Updated: 22-Apr-2002 NATO Review

No. 3 - Jun. 1993
Vol. 41

p. 16-21


John Kriendler
Deputy Assistant Secretary General
for Political Affairs
& Director, Political Directorate

On Friday, 2 April 1993, the North Atlantic Council agreed, by the consensus procedures required for all of its decisions, that NATO Secretary General Manfred Worner should urgently convey to UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali, the Alliance's readiness to support the implementation of Security Council Resolution 816 to enforce the previously instituted no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina.

That weekend, the NATO Military Authorities complied with the Council's instructions to undertake a variety of other measures to ensure that NATO would be in a position to effectively enforce the no-fly zone by the date specified in Resolution 816, namely 12 April 1993. On a closely related front, the Alliance's Senior Political Committee (Reinforced), a special body of senior political and military specialists, has been meeting frequently since its establishment in early March to continue intra-Alliance consultations and negotiations on contingency planning for NATO support for the implementation of a UN peace plan for Bosnia-Herzegovina, to take effect once agreement was reached. And among decisions taken by ministers attending the Council meeting in Athens on 10 June was an offer of protective air power in case of attack against UNPROFOR in performance of its overall mandate, if it requests such support.

These events graphically illustrate the profound process of transformation of the Atlantic Alliance, and in particular its evolving role in crisis prevention, crisis management and peacekeeping. This article will examine some of the opportunities that Alliance support for peacekeeping presents as well as consider some of the constraints.

The single, overwhelming and predominantly military threat of Soviet Communism is gone. But the passing of that threat has revealed a multitude of crises, active and latent risks, and unresolved problems with the potential for causing serious disorder. Nationalism in some places is out of control. One has only to look at the former Yugoslavia and the Transcaucasus. In those regions, we witness tragedies and dramas that, even if they do not threaten our vital interests directly, cannot leave us indifferent. Left to fester, they could engulf neighbouring states; the accumulation of hatred and instability inhibits prospects for peace.

It is the sad truth that despite concerted efforts, so far the international community has not found the formula for dealing successfully with these kinds of crises and conflicts. One reason is that, while our resources seem abundant, our policy has been less clear. We are torn by difficult questions: Should we intervene or not? And who should intervene, when, where, how? And at what cost? These dilemmas are taxing the moral and political resources of our democracies.

We can take some solace, however, from the fact that Allied governments recognized early on some of the kinds of problems that would have to be faced and began to develop the policies and mechanisms to deal with them. In November 1991, Allied Heads of State and Government agreed in Rome on NATO's new Strategic Concept.(1) This document warned that risks to Allied security were less likely to result from calculated aggression against the territory of the Allies, than from the adverse consequences of instabilities that could arise from the serious economic, social and political difficulties, including ethnic rivalries and territorial disputes, faced by many countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

The new Strategic Concept and developments since its adoption underline that crisis management, peacekeeping and peacemaking in regional conflicts are becoming new and central tasks for the Alliance. The Concept no longer emphasizes massive mobilization but rather enhanced crisis management capabilities using more mobile and flexible forces and cooperative efforts to project peace.

For those efforts, the Alliance possesses unique advantages:

  • it brings together the principal actors in any credible effort to uphold international peace and security, building consensus and encouraging collective action;
  • it supports and reinforces continued linkage between North America and the security of Europe, while allowing for the further development of a European security and defence identity;
  • it possesses unique military capabilities and the ability to project them collectively through its integrated military structure.
Peacekeeping needs to be understood as an integral part of crisis management but differing from other crisis management activities in terms of the level of hostilities, the types of forces committed, and the necessary authority for conducting operations. NATO's contribution to conflict prevention and crisis management consists of three essential politico-military elements:
  • the provision, by its existence, cohesion and strength, of a security anchor and stabilizing factor in Europe;
  • the contribution, through the North Atlantic Cooperation Council which unites NATO with the former members of the Warsaw Pact and their successor states, of a mechanism for achieving a common understanding in security matters and a collective approach to the peaceful settlement of local conflicts; and
  • a close interaction with the UN, the CSCE, the Western European Union and the European Community in a complementary framework of interlocking, mutually reinforcing international institutions.

The Alliance's approach

The Declaration on Peace and Cooperation which was also agreed by NATO Heads of State and Government at the Rome Summit in November 1991 stated that "The challenges we will face in this new Europe cannot be comprehensively addressed by one institution alone, but only in a framework of interlocking institutions tying together the countries of Europe and North America."(2) In this framework, the major European and Atlantic institutions have to make available their specific assets and expertise for the settlement of regional crises or conflicts in a complementary way. Collectively, they possess the mandates and capabilities needed to cope both with short-term crises and conflicts and the long-term task of building new security structures in Europe. What is needed, however, is a coherent and pragmatic approach by our different organisations to enable us, in any given situation, to choose the package of measures and the required interaction between institutions best suited for the specific task. There is currently no alternative to such a security system in our Euro-Atlantic area.

How can the principle of mutual reinforcement be brought to bear on peacekeeping? From the NATO perspective, it means a preparedness to support "on a case by case basis in accordance with our own procedures" peacekeeping activities under the responsibility of the CSCE (since the Oslo Ministerial)(3) and the United Nations (since last December's Ministerial, when the UN was added)(4). NATO is not prepared to undertake a peacekeeping operation on its own initiative; it is unlikely that such an approach would find consensus among the Allies. It is essential, as we see in the case of the former Yugoslavia, to work closely with the United Nations which has, in accordance with its Charter, the responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and can mandate the peacekeeping and, if necessary, peace enforcement action.

The UN and the CSCE, therefore, hold a central place in the architecture of mutually reinforcing institutions. They alone can provide the necessary legitimacy as they can express and bring to bear the collective will of the international community.

Which of these organizations will take the leading role in a particular situation will depend on the circumstances, and we should be flexible and keep all options open. What is needed in large measure, in addition to creativity, good judgement and foresight, is political will and determination within and among our governments to make this system work.

Crisis prevention and crisis management have traditionally been an important aspect of Alliance capabilities, with carefully developed procedures, committees to implement them and thick catalogues of response options, but peacekeeping is something new. This makes it a complicated and difficult task to deal with and one where it is not easy to reach the necessary consensus but not so difficult that we have been unable to do so. The Oslo Ministerial commitment to support CSCE peacekeeping under certain circumstances launched a complicated theoretical discussion to implement the Ministerial decision. A number of interesting conclusions can be drawn already from this process.

First, NATO's involvement in peacekeeping operations could find its expression in three main forms:

  • by contributing Alliance assets to a UN or CSCE peacekeeping;
  • by conducting or coordinating a peacekeeping operation on behalf of either organisation;
  • by supporting the involvement of individual Allies in a peacekeeping operation.
Second, NATO contributions could involve the whole spectrum of peacekeeping activities, inter alia: monitoring ceasefires and withdrawals of forces; supervising disarmament and control of weapons; escorting, controlling and protecting convoys; creating safe corridors; creating and monitoring buffer zones; providing logistical assistance; and removing hazardous munitions.

Third, Alliance contributions could take a variety of forms, among them:

  • non-material resources e.g. information, expertise, techniques, education and training, coordination;
  • material resources e.g. Alliance infrastructure, transportation, telecommunications, logistic support; and
  • constituted military forces e.g. Alliance collective forces such as the Standing Naval Force Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT), the Standing Naval Force Mediterranean (STANAVFORMED), elements of the Rapid Reaction Force, and the NATO Airborne Early Warning (AWACS) force as well as forces from individual Allied nations.

Support for the UN in the former Yugoslavia

While these 'theoretical' discussions were taking place, events in the real world were driving NATO in the direction of practical assistance to UN peacekeeping efforts in the former Yugoslavia. Thus, some months before the December 1992 Ministerial included the UN as an additional organization whose peacekeeping operations the Alliance could support, NATO had already begun to support the UN - for the first time in its history.

At the time of writing, NATO is contributing actively in a variety of ways to UN operations:

  • Since August 1992, the Alliance, in conjunction with WEU naval forces, has conducted maritime monitoring operations in the Adriatic and, from late November, enforcement operations in support of UN Security Council Resolutions which imposed an arms embargo on all of the republics of the former Yugoslavia and an economic embargo on Serbia and Montenegro;
  • In late April 1993, Security Council Resolution 820 authorized the extension of enforcement operations within the territorial waters of the former Yugoslavia (Serbia-Montenegro). Soon afterwards, the Alliance modified its naval mission, especially its rules of engagement, in order to be able to implement this total blockade. Furthermore, we now have arrangements with Albanian authorities to extend the NATO enforcement operations into Albanian territorial waters. By mid-June, over 12,000 ships had been challenged of which 803 were stopped; of these, 176 were diverted and subsequently inspected and nine violators were detected;
  • About 75 Allied personnel from the Alliance's Northern Army Group (NORTHAG) are part of the headquarters of UNPROFOR II in Bosnia-Herzegovina to which ten Allies contribute forces. The Allied countries involved considered it essential for the operation to have at least a core group of an experienced Alliance command structure in place;
  • AWACS aircraft are flying two orbits over the Adriatic and over Hungary in support of Security Council Resolution 781, which established a no-fly zone over the region. The data obtained from these operations is being provided to the appropriate UN authorities on a timely and regular basis;
  • The latest task which NATO has undertaken is enforcement of the no-fly zone over Bosnia in support of Security Council Resolution 816. This commenced on 12 April. At present, these operations involve over 100 fighters and reconnaissance aircraft from a number of Allies including France.
At the meeting of the Council in Athens on 10 June, ministers supported the establishment of safe areas in Bosnia-Herzegovina for the protection of the civil population, as outlined in Security Resolutions 824 and 836. This was seen as a temporary measure leading towards a negotiated settlement based on the principles of the Vance-Owen Plan.

In response to Security Council Resolution 836 and the expanded UNPROFOR mandate relating to safe areas, NATO has offered, as we have seen, its protective air power in case of attack against UNPROFOR in the performance of its overall mandate, should such protection be requested.

In addition to these operational support measures for the UN, NATO's Military Authorities have, at the request of the NATO Council, undertaken contingency planning:

  • on the supervision of heavy weapons in Bosnia-Herzegovina in case this would be decided by the UN Security Council after a ceasefire;
  • on the protection of UN humanitarian relief operations, involving both land- and air-based options;
  • on the creation of safe areas and the necessary measures to prevent any spill-over of the conflict into Kosovo;
A military assessment of measures for the protection of UNPROFOR and other UN personnel on the ground in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina has been also undertaken.

Key elements of this planning have been transmitted to the UN Secretary General and, in certain cases, at his request, we have also transmitted some of this planning to the CSCE and Cooperation Partners from Central and Eastern Europe. It is worth noting, in fact, that consistent with CSCE principles of peacekeeping, NATO contingency planning has been carried out in such a way that other CSCE member countries can, if they wish, be incorporated.

In addition to the continuing support for UN, CSCE and European Community efforts in Bosnia, the most recent ministerial statements have also reflected the key place of peacekeeping on NATO's agenda. At its meeting on 10-11 December 1992, the Ministerial session of the Defence Planning Committee directed the Military Authorities of the Alliance to undertake the necessary planning and preparatory work for the integrated military structure - in areas such as force planning, command and control, logistics support, infrastructure, and training and exercises - in order to ensure that the required capabilities will be available for peacekeeping purposes if and when decided by the Alliance (5).

A few days later, Allied Foreign Ministers took these decisions forward at the 17 December 1992 meeting of the North Atlantic Council, where they agreed:

  • to further strengthen Alliance coordination in peacekeeping and develop practical measures in enhancing the Alliance's contribution in this area;
  • to share experiences in peacekeeping with the Cooperation Partners and other CSCE participating states and to join them as required in supporting peacekeeping operations(6).
At the Ministerial session of the Defence Planning Committee on 25 and 26 May 1993, an initial report on the defence planning implications of support for UN and CSCE peacekeeping, commissioned last December, was considered; furthermore, logistics, infrastructure and communications planning are being reviewed to ensure effective support for peacekeeping.

NACC peacekeeping

The North Atlantic Cooperation Council meeting in December 1992 agreed that NATO and Cooperation Partners would share experience and expertise in the planning and preparation of peacekeeping missions and would also consider in the future, possible joint peacekeeping training and exercises (7). Following the first 'brainstorming' session at Ambassadorial level with Cooperation Partners on peacekeeping, a NACC Ad Hoc Group on Cooperation in Peacekeeping was set up. In a relatively short time, it was able to advance discussion and reach agreement on general principles of peacekeeping.

Among the key agreed principles are :

  • peacekeeping can only be carried out under the authority of the UN or CSCE with a request by one or the other necessary in each case;
  • peacekeeping is intended to complement the political process of dispute resolution and is not a substitute for a negotiated settlement;
  • the need for a clear and precise mandate, consent of the parties (except for a UN peacekeeping operation under Chapter VII of the Charter), transparency, impartiality and credibility;
  • the need for unity of command for military forces;
  • all member states of the mandating body (UN or CSCE) are eligible to participate;
  • the need for adequate financing;
  • NACC cooperation in peacekeeping may include recent extensions of this concept.
The adoption by the NACC ministerial meeting in Athens on 11 June of the Ad Hoc Group's Report on Peacekeeping (8) was a major step forward as it reflected agreement on definitions, general and operational principles, guidelines for NACC cooperation in peacekeeping as well as measures for practical cooperation.

Among some of the many measures planned or under consideration to advance practical cooperation in peacekeeping are the following:

  • exchange of national concepts and doctrine and experiences on peacekeeping within the Ad Hoc Group;
  • facilitate cooperative planning activities including discussions of assets and capabilities required, possibility of developing a data base of available resources, and of force requirements;
  • create an Ad Hoc Technical Sub-Group to identify issues and methods of cooperation on the basis of national contributions;
  • hold a workshop on technical aspects such as infrastructure in support of peacekeeping and equipment interoperability;
  • conduct research into technical aspects of peacekeeping;
  • exchange information on national peacekeeping training programmes;
  • conduct a pilot course for unit commanders;
  • conduct a course on peacekeeping at the NATO School (SHAPE) in Oberammergau;
  • organize a seminar on logistics, identify specific logistics issues and consider possibilities for cooperation.

Decisive factors

There are a number of factors that are steering the Alliance towards involvement in peacekeeping, and which represent valuable opportunities to build peace and stability in Europe. Let me briefly list the most obvious:
  • a plethora of problems that require resolution, and that if unresolved could pose risks to Allied security;
  • a well-oiled, practised political collective defence organization with the military structure, experience, traditions of training and operating together and, in particular, the command and control capacity to ensure success in peacekeeping operations;
  • the political and military weight of the involvement of 16 Allies. Indeed, one of the significant aspects of the Alliance's preparations for support for UN peacekeeping operations has been the full participation of all 16 Allies, including those that are not members of the integrated military structure or the Military Committee. To illustrate how this has worked, France, which has been represented by an observer in the Military Committee, has participated fully in the Committee's discussions on peacekeeping and has requested that full participation be a matter of record;
  • force and command structures that have been adapted to the post-Cold War environment in a way that enhances flexibility and mobility, characteristics that are essential for peacekeeping;
  • a mechanism for involving our Cooperation Partners in peacekeeping operations on a case-by-case and voluntary basis through the developing cooperation in the NACC process.
There are, however, clear constraints. These include:
  • the extraordinary complexity and intractability of some of the problems that the international community is seeking to address; in some cases, the parties concerned do not want agreement and any kind of peacekeeping operation is very difficult under those circumstances;
  • the necessary UN or CSCE mandate and request for support is not always quick to materialize as we have seen in the case of the enforcement of the no-fly zone, to take just one example. Cumbersome CSCE decision-making procedures and even the more efficient but still complicated task of agreement within the Security Council take a lot of time;
  • continuing reservations in some UN circles about an explicit NATO role have greatly diminished its value, although it is becoming increasingly clear that only NATO has the capacity to implement some kinds of operations and that the UN is simply overburdened;
  • the need to form ad hoc coalitions of those willing to act even when there is agreement among Allies for NATO to support a particular UN or CSCE operation. Contributions to peacekeeping operations are on a voluntary basis, whether we are talking about UNPROFOR or those Allies which are contributing aircraft to enforce the Bosnia no-fly zone. Not all are in a position to contribute; this results in a related constraint of inequitable burden sharing;
  • the need to come up with the necessary forces. The agreement on the implementation of a peace plan in Bosnia is a good example. Although there is no approved plan or agreed number of troops yet, a figure of about 70,000 is under consideration by the planners. These forces, which are in addition to those already in place in the former Yugoslavia and additional to the large number of civilian personnel required, will strain the capability of some Allies. This problem is exacerbated by the traditional political constraints on which forces can contribute to a particular peacekeeping operation, a matter that falls within the prerogatives of the UN Security Council. In this case, the forces of some neighbouring Allies, which have the capacity to contribute, could be excluded;
  • the complexity and sensitivity of the command and control arrangements that are needed for large operations, with both military and civilian personnel operating in high-risk environments with little local infrastructure and the need to ensure unity of command under those circumstances. The phenomenon of NATO and WEU Adriatic fleets is a good example of cooperation and mutual reinforcement which works well - but not perfectly - in the low risk environment which prevails. But it is not an acceptable example of how to organize a military operation in a higher risk environment, mainly because of the absence of unity of command;
  • finally, the cost of such operations. They almost invariably require large sums of money over long periods of time. Will they be financed in the traditional UN fashion, for the most part assessed contributions? Or will some variant of voluntary contributions, not a popular or successful formula and one which may well exacerbate burden-sharing problems, be used?
What will ultimately determine the respective weight of these opportunities and constraints on a decision by the Alliance to support a peacekeeping mission is political will. NATO provides many important ingredients for success, but it can be to little avail if a credible policy and the political will to implement that policy are lacking. Neither the UN, nor a regional organisation such as NATO, can be expected to help resolve difficult collective security challenges in which their member nations are unwilling or unable to assume their responsibilities as the enforcers of the international will.


(1) See NATO Review No.6., December 1991, pp.25-32.

(2) Op.cit.

(3) For communiqué see NATO REVIEW No.3, June 1992, pp.30-32.

(4) For communiqué see NATO REVIEW No.6, December 1992, pp.28-31. (Distributed through NATODATA)

(5) For communiqué see NATO REVIEW No.6, December 1992, pp.32-33. (Distributed through NATODATA)

(6) Op.cit.pp.28-31.

(7) NACC Statement published in NATO REVIEW No.1, February 1993, pp.28-30. (Distributed through NATODATA)

(8) The Report to Ministers by the NACC Ad Hoc Group on Cooperation in Peacekeeping, 11 June 1993, is available from the NATO Office of Information and Press. It will also be published in the August issue of NATO REVIEW.

© Copyright by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation 1993.