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International Model NATO Conference

The 27th Annual International Model NATO conference took place on February 16 – 19, 2012. The Model is essentially a simulation of the proceedings of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, augmented by pre-conference study and briefings at embassies of NATO member states in Washington, DC. Students of the University of Texas at Arlington represented the Czech Republic and the following is their story.

When their cab pulled in front of the Washington Plaza hotel on February 15th, they had to pause to catch their breath from the excitement. They made up the group of students from the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), and they were going to compete in the annual Model NATO conference. Ambreen Pathan, Kevin Whitright, Mario Lamar, Verica Todorović, Greg Hershkowitz, and Milena Vuksanović were the students selected to represent the delegation for the Czech Republic, along with Dr. Brent Sasley, their faculty advisor. 

With clear uncertainty for what to expect and smiles on their faces, they walked into the hotel and asked for their room keys. Delegations from other universities were overflowing the hotel lobby. The atmosphere gave off a true international vibe, with the students from England, Belgium, Canada, Italy, and various universities around the United States. This was a competition on a global level for students interested in politics and to get a sense of how the real Western Alliance works.

Every delegation was slated to meet with officials from the embassy of the country represented in the NATO simulation. On February 16, Barbora Ešnerová, a political officer in the Czech Republic’s embassy, greeted the UTA students. Ešnerová gave the students detailed insight of the Czech Republic’s foreign policies, and the underlining motivations for them, which proved very useful for the students during their deliberations in the simulation. Her analysis allowed the delegation to represent the Czech Republic in the most realistic way possible.

The simulation, or the “game” as the students liked to call it, started on Friday the 17th and lasted from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. It then continued on Saturday. Students were divided into committees, which worked on draft resolutions that were then handed up to the North Atlantic Council (the NAC). The NAC was responsible for composing a final communiqué on the last day of the simulation, Sunday. On that day only the Council was in session. Although there were some tense moments of debate and disagreement, in the end the NAC came together and achieved success, passing the communiqué. 

Milena Vuksanović  represented the delegation on the North Atlantic Council, where she contributed to both the language of early drafts and helped bring other countries together over their disagreements. As the main decision-making body for the Alliance, committee members were required to be outspoken and assertive. Unfortunately, Milena fell sick by the last day and completely lost her voice. She had to be replaced by Kevin Whitright, who similarly performed very well.

Verica Todorović was part of the Euro Atlantic Partnership Council. In her committee sat countries that were members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, such as Russia, and Georgia. In this committee, PfP countries contributed to the discussions leading to resolutions on the problems presented on the agenda.  This cooperation with the PfP countries made the final communiqué a fair document that represented all of the European countries.

Political Science junior Kevin Whitright headed the Czech Republic’s delegation in the Political Affairs Committee, where the delegates debated fervently over NATO’s role in Afghanistan. Despite the diverse group of 28 delegates, all members were able to facilitate cooperation during the moderated debate proceedings, leading to a civil yet passionate discussion concerning issues each delegate deemed important to their home government. Despite the complexity of the simulated crisis, the delegates were able to coalesce as one body and built consensus upon an appropriate course of action for the Alliance. In the end, the Czech Republic’s sponsored draft resolution was voted in favor of, and became the Political Affairs Committee’s official recommendation for the North Atlantic Council.

Mario Lamar, a senior Political Science major, worked in the Nuclear Planning Group (NPG). Increased tension throughout the Middle East added an extra sense of duty for this particular committee. The NPG was able to pass numerous drafts in a short time span, all guided towards non-proliferation and security among member states. The NPG focused on the NEW START treaty, missile defense systems in Europe, and nuclear threats. The Czech Republic helped sponsor a draft resolution that specifically addressed nuclear terrorism. It also helped frame a missile theater defense system in Europe.

Senior Greg Hershkowitz, a Russian language major, represented the Czech Republic on the Defense Planning Committee, where the primary topics of debate were NATO’s new SMART Defense initiative and Cyber Defense (one of the new emerging areas of concern within the Alliance). SMART Defense proved to be quite a controversial issue, but after an entire day of contentious debate, all the delegates were able to come together and pass the appropriate resolution. The Committee also agreed on an appropriate course of action in response to the simulated but realistic crisis of a limited incursion into Turkey by Syrian armed forces. This crisis was particularly relevant and fascinating to contemplate, as it is obviously based on very current events that occupy the spotlight of world attention.

Every group needs a string that attaches them together, and that was the job of Ambreen Pathan, the liaison officer. As liaison officer, Ambreen helped tackle the unexpected problems that arose throughout the simulation. She made sure the committee members knew what was going on in the other committees to keep everybody on the same page. In addition, Ambreen conducted research on particular items or agenda topics for the delegation members, as they deliberated in committee and created draft resolutions.

Overall, the students had both an intensive learning experience and a lot of fun. They also performed very well, and won a number of awards: On the Political Affairs Committee, Kevin Whitright won an Outstanding Leadership Award and an Outstanding Delegation in Committee. On the Defense Planning Committee, Greg Hershkowitz won an Outstanding Leadership Award. The entire delegation won an Honorable Mention in the category of Outstanding Overall Delegation Award.

For more information on the conference please see http://www.internationalmodelnato.org