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Is the fundamental nature of the transatlantic security relationship changing?

Yes: Franois Heisbourg is director of Geneva's Centre for Security Policy.

No: Rob de Wijk is professor of international relations at Leiden University, the Royal Military Academy and the Clingendael Institute.

Dear Rob,

Given NATO's success in proving its relevance and its worth vis--vis the challenges of the post-Cold War era in Europe, it may be tempting to draw the inference that the Atlantic Alliance need only adapt at the margin in the coming years. After all, it has successfully passed the test of war and peace in the Balkans. Were it so simple! NATO will have to under-go a major transformation, if it is to continue to ensure the strategic partnership between its North American and European members. The first and most obvious reason for advancing such a view, is the sudden and substantial emergence of a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) in the framework of the European Union. From the standpoint of NATO, this is a revolutionary development. It is true that ESDP emerged not least because the United Kingdom decided in 1998 that this would be a good idea and London isn't in the business of undermining NATO. Yet, ESDP is an agent of radical change if the European Union's institutional and material targets are met, because it implies that the Atlantic Alliance will become a two-pillar organisation, with a collective EU political and military persona. Such a vision should not, in itself, pose a metaphysical problem for NATO in general and the United States in particular. After all, this would be the belated realisation of President John F. Kennedy's vision of a two-pillar NATO formulated in 1962. The fact remains, however, that this will be a traumatic development, since NATO has never functioned on this basis.

The other source of potential upheaval flows from US choices. National Missile Defense (NMD) comes most readily to mind. But this is not, in my view, the principal source of the United States' challenge to the "old" NATO, even if it is the most visible and politically charged. NATO will be challenged more broadly by major and inevitable changes in US force structure and doctrine flowing from budgetary and strategic considerations. European governments, which are constantly reminded of the deficiencies in their defence spending by their US friends or by European analysts, such as you and I, will now have to come to terms with the consequences of US budget constraints. Not only has US defence spending dropped below 3 per cent of GDP in the current fiscal year, for the first time since the creation of NATO, but, more importantly in the coming decade, the US military will be faced with the block obsolescence of major weapon systems acquired during the Reagan era. The replacement of such systems on the basis of a steady-state US force structure and doctrine would imply an annual increase of defence spending by some $50 billion. This is unlikely to happen, particularly in the context of massive tax reductions. Force structure and doctrine will have to change. The fact that Andy Marshall, whose name is linked to the Revolution in Military Affairs, has been entrusted with a policy review, is a portent of deep changes.

ESDP is an agent of radical change because it implies that the Atlantic Alliance will become a two-pillar organisation, FRANÇOIS HEISBOURG

At the strategic level, the forces of change are no less radical. The most serious risks of really major military confrontations involving US interests and partners are essentially in Asia, from the Middle East and the Gulf to Taiwan and Korea. Now that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has fallen from power in Serbia, the United States may find it reasonable to do away with the approximate parity which exists today between US forces stationed in Europe and those committed to Asia, by focusing on the latter.

Budgetary pressures and strategic realities will reduce the absolute and relative level of the US military presence in Europe. Moreover, that presence may also change in nature, if, as a result of the Revolution in Military Affairs, the United States concludes that the traditional centrepieces of US force structure (the divisions of the US Army, the carrier task forces on the US Navy, the wings of the US air force) need to be replaced by something different. In this context, missile defence will act as an accelerator, by emphasising the shift away from the post-Second World War centrepieces of US force structure and by drawing on scarce defence spending. The Clinton administration's version of missile defence was assessed as costing $60 billion over a five-year period, i.e. substantially more than planned increases in defence spending.

ESDP, on the one hand, and US-driven change on the other may well prove to be compatible. But, whatever the case, these are deeply disruptive forces vis--vis the first 50 years of NATO's history. In a sense, it is now that the organisational and doctrinal legacy of the Cold War is finally beginning to wear out.

Yours,

Franois

Dear François,

You have argued that NATO will have to undergo a major transformation because of the rapid progress made in ESDP and US policy choices. I agree with most of your analysis, but do not share your conclusion. The "old" NATO you referred to no longer exists for the following reasons.

First, NATO has already undergone an impressive transformation. Since the Cold War, NATO has transformed itself from an alliance for collective defence and transatlantic consultation into an organisation with more emphasis on defence cooperation and cooperative security. In this way, NATO has launched new initiatives such as the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, the predecessor of today's Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Permanent Joint NATO-Russia Council, the NATO-Ukraine dialogue and the Partnership for Peace. And the Alliance has taken in new members. In numerous communiqus, NATO leaders have argued that cooperative security requires close cooperation with Partners as a prerequisite for a peaceful, stable and undivided Europe.

Second, NATO has taken on new missions. The European revolution of 1989, the Gulf War and the wars of Yugoslav dissolution paved the way for the execution of peace-support missions and crisis-response operations outside the NATO area. Moreover, this new mission took on a further dimension when Partners were invited to contribute to multinational coalitions led by NATO, such as SFOR and KFOR. The Planning and Review Process seeks to harmonise the defence planning of NATO member countries and Partners with the aim of improving interoperability for combined operations.

Third, NATO has already embraced the idea of a European pillar. In the 1991 Alliance Strategic Concept, NATO's political strategy, it was agreed that within NATO "a European security identity" should be developed. The 1994 NATO summit endorsed concepts of "separable but not separate forces" and Combined Joint Task Forces (CJTFs) that could be made available for European-led operations other than collective defence. In Berlin in 1996, NATO foreign ministers decided to build a European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI). During their 1998 St Malo meeting, French President Jacques Chirac and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair took the initiative to set up a capability for autonomous European action, which led to the European Union's Helsinki Headline Goal of creating a 60,000-strong rapid intervention force by 2003. During the 1999 Washington summit, Alliance leaders adopted the necessary arrangements to allow EU access to NATO collective assets and capabilities for crisis-response operations where the Alliance as a whole is not engaged militarily. Moreover, it is important to remember that the United States fully supported these arrangements. In other words, NATO reached consensus on ESDI and its role in the development of the European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), including the ESDP.

I support your remarks on the potential upheaval stemming from US policy choices. Missile defence could create division within NATO. Moreover, the United States will undoubtedly put more emphasis on defending its interests in central Asia, especially in the oil-rich Caspian Sea basin. Indeed, the United States will have to invest in expeditionary armed forces for this purpose. But moving away from expensive mechanised units and platforms (aircraft and ships), which were highly relevant during the Cold War period, to smaller and more flexible units with substantial firepower and better mobility for power projection abroad could also save money. I expect Andy Marshall to put forward new ideas in this field. Nevertheless, I am optimistic about President Bush's ability to convince Congress to increase the budget should Marshall come up with a new strategic vision.

The greatest source of upheaval is a different one. Until 1998, multilateralism was a dominant feature of US foreign policy. The United States took initiatives to strengthen cooperative security in Europe and to create a system of complementary and mutually reinforcing institutions. For various reasons, US foreign policy put less emphasis on the strengthening of cooperative security in 1998. Instead, more emphasis was put on the promotion of national interests. This has led to a more selective involvement in the rest of the world. Interventions in 1998 in Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq, NMD and the Senate's refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty underscore this change in US foreign policy. Moreover, NATO's Kosovo air campaign made clear the extent of European dependency on the United States for large-scale military operations. In this way, the shift in US foreign policy and the technology gap have caused Europeans to fear the decoupling of US and European security and helped spur CFSP and ESDP.

In sum, the "old" NATO no longer exists, there is consensus on the way forward, including the development of a European defence identity, and the potential source of upheaval is the perception that the United States has embarked upon a policy of selective engagement that could lead to decoupling of US and Europe's security. The real question, therefore, is how to keep the United States fully involved to ensure that NATO retains its relevance in the future.

Yours,

Rob

Dear Rob,

Your emphasis on NATO's capability to adapt to new circumstances is one I share. However, there is a quality to these changes which is reminiscent of the sentence in Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa's The Leopard: "Everything has to change so that nothing changes." The challenges I am referring to will force the Alliance not simply to adapt, but to transform itself into a two-pillar organisation, in deeds and not only in words. ESDI could hardly become substantive as long as there was no European-wide policy to sustain it, and the absence of such a policy was not NATO's fault. Now that ESDP is becoming a reality, NATO Allies are faced with the challenge of fulfilling the pledges adopted at the 1999 Washington Summit to give the European Union access to NATO collective assets and capabilities. As you well know, at least one prominent member country, Turkey, has not proven enthusiastic in this regard. NATO may have embraced the idea of the EU pillar, but when it comes to .embracing the reality rather than the idea, things are far from straightforward.

The primary variable in determining NATO's ability to move from a one to a two-pillar construct is US policy. Of course, if, as you suggest, the United States was going strongly unilateral, then the prospects for a two-pillar NATO would indeed be poor. After all, Washington did not greatly enjoy the constraints imposed by the multilateral nature of NATO during the Kosovo air campaign. The "war within the war" between the NATO chain of command and that of the United States was illustrative of this. If a one-pillar NATO appears onerous to some in the United States, there would seem to be little chance of a two-pillar Alliance, with a European caucus, enjoying much support in Washington.

The Americans have to feel at ease with the speed of the process leading towards ESDP, ROB DE WIJK

However, radical military change in the United States opens scope for a new modus operandi between the United States and Europe in NATO. Washington will want to focus more on Asia - where the more serious military risks and strategic states are - and it will reduce its forward-based force structure for budget and RMA-related reasons. Missile defence will also act as an accelerator of these deep changes in the US force structure and doctrine, since defence budget increases will presumably be siphoned off into this area. Given these budgetary constraints and strategic shifts, Washington will have reason to press for more, not less, ESDP.

The time has now come for the European Union to embark on a strategy review, FRANÇOIS HEISBOURG

I may be too optimistic. Maybe the Bush administration will mark a uni-lateralist break with US strategic and military engagement on the international scene, and that would be truly bad news for NATO. But the composition of the new administration security and defence teams doesn't point in that direction.

Yours,

Franois

Dear Franois,

You have correctly argued that when it comes to embracing reality rather than the idea, things are far from straightforward. I also agree that the United States is likely to put more emphasis on its security interests outside Europe. This shift would, indeed, require Washington to press for more, not less, ESDP.

I have argued that the acceleration of both CFSP and ESDP was, among other things, caused by European fears that shifts in US foreign policy and the technology gap would lead to a decoupling of European and US security. The further development of ESDP, however, no longer depends on US strategic choices. The reason is the process started in St Malo in 1998. The St Malo declaration has complemented the debate on institutional matters with decisions on capabilities. Since St Malo, several crucial steps have been taken to adapt Alliance structures to the new ESDI. During the 1999 Cologne European Council, it was decided to establish a permanent EU Political and Security Committee, an EU Military Committee and an EU military staff. The importance of these decisions can hardly be overstated.

The establishment of new permanent politico-military structures in Brussels will lead to the creation of a new bureaucracy. Indeed, the European Union's military staff has already grown to more than 130 persons. This bureaucracy will inevitably develop policies, which, in turn, will create a momentum of their own. In other words, the establishment of new permanent EU structures, together with the catalogue of forces for EU-led operations agreed during last year's Commitment Conference in Brussels, has created a momentum independent of US policies, with potentially far-reaching consequences for transatlantic relations.

It is because of this that the United Kingdom has become the key player. Where France always favours speeding the process towards ESDP, Prime Minister Blair is hesitant because of the potential consequences for transatlantic relations. This underscores my earlier remark that the real challenge is how to keep the United States fully involved, to ensure that NATO retains its relevance. As a first step, the EU member states should agree a strategic concept, spelling out member states' common interests, where they may be at risk and how they can be protected. This should serve as a basis for defence and operational planning.

This brings me to the issue of leadership. Probably the greatest obstacle to developing and deploying an autonomous European capability is the absence of a clear leader. Leadership is a prerequisite both for effective defence and operational planning. So far, the major players — France, Germany and the United Kingdom — are all playing the game by different rules. From a theoretical perspective, Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy High Representative, should be leading the ESDP. But as long as the European Union pursues intergovernmental security and defence policies, this is unlikely. If the Europeans mismanage this process, a two-pillar NATO could emerge, consisting of a political forum for transatlantic consultation, with the much-praised integrated military structure divided between the North Americans and the European Union. This is not the NATO I wish to see. On the one hand, I am in favour of keeping the integrated military structure, so that unnecessary duplication can be avoided. On the other hand, I believe we should make it more flexible, so that EU-led CJTFs with "separable but not separate forces" and using collective NATO assets will be possible. For this, the Americans, and of course the Turks, have to feel at ease with the speed of the process leading towards ESDP.

Yours,

Rob

Dear Rob,

Although ESDP is intergovernmental in nature, it faithfully follows the "Jean Monnet" method of European integration: first one establishes a solidarit de fait — the new defence and security institutions and the headline force — and then, but only then, does one approach the issue of what it is for, the finalit strategique as it were. The time has now come for the European Union — perhaps under the incoming Belgian presidency - to embark on a strategy review. This is crucial not only for the sake of ESDP per se but also for the transatlantic relationship. Both the European Union and the United States will have to make up their collective minds as to whether they wish to emphasise division of labour — "The Europeans do Europe, the United States does the world" — or to underscore the sharing of risks inside and outside the NATO area. I would clearly prefer the latter, but there is no firm consensus on such a view as yet in either the United States or in the European Union.

Then there is the existential problem of leadership in the European Union. NATO has operated on a one-pillar basis, with the United States being more than a primus inter pares. This model is obviously not appropriate to the European Union, in which no single member can consistently bear alone the burden of leadership. ESDP's new institutions, which resemble NATO's institutions, cannot work like NATO's. As a result, ESDP's capability to function effectively as a second pillar of NATO will depend on the European Union's institutional, and possibly constitutional, review which is slated for 2004, at a time when neither France, Germany nor the United Kingdom face the pressure of imminent general elections.

In the meantime, it is reassuring to see that NATO and the European Union are actually learning to operate together in a synergistic fashion in the face of the extraordinarily complex situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.(1) This development gives some hope that a two-pillar model can be achieved over time.

Yours,

Franois

Dear François,

I was happy to read that you favour a strategic concept for the European Union. I, too, believe that we do not need a division of labour between the Europeans and the Americans. What we need is a strategic concept which takes collective interests as a starting point. The prosperity of EU member states depends on a stable and secure global environment, which may be threatened by events in Asia or Africa. As a result, the European Union has no choice but to play an active role in world affairs with the aim of defending its interests and strengthening the international rule of law. A strategic concept should there-fore define the European Union's place in the global power distribution. If the European Union muddles on without a sense of direction, its influence will likely decline and a power vacuum could emerge.

I am not in favour of a division of labour, where "Europe does Europe and the United States does the rest of the world." We, Europeans, need power-projection capabilities to defend our interests. These capabilities should also be used to project stability, that is to carry out peace-support operations. As a first step, European members of NATO should implement NATO's Defence Capabilities Initiative, preferably through joint European ventures. Only through close cooperation will we be able to generate greater output for our money.

A strategic concept would help us define the so-called "Petersberg tasks", which are incorporated in the Treaties on European Union: humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peace-making. Within the European Union there are still divergent political views. On the one hand, EU members with strong transatlantic leanings, such as my own country, the Netherlands, traditionally favour a limited interpretation of the Petersberg tasks. To ensure US participation in more demanding crises, they wish to take on only small-scale operations at the lower end of the conflict spectrum. On the other hand, EU members with a strong European orientation, such as your country, France, favour developing military capabilities to take on these tasks throughout the entire conflict spectrum.

Things are changing, however. The Dutch government is becoming more sympathetic to the idea of strengthening European defence. In my view, people like you and me should try to convince politicians that a European Union with global interests requires a maximalist interpretation of the Petersberg tasks. We should make clear that this will not undermine, but will strengthen NATO. Therefore, we should emphasise that unnecessary duplication should be avoided. A two-pillar NATO, with two bureaucracies dealing with similar tasks and ultimately two integrated military structures, would be regrettable.

The European Union has no choice but to play an active role in world affairs, ROB DE WIJK

I share your view that it is reassuring to see that NATO and the European Union are learning to operate in a synergistic fashion in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.(1) This is a critical test case. If NATO and the European Union fail to manage it properly, the potential for escalation is enormous. If they handle the situation skillfully, it will again demonstrate that NATO and the European Union are indispensable for peace and stability in Europe and can work together effectively.

Yours,

Rob

1. Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.

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