Vol. 41 - No. 4
A PAN-EUROPEAN SECURITY INSTITUTION
(Robert Blaine Weaver Professor of Political Science
and Director of International Studies,
Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, USA)
Support for Professor Stuart's research was
provided by the Ford Foundation. The views expressed in this article are
the author's own.
Nearly four years have passed since the collapse
of the Berlin Wall. It is ironic that one of the most commonly heard predictions
at that time was that NATO would soon follow the Wall into the history
books. Pundits joked that the acronym 'NATO' stood for "No Alternative
To Obsolescence". With the benefit of hindsight, we can now see that predictions
of NATO's imminent demise were anchored in two flawed assumptions which
were based upon an incorrect assessment of the post-Cold War situation
and a misunderstanding of the Alliance itself.
The post-Cold War era has proven to be more dangerous
and less predictable than many expected. Events in such disparate locations
as Kuwait, Nagorno-Karabakh and Bosnia-Herzegovina have demonstrated that
there is still no substitute for military power as a source of stability
and security. Nor is there any reason to believe that this situation will
change in the foreseeable future. Under these circumstances, NATO provides
an indispensable combination of political and military assets.
Those experts who predicted the end of NATO were
also misled by a superficial reading of the history of the Alliance. Specifically,
they tended to emphasize two characteristics of NATO, to the exclusion
of other offsetting considerations. First, they concentrated their attention
upon Article 6 of the NATO Treaty - the geographic delimitation clause
- to the exclusion of Articles 2 and 4 of the Treaty, which give NATO
a much wider geographic mandate. Second, they stressed NATO's record as
a relatively static military organization, at the expense of NATO's rich
and complex history as a forum for political consultation, dispute resolution
and policy coordination.
The operative section of Article 6 of the NATO Treaty
establishes the Alliance's borders as comprising the sovereign territories
of the NATO allies in Western Europe and North America. During most of NATO's
history, Article 6 was used to interrupt discussions of so-called 'out-of-area'
issues before they reached the point of common military action. At times,
this strict constructionist reading of the Treaty was a source of frustration
for policy makers. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, for example, then-Secretary
of State Henry Kissinger railed against the "stampede of dissociation" by
Washington's allies in the face of American requests for assistance in supplying
Israeli forces. He was especially critical of the allied use of "the legalistic
argument" that NATO's boundaries did not extend to the Middle East (1).
Dr. Kissinger's criticisms notwithstanding, there
was great virtue in this use of Article 6 during much of the Cold War.
Its most obvious virtue was that it encouraged all allies to 'keep their
eyes on the ball' by focusing attention on the direct Soviet threat to
Western Europe. More importantly, Article 6 served as a 'circuit breaker'
within the NATO Alliance, since it provided a means by which allies could
terminate an out-of-area dispute before it became destructively recriminatory.
But the strictures imposed by Article 6 were never
interpreted so narrowly as to block all discussion and debate relating
to extra-regional developments. Indeed, NATO provides us with an extensive
historical record of intra-Alliance diplomacy relating to out-of-area
issues (2). The nature of this diplomatic
activity ran the gamut from dispute resolution (e.g., Suez, Angola) to
information and consultation (e.g., French Indochina, Cuban missile crisis)
to policy coordination (e.g., Falklands, Desert Shield/Desert Storm).
This diplomatic activity is authorized by Article 4 of the NATO Treaty,
which commits all parties to "...consult together whenever, in the opinion
of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security
of any of the Parties is threatened". Extra-regional cooperation is also
authorized by Article 2 of the Treaty, which obliges all allies to "...contribute
toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international
relations by promoting conditions of stability and well-being".
What is perhaps most striking about the history
of NATO out-of-area behaviour is that the Alliance had adopted a much
broader and more activist interpretation of its geographic mandate by
the time the Cold War ended. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was the
turning point in this regard, since it alerted all allies to the common
threat which they faced if the Persian Gulf region were to become destabilized
or dominated by anti-Western forces. By the late 1980s, NATO governments
had developed a three-step process for cooperation on out-of-area issues,
based on their common commitment to promoting international peace and
stability, in accordance with Article 2 of the North Atlantic Treaty:
consultation among the allies (Article 4 of the Treaty); coordination
where appropriate; and compensatory deployments to maintain the necessary
force levels for deterrence in the event that individual allies felt compelled
to utilize NATO designated assets to respond to a crisis outside the Treaty
area. These arrangements proved to be indispensable during the Iran-Iraq
War, as NATO governments coordinated their contributions to the Persian
Gulf Armada (1987-1989) and in the subsequent allied response to the Iraqi
invasion of Kuwait (1990).
NATO after the Cold War
This brief discussion of the history of the NATO out-of-area
question should be sufficient to demonstrate that the Alliance has always
been involved in, and responsive to, the wider world. And it is against
this background that the current debate about NATO's potential as a pan-European
security forum is taking place. Thus, we should not be surprised to discover
that the Alliance is demonstrating an impressive ability to adapt to the
demands of the post-Cold War era. The nature and direction of that adaptation
is somewhat surprising, however, and deserving of comment.
The first important change that NATO is undergoing
is in its strategy and supporting 'operational art'. NATO governments
established the guidelines for the new allied strategy during the London
(July 1990) and Rome (November 1991) Summits; moving away from the relatively
static and heavy concentration of forces around the Central Region which
characterized the Cold War to a reduced, more complex and multi-directional
defence posture which places a premium on flexibility and mobility. In
accordance with this new defence posture, NATO is developing both immediate
reaction forces and more substantial rapid reaction forces. A headquarters
has already been established for the ACE Rapid Reaction Corps, and the
Corps itself should become operational in 1995.
The Alliance has also accorded a high priority
to the development of multinational units, and arrangements have been
worked out for the assignment of the Franco-German Eurocorps
to NATO command in times of crisis. It is also important to note that
NATO continues to develop its close working relationship with the Western
European Union (WEU). Cooperation between these two institutions has made
it easier for European governments to pursue a common defence identity
without doing violence to the missions or purposes of NATO. The recent
move of the WEU Council and Secretariat to Brussels was of more than symbolic
importance in this regard.
The second, and arguably the most important, change
that NATO has undergone since the collapse of the Berlin Wall is its outreach
to the nations of the former Warsaw Pact. In an editorial published in
1990, the American historian John Lewis Gaddis recommended that both NATO
and the Warsaw Pact should be preserved in post-Cold War Europe, and that
the two alliances should be merged into a pan-European security organization
(3). While this may have been a flawed
idea, it nonetheless reflected a very valid concern about the dangers
that the international community would face if the nations of the former
Soviet bloc were left without any institutionalized forums for security
cooperation and mutual reassurance.
NATO's response to this problem was the creation
of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC). The purpose of NACC
is to enhance stability throughout the European region by providing the
nations of the former Warsaw Pact with a forum for dialogue, consultation
and the development of joint projects. In the less than two years since
its first meeting, the organization has grown in membership (38 countries),
in geographic scope ("from Vancouver to Vladivostok", including the Central
Asian nations which were formerly part of the Soviet Union), and in responsibilities.
The NACC has become a venue for pan-European discussions
relating to arms control, defence cooperation, crisis management and peacekeeping.
Meetings between foreign and defence ministers of the NACC governments
have helped to maintain the momentum for approval and compliance with
the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) and other arms control
agreements. They have also provided a forum for consultation and policy
coordination relating to ongoing crises in the former Yugoslavia and in
portions of the former Soviet Union. While it is true that some member
governments would have preferred direct membership in NATO to partnership
through the NACC, no one who monitors these developments can fail to be
impressed with the progress that NACC has made in institutionalizing pan-European
security cooperation in such a brief period of time. Finally, NATO has
adjusted to the new circumstances of the post-Cold War era by making itself
and the NACC available to the United Nations and the Conference on Security
and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) for pan-European peacekeeping, peacemaking
and peace enforcement operations (4).
At the time of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, many commentators expressed
the hope that the UN and the CSCE would be able to handle Europe's future
security problems by recourse to 'civilian power' alone. Before long,
however, representatives of these larger institutions had come to conclude
that NATO, with its unique combination of political-military resources,
was still indispensable for the preservation of pan-European order. NATO
governments have responded to this new challenge, but with no delusions
about the risks that they may confront.
The ongoing crisis in the former Yugoslavia can
be viewed as a baptism of fire for the newly transformed NATO. The Alliance
has taken several concrete steps in support of the effort by the United
Nations to end the internecine warfare in this region. NATO forces are
currently enforcing the no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as
the UN arms embargo and the maritime blockade of Serbia and Montenegro,
and have also offered to provide protection for UN peacekeeping troops
in Bosnia-Herzegovina, including the use of air strikes should the UN
so request (5). All the allies understand
that these operations may have to be followed by more direct and more
dangerous initiatives on the ground. NATO Secretary General Manfred Wörner
put the matter succinctly in a recent speech in Rome:
"What an irony! An organization created to deal with the military
challenge of the Cold War, and which survived that Cold War and succeeded
without firing a shot, now has to contemplate seriously the use of force
- after the Cold War has ended, and outside of what was traditionally
called the NATO Treaty area."(6)
Back to the future : NATO as a three-tier security arrangement
It is a nice coincidence that the post-Cold War Alliance
appears to be evolving into something resembling the vision of NATO articulated
by George Kennan in 1948. During the Washington Preparatory Talks for the
North Atlantic Treaty, Kennan floated the idea of a three-tier security
system. At its core would have been the five nations of the 1948 Brussels
Treaty (France, Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) plus the
United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark. He envisioned a second ring of
"associate members", comprising certain governments (Kennan specifically
mentioned Portugal and Sweden) which would have been accorded security guarantees
in exchange for basing privileges. A third "affiliate" category would have
been established for various nations and territories which the Western governments
considered to be of special strategic importance. At present, there seems
to be a development towards a different form of "three-tier security system"
with a European core comprised of the WEU/EC nexus, a second ring of states
which is made up of the 16 members of the Atlantic Alliance and a third
ring composed of the 38 nations of NACC.
The essential difference between Kennan's vision
and the evolving NATO system is that Kennan's was based upon differentiated
membership - what US Undersecretary of State Robert Lovett referred to
as "resident members, non-resident members and summer privileges" (7).
By contrast, in the evolving European order, the Atlantic Alliance is
inextricably engaged in all three circles - providing the context for
the development of the WEU/EC system and the bedrock for the development
of the NACC. This makes the current system much less vulnerable than Kennan's
system would have been to recriminatory disputes about first, second and
third class citizenship. But it does not solve the problem altogether.
Indeed, the greatest challenge that NATO governments
will face in the next few years will be the need to preserve a sense of
cohesion and common purpose in the face of new responsibilities for European
security and new opportunities for cooperation with other institutions
involved in the maintenance of European order. The history of out-of-area
debates during the Cold War, and the impressive record of intra-Alliance
cooperation since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, nonetheless encourage
optimism about NATO's ability to find imaginative solutions to such challenges.
In the conclusion to his aforementioned editorial,
John Gaddis observes that "It is a principle of enlightened conservatism
that one ought to retain what history shows to have worked, even as one
accommodates to the changes history is bringing." We can be grateful to
Professor Gaddis for reminding us of this principle, which NATO governments
have heeded. Without much fanfare, they have gone about the business of
preserving what worked, while making some very constructive changes. Much
still needs to be done, but recognition of accomplishments made up till
now is not unwarranted at this time.
(1) Henry Kissinger, "Years of Upheaval",
(Little, Brown and Co., Bostom, 1982), p.711.
(2) See Douglas Stuart and William
Tow, "The limits of alliance: NATO out-of-area problems since 1949" (Baltimore,
John Hopkins University Press, 1990).
(3) John Lewis Gaddis, "One Germany
- in both Alliances", The New York Times, March 21, 1990, p.27.
(4) For an interesting discussion
of the distinction between these three types of operations, see Donald
Snow, "Peacekeeping, peacemaking and peace enforcement: the US role in
the new international order", SSI Monograph Series, Strategic Studies
Institute, US Army War College, February 1993.
(5) For a more detailed discussion
of NATO's contribution to the UN in the former Yugoslavia, see John Kriendler,
"NATO's changing role - opportunities and constraints for peacekeeping",
NATO REVIEW, No. 3, June 1993, pp. 16-22.
(6) Speech by the Secretary General
in Rome, 10 May 1993, p.1, available from the NATO Office of Information
and Press - see NATODATA File: rome.asc
(7) Discussed D.Stuart, "Reconciling
alliances, coalitions and collective security systems in post-Cold War
Europe", in Gary Guertner , ed. The search for strategy: politics and
strategic vision (Westport Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1993), pp.290-304.
© Copyright by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation