Broadly speaking, NATO has had the capacity to deal with collective defence and disaster relief operations for a long time. Only at a later stage, during the 1990s, did it become involved in non-Article 5 operations, i.e., those that are mainly conducted in non-NATO member countries to prevent a conflict from spreading and destabilizing member or partner countries.
Prepared for Article 5 operations
Since its creation in 1949, NATO stands ready to react to an Article 5 crisis situation. Although mutual guarantees under Article 5 of the Treaty are reciprocal and implicate all member countries, the primary purpose of Article 5 in the post Second World War environment was to enable the United States to come to the aid of its Allies in the event of aggression against them.
Up to 1991, the strategic environment in the North Atlantic region was dominated by two superpowers that were each supported by military structures. During this period, NATO's principal concern was the perceived threat from the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Deterrence worked with the result that the East-West confrontation of the Cold War ended without NATO's Article 5 having to be invoked. This was a shared success.
Invocation of Article 5
It was not until the turn of the century that Article 5 was invoked for the very first time in NATO's history. Contrary to expectations when Article 5 was drawn up, it was European Allies and Canada who came to the aid of the United States, which had been violently attacked by the Al-Quaida terrorist group on September 11, 2001. Several measures were put into place by NATO to help prevent further attacks, including Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean, which was launched in October 2001 to help detect, deter and protect against terrorist activity in the area.
Engaging in non-Article 5 operations
As soon as the Soviet Union collapsed and satellite countries regained independence, past tensions resurfaced and violent conflicts started among ethnic groups, whose rights had been suppressed for half a century.
The former Yugoslavia
The first major ethnic conflict broke out in the former Yugoslavia in 1992. NATO gradually became involved in support of the United Nations through various air and sea-based support operations - enforcing economic sanctions, an arms embargo and a no-flight zone in Bosnia and Herzegovina - and by providing the UN with detailed military contingency planning concerning safe areas and the implementation of a peace plan.
The measures proved inadequate to bring an end to the war. In the summer of 1995, after violations of exclusion zones, the shelling of UN-designated safe areas and the taking of UN hostages, NATO member countries took several decisions resulting in military intervention in support of UN efforts to bring the war in Bosnia to an end. A two-week air campaign against Bosnian Serb forces was launched by NATO and in the following months a number of further military actions were taken at the request of the UN force commanders. These actions paved the way for the signing of the Dayton Peace Accord on 14 December 1995. The Alliance immediately proceeded to deploy peacekeeping forces to the country in accordance with the terms of a UN mandate, giving NATO responsibility for the implementation of the military aspects of the peace accord.
This was the first time NATO was involved in a non-Article 5 crisis management operation in its entire history. Other non-Article 5 crisis management operations were to follow - in Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 1, Afghanistan, the Mediterranean, off the Horn of Africa and in support of the African Union.
NATO’s Strategic Concepts
Provision for crisis management measures had already been made in the Alliance's 1991 Strategic Concept for "the management of crises affecting the security of its members". It was reiterated in the 1999 Strategic Concept, which states that NATO stands ready to contribute to effective conflict prevention and to engage actively in crisis management. In addition, the 1999 document states that these crisis management operations would include non-Article 5 operations, i.e., operations affecting countries other than NATO member countries.
The 2010 Strategic Concept broadens NATO thinking on crisis management, envisaging NATO’s involvement at all stages of a crisis: “NATO will therefore engage, where possible and when necessary, to prevent crises, manage crises, stabilize post-conflict situations and support reconstruction.” It also encourages a greater number of actors to participate and coordinate their efforts and considers a broader range of tools to be used. More generally, it adopts a comprehensive, all-encompassing approach to crisis management that goes hand-in-hand with greater emphasis on training, developing local forces and enhancing civil-military planning and interaction.
Developing disaster relief operations
Crisis management is a broad concept that goes beyond military operations to include issues such as the protection of populations. NATO began developing civil protection measures in the event of a nuclear attack as early as the 1950s. NATO member countries soon realized that these capabilities could be used effectively against the effects of disasters induced by floods, earthquakes or technological incidents, and against humanitarian disasters.
In 1953, the first disaster assistance scheme was implemented following devastating flooding in Northern Europe and in 1958 NATO established detailed procedures for the co-ordination of assistance between NATO member countries in case of disasters. These procedures remained in place and provided the basis for civil emergency planning work within NATO in subsequent years. They were comprehensively reviewed in 1995 when they became applicable to partner countries in addition to NATO member countries.
In 1998, the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Co-ordination Centre was established to co-ordinate aid provided by different member and partner countries to a disaster-stricken area in a member or partner country. NATO also established a Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Unit, which is a non-standing, multinational mix of national civil and military elements that have been volunteered by member or partner countries for deployment to the area of concern.
Civil emergency planning has become a key facet of NATO involvement in crisis management. In recent years, NATO has provided support for many countries. It has assisted flood-devastated Albania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Ukraine; supported the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kosovo; sent aid to earthquake-stricken Turkey and Pakistan; helped to fight fires in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 1 and in Portugal; and supported Ukraine and Moldova after extreme weather conditions had destroyed power transmission capabilities. NATO also conducts civil emergency planning exercises on a regular basis.