once official debates were launched, sharing their frustration on the conversations which are not achieving any agreements or concrete solutions. 

Turkiye's intervention only further enhances the impossibility of agreement. NATO members quickly delved into case-by-case blaming. Spain expressed their discontent, exposing the debate as unable to advance due to the blame-based arguments. 

NATO countries are not only unable to agree with one another, but also continue to criticize each other on previous events, compromising the achievement of concrete solutions on military actions and use of weapons.

EuroMUN Committee: North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)


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