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Building security through partnership

Robert Weaver analyses the evolution of NATO's partnerships ten years after the creation of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council.

Historic event: the Soviet Union dissolved during the first meeting of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council in December 1991 ( © NATO - 120Kb)

When the 46 ambassadors of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) meet, they take it for granted that they will be able to debate and discuss the most pressing security issues of the day in an open and constructive environment. But just a little over ten years ago, diplomats from countries that belonged to the Warsaw Pact — which represent close to half of today's EAPC members — were unable even to enter NATO headquarters. If they wished to deliver a message, they were obliged to leave it at the front gate. This contrast illustrates the evolution of Euro-Atlantic security in the past decade and, above all, the way in which an Alliance strategy built around partnerships has altered the strategic environment in the Euro-Atlantic area.

Mediterranean Dialogue

NATO launched its Mediterranean Dialogue in 1994 in recognition of the fact that European security and stability is closely linked to that in the Mediterranean, writes Alberto Bin (1).

This programme, which includes Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, aims to contribute to regional security and stability, to improve mutual understanding, and to correct misperceptions about NATO among Mediterranean countries.

The Dialogue is based primarily on bilateral relations between each participating country and the Alliance. However, it also allows for multilateral meetings on a case-by-case basis. It offers all Dialogue countries the same basis for discussion and joint activities and complements other related but distinct international initiatives, such as those undertaken by the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The Dialogue provides for political dialogue and practical cooperation with participating countries. The political dialogue consists of regular bilateral political discussions, as well as multilateral conferences at ambassadorial level. These provide an opportunity to exchange views on a range of issues relevant to security in the Mediterranean, as well as on the future development of the Dialogue.

Practical cooperation is organised through an annual Work Programme and takes various forms, including invitations to officials from Dialogue countries to participate in courses at NATO schools. Other activities include seminars designed specifically for Dialogue countries, particularly in the field of civil-emergency planning, as well as visits of opinion leaders, academics, journalists, and parliamentarians from Dialogue countries to NATO.

The Alliance awards institutional fellowships to scholars from the region. In addition, the Dialogue promotes scientific cooperation through the NATO Science Programme. In 2000, for instance, 108 Dialogue-country scientists participated in NATO-sponsored scientific activities.

The Work Programme also has a military dimension that includes invitations to Dialogue countries to observe exercises, attend seminars and workshops, and visit NATO military bodies. In 2000, 104 military officers from the seven Dialogue countries participated in such activities. In addition, NATO's Standing Naval Forces in the Mediterranean visit ports in Dialogue countries. Otherwise, three Dialogue countries — Egypt, Jordan and Morocco — have contributed peacekeepers to NATO-led operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And Jordan and Morocco currently have soldiers in the Kosovo Force.

1. Alberto Bin works on the Mediterranean Dialogue in NATO's Political Affairs Division.

In addition to hosting the EAPC, a dynamic, multilateral forum for the discussion and promotion of security issues, NATO is the focal point of a web of interlocking security partnerships and programmes. The Alliance is working via the Partnership for Peace to help reform militaries and assist the democratic transition in much of former Communist Europe. Moreover, special bilateral relations have been forged with both Russia and Ukraine, the two largest countries to emerge out of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. And a security dialogue is ongoing with an ever increasing number of countries in the Mediterranean region (see box).

Today, 27 Partners use this institution to consult regularly with the 19 Allies on issues encompassing all aspects of security and all regions of the Euro-Atlantic area. In addition, Allied and Partner militaries exercise and interact together on a regular basis. And some 9,000 soldiers from Partner countries, including about 4,000 Russians, serve alongside their Alliance counterparts in the NATO-led peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.

Anyone predicting in 1991 the kind of evolution of Euro-Atlantic security that has taken place over the past decade would likely have faced ridicule. At the time, with the end of the Cold War, it was more fashionable for analysts to predict the imminent demise of NATO or, in the wake of the Moscow coup of August 1991, a return to the confrontational stances, which had characterised European politics for the best part of half a century. Moreover, looking back, things could have gone horribly wrong. That they did not is in large part because the Allies offered a "hand of friendship" to their former adversaries and is a tribute to the partnership-building strategy, which NATO has pursued over the past decade.

At the end of the Cold War, NATO's primary task was to try to overcome lingering misconceptions about what the Alliance stood for and how it operated. Explaining that NATO was a defensive Alliance was critical. In London, in July 1990, NATO leaders decided to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in the Alliance's military strategy to that of "weapons of last resort". This move signalled NATO's benign intentions and was meant to deny the anti-reform forces in Moscow the pretext of an alleged "NATO threat" to crack down on the liberalisation process in central and eastern Europe. Beyond this, NATO needed to consider how best to establish a genuine security relationship with these countries, which would allow the Alliance actively to shape security developments. At NATO's Rome Summit in November 1991, the Alliance proposed the creation of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) as a forum for a structured dialogue with former Warsaw Pact countries.

The NACC met for the first time in December 1991 with 16 Alliance and nine Partner countries in attendance. Such was the pace of change in Europe at the time that the meeting itself witnessed a historic diplomatic event. As the final communiqu was being agreed, the Soviet ambassador asked that all references to the Soviet Union be struck from the text. The Soviet Union had dissolved during the meeting with the result that, in future, he could only represent the Russian Federation. In March 1992, a further ten newly independent states from the former Soviet Union joined the NACC. Albania and Georgia became members in June of that year.

In the immediate post-Cold War period, NACC consultations focused on residual Cold War security concerns, such as the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Baltic States. Meanwhile, political cooperation centred on security and defence-related issues, including defence planning, conceptual approaches to arms control, civil-military relations, air-traffic management and the conversion of defence industries, as well as NATO's so-called "Third Dimension", that is the Alliance's scientific and environmental programmes.

The NACC broke new ground in many ways. However, it focused on multilateral, political dialogue and lacked the possibility of each Partner developing individual cooperative relations with NATO. The Partnership for Peace, launched in January 1994, was designed to meet this need, offering tailored programmes of cooperation with NATO and a strengthened political relationship. This included the right of any Partner to consult with the Alliance, if it perceived a threat to its political independence, security or territorial integrity. The focus of the Partnership was on the development of forces that would be interoperable with those of the Alliance - primarily military forces - and issues such as civil-emergency planning. The Partnership for Peace allowed Partners to develop their own bilateral relationship with NATO at their own pace.

As the political relationship between Allies and Partners deepened, the Partnership for Peace also provided the mechanisms by which Partners could take part in NATOled operations if they wished to do so. In practice, this has meant participation in NATO actions in the Balkans, where, even before deployment of the first peacekeeping mission, Partners have played a critical role.

During the Bosnian War, several Partner countries helped the Alliance enforce an arms embargo against the whole of the former Yugoslavia, economic sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro and a flight ban over Bosnia. Albania, for example, allowed NATO ships to use its territorial waters to enforce the arms embargo and economic sanctions, and Hungary, then a Partner, allowed NATO Airborne Early Warning Aircraft to use Hungarian airspace to monitor the Bosnian no-fly zone. Moreover, troops from 14 Partner countries served alongside their Alliance counterparts in the Implementation Force (IFOR), the first NATO-led peacekeeping operation, bringing in extra force capabilities and added legitimacy for the mission.

As Partners placed their soldiers in the field and their forces operated under NATO command in a high-risk environment, they naturally sought greater opportunities to take part in the decision-making process, which determined the objectives and operating procedures of the mission. In the build-up to IFOR, this had largely been carried out on an ad hoc basis, as the mission was a first for the Alliance. With Partners willing to show such commitment to helping solve security problems beyond their own borders, a new approach to partnership was needed.

In the wake of a visionary speech by then US Secretary of State Warren Christopher in September 1996, which proposed the creation of a new security forum, NATO undertook a major examination of its partnership strategy. One of the prime aims of this process was to ensure greater decision-making opportunities for Partners across the entire scope of the Partnership. The other was to seize the opportunity to focus the Partnership ever more closely on operational issues. The outcome was the creation of the EAPC and an Enhanced and More Operational Partnership.

On the political-consultation front, it now made sense to move beyond the NACC and to build a security forum to match the increasing sophistication of the relationships being established through the Partnership for Peace. Rather than define its membership by who used to be NATO's adversaries, a new cooperative body needed to encompass all Euro-Atlantic countries wishing to build a relationship with NATO. This new body could include traditionally neutral countries, which had proved to be valuable members of the Partnership for Peace, such as Austria, Finland and Sweden, who were not full members of the NACC.

In moving beyond the NACC, the EAPC represented a commitment on the part of NATO to involve Partners ever more closely in Alliance decision-making processes. It would also provide a framework for involving Partners more closely in consultations for the planning, execution and political oversight of what are now known as NATO-led PfP Operations. As the multilateral body pulling the threads of the Partnership together, the EAPC retained the NACC's focus on practical political and security-related consultations. But it expanded the scope of these consultations to include crisis management, regional issues, arms-control issues, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism, as well as defence issues, such as defence planning and budgets, including defence policy and strategy. Civil-emergency and disaster preparedness, armaments cooperation and defence-related environmental operations made up an impressive list.

In addition to traditional consultations, the EAPC has carved out a role for itself in helping address major issues of concern to both NATO members and Partners. It has achieved this by making the most of the flexibility provided by a minimum of institutional rules to adopt innovative approaches to security issues. Use has, for example, been made of open-ended working groups, enabling those countries most concerned to take initiatives and prepare work for the full forum. Consultations on the Caucasus and southeastern Europe have, for example, benefited from this approach. The EAPC has also encouraged its members to look at issues from new angles, rather than seeking to resolve long-standing sticking points, an approach that has proved fruitful where other organisations have the recognised lead responsibility.

As for the Enhanced and More Operational Partnership, its new direction built upon experience gained during the early years of the Partnership for Peace, and on lessons learned in the NATO-led peacekeeping operations in Bosnia. Among steps taken to reinforce and improve the Partnership to make it more operational, three initiatives stand out. These are the Planning and Review Process (PARP); the Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC); and the Political-Military Framework for NATO-led PfP Operations.

The PARP lays out interoperability and capability requirements for participants to attain and includes an extensive review process to measure progress. By providing the standards to aim for, it helps Partners develop the capabilities that will form the backbone of the more operational aspects of Partnership. Over the years, the requirements have become more complex, demanding and linked to the capability improvements that Allies have set themselves in the Defence Capabilities Initiative. Indeed, increasingly, the PARP has come to resemble the Alliance's own defence-planning process, with ministerial guidance for defence-planning objectives; Partnership Goals similar to NATO Force Goals; and the PARP Assessment mirroring NATO's Annual Defence Review.

When considering an actual operation and the use of these Partner forces, NATO commanders need to know what forces are available and how capable they are. The OCC was developed to address these critical issues and aims to provide NATO commanders with reliable information about potential Partner contributions to allow for the rapid deployment of a tailored force. This complements the assessment made under the PARP and should help improve the military effectiveness of those forces assessed. For NATO commanders, more militarily effective Partner contributions improve the Alliance's capability to sustain longterm operations.

Putting into place mechanisms to help increase Partner contributions is, of course, only part of the story. In the first instance, Partners have to decide whether they want their forces to be involved in a particular operation. This is the critical interface between the practical and the political — brought together by the EAPC.

Through the EAPC, all Partners are involved in consultations on developing crises, which might require the deployment of troops. In order to encourage Partners to commit forces to complicated and potentially dangerous operations, NATO has developed a mechanism to ensure that consultations are no longer conducted on an ad hoc basis, but are institutionalised according to procedures that recognise the importance of Partner contributions. This initiative, the third major element of the Enhanced and More Operational Partnership, is known as the Political-Military Framework for NATO-led PfP Operations.

When an escalating crisis is under discussion, all EAPC members are involved. If NATO believes that troops may need to be deployed, the North Atlantic Council, NATO's highest decision-making body, can recognise Partners who declare an intention to contribute to the force. These Partners are then able to exchange views with Allies and associate themselves with the first stage of planning for an operation. They will also be consulted on the plan for the operation and be involved in the force-generation process, when the commander draws up the composition of the force. It is at this stage that the OCC should save time and effort through the increased predictability about the capability of Partner forces that are available.

Once Partner contributions are accepted, discussions on the operation can take place between NATO and those contributing Partners. Meanwhile, the full EAPC is still involved in general discussions on the particular operation and the political circumstances surrounding it. While troop-contributing Partners are consulted to the maximum degree possible, final decisions still need to be taken by the Alliance, upon whose assets such operations depend. This consultation process continues for the duration of an operation, ensuring that Partner voices are heard when important decisions are taken.

The contribution of Partners to the peacekeeping operations cannot be overestimated. Indeed, it could be argued that NATO's involvement in bringing peace to Kosovo would not have been possible without Partner participation. Not only have Partners provided valuable political support, but also mission-essential assets for NATO's use, including the use of airspace during the air campaign and vital logistics bases to sustain lines of communication for KFOR. As the relationship between Allies and Partners grows, it is increasingly possible to speak of a shared community of values underlying these practical undertakings. In the ten years since the inception of the NACC, Partnership has evolved to become a fundamental feature of Euro-Atlantic security.

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