Joint Services Warrant Officers’ Course
Chapter 5 – Security Organisations (NATO, EU, OSCE)
Overview: NATO, EU & the OSCE........................................................................................1
The origins of NATO ......................................................................................................................1
NATO today ....................................................................................................................................1
Partnership for Peace and NATO Enlargement ...............................................................................1
The European Union (EU) ...............................................................................................................2
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) ..............................................2
Evolution of European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI)...............................................3
US perspective on NATO developments...............................................................................9
Overview: NATO, EU & the OSCE
The origins of NATO
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was created in
April 1949, because of Western European and North American
Fifty years of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
countries’ concern that the then Soviet Union, which had
occupied much of Central and Eastern Europe, would try to extend its power into Western Europe.
The years following the end of the Second World War saw a number of disturbing events: threats by the
Soviet Union to the freedom of Norway, Greece, Turkey and other Western European countries; a pro-soviet
coup in Czechoslovakia in June 1948; and the blockade of Berlin by the Soviet Union which began in April of
the same year.
In 1948 Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom agreed to develop a
common defence system to enable them to resist political and military threats. Negotiations with the US and
Canada followed soon after and Denmark, Italy, Iceland, Norway and Portugal were invited to join in the
process which led to the signing of the Washington Treaty, in April 1949, when NATO was born.
Although it was created because of concerns about communism and the Soviet Union, NATO remains as
relevant today as ever. As was demonstrated by Kosovo, only NATO has the political will and military
strength to take decisive action against brutality in Europe. The Alliance currently has the following security
• to provide a firm basis for stability and security in the European and Atlantic areas;
• to serve as a transatlantic forum for discussions on any issues that affect Allied interests;
• to deter and defend against any threat of aggression against any NATO member state - an attack on
one Member is treated as an attack on all.
• to contribute to effective conflict prevention and crisis management;
• to promote partnership, cooperation and dialogue with other countries in the European Atlantic
areas, including Russia.
Each of the 19 member states (Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece,
Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United
Kingdom and the United States) has a permanent representative at NATO headquarters in Brussels. The
main decision-making body is the North Atlantic Council, which meets weekly. NATO Foreign and Defence
Ministers meet at special sessions at least twice a year.
NATO has evolved in recent years, and has adapted its forces and structures to meet the changing security
environment in Europe. As its intervention in Kosovo demonstrates, it has looked beyond the boundaries of
its member states and taken on new tasks. It will continue to evolve to meet the challenges of the post-Cold
War world and to act to make the world a safer place. Membership of NATO remains the bedrock of Britain’s
security and defence policy, and will remain so. We continue to make a major contribution to the capabilities
of the Alliance.
Partnership for Peace and NATO Enlargement
A major success story for NATO. The Partnership for Peace (PfP) aims to enhance security in Europe by
strengthening political and military ties between NATO countries and the states of Central and Eastern
Europe. It also helps those states to improve their ability to operate with NATO forces and contribute more
effectively to crisis management, humanitarian aid and peace support operations. This was successfully
demonstrated during and in the wake of the Kosovo crisis. PfP also contributes to the reform process in the
countries which aspire to NATO membership.
Enlarging NATO to take in new member states is a key part of the wider process of strengthening European
security arrangements. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999. Nine other countries
(Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania and Macedonia) seek to join the
Alliance in the near future.
The European Union (EU)
In parallel with developments in NATO, the establishment of the European Security and Defence Initiative
(ESDI) is aimed at improving the ability of EU nations to act on their common foreign and security policy
objectives, in circumstances where NATO as a whole does not wish to be involved. This means enhancing
European military capabilities, so that we can take effective action where NATO as a whole is not engaged
as well as contributing better to NATO itself. It also means strengthening the European Union’s Common
Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).
Our approach is to develop the ability of the EU to take decisions on military aspects of crisis management,
while the bulk of military reserves to implement these decisions will be drawn from NATO. The agreements
on European security and defence made at NATO’s Washington Summit were fully consistent with this
approach, and the “Berlin Plus” agreement provides for assured access to NATO planning capabilities and
the presumption of availability of pre-identified NATO capabilities and common assets for use in EU-led
The Helsinki European Council in December 1999 represented a key milestone. The Helsinki Declaration
sets out the framework for European defence arrangements firmly rooted in NATO, whilst allowing Europe to
take a greater share of the security burden. NATO is, and will remain, the cornerstone of European security.
In particular, EU leaders committed themselves to modernising their military capabilities, including adoption
of the “Helsinki Headline Goal”, a commitment to able to assemble, deploy rapidly and sustain for 1 year
up to 60,000 troops for possible EU-led peacekeeping operations. This will include the full range of
“Petersberg Tasks” set out in the Amsterdam Treaty of 1997, comprising: humanitarian and rescue tasks;
peacekeeping tasks; and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking. EU leaders
also confirmed the political and military structures that will be necessary for the EU to decide and act in
response to crises.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
The UK also participates in the “Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe” (OSCE) which is a
Europe-wide organisation comprising 54 states.
The OSCE has a secretariat in Vienna where the UK has a permanent delegation. OSCE's main roles are:
• promotion of: human rights and fundamental freedom, early warning, conflict prevention and post-
conflict rehabilitation, democracy and the rule of law;
• election monitoring, conventional arms control and confidence building measures.
A number of field missions are currently deployed under OSCE auspices in Central and Eastern Europe, to
promote peace and stability. The OSCE's role in implementing the Bosnia Peace Agreement arms control
provisions and organising elections in Bosnia demonstrates the value of its work on conflict prevention, crisis
management and post-conflict rehabilitation.
Evolution of European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI)
The process leading to the development of a European Security and Defence Identity within NATO
has taken place progressively over a period of about ten years. By the early 1990s, it seemed to
many in Europe and North America that the time had come for a rebalancing of the relationship
between the two sides of the Atlantic and for concrete steps to be taken by the European member
countries to assume greater responsibility for their common security and defence. European
countries embarked upon a process designed to provide a genuine European military capability
without unnecessary duplication of the command structures, planning staffs and military assets and
capabilities already available within NATO, while simultaneously strengthening their contribution to
the Alliance’s missions and activities. Such an approach was seen as responding both to the
European wish to develop a Common Foreign and Security Policy, and to the need for a more
balanced partnership between the North American and European member countries of the
Developing the European Security and Defence Identity within NATO is an integral part of the
adaptation of NATO’s political and military structures. At the same time, it is an important element
of the development of the European Union (EU). Both of these processes have been carried
forward on the basis of the European Union’s Treaties of Maastricht in 1991 and Amsterdam in
1997, subsequent declarations made by the Western European Union and the European Union,
and decisions taken by the Alliance at successive Summit meetings held in Brussels in 1994,
Madrid in 1997 and Washington in 1999 and at regular ministerial meetings.
With the Treaty on European Union, which was officially signed in Maastricht in February 1992 and
entered into force on 1 November 1993, the leaders of the European Community agreed on the
development of a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) “including the eventual framing
of a common defence policy which might in time lead to a common defence”. This agreement
included reference to the Western European Union as an integral part of the development of the
European Union created by the Treaty; and a request to the WEU to elaborate and implement
decisions and actions of the European Union which had defence implications. At the meeting of the
WEU which took place in Maastricht in December 1991 concurrently with the meeting of the
European Council, WEU Member states issued a declaration agreeing on the need for a genuine
European security and defence identity and a greater European responsibility in defence matters.
In January 1994, NATO Heads of State and Government welcomed the entry into force of the
Maastricht Treaty and the launching of the European Union as a means of strengthening the
European pillar of the Alliance and allowing the European members of NATO to make a more
coherent contribution to the security of all allies. They reaffirmed that the Alliance was the essential
forum for consultation among its members and the venue for agreement on policies bearing on the
security and defence commitments of Allies under the Washington Treaty. They also welcomed the
close and growing cooperation between NATO and the Western European Union, achieved on the
basis of agreed principles of complementarity and transparency. They further announced that they
stood ready to make collective assets of the Alliance available, on the basis of consultations in the
North Atlantic Council, for WEU operations undertaken by the European Allies in pursuit of their
Common Foreign and Security Policy.
NATO Heads of State and Government directed the North Atlantic Council to examine how the
Alliance’s political and military structures might be developed and adapted in order to conduct the
Alliance’s missions, including peacekeeping, more efficiently and flexibly; and to reflect the
emerging European Security and Defence Identity. As part of this process, the concept of
Combined Joint Task Forces (CJTFs) was developed. The CJTF concept, described in Chapter
12, is aimed at providing improved operational flexibility and permitting the more flexible and
mobile deployment of forces needed to respond to the new demands of all Alliance missions. It
was designed inter alia to provide separable but not separate deployable headquarters that could
be employed by the Western European Union.
At their meetings in Berlin and Brussels in June 1996, NATO Foreign and Defence Ministers
decided that the European Security and Defence Identity should be built within NATO, as an
essential part of the internal adaptation of the Alliance. This would enable all European Allies to
make a more coherent and effective contribution to the missions and activities of the Alliance. It
would allow them to act themselves as required and would simultaneously reinforce the
transatlantic partnership. Taking full advantage of the Combined Joint Task Force concept, the
strengthened European identity would be based on sound military principles supported by
appropriate military planning, and would permit the creation of militarily coherent and effective
forces capable of operating under the political control and strategic direction of the WEU.
At the Summit Meeting in Madrid in July 1997, NATO Heads of State and Government welcomed
the major steps taken with regard to the creation of the ESDI within the Alliance. The North Atlantic
Council in Permanent Session was requested to complete its work in this sphere expeditiously, in
cooperation with the WEU. By the time of the Summit meeting in Washington in April 1999, that
work was essentially completed.
During the course of the next year, significant further developments took place in this context. Most
notable among these was the decision by EU and WEU governments that responsibility for the
future development of a European security and defence policy and corresponding structures would
be assumed by the EU itself. By the end of 2000, the roles and tasks previously assigned to the
WEU had thus been transferred to the EU and arrangements made for handling residual WEU
responsibilities in the framework of a much-reduced WEU structure and small secretariat.
The Alliance commitment to reinforcing its European pillar is based on the development of an
effective European Security and Defence Identity, which could respond to European requirements
and at the same time contribute to Alliance security. By assuming greater responsibility for their
own security, the European member countries seek to create a stronger and more balanced
transatlantic relationship, thus strengthening the Alliance as a whole.
Accordingly, at their meeting in Washington in April 1999, Heads of State and Government had set
in train work on the further development of the European Security and Defence Identity within the
Alliance. Discussions were initiated to address a number of specific aspects, namely:
• means of ensuring the development of effective mutual consultation, cooperation and
transparency between the European Union (EU) and the Alliance, based on the mechanisms
that had been established between NATO and the Western European Union (WEU);
• the participation of non-EU European Allies;
• practical arrangements for EU access to NATO planning capabilities and NATO’s assets and
The improvement of European military capabilities is a fundamental aspect of ESDI. A Defence
Capabilities Initiative (DCI), was therefore launched in Washington to ensure the effectiveness of
future multinational operations across the full range of NATO missions.
The principles which have formed the basis for future work on ESDI, set out at the Washington
Summit and at subsequent meetings, are as follows:
• The Alliance acknowledges the resolve of the European Union to have the capacity for
autonomous action so that it can take decisions and approve military action where the Alliance
as a whole is not engaged.
• In taking this process forward, NATO and the EU must ensure the development of effective
mutual consultation, cooperation and transparency, building on the mechanisms developed for
cooperation between NATO and the WEU.
• Alliance leaders applaud the determination of both EU members and other European Allies to
take the necessary steps to strengthen their defence capabilities, especially for new missions,
avoiding unnecessary duplication.
• They attach the utmost importance to ensuring the fullest possible involvement of non-EU
European Allies in EU-led crisis response operations, building on consultation arrangements
developed within the WEU. Canada’s interest in participating in such operations under
appropriate modalities is also recognised.
• They are determined that the decisions taken in Berlin in 1996, including the concept of using
separable but not separate NATO assets and capabilities for EU-led operations, should be
Based on these principles, these arrangements (referred to as "Berlin Plus"), which will respect
the requirements of NATO operations and the coherence of its command structure, include issues
• the provision of assured EU access to NATO planning capabilities able to contribute to military
planning for EU-led operations;
• the presumption of availability to the EU of pre-identified NATO capabilities and common
assets for use in EU-led operations;
• the identification of a range of European command options for EU-led operations and further
developing the role of the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, in order for him to
assume fully and effectively his European responsibilities;
• the further adaptation of NATO’s defence planning system to incorporate more
comprehensively the availability of forces for EU-led operations.
Arrangements made for cooperation between NATO and the WEU from 1991 to 2000 laid the
groundwork for the development of a strategic partnership between NATO and the European
Union. These included: taking WEU requirements into account in NATO’s defence planning
procedures for developing forces and capabilities. The WEU began contributing to the Alliance
defence planning process in 1997 by providing an input to the 1997 Ministerial Guidance (see
Chapter 7); introducing procedures for identifying NATO assets and capabilities on which the WEU
might wish to draw with the agreement of the North Atlantic Council; establishing multinational
European command arrangements within NATO, which could be used to prepare, support,
command and conduct an operation under the political control and strategic direction of the WEU.
(Under these arrangements the Deputy Supreme Allied Europe Commander Europe (Deputy
SACEUR) was given a distinct role, both in normal times and in the context of WEU-led operations,
in relation to the forces to be made available to the WEU); introducing consultation and
information-sharing arrangements to provide the coordination needed throughout a WEU-led
operation undertaken with NATO support; developing military planning and exercises for illustrative
In practice these arrangements were designed to ensure that if a crisis arose in which the WEU
decided to intervene (and the Alliance chose not to), it could request the use of Alliance assets and
capabilities, possibly including a CJTF headquarters, for conducting an operation under its own
political control and strategic direction.
The assets requested could then be made available for the WEU’s use by the North Atlantic
Council on a case-by-case basis. Conditions for their transfer to the WEU, as well as for monitoring
their use and for their eventual return or recall, would be registered in a specific agreement
between the two organisations. During the operation, NATO would monitor the use of its assets
and regular political liaison with the WEU would be maintained. European commanders from the
NATO command structure could be nominated to act under WEU political control. The assets
would be returned to NATO at the end of the operation or when required. Throughout the
operation, including its preparatory phase, NATO and the WEU would consult closely.
At the British-French Summit at St. Malo, in December 1998, France and Britain agreed that the
European Union "must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military
forces, the means to decide to use them, and a readiness to do so, in order to respond to
international crises" and issued a Joint Statement outlining their determination to enable the
European Union to give concrete expression to these objectives. This decision represented a
profound change in the policies hitherto adopted by the United Kingdom with regard to this issue
and opened the way for the adoption of practical measures within the European Union to put it into
In the new climate that prevailed after the St. Malo meeting, further progress could be made.
Following the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty on 1 May 1999, the European Council met
in Cologne in June 1999 and agreed to give the EU itself the means and capabilities needed for
the implementation of a common European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). The role
previously undertaken by the WEU was progressively assumed by the European Union.
In the intervening period, NATO continued to work with the WEU to complete and implement
arrangements to facilitate cooperation between the two organisations in the event of a WEU-led
crisis management operation making use of NATO assets and capabilities. Further work was
undertaken to refine arrangements for the use of such assets and for information-sharing. Joint
testing and evaluation of procedures were undertaken. A joint NATO-WEU crisis management
exercise was held in February 2000. At their meeting in Marseilles in November 2000, WEU
Ministers decided to suspend routine NATO-WEU consultation mechanisms, apart from those that
would be required during the transition period.
With the transfer of responsibilities from the WEU to the EU, the relationship between NATO and
the EU took on a new dimension, reflected in developments within both organisations. The Helsinki
meeting of the Council of the European Union held in December 1999 established a “Helsinki
Headline Goal” for EU member states in terms of their military capabilities for crisis management
operations. The objective of the Headline Goal is to enable the EU, by the year 2003, to deploy
and sustain for at least one year, military forces of up to 60 000 troops to undertake the full range
of the so-called Petersberg Tasks set out in the Amsterdam Treaty of 1997. These consist of
humanitarian and rescue tasks; peacekeeping tasks; and tasks of combat forces in crisis
management, including peacemaking. Their role will be to undertake military operations led by the
EU in response to international crisis, in circumstances where NATO as a whole is not engaged
militarily, in line with the EU’s resolve to develop a common European policy on security and
defence which would underpin its Common Foreign and Security Policy militarily. EU member
states have stated their intention to avoid unnecessary duplication with NATO structures and have
emphasised that these decisions do not imply the creation of a European army.
In addition, the EU decided to create permanent political and military structures, including a
Political and Security Committee, a Military Committee and a Military Staff, to ensure the
necessary political guidance and strategic direction for such operations. The EU also decided to
develop arrangements for full consultation, cooperation and transparency with NATO and to
ensure the necessary dialogue, consultation and cooperation with European NATO members
which are not members of the EU on issues related to European security and defence policy and
The dialogue between the Alliance and the European Union has steadily intensified in accordance
with the decisions taken at Washington and thereafter, and in the light of developments within the
EU. Meetings of the European Council in Nice and of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels in
December 2000 registered further progress. Alliance Foreign Ministers stated that they shared the
goal endorsed by EU member states for a genuine partnership in crisis management between
NATO and the EU. Both organisations agreed that consultations and cooperation will be developed
between them on questions of common interest relating to security and effective defence and crisis
management, so that crises can be met with the most appropriate military response.
An exchange of letters took place in January 2001, between the Secretary General of NATO and
the Swedish Presidency of the EU, providing for joint meetings at Ambassadorial level and
Ministerial level. The arrangement envisages at least three meetings at Ambassadorial level and
one meeting at Ministerial level every six months (i.e. during each EU Presidency). Both
organisations are committed to stepping up consultations in times of crisis. Since February 2001,
regular meetings of the EU Political and Security Committee and the North Atlantic Council take
place. The first formal meeting of NATO and EU Foreign Ministers took place in Budapest in May
2001 in the margins of the Ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council.
Joint NATO-EU Ad Hoc Working Groups have also been meeting since mid 2000 to discuss
security issues such as procedures for the exchange of classified information and intelligence;
modalities for EU access to Alliance assets and capabilities; capability goals (including issues
relating to the Alliance’s defence planning system); and permanent consultation arrangements,
taking into account all relevant factors including those relating to participation. In spring 2001, the
Secretary General of NATO was invited for the first time to brief the EU General Affairs Council on
In July 2000, NATO and the EU Council Secretariat established an interim security agreement
between the two organisations governing the exchange of classified information and both
organisations are working towards the conclusion of a permanent NATO-EU security agreement.
In the second half of 2000, Alliance experts began contributing military and technical advice to the
work of EU experts on the establishment of a catalogue of forces and capabilities for the EU
Headline Goal, in preparation of the EU’s Capabilities Commitment Conference held in November
Within NATO, work on the principal issues facing the further development of ESDI has continued
during 2001 and 2002, in particular the identification of a range of European command options; the
presumption of availability of pre-identified assets and capabilities; the adaptation of Alliance
defence planning; and NATO-EU consultations in times of crisis.
Cooperation between NATO and the European Union has been developed in a number of specific
fields and specifically in relation to the campaign against terrorism. Direct contacts have increased
and, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 11 September, the Secretary General of NATO
participated in the deliberations of the EU General Affairs Council held on 12 September to analyse
the international situation following the attacks.
Cooperation between the two organisations has also contributed to the security situation in the
former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, where NATO is providing security for EU and OSCE
monitors of the peace plan. Regular contacts have taken place between the two organisations as
well as the OSCE to maximise international support for political reforms in the country and the
maintenance of the political process. A joint delegation consisting of the NATO Secretary General,
the EU High representative, the Chairman in Office of the OSCE and the Supreme Allied
Commander Europe visited Skopje on 18 October 2001 for discussions with President Trajkovski
and other political leaders.
Discussions of the situation in the Western Balkans has become a regular feature of meetings of
the North Atlantic Council and the Political and Security Committee of the EU. Foreign Ministers of
NATO and the EU also met in Brussels on 6 December 2001 to review cooperation across the
board, and underlined their continued engagement in strengthening the peace process in the
former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* as well as elsewhere in the Western Balkans. Further
contacts between the NATO Secretary General and the EU High Representative have continued to
contribute to cooperation and, in May 2002, Foreign Ministers of both organisations met again in
Reykjavik reaffirming their commitment to achieve a close and transparent relationship.
The situation in southern Serbia has also been the subject of consultations and cooperation,
following the need for international intervention in 2001 to defuse the risk of civil conflict in the area
and to help to broker a ceasefire. Closer proximity between the Serb and Federal Yugoslav
governments and European institutions continues to manifest itself and has been reflected, for
example, in the interest shown by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in participation in the
Partnership for Peace programme. The strengthening of the political process, for example through
the successful conduct of municipal elections in southern Serbia in July 2002, has continued to be
a priority concern of both NATO and the EU, each of which has acted to defuse set-backs when
these have occurred.
may exacerbate the political differences.
The answer will, in large measure, depend upon US policies and programmes in the next few
years. Change is coming, and the United States and its closest partners within the Alliance will
either lead the reforms that enable NATO to adapt to the “post-Cold-War” world to become a
partner in the Pax Americana, or the Alliance will wither. If Washington allows NATO to wither, it will
have to create some other institutional basis to underpin future “coalitions of the willing”. No matter
how good the US military has become, it remains a small force. Indeed, one consequence of the
“capabilities gap” is that the burden of securing today's liberal international order falls more heavily
on the United States, increasing the likelihood of military overstretch.
Mending the geopolitical rift between the United States and “Europe” – meaning primarily France,
Germany and continental public opinion – will take time. Two issues divide us: how to deal with the
problems of the Islamic world and the circumstances in which military force can appropriately be
Many Europeans, like some Americans, have had trouble keeping up with the change in US policy
and strategy since 11 September 2001. Since then, President George W. Bush has articulated a
new sense of national mission, that has gradually matured into a formal “Bush Doctrine”, best
regarded as a renewed sense of purpose for US power in the world. After a decade of drift and
uncertainty, the Bush Doctrine represents a fundamental fork in the road of US policy and it will not
be easy for future presidents to backtrack. The United States is now committed to an active form of
global leadership and has embarked on an ambitious endeavour to remake the political order in
the Middle East, that will be impossible to renounce without conceding defeat.
Many Europeans are still far from sharing this emerging US sense of mission or from formulating
any European corollary to the Bush Doctrine. The pace of events – or perhaps more accurately,
the pace of change in international politics – has at times seemed dizzying to European leaders
and general publics alike. The resolution and clarity of President Bush’s leadership, so comforting
to Americans in a time of crisis, is disturbing to many Europeans.
Moreover, the ease of the two military victories in Afghanistan – the “graveyard of empires” – and
in Iraq has been yet another reminder of the strengths of US military forces and, by contrast, the
relative weaknesses of European arms. “America”, wrote British scholar Timothy Garton Ash after
Afghanistan, “has too much power for anyone’s good, including its own.” In Iraq and in the Middle
East, observed François Heisbourg, perhaps France’s foremost expert in security matters and
generally sympathetic to US concerns, “The French, like most Europeans, don’t want to give carte
blanche to the Americans.”
The connections made by President Bush – and accepted by most Americans – between terrorism,
weapons of mass destruction and political turmoil in the Islamic world are lost on many Europeans.
For France, Germany and many other Western European states, terrorism is a crime more than an
act of war, and stability in the Islamic world is to be found in nuanced diplomacy and support for
the current crop of Arab governments, despite their repressive nature. Saddam Hussein’s regime
was to be contained, not removed from power.
Many Europeans fear that if they take an active role in realising the Bush Doctrine’s prescription to
bolster democracy in the Middle East, they will become more frequent targets for terrorists, their
carefully cultivated relations with Islamic leaders will degenerate and their economic interests and
strategies will be placed at risk. Nevertheless, Europeans are beginning to understand that policies
aimed at maintaining stability by supporting authoritarian leaders in the region have essentially
collapsed. Certainly, they have not been spared inclusion on Osama bin Laden’s “enemies' list”.
The future of the transatlantic strategic partnership is an open question. In broad terms, and even
after the war in Iraq, many Europeans still inhabit a “pre-9/11” and “pre-Bush Doctrine” world. They
trust that international institutions or legal arrangements can sustain a peaceful, prosperous and
liberal world — a view that was until recently also widespread among Americans. And they remain
reluctant to use military force, particularly in pursuit of expansive goals like those now being
pursued by the United States in the Middle East.
Yet it is also true that, for the United Kingdom and others, especially the recently oppressed
peoples of “new Europe”, the United States' new mission is an Atlantic mission. They wish to keep
the United States fully engaged in Europe. They are wary of a European Union dominated by
France and Germany. And they are increasingly willing to be engaged elsewhere in the world
together with the United States. Now enjoying their first taste of the US-led liberal international
order, the Pax Americana, they have no interest in creating a European “counterweight”.
From a strictly US point of view, even this fractured geopolitical basis is enough to make NATO a
useful tool of US statecraft and strategy, as long as the Alliance can reform its military structures to
overcome Europe's military weakness.
Although Europe's aggregate economy rivals that of the United States, European spending on
military power is less than half that of the United States. Moreover, though that amount is still a lot
of money – approximately 140 billion Euros – it buys little of value to the new power-projection
missions of greatest interest to the United States. Nor has there been any organised effort to
transform European militaries for these new missions or to exploit the technologies that are at the
heart of the revolution in military affairs. “Mighty Europe”, observed Lord Robertson, "remains a
In combination, these many smaller relative weaknesses combine to create an enormous gap in
capabilities between US forces and even the most modern other NATO forces. This is a problem
that has its roots in the very structure of the Alliance, in NATO’s military response to the Cold War
and the threat of Soviet invasion of Western Europe. Put simply, for the United States and, to a
lesser extent, the United Kingdom, NATO was a power-projection mission, while for continental
Europe and Germany in particular, it was an issue of homeland defence. The military requirement
for the United States was to defend West Germany at its eastern border, 3,500 miles from
Washington, to deploy “10 divisions in 10 days” and defend the north Atlantic sea lines of
communication – even while responding globally to other Soviet probes. The military requirement
for West Germany was to defend West Germany.
This inherent structural problem was exacerbated during the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the
Reagan Administration began to implement plans for a serious conventional defence of NATO and
to rely less on nuclear deterrence. The Reagan build-up, designed not only to fight a strictly
defensive war but also to project naval power directly against the Soviet Union and to develop air
and land forces capable of counter-attacking deep into Warsaw Pact territory, created not only a
“strategic capabilities gap” between US and other NATO forces but also a “tactical and operational
capabilities gap”. The military history of the past decade – from the first Gulf War through the
Balkan interventions and Afghanistan to Operation Iraqi Freedom – is in part the story of how great
these gaps have become.
The geopolitical differences and the wide and widening gap in military capabilities between NATO
forces have created an undeniable crack in the core of what was, through five decades of Cold
War, a central pillar of US national security strategy. Lord Robertson, who admits to being a “paid
optimist and an advocate for NATO”, argued in February that the Iraq war was not “a make-or-
break crisis” for the Alliance, rightly recalling the past debates over “Suez, Vietnam, the INF
deployments or the early days of Bosnia". But the question is now fundamentally different. What
possible role can NATO play in addressing what President Bush has defined as America’s new
strategic priority: the roll-back of radical Islam?
Of late, some analysts have described the Alliance disparagingly as a “talking shop”. Ironically, in
an era of great geopolitical uncertainty and disagreement, there has never been a greater need for
a transatlantic talking shop. If France and Germany are to accept the worldview of the Bush
Doctrine; if there is to be a positive role in international security affairs for the European Union; if
the newly liberated states of Central and Eastern Europe are to be integrated permanently into the
West; and if the Atlantic community is to be seen as a set of principles rather than a finite
geographic area, then there are profound reasons to continue talking.
Second, NATO must continue to reform its bureaucratic processes. The structures that served the
Alliance well in the past are now liabilities to change. Achieving consensus within an expanding
coalition in particular is proving extremely difficult.
Third, the primary purpose of bureaucratic reform should be to ensure that NATO maintains its role
as a “force provider”. As the US armed services have their primary mission to provide trained and
ready forces to US commanders, and now US Joint Forces Command has the responsibility to
ensure that soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are competent to conduct multi-service joint
operations, NATO will be the principle vehicle through which Americans learn the evolving craft of
combined or coalition warfare and stability operations.
Fourth, and intimately tied to its continuing relevance as a force provider, NATO must be the agent
for defence reform in Europe. The process of military transformation promises to make the
capabilities gap between US (and UK) forces on the one hand, and even the very modern militaries
of France and Germany, on the other, all but unbridgeable. New information technologies, in
particular, are creating new concepts of military operations and demanding novel organisations.
The simple fact is that, as demonstrated in Operation Desert Storm, the Balkans and Afghanistan,
and as a matter of strict combat capacity, the United States finds it easier to act unilaterally when
the missions are more challenging.
Fifth, NATO must realign itself by shifting to the south and to the east in a strategic movement to
connect with the security problems of the Middle East. Forces must be based in new locations.
Training must be done in new ways and in new venues. Exercises must be conducted with new
partners. And symbolically but importantly, NATO would do well to move its headquarters from
Brussels, possibly by expanding the Alliance's Southern Command in Naples, Italy, or by
relocating entirely, perhaps to Istanbul, Turkey.
These proposals are not meant to be exhaustive or comprehensive. Though they are ambitious,
they are hardly beyond the scope of what is possible for the Alliance. Indeed, the post-Cold-War
years have already seen a remarkable transformation. The narrow understanding of the Alliance as
an anti-Soviet coalition has been confounded repeatedly. Many analysts warned of the dangers of
including a reunified Germany and then expanding NATO to include former members of the
Warsaw Pact because of the potential impact on relations with Russia. Now former Soviet
republics have been invited to join the Alliance. The NATO-Russia Council brings Moscow itself
into the inner chambers of Western security policy-making. And, if anything, the relationship with
Russia will prove an additional force for European engagement in stabilising the Islamic world,
where Russia has legitimate security concerns.
Some in Europe think that a “small” NATO – not small in size but in ambition – is all the Alliance is
capable of. This is a vision of an organisation devoted entirely to providing security within Europe.
But beyond the Balkans and a few other modest scenarios, this is a recipe for continued military
decline. There is no reason for any member state to build a modern or transformed force to carry
out such missions.
At the other end of the ambition spectrum, other analysts think the only way to keep the Alliance
alive and vital is to embrace the new missions in the Middle East and elsewhere without
reservation. “NATO must go out of area or it will go out of business,” it has often been said,
meaning that the only validation of the Alliance is by a full, “Article 5” embrace of the US project to
reshape the politics of the Islamic world. But with deep geopolitical divisions among major Alliance
members, this is a recipe for ever greater confrontation over policy, further restricting the ability of
the United States and its willing European partners to act in crises.
The utility of NATO as a war-fighting alliance will be further diminished as it expands. Larger
coalitions are always more cumbersome when it comes to making decisions in wartime. Therefore,
even as NATO struggles to reshape its decision-making processes to make it a more nimble
coalition capable of tackling the security challenges of our time, its immediate military future is in its
role as a force provider. This is a fundamental change in how the United States and other
members view NATO. The Alliance's “Atlantic community” is now not one defined by geographic
boundaries but by the propensity to structure, train and equip forces capable of interoperability with
US forces and a willingness to join an institutional “coalition of the willing”.
Tom Donnelly is a resident fellow in defence and national security studies at the American
Enterprise Institute in Washington.
Article taken from NATO Official Homepage (http://www.nato.int/#), 25 Sep 03