Examining Enlargement

Prague predictions
Vaclav Havel describes his aspirations for the forthcoming Prague Summit, the first NATO summit to take place behind the former Iron Curtain.

Not when but who
James M. Goldgeier compares the first and second rounds of NATO enlargement and considers the options facing the Alliance in advance of the Prague Summit.

The silence of the bear
Dmitri Trenin analyses the reasons for the lack of vociferous Russian opposition to the prospect of NATO's next round of enlargement.

Following in the footsteps
Andrzej Karkoszka examines how the experience of the newest NATO Allies could influence decisions to issue further membership invitations at the Prague Summit.


Can NATO remain an effective military and political alliance if it keeps growing?
Ronald D. Asmus versus Charles Grant


Modernising militaries
Sebestyén L. v. Gorka reviews three books on military reform since the end of the Cold War.


Chingiz Aitmatov: diplomatic writer


Building the virtual silk highway

Converting former military bases in Southeastern Europe


Crisis response
Stanley R. Sloan examines the crisis of confidence and capabilities facing NATO in the wake of 11 September.

Military matters

Mapping the future
Frank Boland examines how the Membership Action Plan is helping aspirant countries prepare for NATO membership.


Candidate country statistics

Prague predictions

Vaclav Havel describes his aspirations for the forthcoming Prague Summit, the first NATO summit to take place behind the former Iron Curtain. The admission of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to NATO and the opening of this possibility to other countries has been the greatest and most visible demonstration of the transformation of the Alliance since the end of the Cold War. Three years on, as Alliance members prepare for the forthcoming Prague Summit, NATO enlargement will again be on the agenda, as will the future of the Alliance.

Within a relatively short period of time, two historical milestones have completely and definitively changed the perception of NATO's mission both inside and outside the Alliance. These are NATO's intervention in Kosovo in 1999 and the terrorist attacks of 11 September against the United States, which led, among other things, to the invocation of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty on collective defence for the first time in the Alliance's history.

These two events - symptoms of historical processes that were set in motion by the end of the Cold War and the drift of our civilisation that we now call globalisation - have brought home the magnitude of the security challeges we face at the beginning of the 21st century. These new threats include local conflicts, that are difficult to predict and that have the potential to grow into large-scale confrontations; attacks with the most sophisticated weapons coming unexpectedly from various directions; and a wide range of dangers emanating from the grey area between organised crime, terrorism and civil war. The time is right, therefore, for the Alliance to undertake a fundamental review of its identity, its historical mission and the role it intends to play in the world.

Initiatives taken at the most recent NATO summits indicate that the Alliance has been aware of these new security threats for some time. Indeed, the Alliance demonstrated this awareness most visibly by inviting countries that used to be members of the Warsaw Pact and lived under Soviet domination before the fall of Communism to join at the 1997 Madrid Summit. This was the first tangible proof that the West was determined to break down the division of Europe. Moreover, this year's summit will, for the first time, take place behind the former Iron Curtain in a new member state.

I have long believed that the future of the world lies in the cooperation of clearly defined regional groupings based on shared values. On cultural and geographic grounds, therefore, I believe that Alliance membership should be offered to the three Baltic Republics, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia, as well as to other states, particularly those in Southeastern Europe. Although it will probably not be possible to admit all these countries at the same time, and some of them are not yet prepared for membership, the Alliance should declare at the Prague Summit which nations could potentially become members in the future.

Such a declaration is an essential prerequisite for establishing and advancing truly effective collaboration between the Alliance and other entities and regional groupings, such as with the Russian Federation whose present cooperation with NATO has the potential to develop into a long-term relationship to the benefit of both sides. The Prague Summit should therefore help to find a new form of partnership between NATO and Russia. It should also chart possible new avenues for the Alliance's cooperation with the countries of the Mediterranean region, with the former Soviet republics, especially those in Central Asia and the Caucasus, and with the countries of Southeastern Europe.

NATO's transformation and modernisation and the requirements resulting from its enlargement have involved, and will continue to involve, far-reaching changes in military doctrine, in the institutions and structures of the Alliance, in the character of its armed forces and their command and control systems, as well as a shift of emphasis toward different weapons systems. If the number of NATO members grows as substantially as I believe it will in the near future, it will also undoubtedly be necessary to give new consideration to the existing mechanisms of internal decision-making.

The Kosovo campaign inspired both the new Strategic Concept, the document which describes the Alliance's objectives and the political and military ways of achieving them, and the Defence Capabilities Initiative, the high-level programme to raise Alliance capabilities, that were approved at the Washington Summit in 1999. But the events of 11 September have put today's security environment into a yet sharper focus. For the Alliance to define clearly the role it wants to play in the global campaign against terrorism, the Prague Summit will have to involve a fundamental reexamination of the way in which NATO operates. Moreover, it will have to set in motion a still more radical transformation of the Alliance in order for NATO to reaffirm its position as a key pillar of international security and serve as a model of an organisation committed to the defence of human liberty.

While the terrorist attacks of 11 September marked a truly dark beginning to the third millennium, the Prague Summit has the potential to light the way forward. Only time will tell as to the exact significance of these tragic events and the message it contains for our civilisation. Already now, however, we should be able to draw certain conclusions concerning the present, for which Prague will hopefully provide an inspiring and auspicious setting. It would be truly wonderful if we all, both inside and outside the Alliance, lived to see the end of the era of the artificial division of the world. And it would be equally magnificent if, through its own positive example, the Alliance helped to shape a world with less suffering and fewer victims of violence.

Vaclav Havel is president of the Czech Republic.

Not when but who

James M. Goldgeier compares the first and second rounds of NATO enlargement and considers the options facing the Alliance in advance of the Prague Summit.

In Prague in January 1994, just after attending his first NATO summit in Brussels, US President Bill Clinton declared that it was no longer a question of whether NATO would enlarge, but how and when. Back then, however, huge differences still existed within the US government and in NATO about the wisdom of bringing former Soviet-bloc countries into the Alliance, and most Western officials (as well as those in Moscow) believed that the idea of NATO enlargement had been shelved in favour of the Partnership for Peace.

The uncertainty of the mid-1990s over whether enlargement would occur is a thing of the past. At the Alliance's Prague Summit in November this year, US President George W. Bush and his peers will issue invitations to the next group. And this event is likely to be preceded in May with the announcement of a new accord between NATO and Russia. What is uncertain, however, is who exactly NATO will deem ready to join. Even more uncertain is the role NATO will play in the world after taking the next steps on NATO-Russia and on enlargement.

Thanks to the jump-start given to enlargement by US Assistant Secretary of State Richard C. Holbrooke and his supporters in the US government in the autumn of 1994, NATO set out in 1995 on a slow and steady endeavour to bring in the first members. The timing was left deliberately vague until after Russian President Boris Yeltsin's re-election in July 1996, but with Yeltsin's second term secure, President Clinton recommended that the Alliance formally admit its newest members on the occasion of NATO's 50th anniversary celebration in the spring of 1999. There were some misgivings in the spring of 1997, especially in France, about the wisdom of proceeding if an accord could not be reached with Russia, but the NATO-Russia Founding Act was signed in Paris in May of that year. In July, invitations were then issued at NATO's Madrid Summit to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. The only flare-up in the enlargement end-game occurred over the US decision to leave Romania and Slovenia out of the first round. This left France in particular unhappy, since Paris had already built support from a majority of the Allies to include the larger group.

In the United States, which was the main driver of the enlargement process between 1994 and 1997, the policy was made possible because a diverse group supported enlargement, albeit for very different reasons. The "Wilsonians", such as President Clinton and National Security Adviser Anthony Lake hoped that NATO enlargement would help encourage the adoption of market democracy and respect for human rights in Central and Eastern Europe, while the "hedgers", including then Senate Foreign Relations Chair Jesse Helms and prominent former officials Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, emphasised expanding the Alliance to protect against the possible resurgence of Russia in the region. 


In the first round of enlargement, the US Senate was particularly concerned by three main issues when it debated giving its consent to the accession of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to NATO: the financial costs to current members, the reaction of Russia and the unwieldiness of a larger Alliance. Since it was difficult for senators to understand the NATO budget process, the potential costs were ambiguous, but the three candidates were believed sufficiently advanced economically to pay their way. The concern about Russia was tempered by Yeltsin's willingness to sign the Founding Act. And as far as the cohesion of a larger Alliance was concerned, NATO at 19 did not seem markedly different to NATO at 16.

The prospective second round of NATO's post-Cold War enlargement is not nearly as uncertain as the first. Many questioned the credibility of the "open-door" promise when no invitations were issued at NATO's 1999 50th anniversary summit in Washington. However, the creation at that time of the Membership Action Plan and, more importantly, the announcement that NATO would review the progress of the nine formal aspirants for membership at its 2002 summit did have the effect sought by enlargement proponents: it locked NATO into a process by which turning new members away in 2002 would cast severe doubts on the Alliance's credibility. When NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson said publicly in the summer of 2001 that the "zero option" was now "off the table" for the 2002 Prague Summit, NATO's next round of enlargement was no longer a question of when, but whom.

The second round is made easier by changes in the nature of the Europe-Russia-US relationship. In the early Clinton years, there were fears that Russia might abandon its efforts to reduce dramatically its nuclear arsenal or that a domestic backlash would lead to the return of Communists to power in the 1996 elections. In the first half of 2001, the Bush administration was less concerned about Russia's reaction than the Clinton team had been in 1996, because the new US foreign policy team did not see Russia as central to American diplomacy. There was also consensus that the main point of discord in Russian-US relations in the late 1990s had not been enlargement, which Russia could probably have accommodated in the spring of 1999 if that is all that NATO had done, but the Kosovo campaign. It was the latter that had caused Russian-US relations to deteriorate to their lowest level since the mid-1980s. Critically, in the wake of 11 September 2001, Russian-US relations have improved dramatically as President Vladimir Putin expressed an eagerness to cooperate in the campaign against terrorism and proposals for an enhanced NATO-Russian institutional relationship began circulating. As a result, the worries about Russia's reaction, that had been so great between 1994 and 1997, largely evaporated.

This is also the case for the Baltic Republics. President Yeltsin tried unsuccessfully to get President Clinton to shake hands in Helsinki in March 1997 on a "gentleman's agreement" that the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would never become NATO members. Since then, Russia has had to accept that it is unable to prevent these countries from joining the Alliance.

That said, as NATO-Russia relations have improved, the issue of joint decision-making has come to the fore. Indeed, at the end of 2001, NATO and Russia announced that they would present details of a successor to the Permanent Joint Council (PJC), the NATO-Russia forum created by the 1997 Founding Act, by the May 2002 meeting of NATO foreign ministers. While optimism for the prospects of NATO-Russia relations has probably never been greater, the core problem that existed in the PJC will be difficult to overcome in a new body, given that NATO does distinguish between members and non-members. In the PJC, NATO had to reach a consensus at 19 before an issue was discussed with Russia. This structural feature meant that for the Allies, Russia's role largely appeared to be that of undermining agreement of the North Atlantic Council, while for Moscow, it seemed as if Russia was invited to the PJC simply to give NATO a green light to do whatever its members had already decided.

It is possible that NATO and Russia will develop a mechanism to give Russia a role in the decision-making process on some issues, such as combating terrorism and curbing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. However, the experience of the PJC and the Russian-US Joint Early Warning Center, both of which were unveiled amid great fanfare and then failed to live up to their billing, should leave us somewhat sober about what will actually be accomplished. New Russian personnel at NATO with both instructions and the ability to engage constructively with their counterparts will be important for ensuring that the new NATO-Russia body is more effective than its predecessor.


What is most remarkable about the second round of enlargement is not the absence of worry about Russia's reaction, but rather the lack of any debate so far about what enlargement will mean for the functioning of the Alliance. Perhaps going from 16 to 19 did not seem a major step. But what about going from 19 to 24 or even 26? If 2002 brings both an enhanced relationship with Russia as well as a big increase in members, then the future role of the Alliance may be profoundly affected.

Tough questions about what further enlargement means for the way in which NATO functions as an alliance are, however, likely to be raised when the US Senate debates the second round of enlargement. To some US legislators, this next round may not appear to add sufficiently to NATO's military capacity. This is in contrast to the first round, which - because it included a country of the size and resources of Poland - was believed to be adding to NATO's military capabilities. Since then, however, doubts have been raised about the ability of the first three new Allies to sustain their commitments. Moreover, the argument that long-standing Allies have as hard a time reaching spending targets does not play well with sceptics.

The question of the potential contributions of new members is even more glaring this time. In my view, a likely scenario for the Prague Summit is for invitations to be issued to the following five countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Slovakia. Not inviting the Baltic Republics would be so obvious a sop to Russian chauvinism that it would be politically unacceptable. Slovenia has met the membership criteria since 1999, if not 1997. And Slovakia would have been included in the first round had it had a different government in the mid-1990s.

The problem, however, is that despite the willingness of all these aspirants and especially those in the Baltics to support the Alliance in general and the United States in particular, these countries have limited resources, populations and capabilities. Moreover, if elections in Slovakia next September produce a victory for the party of former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, that would leave four very small countries as the likeliest candidates. At least one country either of some size or geostrategic location is needed to make this round of enlargement look like a meaningful endeavour from a military point of view. This could open the door to Bulgaria and Romania. However, although both Sofia and Bucharest provided NATO with useful support during the Kosovo campaign, the political and economic difficulties that have plagued both countries over the years may prevent them taking advantage of the situation. While it may be true that enlargement has virtually nothing to do with enhancing capabilities, making it so flagrantly obvious could prompt a sharp debate about the purpose of the Alliance in the US Senate and elsewhere.

NATO has decided to explore the potential of creating a new NATO-Russia body and to take in at least some new members in 2002. What it has not done is engage in any real soul-searching about what role members expect NATO to play in the coming years as an alliance in responding to existing and future threats. While we often recall how critical NATO was for the Balkans in the 1990s, we tend to forget how critical the Balkans were for NATO. The missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo gave NATO a raison d'être after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But after 11 September, these missions will not be enough to keep NATO relevant during the coming decade. New threats to Europe and North America (as well as to Russia) emanate from outside Europe, not from the continent itself. NATO has yet to make the transition to an organisation that can protect its members against today's Article 5 threats. That is the fundamental challenge for NATO as it enlarges again and tries to work more closely with Russia.

James M. Goldgeier is director of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, George Washington University and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of Not Whether But When: The US Decision to Enlarge NATO (Brookings, Washington, 1999).

Silence of the bear

Dmitri Trenin analyses the reasons for the lack of vociferous Russian opposition to the prospect of NATO's next round of enlargement.

What a difference five years make. When NATO debated enlargement in the 1990s, the move was both ground-breaking and controversial. On the one hand, the Alliance sought to extend the zone of security and prosperity in Europe by reaching out to former Warsaw Pact countries. On the other, NATO risked upsetting Moscow and generating fears and suspicions about its future role and ambitions by taking in countries that had been allied to the Soviet Union during the Cold War and bordered Russia. The decision to invite the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to join the Alliance, which was taken at NATO's 1997 Madrid Summit, was both praised as a step toward consolidation of security on the continent and criticised as an attempt to redraw the "dividing lines" across Europe.

By contrast, the upcoming Prague Summit appears almost anti-climactic. The admission of new members to an already enlarged Alliance seems very nearly to be a routine excercise. New invitations will definitely be issued, prospective new entrants have already more or less been identified and national parliaments are unlikely to raise obstacles before ratifying accession treaties. Most striking, however, is the silence from Moscow. Some commentators no doubt attribute this to the new quality of relations between Russia and the West since the September 2001 terrorist attack against the United States. However, a close analysis of the statements and actions of President Vladimir Putin suggests that the current Russian leader has learned from the mistakes of his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, and, already in 2000, made a conscious decision to pursue a very different policy.

The lessons learned could be summarised as follows. First, Russia has neither the power nor the influence to block NATO membership for other European countries. Moreover, should it try to do so, it would almost certainly fail. And the more it tried, the more counterproductive such a policy would likely be. Second, NATO enlargement, as Poland's example has shown, does not actually diminish Russia's military security. Third, Moscow's legitimate security concerns can be addressed by the Alliance as part of the enlargement process. Fourth, after joining NATO, former members of the Warsaw Pact have felt sufficiently secure to reach out to and forge better relations with Moscow, which, in turn, has added to stability and security in that part of Europe. Finally, damage limitation is not enough. To avoid further crises, Russia must aim for a more organic relationship with NATO.

This does not, of course, mean that the Russian political establishment considers NATO enlargement to be either beneficial or in its interest. The "silence of the bear" should not be misinterpreted in the West amid hopes for a "new beginning". The bulk of Russia's political establishment, particularly the foreign, defence and security communities, still resent what some refer to as NATO's "eastern march", because it eats away at their self-esteem and the traditional notion of Russia as a great power.

Russian passion

The aspect of NATO enlargement which generates greatest passion in Russian policy circles is the likelihood of membership invitations being offered to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. As things stand, most analysts believe that NATO will invite at least one and possibly all three Baltic states to join the Alliance. This is problematic because it would, for the first time, bring the Alliance onto the territory of the former Soviet Union, which, from the Russian perspective, is the only issue that matters. Although the Russian elite has mentally come to terms with greatly reduced influence in Central Europe and the Balkans in recent years, the loss of super-power status has been a painful process and the admission of the Baltic states into NATO would mean crossing another important, though largely symbolic, threshold.

NATO's likely enlargement into the Baltics comes just after Moscow has had to swallow another bitter pill, namely the reality of permanent deployments of European and US military forces - sometimes, mistakenly, referred to as NATO deployments - in former Soviet Central Asia. A major consequence of Moscow's support for the US-led "war on terror" has been the relinquishing of a major tenet of Russia's security strategy, namely that of preventing outside powers from acquiring military bases on the territory of the former Soviet Union. The permanent affiliation of several former Soviet republics to NATO would be the final nail in this coffin and might provoke a domestic backlash for President Putin. In practice, however, he should be able to ride out the wave of criticism that will surely accompany Baltic accession to NATO and might even be able to use the event to encourage new strategic thinking in Russia.

President Putin's decision not to challenge the West on traditional geopolitical issues rests on highly pragmatic calculations related to Russia's economic needs and on the realisation that defending the indefensible is a lost cause. However, much of the foreign and defence establishment and the public at large are less visionary. To them, the West remains devious and their own leadership is hopelessly naïve not to oppose further Alliance enlargement, with the result that Russia is gradually being encircled by NATO. The critics need to be convinced that the country's security interests are still taken care of.

The immediate challenge for the Kremlin is to manage Baltic membership of the Alliance, if this does indeed become a reality. To be able to handle it, President Putin would, at the very least, expect a package of measures aimed at minimising the perceived slight to Russia, including pledges similar to those made by NATO during the first round of enlargement. This would mean, for example, no deployment of nuclear weapons and no permanent stationing of foreign forces on the new members' territory in peacetime. It would also probably require Baltic accession to the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, since this would make military activity and the stationing of foreign forces in the Baltic Republics more transparent. Ironically, membership of NATO might actually help improve relations between the Baltic Republics and Russia, in much the same way as it has contributed to an improvement in relations between Poland and Russia in recent years. The key factor for Estonia and Latvia will be the pace at which these countries integrate their Russian minorities. Once invitations are issued, achieving a comfortable degree of inter-ethnic cohesion in the two states is likely to become a matter of importance for the Alliance as a whole.

The Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, which has a population of about 900,000 and lies between Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic Sea, poses a special problem. The Russian government has clearly decided against pursuing the so-called "fortress Kaliningrad" option and the number of troops stationed in the area is steadily declining. However, although Moscow may gradually be reducing the military presence, this process is likely to be long and drawn-out and will not lead to the demilitarisation of Kaliningrad. This is because Moscow feels that it needs to maintain a military presence there to deter any attempt at secessionism. This raises the issue of transit to the enclave across or over NATO territory. Here, a solution should be relatively straightforward and could be based on an existing agreement between Lithuania and Russia, which has functioned effectively since the early 1990s.

A more creative approach to Kaliningrad would call for intensifying military-to-military links in the region, including meaningful Russian participation in Partnership-for-Peace activities and joint air-traffic control. Another bold idea, which has been put forward by a Moscow academic, is formally to integrate a Russian unit within the multinational Danish-German-Polish corps headquartered in Szczecin, Poland. The military dimension of the Kaliningrad problem, however, is overshadowed by economic and socio-political issues. Moscow may have rejected the "fortress Kaliningrad" option, but it still needs to come up with a realistic strategy for turning this isolated Russian oblast into a testing-ground for building deeper links with the European Union. 

Burying the hatchet

Moscow's greater problem with NATO enlargement is its inability to integrate itself properly in the Euro-Atlantic security framework. Many of those in Russia who favour such integration feel that NATO's door is open to every European country, except Russia, and fear that the best their country can hope for is to stand patiently and quietly at the end of a long line, without any guarantee of eventual admission. This motivates occasional Russian attempts to "jump the queue" and press for an exclusive relationship with, or even early membership of, the Alliance. Whether expressed in terms of seeking enhanced status or cravings to be party to NATO decision-making, Russia has a genuine national interest in burying the hatchet.

The events of recent months have both demonstrated how difficult it is to develop a new arrangement between NATO and Russia and highlighted how important it is for both. As far as Alliance governments are concerned, enlargement and relations with Russia are linked to the broader issue of NATO's future. Debates about the Alliance's future tend to focus on the importance of the transatlantic link and on the need to improve military capabilities as well as burden-sharing among Allies. Less attention is given to the fact that one of NATO's greatest strengths - and, after the end of the Cold War, probably the greatest - lies in the political realm.

By integrating first Italy and then the Federal Republic of Germany, the Alliance helped bring stability and peace to Western Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War. While European economic integration was essential in cementing this peace, the military alliance came first, providing the stability and confidence required for economic regeneration. Moreover, the Alliance also served as the strategic anchor for Europe's traditional great powers, France and the United Kingdom, once they had divested themselves of their overseas possessions. Indeed, even as members of the European Union strive to create a European security and defence policy, NATO remains the principal institution underpinning their security.

The admission of Central European nations to NATO has already helped consolidate democracy and the rule of law in these countries, in particular, by reforming civil-military relations. Moreover, the very aspiration of Alliance membership has contributed to building stability in Southeastern Europe and the Baltics, since the Alliance insists that candidate countries resolve outstanding border and minority issues before they are able to join. Indirectly, but equally importantly, NATO enlargement provides a form of political insurance for foreign capital investment in the new member countries, assisting economic development. While the process of NATO enlargement will be evolutionary and anything but automatic, the longer it lasts, the more "technical" it will come to be perceived.

NATO will also continue to play a role in managing and preventing crises in the Balkans, and in helping secure conditions for a sustainable peace there. Fortunately, however, the number of politically explosive situations in Europe has declined since the early 1990s and there are likely to be few new "Bosnias" and "Kosovos". With regard to NATO's southern flank, the Alliance's Mediterranean Dialogue addresses a range of volatile issues but, essentially, it is European and US diplomatic services that are seeking to develop a formula for lasting peace in the Middle East.

Russia's integration with NATO could be the next long-term project for the Alliance. It is an ambitious goal, admittedly, but one which is gradually coming within reach. It will require a major and sustained effort, but the ultimate prize, namely Europe whole and free, is worth striving for. In this context, the debate on possible Russian membership of the Alliance is misleading. While still some years away, the right formula for the new relationship could be an alliance with NATO. A Russia living in harmony with its European neighbours will be the ultimate achievement of enlightened Western European policies. For now, the prime goal should be to use NATO-Russia cooperation on addressing new security threats, such as international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to help dismantle the still formidable surviving Cold-War infrastructure.

Above all, the new cooperative relationship should be inclusive, not exclusive, and give the Russian political leadership enough credibility to order a fundamental review of their country's defence planning and military doctrine. President Putin should be formally invited to come to Prague - and he should come. But before he has a chance to bless the new round of enlargement with his presence, he should be able to demonstrate to the people at home that NATO is an enlarging friend, not an expanding adversary.

Dmitri Trenin is deputy director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Following in the footsteps

Andrzej Karkoszka examines how the experience of the newest NATO Allies could influence decisions to issue further membership invitations at the Prague Summit.

As NATO's Prague Summit approaches, the debate on the future of the Alliance, its growth, and influence in the world is intensifying. Before any decisions are taken, it is worth examining the concerns that confronted NATO in the years preceding the Madrid Summit, the event at which the historic decision was taken to invite former members of the Warsaw Pact to join, as well as the experiences of the three new Allies, both as candidates and members. Is, for example, Europe more secure today as a result of the 1999 round of NATO enlargement? Has the Alliance been strengthened or weakened by the admission of new states? And were the many fears about possible negative consequences of that historic step justified?

Although the overall assessment of their membership in NATO has unquestionably been positive, the years since the Madrid Summit have, in many respects, not been easy for the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Financial difficulties, an economic slowdown in their main trading partners and the NATO campaign in Kosovo have tested their pledge to be net "producers", rather than "consumers" of security, as well as their reliability as Alliance members. Moreover, the legacy of more than four decades of communist rule has been difficult to overcome.

When in 1990, NATO extended a "hand of friendship" to its former Warsaw Pact adversaries, few analysts could have envisaged that within seven years three of these countries would be invited to join the Alliance. In addition to the many political hurdles that had to be surmounted, these countries had armed forces that were militarily incompatible with those of NATO members. Indeed, the adaptation of prospective members' military capabilities and defence policies to NATO standards seemed likely to take decades. After all, it was a decade or so before the German and, later, Spanish militaries could integrate fully with Allied armed forces after their admission to NATO.

In the event, the political hurdles turned out to be only a relatively minor obstacle in view of the resolve and tenacity of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to build a democratic system of government, market economy and society based on the rule of law. Reforming the militaries of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland has proved a far greater task as a result of the legacy of Soviet structures, doctrine and mindset. However, despite many technical and procedural incompatibilities, which still existed at the moment of entry, the three new members have managed to operate within NATO's integrated military structures.

The key to getting the militaries of the three new members up to the maximum basic level of interoperability with Alliance armed forces was the Partnership for Peace programme. Although initially interpreted by the countries of Central and Eastern Europe as a mechanism enabling unenthusiastic NATO members to postpone a decision on their early admission to the Alliance, it proved an extremely effective way gradually to build professional bonds, to harmonise standards and procedures, and to transform the technical and organisational incompatibilities into functioning systems. Once the militaries of the three candidate countries recognised the Partnership for Peace as the practical road towards NATO membership, they became its unequivocal proponents.

Military reform

In retrospect, however, it is clear that the Partnership for Peace and, later, the Planning and Review Process (PARP) - a process which lays out detailed interoperability and capability requirements for participants and reviews progress towards meeting them - contributed only a fraction of the assistance needed to complete the reform of former Warsaw Pact militaries to bring them up to the standards needed to meet future security requirements. The task of implementing reforms turned out to be a much greater challenge than anticipated. Defence budgets were too small, defence planning and programming lacking, force preparedness and weapons systems poor, the technological gap huge, and the capacity to field enough personnel for operating within Allied structures insufficient.

In fact, the technical and structural transformation of the three new members' defence systems proved the lesser of two major problems, irrespective of the issue of resources. Much more serious were changes of a political and systemic character, such as introducing effective democratic civilian control of the armed forces. Early difficulties in this respect were due, on the one hand, to opposition from the military, fearful of losing its decisive voice in matters of strategy, budgets, procurement and personnel, and, on the other, the lack of suitably qualified civilians.

The painful experience of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in the field of military reform contributed to the development within NATO of the Membership Action Plan (MAP), a programme to prepare the next candidate countries for possible Alliance membership. The MAP is a more robust mechanism than either the Partnership for Peace or PARP and gives NATO a means to assess the performance of the candidates and participating nations more insight into the demands of future membership. Though it does not directly help resolve all issues of building the military capabilities required, the MAP certainly creates better opportunities to prepare for the challenges ahead.

The cost of enlargement to the Alliance was a key issue in the run-up to the Madrid Summit. Early estimates in the tens of billions of dollars proved excessively high as they had been based on calculations shaped by a Cold War mindset and scenarios. NATO has, in fact, coped relatively easily with the additional financial burden. That said, the new members have struggled to meet the financial obligations of membership. While all three countries drew up comprehensive programmes for modernising and restructuring their armed forces before joining the Alliance, these plans did not reflect the real complexities of the fundamental reform needed. Further, they were based on predictions of economic growth, which turned out to be optimistic. The economic slowdown made it difficult to maintain the desired levels of defence expenditure.

In spite of a parliamentary declaration urging the government to raise military spending to three per cent of GDP, Poland has failed to increase the resources allocated to defence. Hungary too has failed to live up to its promise, given during the enlargement negotiations, to raise military spending by 0.1 per cent a year. Moreover, in both the Czech Republic and Hungary, force reductions undertaken in the hope of saving resources for upgrading technical systems were insufficient. Additional funds are needed over a long period to achieve these goals and many planned projects have had to be postponed. To keep up with their obligations under NATO's force goals and readiness standards, an increasingly wide gap is opening within the armed forces of all three new members between rapid-reaction frontline units, with relatively high standards of weapons and readiness, and second-tier forces, with older equipment, less training and lower morale. Fulfilment of obligations under the jointly approved force goals has only been achieved with some pain, indicating that the goals had been set without proper appreciation of the resources required.

A key lesson, which has been learned the hard way in all three new member countries, is that decisions on defence funding must be politically sustainable in the long term and that this requires a broad social and political consensus. Even in Poland, where the armed forces are held in high popular regard and public support for NATO membership has been unshakeable throughout the past decade, this has not translated into comparable support for an increase in defence spending, which has, nevertheless, remained stable at just over two per cent of GDP. Defence modernisation plans require greater expenditure or more drastic restructuring. However, the benign security environment, on the one hand, and the challenges posed by preparations for integration with the European Union, on the other, make it difficult to garner support for increased defence spending. Drastic restructuring, on the other hand, is hindered by institutional resistance and also by uncertainty as to how armed forces should be restructured and what priorities should be set. This is not only a problem for the new members. Many long-standing members as well as the new aspirants face similar difficulties.

Kosovo campaign

The threat to stability in Southeastern Europe posed by violence in Kosovo confronted both the Alliance as a whole and the new members in particular with an immense challenge. The politically controversial decision to intervene required a high degree of cohesion and consensus-building, which many analysts expected to be more difficult as a result of the admission of three new members. In the event, however, this was not the case and it proved as easy to make the decision to intervene at 19 as it would have been at 16. The new members, nevertheless, immediately had their pledges of loyalty put to the test and were called upon to demonstrate a practical appreciation of the Alliance's values that they had accepted in theory during the negotiations and preparation for membership.

Making the decision to intervene in Kosovo was not easy for the new members. All three countries had a history of good relations with Yugoslavia in general and a friendly disposition towards Serbia in particular. Moreover, Hungary was particularly worried about the possibility of reprisals against the ethnic Hungarian minority over the border in Yugoslavia. Public opinion, especially in the Czech Republic, was not entirely convinced of the rationale for military action. None of their forces had expected to be called to duty so soon and all were reluctant to take on the additional financial burden. These concerns and others were, however, openly discussed before the North Atlantic Council took its decision to launch the operation based on the need to preserve regional stability and the urgency of the humanitarian situation. Critically, the new members rose to meet this first and most difficult test and all three countries participated in the campaign and follow-on peacekeeping mission.

While concerns expressed prior to the Madrid Summit about the potential negative consequences of enlargement on the cohesion and effectiveness of the Alliance proved unfounded, this may not always be the case. Should a large group of countries join the Alliance, its mechanisms of consensus-building may be put under unbearable strain and break down or, at the least, be weakened. This concern, like the earlier one, may also be proven unjustified. After all, the support and cooperation of countries like Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* during the Kosovo operation, which often required resolute political decision-making and a strong sense of affinity with the Alliance's goals, was exemplary. Nevertheless, the issue must be addressed before invitations are tendered. The issue of numbers alone may on this occasion be the main problem, creating an administrative, rather than a political, overload.

Relations with Russia

Among the host of complexities of the enlargement debate of the 1990s, the issue of relations with Russia was of one of the most intractable. Although Russia had no direct say in or power of veto over the decision, the country was seen then and is treated now as an indispensable partner in building and maintaining security in the Euro-Atlantic area. While enlargement was never in any way directed against Russia and was not seen by either the Alliance or by the three candidate countries as an obstacle to friendly relations, such reasoning was not shared in Moscow. Great-power instincts and a long tradition of dominating the neighbourhood made it painful to see former allies shape independent destinies. Intransigence backed Russia into a political corner, from which the only way to influence events was by becoming a problem, as, for example, during the negotiations on the Founding Act of 1997. Moreover, misperceptions and suspicions were aggravated further by the Kosovo campaign.

In the eyes of the candidate countries, especially in Poland, Russian policy in the late 1990s was designed to preserve a special droit de regard in Eastern Europe and to spoil the value of enlargement by enforcing second-class membership on the new entrants, undermining their Article 5 security guaranties. If this was indeed Russia's intent, it failed. NATO, for its part, did as much as it could to assure Russia of its benign intentions without negating its obligations towards the three new partners by adopting a careful policy of confidence-building, embodied in the decision not to station Alliance forces and nuclear weapons on the territory of the new members.

The experience of the past three years and of cooperation in building peace in the former Yugoslavia have persuaded many in Russia that they can live with an enlarged NATO. This is reflected in, for example, the recent improvement in Russian relations with Poland. After close to a decade of mutual suspicion, Russia and Poland have put their bilateral relationship on a new equitable and mutually beneficial footing. Indeed, in contrast to earlier predictions, membership of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in NATO has not caused any deterioration in relations between these countries and Russia.

While Moscow remains unconvinced of the arguments in favour of NATO enlargement, further membership invitations are no longer perceived as being so great a threat or as so detrimental to Russia's interests. As a result, the Russian factor is receding as an obstacle to the next round of Alliance enlargement. This development and the experience of the first three countries to join NATO in the post-Cold War period should facilitate decision-making in Prague and enable the Allies to open the benefits of Alliance membership to many more candidate countries.

Andrzej Karkoszka is head of the think tank at the Democratic Control of Armed Forces Centre in Geneva and a former deputy defence minister of Poland.

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

Can NATO remain an effective military and political alliance if it keeps growing?
Ronald D. Asmus              VERSUS                 Charles Grant

Ronald D. Asmus is a senior fellow for European studies at the Council on Foreign Relations ( He was deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs at the State Department between 1997 and 2000 where he was responsible for NATO and European security issues. He is the author of Opening NATO's Door (Columbia University Press), a diplomatic history of NATO enlargement that will appear later this year.

Charles Grant is director of the London-based Centre for European Reform ( He is author of several CER publications, including Europe 2010: an optimistic vision of the future and Europe's Military Revolution, which he co-wrote with Gilles Andréani and Christoph Bertram.



Dear Charles,

I look forward to this exchange. As a proponent of both enlargement and an effective NATO, I have long felt that this issue must be addressed openly and honestly.

Of course NATO can remain effective as it gets larger. Whether it will is an issue I will turn to in a second. But first things first. Having pro-Atlanticist Allies is certainly in principle a good thing. Past enlargements have made NATO stronger, not weaker. And Central and Eastern European candidate countries are often even more enthusiastic about NATO than some existing members.

The strategic purpose behind NATO enlargement was to overcome Europe's Cold War divide, consolidate democracy in Central and Eastern Europe and make the Alliance a cornerstone of a new pan-European security structure. This implied that the Alliance would eventually embrace much, if not all, of the eastern half of the continent. Individual countries would remain outside because they failed to qualify or by choice for their own historical reasons. But NATO's final contours (like those of the European Union) will reflect today's Europe - and will therefore eventually include between 25 and 30 countries.

But that does not fully answer the question posed to us: whether today's NATO - as it currently exists and not in theory - will get stronger as it enlarges, especially if we embrace a large group of candidates at this year's Prague Summit. My answer is that an Alliance of this size can function effectively if we successfully tackle the following three challenges.

First, we need to discuss how to streamline a bigger NATO. The Alliance's way of doing business may have to be revamped - perhaps even radically. We should discuss this openly and without taboos. It is striking that the European Union is having a far-reaching debate about how it will function as it enlarges, yet there is hardly a murmur about this in NATO. I understand the sensitivities. But if we can't debate this within NATO officialdom, then perhaps we should gather a group of wise men to reflect on the issue - before Prague.

Second, NATO's future effectiveness will depend first and foremost on the performance and capabilities of its members - both new and old. The reality is that the performance of the first three new members has not been as good as we had hoped. And many current candidate countries are smaller and weaker. We need a better system to help new members stay on track once they join the Alliance and the pressure to perform starts to recede. But let's be honest. We also need a better system of incentives for existing Allies to ensure that they perform as well. Most of NATO's current weaknesses are not due to new members, but the poor performance of old members in recent years.

Third, the key question for the future is, in my view, not NATO's numbers but its purpose. It is not roster but rationale. In the 1990s, NATO went from being an alliance between the United States and Western European countries designed to deter a residual Russian threat to one between the United States and Europe as a whole that reached out to its erstwhile Cold War foe, Russia, and reoriented itself to face new threats. Already at this time, several of us raised the question of how NATO would evolve if and when we succeeded in stabilising Central and Eastern Europe and putting relations with Russia on a new cooperative basis.

That day may have arrived. We are close to succeeding in consolidating peace and stability in the eastern half of the continent. The danger of Russia re-emerging as a threat to its neighbours continues to recede. While there are still sources of instability in the Euro-Atlantic area, they no longer constitute major or existential threats to our security. This is, of course, all good news. At the same time, 11 September has shown us that there are other existential threats to the security of NATO members - but they come from beyond Europe and are threats for which the Alliance is poorly prepared.

NATO therefore faces a fairly fundamental choice. It can continue to focus on the diminishing threats within the Euro-Atlantic area. Its mission would in essence be to continue to keep an already pretty stable continent stable. Alternatively, the Alliance could transform itself to confront the major security threats of the day - nearly all of which come from beyond Europe. In this case, NATO would remain a military alliance but would focus on the new military threats facing its members.

These are weighty issues. I look forward to debating them with you.


Dear Ron,

I agree with you that NATO is a valuable organisation that badly needs reform. I also agree that the Alliance's enlargement into Central and Eastern Europe is desirable. NATO, like the European Union, is helping to spread peace, security and stability across the eastern half of the continent. However, I doubt that the new, post-enlargement NATO will be a strong military organisation.

When you talk of NATO being strong, you mean militarily strong. I think the Alliance will remain politically significant, but I think its military importance has diminished and will diminish further. Of course, the Alliance has always had both a military and a political purpose. And since the end of the Cold War, NATO has taken on a new military task, that of peacekeeping in the Balkans. Overall, however, the Alliance's political role - as a pan-European security organisation - has become important. In 1997, the United States pushed its Allies to accept three new members, as it is pushing them to accept several at November's Prague Summit, in order to bind them into the Euro-Atlantic political space.

Yet, as you yourself acknowledge, the Czechs, Hungarians and Poles subtract more than they add to the Alliance's military effectiveness. The next round of enlargement, too, will weaken the coherence and efficiency of the military organisation. The current Bush administration, like the Clinton administration in which you served, believes that the political gain from enlargement is more important than the military loss. I agree. 

What has happened since 11 September has surely reinforced the long-term trend for NATO to become a political organisation. The Bush administration did not want to use NATO to fight the war in Afghanistan. This was partly for the perfectly good reason that the Alliance did not have many of the military capabilities that would be useful in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida . But it was also because many people in the Pentagon see NATO as a relatively marginal, European organisation. They used it to run the air campaign over Kosovo and Serbia in 1999, but they found its many committees - which enabled individual countries, such as France, to veto the bombing of certain targets - frustratingly slow to deal with.

The United States is unlikely to want to use NATO to run another serious shooting war. It would rather manage a military operation itself, perhaps taking just a few close allies into the command just a few close allies into the command structure. Of course, the United States is happy for NATO to run peacekeeping missions in the Balkans. However, unless the European Union utterly fails to meet the target of its "headline goal" - the ability to deploy and sustain for a year a force of 60,000 troops by 2003 - the European Union will start to take over some of that peacekeeping role. Already there are plans for the European Union to replace NATO as the body in charge of the 1,000 (all European) troops in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*. If the European Union can meet that challenge successfully, it may later take over the Bosnia mission. The Bush administration has made it clear that Europeans should take on responsibility for looking after their own backyard, and that seems reasonable enough.

NATO may be left to run those peacekeeping missions which the European Union regards as too difficult to manage, such as that in Kosovo. Would NATO then be seen as a militarily strong organisation, compared to the NATO which defended Europe from the Soviet Union or fought the Kosovo air campaign?

I would certainly not argue that the peacekeeping role is unimportant. I also value the role NATO plays in encouraging its members to make their forces interoperable, so that they can communicate and work together on common missions. If the European Union is able to run a successful peacekeeping mission in the Balkans, it will be making use of the skills of NATO's operational planners, and profiting from the habit of collaboration that NATO's integrated military structure has encouraged among its members (and also with the countries, which are not part of the integrated military structure but have taken part in NATO-led Balkan operations, namely France and the neutral EU countries).

However, NATO's military tasks - as a peacekeeping organisation and godfather to the European Union's embryonic military ambitions - are surely less important than its political roles: keeping the United States engaged in European security; helping to unify the two halves of the continent; and - in the future, I hope - giving Russia a formal place in the management of European security. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's idea of a new council, consisting of the 19 members of NATO plus Russia, in which they could discuss topics of common concern, is promising. I am sad that conservative elements in the Pentagon have - at least for now - delayed the implementation of this concept.

I see NATO becoming a pan-European security organisation that would still have a military structure. That structure would be focused principally on Europe and its near abroad. You seem to want NATO to play an active, global role in the fight against terrorism. Is NATO well placed to take on that task? And how many people in the US defence establishment share your view?



Dear Charles,

Whether a larger NATO remains militarily strong or becomes weaker depends on the policies we craft. There is no law of Alliance politics dictating that NATO has to get militarily weaker as it enlarges. New members have had a harder time integrating than we had hoped, but they have not weakened NATO. They are making a real contribution in the Balkans and elsewhere. That contribution will grow over time. Having struggled to gain their freedom, these countries understand the need to defend it.

But our real disagreement lies elsewhere. You suggest that NATO's role will become more political because the military threats in Europe are disappearing and because it is either not desirable or too hard for NATO to tackle the new threats from beyond Europe. I believe NATO must address these new threats. The "political" NATO you sketch would, in my view, quickly be reduced to a kind of housekeeping role on the continent. If NATO is not involved in the central strategic issues facing our countries, it will cease to be central in our policies. A "political" NATO is a halfway house for the Alliance's demise.

The administration I served was working toward a vision of NATO in which, having stabilised Central and Eastern Europe and locked in a new cooperative relationship with Russia, the Alliance's natural evolution was to embrace new missions further afield because that was where future threats would come from. We tried to lay a foundation for NATO to move in this direction in the run-up to the 1999 Washington Summit, but made limited progress because most European Allies preferred to restrict NATO's role to crisis-management operations in Europe's near abroad.

But hasn't 11 September demonstrated that we were not visionary enough? Article 5 threats to our security do not come only or even primarily from Europe's near abroad. They can come from beyond Europe - from terrorism and countries with weapons of mass destruction. In a world where terrorist attacks are planned in Europe, financed in Asia and carried out in the United States, it hardly makes sense to talk about limiting NATO to Europe's near abroad. What will Europe do if and when terrorists strike at a major European city with weapons of mass destruction?

I hope 11 September was a wake-up call. Shortly after the terrorist attacks, I attended a dinner in Washington with a leading European foreign minister. He asked whether future historians would not criticise our leaders for their complacency in letting our defences atrophy at a time when a new totalitarian threat was emerging. He may have been right. At the Washington Summit, NATO heads of state and government committed themselves to building an Alliance as effective in dealing with the threats of the 21st century as it had been in winning the Cold War. If we are serious about that commitment, we must make NATO a better tool to deal with the threats of our time.

How many people in Washington share my view? More than supported NATO enlargement when others and I first advocated it. On a serious note, I remain hopeful that the Bush administration will build on the foundation it inherited and make new missions a central theme of the Prague Summit. It would be a mistake to abandon that policy precisely when Europeans are accepting its necessity. For decades, the United States has encouraged European Allies to play a more active out-of-area role. Our need for allies and alliances has increased, not decreased, since 11 September.

I believe the Bush administration missed an opportunity after 11 September to consolidate a consensus in NATO on new missions. But the problem is not only this administration's unilateralist instincts. It is Europe's repeated failure to invest in defence or to take new threats seriously. One depressing part of my State Department job was reading reports on how, year in year out, European Allies failed to achieve NATO force goals and how little European governments and publics cared. The more serious Europeans are about defence, the more seriously they will be taken in Washington.


Dear Ron,

You want to give NATO a global military role in tackling the new threats to security. My difference with you is not, in the main, over the desirability of NATO evolving in the way you suggest. But I have strong doubts about the feasibility. Let's think first about NATO's geographical scope. You are right that modern security threats are global. Americans often accuse Europeans of being introverted and worrying only about their own backyard. It is true that many Europeans lack the global vision of the US foreign policy elite - and, let's be frank, the over-concentration on Europe's near abroad is a particular problem in some of the smaller EU countries.

Nevertheless the Europeans, but not the Americans, sent troops to East Timor. There are British and French soldiers in Africa, but no Americans. And even in Kabul, the International Security Assistance Force is largely European. So let's not exaggerate Europe's introspection. That said, the Europeans do have to prioritise when they plan for using their too-scarce military capabilities. When considering where to use their "headline goal" forces, they think of the Balkans and Africa. Given the United States' lack of interest in Africa, and its desire to cut back involvement in the Balkans, those European priorities probably make sense. And since the Europeans lack the resources to develop separate forces and planning capabilities for EU and for NATO missions, there is not much sense in NATO - an organisation whose members, with two exceptions, are European - focusing its plans on flashpoints such as Kashmir, Korea or Taiwan.

Now, if the Bush administration was keen for NATO to engage in military operations in places such as Afghanistan, this argument would change. But, as far as I know, the administration wants NATO to "look after" Europe while unilateral operations, or coalitions of the willing, sort out the new security threats.

Divisions of labour are not only geographical. I share your frustration that European efforts to develop useful military capabilities are impaired by insufficient budgets and, importantly, inadequate military reform. This does mean that the United States finds it increasingly difficult to work with European forces in a high-intensity conflict. I agree with you that this damages Alliance cohesion, but the reality is that European capabilities are not going to improve dramatically in the foreseeable future. Perhaps we should accept that a great deal of division of labour is inevitable, and make the best of it. Each side of the Atlantic can do something that the other side does not want to do: the Europeans are happy to provide large numbers of peacekeepers, while the United States is happy to spend money on high-tech military equipment. Therefore they both need each other. That could be good for Alliance cohesion.

Finally, you want the Alliance to focus on the new security threats, like terrorism and weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Of course NATO should do what it can against such threats, but how well suited is it to play a leading role? The fight against terrorism surely requires the sharing of intelligence and speedy decision-taking. A large multinational bureaucracy with - soon, perhaps - 25 members may not be well suited to such a struggle. The same argument applies to WMD. Is not NATO too leaky and slow-moving to manage an offensive operation that would, for example, destroy biological weapons factories? I suspect that the Pentagon would rather fight terrorism and WMD on its own, or with a small group of allies that can be trusted to keep a secret, provide skilled forces and accept US command.


Dear Charles,

If we agree that the United States and Europe should elevate dealing with the new threats to our common security - nearly all of which come from beyond Europe - to a centrepiece of future transatlantic strategic cooperation, then we have found important common ground. This need not mean that NATO has to "go global" (not even I see a NATO role in the Spratly Islands). But it does mean that NATO must have the capability to act in Central Asia, the Middle East and the Gulf. That is, after all, where the greatest threats to our future common security probably lie.

Is it feasible? I am not sure. But we must try. The questions you raise are legitimate and must be answered.But they are also the kind of issues that sceptics raised in 1949 when NATO was being created, and in the early 1990s when NATO enlargement was first discussed. I am glad our leaders at the time ordered their aides to find a way to make this work and didn't follow the advice of the naysayers.

We need the same approach and level of commitment today. The strategic issue we face is whether the West can reorganise itself to confront a world in which terrorism and weapons of mass destruction pose a new, potentially existential threat. If the most advanced and wealthy countries of the transatlantic community cannot figure out how to do this, then something is surely wrong. I hope we don't have to wait until the next attacks, potentially killing far greater numbers of Americans or Europeans, before we decide to get our act together.

Let's also not give up on the Bush administration. Its policies are still evolving. On NATO enlargement and NATO-Russia, it has embraced continuity with its predecessor. It has yet to decide whether it wants to embrace new missions as a major NATO priority at the Prague Summit. I hope it does. Otherwise, it could preside over the marginalisation and eventual demise of the United States' most important alliance.


Dear Ron,

You are certainly right that NATO should prepare to operate in Central Asia, the Middle East and the Gulf. I agree that NATO should develop its military organisation, as best it can, to cope with new missions. Even if the results are not brilliant, NATO will be a useful tool for its members if it tries hard to re-tool itself for new challenges in new areas. And you were right to signal, in your opening letter, that NATO needs institutional reform. NATO may not need the extravagant Convention that the European Union has established to rethink its institutions, but a group of wise persons should consider the fundamentals of how NATO operates.

However, my big worry is not whether NATO can evolve into a effective organisation. It is rather that political leaders on the two sides of the Atlantic are finding it increasingly difficult to find common ground in their views of the world. Europeans are concerned that the United States seems interested only in military solutions to terrorist threats; that it seems relatively oblivious to the economic, political and cultural roots of terrorism; that it spends so little on development assistance to the world's poorest countries; and that it appears to have a phobia of international treaties. Americans, for their part, are frustrated by Europe's inability to improve its military capabilities; by its slow-moving and often ineffective institutions; by its desire to trade with rather than isolate and threaten rogue states; and by its tendency to sanctify international treaties and organisations.

If American and European governments continue to talk past each other, as they seem to have done in the first two months of this year, NATO cannot be an effective organisation. But if they can make more of an effort to understand each others' concerns, and thus speak and act in a manner which takes those concerns into account, Americans and Europeans will be able to renew their common purpose. And then a new and transformed NATO has a future, as an instrument of that common purpose. I am sure you agree.


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

Book review
Modernising militaries

Sebestyén L. v. Gorka reviews three books on military reform since the end of the Cold War.

The crises of the past decade in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Somalia, Kosovo and Afghanistan can leave no one in any doubt of the fundamental transformation that armed forces have undergone in the post-Cold War era, in means, mission and relationship with the rest of society. Each of the three books under review seeks to address issues of how modern militaries relate to the societies that surround and sustain them, and how they should be applied to current challenges.

The first two books - NATO Enlargement and Central Europe: a study in civil-military relations (NDU Press, Washington, 1996) by Jeffrey Simon and the compilation of essays, Army and State in Postcommunist Europe (Frank Cass, London, 2001), edited by David Betz and John Löwenhardt - deal specifically with the challenges facing former Warsaw Pact countries and are essentially aimed at a limited and specialist audience. Internationally, English-speaking analysts specialising in this field are few and far between. They tend to be closely acquainted with the problems at hand, often having served in government positions related to the defence sector, so there is little room for inaccuracies or generalisations. The third book, The Intervention Debate: towards a posture of principled judgement (US Army War College, Carlisle, PA, 2002) by John Garafino, grapples with the timely and thorny issue of when a nation should use force in this new age. The work of an American author focused on US military deployment strategy might seem like the odd-man out in this trio. But the reality is that all developed nations are currently challenged by the sea change in the strategic environment that was heralded by the end of the Cold War. In spite of the oppressive, ultimate threat of a Third World War, there was a comfortable predictability and stability about that bygone era because the enemy, task and tools were self-evident. Today, the fruits of the post-Cold War peace dividend are seen in downsized militaries and cuts in defence budgets, while at the same time a host of new and expensive missions such as peace enforcement, peacekeeping and nation-building are stretching capabilities and resources. All NATO members are affected by these changes, as are those countries that wish to be closely associated with the Alliance and contribute to its new missions.

Although Jeffrey Simon's book was published six years ago, his book is included in this review for two reasons. First, his almost monthly visits to the region in the years preceding NATO's first round of enlargement in 1999, allowed Simon practically to corner the market among Western writers detailing efforts to reform Central European armies. It would be difficult to find another scholar with so many column inches published on the countries concerned, given his 1996 tome as well as regular reports published in Strategic Forum , the newsletter of the Institute for National Security Studies at the National Defense University. Second, with decisions on NATO's next round of enlargement due at the Prague Summit in November and with a follow-up work by Simon on the same topic in the pipeline, it would be useful to remind ourselves of the assessments he made of defence reform in Central European countries prior to the 1999 Washington Summit.

The book is split into a general discussion of initiatives taken by NATO to facilitate cooperation and potential enlargement followed by a country-by-country, chronologically structured description of the approaches to military reform in the early 1990s and the extent to which they were being implemented. Germany is examined with respect to the absorption of the East German Nationale Volksarmee into the Bundeswehr, followed by chapters on Czechoslovakia and its successor states, Hungary and Poland. In conclusion, Simon sums up the burning issues that are common to all. Each country report is almost overwhelming in the level of detail, particularly in terms of individuals cited and descriptions of actions by key players, reflecting the author's access to and frequent meetings with many of the personalities involved. Consequently, a good overview is given of the downsizing and organisational changes made to the armed forces as well as the specific obstacles to reform in each case.

The chapter on Poland gives readers an insight into the conflict between President Walesa and the civilian elite of the Polish MoD, on the one hand, and a certain Chief of the General Staff, who could at times be rather creative in his interpretation of constitutional strictures and the chain of command, on the other. In the Hungarian case, the improvised understanding Budapest had - and still has - of the meaning of civilian control of the military is well documented. Simon's main criticism is summed up in the sub-heading: From Citizens in Uniform to Generals in Suits . Constitutional confusion is highlighted as being a true obstacle to meaningful control and reform of the armed forces, as is the weakness of the parliamentary defence committee in overseeing defence expenditure. Overall, even in the shorter chapters on Czechoslovakia and its successor states, Simon lays a firm foundation for further examination of the difficulties each country faced and, in some cases, still faces in the transition from a military system that served Moscow, was top-heavy in officers and completely undervalued delegation of responsibility to non-commissioned officers, to a system of independent forces with modern capabilities, defined around national and consensus-based Alliance needs, in which initiative is rewarded.

The only criticisms of Simon's work are slight and hard to overcome. The true extent of an author's understanding of a country and its specific problems - especially in a sector as specialist as defence - without knowledge of the relevant language or languages can always be questioned. As someone who was also involved in the defence reform process, it is at times easy to spot where a little native knowledge would have rounded out the true picture or helped clarify some unresolved questions. Nevertheless, the conclusions drawn by the author remain valid. Most of the countries concerned needed to take defence and military reform more seriously and to boost the prestige of a long-neglected sector, as well as to do more to live up to their international financial and political commitments. Unfortunately, while three of the countries examined have joined NATO in the intervening years, not much has changed since the book was published.

Frank Cass must be the preferred publisher for security-policy analysts, having carved a niche for itself comparable to none, except perhaps Greenwoods of the United States, by underwriting small print-run journals on intelligence, law enforcement and terrorism and publishing treatises on narrowly defined Cold War topics. I am often leery of such compilations of essays as Army and State in Postcommunist Europe ; often the constituent parts are too loosely linked, too varied in quality, or the collection simply reflects a need to publish papers in the wake of an international conference. Moreover, I have an aversion to less than useful labels such as "Postcommunist" - we may understand the geographical limits of such a term but, in jumbling together such disparate nations as Slovenia and the Russian Federation, it can hardly be judged scientifically as a "discrete grouping". These biases aside, this book also concentrates on a field that is little understood and should therefore be welcomed.

Nine essays are presented, some of which are more general, such as the overview of civil-military relations in the new democracies by Chris Donnelly of NATO, and others more specific, such as Pavel Baev's review of army reform in Russia. At times, the authors resort to officialese when describing realities in their own countries. However, this fact is mitigated by some of the areas selected for analysis, which are rarely - if ever - covered elsewhere. Examples of such vanguard work are Anton Bebler's contribution which focuses on corruption among security personnel in Central and Eastern Europe and Sven Gunnar Simonsen's piece which, among other issues, looks at nationalism within the Russian armed forces. Generally, the book is useful, at least in so far as it broadens the horizons of a country specialist and allows the more general reader to become rapidly acquainted with some of the most persistent security-related legacies of Communism.

In his monograph, John Garafano, a former fellow of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, focuses on the way in which the West - primarily the United States - should use its armed forces. In doing so, he immediately sets himself up for comparison with the great name in Western civil-military relations theory, Samuel P. Huntington, whose seminal work, The Soldier and the State , remains mandatory reading for all in the field, although it was first published in 1957. Many have written on the topic over the past decade but this recently published work is one of the more comprehensive and systematic examinations to date.

The first half of the book is devoted to defining what the author regards as the four fundamental frameworks employed by US administrations since the Vietnam War to approach the issue of how and when to use armed force. He labels these the Doctrinal or Strict Criteria Approach, Intuitive Interventionism, Critical Overload/Sliding Scale and the Logical Framework. In keeping with the tradition of almost every scholar of US foreign or national-security policy, Garafano links each methodology to a personality - Weinberger, Shultz/Albright, Clinton and Powell/Bush,respectively - though, in reality, there may be more to such phase changes than changes at the top.Each policy framework is clearly described, giving examples of how they were applied to national-security decisions as well as highlighting the pitfalls of each.

Garafano's view is that the United States needs to be active and prepared to use force frequently but must steer away from an overzealous inclination to use military might to solve a disparate array of foreign-policy tasks. In the second half of the treatise, based on the advantages and disadvantages identified in the four previous approaches, he sets out his own recommendations for a new framework, which he dubs Principled Judgement. "Principled" refers to eight principles or criteria that should always be considered prior to the use of force by any administration. Many of these would appear to be basic common sense, such as the need to define national interests, but they warrant mentioning given that some Central European states have yet adequately to apply them. Others are well suited to the new security environment, such as the need to discard the "last resort" concept of force.

It is difficult to fault Garafano on this thorough, cogent treatise, which will no doubt please students of classic strategic studies. Nevertheless, the practitioner is left somewhat wanting. Having enumerated the elements of his new system, the author recognises that changes in the institutional mind-set are needed for it to be realised, but the cynical reader will always find fault in a system that is too clear and well defined. All systems are run by humans and defence is a super-system that is particularly vulnerable to political and personal whims. Still, as an exercise in clearing the mental palate and demonstrating politically unfettered analysis, the work is impressive. One of its main conclusions concerning the need to "grow" civil and military strategists has a direct relevance for Central and Eastern European countries still attempting to reform their militaries. Such practical recommendations should make the work attractive to a wider audience than the immediate American one.

Sebestyén L. v. Gorka is executive director of the Centre for EuroAtlantic Integration and Democracy in Budapest.

Chingiz Aitmatov: Diplomatic writer

Chingiz Aitmatov is both Kyrghyz ambassador to NATO, the European Union and Belgium, and his country's greatest writer. His books, including Jamila, Farewell, Gulsary!, The White Ship, Ascent of Mount Fuji and The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years, have been translated into many languages and published to critical acclaim in Asia, Europe and North America. The winner of many literary prizes, national and international, he became an adviser to Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union's twilight years and a Kyrghyz diplomat when the Kyrghyz Republic gained independence.

How has the Kyrghyz Republic been affected by the conflict in Afghanistan?

The conflict in Afghanistan is not just a military conflict between two adversaries. More importantly, it is a clash between two different ways of thinking. Clearly, it is important to win the military struggle but, in the longer term, we need to find some way of reconciling two conflicting world perspectives. Events in Afghanistan have been a huge challenge for my country and other countries in the region. It is as if destiny were testing our resolve. At the very time that we are striving to promote freedom, democracy and human rights, to modernise our societies and raise the level of our economic development in the post-Soviet era, events right next door in Afghanistan have threatened to destroy everything we have achieved so far. Were Islamic fundamentalism to win, the clock would be turned back by many centuries. The religious extremism and fundamentalism that has arisen in Afghanistan is a barbaric force, a throwback to the feudalism of the Middle Ages. In other words, what we are seeing is a clash of civilisations, which was unavoidable.

The process of transformation to democracy and freedom in the countries of Central Asia has inevitably caused some economic and political suffering. But the reactionary forces in the region remained hidden, until they were stirred up by the chaos in Afghanistan. Kyrghyztan has also had to cope with two armed incursions, in 1999 and 2000. These were critical moments, but we overcame them with the help of Russia, which played quite a positive role in this context. Nevertheless, concerted efforts are needed to contain and destroy these reactionary, barbaric forces and the West and NATO have a decisive role to play in this respect.

What perception does the Kyrghyz Republic's predominantly Muslim population have of the conflict?

Everybody recognises that it was necessary to put an end to the terror of the Taliban and, generally, people understand the role the West and NATO are playing in the process of combating terrorism and establishing peace. There is a widespread perception that stability is essential for ensuring a good quality of life and promoting democracy, individual liberty and property rights.

However, I would like to address the religious factor that your question raises. Religion can benefit human life in terms of its influence on spiritual matters, morality and traditions. But what concerns us here is the situation where religion engages in the pursuit of political aims or power. It then ceases to be religion and becomes a reactionary force.

In this respect, we have been fortunate in Kyrghyztan. For historical reasons, Islam has not impacted as much on our people's consciousness as it has in other Central Asian countries, such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Kyrghyztan and Kazakhstan lie on the outskirts of the Islamic way of life. In our countries, religion has more to do with traditions and customs and our peoples tend to be moderately religious, avoiding fanaticism in our beliefs. This is our way.

When talking of religion, however, one important factor needs to be taken into account - namely that poverty can be fertile breeding ground for Islamic fundamentalism. Afghanistan, which is a very poor country, is a prime example of this. The poorer the people, the stronger the religion. It is essential, as a first step towards promoting stability, that the international community looks at how to improve the social and economic situation in Afghanistan. Priority should be given to educating and enlightening young Afghans. If their only option is to attend religious schools, or madrasas , nothing will change. It is vital, therefore, that opportunities for civil education are actively promoted and subsidised.

How has the Kyrghyz Republic's relationship with NATO evolved during the past decade and how might it evolve in the future?

This question directly concerns the activities of our embassy. Kyrghyztan has been part of NATO's Partnership structures for many years now and we actively participate in the Partnership for Peace. Such cooperation is very timely. It takes place in many different fields including civil emergency planning, civil-military relations and defence policy, as well as consultations at the political and military level. The Partnership provides a useful platform for cooperation with other Partner countries, including Central Asian countries.

Considerable effort has been devoted to promoting a better understanding of NATO and the Partnership for Peace among our people and, in particular, the military establishment. In the past, NATO was seen as a real threat. But perceptions have changed over the years and old stereotypes have been overcome, allowing us to focus on developing active cooperation. It is not a coincidence that NATO, which was established in the 20th century, still exists in the 21st. We do not live in an ideal world, but in one that is full of contradictions and the risk of conflict. NATO is recognised by most people as being a powerful organisation, which has a key role in deterring and containing these dangers and, although it is a regional organisation, it is increasingly perceived as having a global significance. NATO is seen not only as a military organisation but as one with a political and human dimension as well. Its role is evolving, as it arms itself, not with weapons, but with new visions. I have no doubt that we will continue to cooperate on the issues we are working on currently in the framework of the Partnership, and that this work will be developed, as NATO continues to establish cooperation in a more global context.

How have the Kyrghyz armed forces benefited from the Partnership for Peace?

From the time we first joined, our armed forces have participated in almost all exercises that have taken place in the framework of the Partnership for Peace programme. It has been a good experience for our military personnel to see what kind of cooperation could be developed between NATO and Partner countries. Most importantly, they have realised that they are not too remote to be able to contribute to common security. Our military would like to do more and is trying to reach the standards widely accepted among NATO countries. Unfortunately, we don't have all the resources needed to improve our military and acquire new technologies. However, we are trying to build a more professional army, moving away from one that relies totally on conscripts. This has been an important development for us. Participation in the Partnership for Peace has helped give our forces a better and more realistic perception of NATO.

What role do you envisage for the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council?

The EAPC is playing a positive role in bringing the former Soviet republics back together and encouraging them to cooperate politically after independence. The Partnership structures are also helping to promote some integration at the military level. We should continue to build on this process of consolidation, integration and cooperation in the region.

Have you found much material at NATO to inspire future novels? Can we expect to see a future plot set in Brussels?

It is clear that my creative horizons have expanded and that my experiences could find some echo in my literary work, should I ever find time to write. Future books could very well reflect my changed perception of NATO in the post-Cold War era in some way and comment on the new role of NATO in the world. I suppose future characters could conceivably come to Brussels to be involved in NATO activities. Like me, they would probably come with preconceived ideas of NATO being a huge military, technological complex, located in an impressive building like the Pentagon or the defence ministry in Moscow, only to discover that it is a quite small, modest organisation, which is based on rationalism and the determination to take action when necessary.

Chingiz Aitmatov spoke with Vicki Nielsen, the assistant editor of NATO Review.

Building the virtual silk highway

Scientists and academics in Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus will soon be able to make substantially more effective use of the internet, as a result of the largest and most ambitious project to have been sponsored by the NATO Science Programme to date.

Called the Virtual Silk Highway - a reference to the Great Silk Road which used to link Europe to the Far East, promoting the exchange of both goods and of knowledge and ideas - the project is aimed at facilitating computer networking and internet access for the academic and scientific communities of eight countries in the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia. Internet connectivity is regarded as the most effective way to access and release the potential of the region's many highly educated scientists and researchers.

"This project is unique," says Walter Kaffenberger, the Science Programme's director for computer networking, "due to the number of countries involved, the fact that they span two geographic regions and the high level of investment."

In total, $2.5 million will be devoted to the project over four years. This represents 40 per cent of the Science Programme's computer-networking budget and is the largest investment in a single project in the programme's 44-year history.

The need for connectivity is particularly acute in the scientific and academic communities of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in the Southern Caucasus and Kazakhstan, the Kyrghyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia. These countries lie on the fringes of the European internet arena and their level of development is such that they will not be able to afford fibre-optic connections in the foreseeable future.

The alternative is internet connection via satellite. However, this is expensive. As a result, the bandwidth available for the entire region's research and educational communities ranges from 64 to 384 kilobits/second (Kbps) per country. This compares with an average home internet connection in Western Europe of at least 56 Kbps, which is rising fast with the growth of broadband connections.

The Virtual Silk Highway will connect the scientific and academic communities of participating countries to the internet via a common satellite beam. Cost-effective, state-of-the-art satellite technology will increase the average bandwidth for each country to three megabits/second and allow access to the unused bandwidth of any other participating country. Modern data-caching techniques will collect all information requested from the web and make it available to other network users without having to go though the satellite connection, further increasing the network's efficiency.

The NATO grant will buy satellite bandwidth and finance the purchase and installation of nine satellite dishes using the so-called VSAT technology - eight small ones linked to a large dish in Hamburg, Germany, which will serve as the European hub. Other co-sponsors are contributing in kind.

Cisco Systems is donating equipment, worth around $400,000, which will be attached to each earth station. Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron, which has a long history of working with the particle physics communities in these countries, is providing services valued at $350,000 related to hosting the European hub and operating the network.

Deutsche Forschungs Netz will ensure that the network is connected to the European Union's huge pan-European Gigabit research network, GEANT, which in turn is linked up to other research networks around the world - a service valued at $125,000.

GEANT is not charging for international bandwidth and EurasiaSat is providing bandwidth at special tariffs. The network is expected to be fully up-and-running by October 2002.

"The priority now," says Dr Kaffenberger, "is to ensure that this unique project is viable and self-sustaining in the long-term, once NATO funding runs out in 2004. Proper project-management structures and new sources of finance will be essential."

Since NATO's Science Programme is only able to finance infrastructure construction, EU funding is now being sought to help set up appropriate project-management structures and procedures, with the aim of progressively transferring as much management and know-how as possible to the participating countries.

NATO is supporting the establishment of National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in each participating country with a mandate to take care of national networking needs of their educational and scientific establishments. Such NRENs could take on the role of raising funds nationally.

Contacts are also being made with organisations that may be interested in paying a fee to use the network system. These include the United Nations Development Programme, which is active in developing the connectivity of governments and non-governmental organisations in the region, and the Soros Foundation, which seeks to promote democracy through connectivity.

During the past decade, the NATO Science Programme has sought to sustain the scientific communities of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, which have seen their budgets slashed in the wake of the collapse of the Eastern bloc. Since 1994, one way to further this aim has been to promote local networking between academic and scientific institutions by helping set up the appropriate infrastructure and organising workshops. Once local networks and infrastructure were in place, it was important to ensure basic and reliable internet connectivity to facilitate research and contacts with the global scientific community.

Converting former military bases in Southeastern Europe

Romanian street children addicted to drugs could be among the first beneficiaries of an innovative NATO-sponsored programme aimed at finding productive new uses for former military bases in Southeastern Europe.

The homeless children stand to benefit from this pioneering programme, if, as planned, a former air-force base outside the town of Fundulea, about 35 kilometres east of the capital Bucharest, is converted into a hospital and rehabilitation centre. The groundbreaking Fundulea project is one of a series of collaborative initiatives involving NATO and other institutions in the framework of the EU-sponsored Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe designed to convert former military bases and, in this way, help revitalise local economies.

Defence spending cuts, troop reductions and reform of NATO armed forces in the 1990s led to the closure of more than 8,000 military bases in Western Europe and North America with a combined area of more than 500,000 square kilometres. In the wake of this restructuring, NATO nations have developed considerable expertise in redeveloping former military sites for civilian purposes, which can now be shared with Partner countries, whose militaries are only now undergoing similar downsizing.

"There is no 'silver bullet' or patented recipe for redevelopment that works everywhere and differences from site to site and country to country can be enormous," says Frédérique Jacquemin of the Economics Directorate of NATO's Political Affairs Division. "Despite this, much can be learned through the exchange of ideas and experiences to build on success stories and avoid repeating mistakes."

Ms Jacquemin put together a team of experts from NATO member states to visit Romania, after Romanian envoys requested Alliance assistance for base conversion at a meeting of the Stability Pact's security table in Zagreb, Croatia, last June. The NATO team, which included members from Canada, France, Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States, travelled to Romania in November to examine the redevelopment potential of two sites identified by the Romanian Ministry of Defence, including that at Fundulea.

Bucharest requested Alliance help in this field as a result of the success of another innovative NATO-sponsored programme aimed at assisting return to civilian life of recently and soon-to-be-discharged military personnel in Romania, as well as in Bulgaria and Croatia. Both programmes come within the framework of the Stability Pact, which facilitates collaboration with international financial institutions, commercial lenders and potential donors.

In the case of Fundulea, the Council of Europe Development Bank has expressed an interest in financing the redevelopment and a bank representative accompanied the NATO team on their November visit. The Stability Pact is now seeking donor funding for a feasibility study. In the other pilot project examined by the NATO team, involving office, sport facilities, tourist attractions and housing redevelopments at Mangalia on the Black Sea coast, commercial lenders, donors and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have expressed an interest. Meanwhile, the European Investment Bank is interested in the larger process beyond the pilot projects.

"Our aim is to help build capacity in Southeastern Europe so that the countries of the region can tackle the problems of converting and redeveloping former military installations," Jacquemin says. "The pilot projects are intended to help start the process of developing comprehensive base-closure and conversion strategies through practical demonstrations of the principles and possibilities."

As the first positive results of the Romanian base-conversion programme began to materialise, Bulgaria requested similar assistance from NATO. As a result, a NATO expert team is scheduled to visit in late spring to make a preliminary assessment. Meanwhile, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have also expressed interest in participating in the programme.

Both the base-conversion and the military-personnel retraining programmes form part of NATO's South East Europe Initiative, an initiative launched in 1999 at the height of the Kosovo air campaign to contribute to building stability in Southeastern Europe.

Crisis response

Stanley R. Sloan examines the crisis of confidence and capabilities facing NATO in the wake of 11 September.

During the Cold War, NATO survived several "crises". In 1966, France withdrew from the Alliance's integrated military structure. In 1979, the Allies were divided over how to respond to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In the early 1980s, deployment of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe intensified transatlantic tensions. Today, the Alliance faces the first crisis of the post-Cold War era - a crisis brought on by the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States.

The earlier events were essentially crises of confidence in the Alliance. Today's is a crisis of confidence and capabilities. The United States did not have sufficient confidence in the Alliance to give it a major role in response to the terrorist attacks, even though the Allies decided immediately to invoke Article 5, the collective-defence provision, of the Washington Treaty. The European Allies, in spite of the United Kingdom's involvement in Afghan operations and offers of assistance from many others, did not have the capabilities to make a serious contribution to the high-tech, high-altitude bombing campaign that the United States used to help defeat the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

How the Alliance recovers from the perception of irrelevance that has grown since the terrorist attacks of 11 September will depend on responses to two questions. The first is whether or not the United States is willing and able to lead the Allies toward further adaptation of NATO's mission to make it more relevant to the terrorist challenge. The second is whether the European Allies recognise the need for such an adaptation and put up the resources to improve their ability to contribute to future counter-terror operations.

Although NATO's invocation of Article 5 was appreciated in Washington, the United States decided to conduct military operations itself and not to seek to use NATO's integrated command structure. Had the United States asked to use NATO's integrated command structure, such a request would likely have created serious political dilemmas for many Allies. The discussion of NATO's area of operation had basically been put aside since the debates leading up to the 1999 Strategic Concept, the document setting out the Alliance's strategy for addressing security challenges, and there was no enthusiasm for re-opening the issue in the middle of this crisis. Furthermore, the United States obviously preferred to keep tight control of any military operations.

NATO support

Nonetheless, NATO was asked to provide a number of services on behalf of the war against terrorism. On 4 October, NATO Allies agreed to enhance bilateral and NATO intelligence sharing, assist Allies that face terrorist threats because of the counter-terror campaign, grant blanket overflight clearances for US and other Allied aircraft involved in counter-terror operations, and make airfields and ports available to support operations against terror. In addition, the North Atlantic Council agreed that the Alliance deploy elements of its Standing Naval Forces to the Eastern Mediterranean in order to provide a NATO presence and demonstrate resolve. On 8 October, NATO announced that Allied AWACS aircraft would be deployed to the United States to help patrol US airspace. The move freed up US assets for use in the air war against Taliban forces in Afghanistan - the first time NATO assets had been used in direct support of the continental United States.

NATO's response was applauded and appreciated by US officials. Two months after the attacks, US Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns argued in the International Herald Tribune that NATO had responded strongly to the terrorist challenge, and that the response demonstrated NATO's continuing relevance. "With the battle against terrorism now engaged, it is difficult to imagine a future without the Alliance at the core of efforts to defend our civilisation," he concluded.

The terrorist attack and the actions required to respond militarily demonstrated in many ways the wisdom of the adaptation of the Alliance that had been underway since the early 1990s. NATO never abandoned the critical Article 5 commitment, but began preparing for the new kind of security challenges Alliance members thought were likely in the 21st century. The implications for force structure were clear: NATO needed more forces capable of being moved quickly to conflicts beyond national borders and prepared to fight in a variety of topographic and climatic conditions using a mix of conventional and high-tech weaponry.

Even though the 11 September attacks constituted a case for invocation of Article 5, the response required the kinds of forces and philosophies that the Allies had been seeking to develop for so-called "non-Article 5 contingencies". NATO formally acknowledged this reality in December when Allied defence ministers observed that NATO, through the Defence Capabilities Initiative, had improved its ability to respond to terrorism, but that "...a great deal more needs to be done... particularly in the areas of survivability; deployability; combat identification; and intelligence, surveillance, and target acquisition...."

Preparing for and conducting operations in Afghanistan, the US administration sought help from the Allies mainly through bilateral channels. In the weeks following the attacks, some Pentagon officials privately dismissed NATO's formal invocation of theprovision and complained that the Alliance was not relevant to the new challenges posed by the counter-terror campaign. Alliance's mutual defence provision and complained that the Alliance was not relevant to the new challenges posed by the counter-terror campaign. Meanwhile, some NATO Allies were led to believe that the United States did not value or want contributions that they might make in the battle against terrorism. Although many Allies, including Germany, pledged forces to the counter-terrorist campaign, these important national contributions did not produce any direct role for the Alliance in the affair.

NATO's initial reaction therefore left many questions unanswered about the future of the Allied response to the terrorist challenge and to the other issues that remained on the Alliance platter. Would NATO countries follow up their Article 5 commitment with resources that would be helpful in the conduct of a far-reaching and long-running campaign against international terrorism? Would the NATO cooperative framework prove helpful or would the United States see it as inappropriate and unhelpful for the kinds of operations required by the war on terror? How would the new framework created by the terrorist attacks and their aftermath affect other key issues for the Alliance, including NATO's future role in the Balkans, coordination of US, Allied and NATO approaches to ballistic missile defence, relations with Russia, continuation of the enlargement process, and future development of the Common European Security and Defence Policy?

Few would question how important it will be to ensure that the members of the Atlantic Community stay united and strong against the insidious threat of terrorism which struck at America's heart on 11 September, and which will strike again if given the opportunity to do so. NATO's initial response to the attacks was impressive and appropriate, but may also reflect some limitations of the Alliance that will influence its future role.

First, it is obvious that the Allies must conduct a "war" against terrorism in ways that deal effectively with terrorist threats while not undermining fundamental democratic liberties or the potential for future cooperation among Alliance members. The Alliance, after all, would lose much of its meaning if it sacrificed the commitment to the values articulated in the Washington Treaty. The extreme nature of the attacks and the threat of more horrors to come have so far helped surmount domestic resistance to counter-terrorist measures. However, each NATO country has its own approach to protecting individual liberties and, down the road, the enhanced intrusion of intelligence and security services in the daily lives of citizens in NATO countries could become a source of friction and controversy.

In addition, most observers of transatlantic security issues remember the debates in the 1990s in which the United States imagined a NATO mandate without artificial geographic limitations, while many European countries wanted to prevent the appearance of an "open-ended" role for the Alliance in dealing with future security challenges. The 11 September events demonstrated that the United States had been right concerning the nature of future threats to transatlantic security, namely that most of them have roots outside Europe and must be dealt with well beyond NATO's borders.

Differing perspectives

However, the differing perspectives among NATO members concerning the best instruments to employ against disparate threats have not disappeared. They are based on fundamentally different historical experiences, political and military traditions, and available power and military capabilities. France and the United Kingdom have force projection philosophies and global strategic perspectives. But Germany's concepts and perspectives will continue to inhibit the Federal Republic's military role beyond its borders, in spite of the dramatic progress Berlin has made in breaking out of outdated constraints on the use of its forces since the end of the Cold War. Differing roles and perceptions will, on occasion, complicate both consensus formation and cooperation.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, Charles Grant of the London-based Center for European Reform wrote in The Independent that the US choice not to use NATO to run the military operations against terrorist targets in Afghanistan meant that: "It's unlikely the Americans will ever again wish to use NATO to manage a major shooting war." This judgement may or may not be accurate. Washington presumably did not ask that NATO run the military actions in Afghanistan because it did not want to repeat the Kosovo experience, where US management of the conflict was complicated by Allied criticism of US targeting strategy. Concerns of Pentagon officials about NATO's limited utility were apparently taken on board in Washington without the United States even asking the Allies to give the Alliance a more substantial role.

On the European side, Allied officials complained that, after showing their support and willingness to contribute, the United States largely proceeded with a strategy focusing on dividing, not sharing, responsibilities. According to press reports, the situation irritated European leaders who, having given their strong political support, felt embarrassed about invoking Article 5 and then being left on the sidelines.

To some extent, the situation can be attributed to factors for which the Europeans themselves are to blame. First, they did not, for the most part, have significant military assets to contribute to the first phase of the Afghan campaign, which relied heavily on air-delivered, precision-guided munitions. Second, US officials were fully aware of past opposition of certain NATO members to involving the Alliance in military operations beyond their borders, to say nothing of beyond Europe.

On the other hand, the United States may have missed an opportunity to move the NATO consensus beyond the 1999 Strategic Concept following the 11 September attacks. Given invocation of Article 5 and the explicit willingness of many NATO Allies to contribute military capabilities to the war against terrorism, a political consensus existed that could have been used to expand NATO's horizons and establish a mechanism for NATO contributions in the future. This still could happen. But the politics of moving NATO more decisively into counter-terrorist operations have become even more difficult as time has passed and the horror, compassion and sense of community engendered by 11 September has faded.

If, however, the war against international terrorism remains for some years the main focus of US security policy, NATO's ability to be part of the solution could exert a major influence on US perceptions of the Alliance's utility. Dealing with this challenge - NATO's first true "crisis" of the 21st century - will require sophisticated political management on both sides of the Atlantic. The United States will have to be careful to ask Allies to do things that they are capable of doing. At the same time, the NATO Allies must avoid the perception that they do not support the United States in responding to the terrorist threat.

For NATO, not doing enough risks losing US interest in the Alliance. The disarray among members of the European Union, apparent at the European Council's December summit, and the failure of most EU members to commit additional resources to defence are interpreted in Washington as a lack of serious intent as well as effort. On the other hand, US attempts to push the Alliance beyond the political consensus concerning NATO's mission could create splits among the Allies and even domestic unrest in some Allied countries. In any case, the war against international terrorism will likely remain for many years the most important part of the political and strategic environment in which the NATO nations deal with every issue they face as Allies.

Stanley R. Sloan is director of the Atlantic Community Initiative, visiting scholar at Middlebury College, Vermont, and author of the forthcoming book NATO, the European Union and the Atlantic Community: The Transatlantic Bargain Reconsidered (Rowman and Littlefield).

Military matters
Mapping the future

Frank Boland examines how the Membership Action Plan is helping aspirant countries prepare for NATO membership.

The attention of the nine countries aspiring to NATO membership is understandably focused on the Prague Summit in November. But in many respects their efforts to ensure that they receive an invitation to join the Alliance are the easy part of the road to NATO membership. Countries invited at Prague, or subsequently, will, following accession, take on both the rights and the responsibilities of Alliance membership. Ensuring that they are able to meet all these responsibilities in the most effective way will be a continuing challenge even after they join NATO. The Membership Action Plan, launched at the Washington Summit in 1999, aims to ensure that they can integrate into the Alliance as smoothly and as quickly as possible.

The Membership Action Plan, or MAP, is demanding. Each year, candidate countries have to submit to NATO an updated Annual National Programme. This covers all five so-called chapters of the MAP, which consist of political and economic issues; defence and military issues; resource aspects; issues related to security; and legal aspects. The programme is the subject of consultation between the Allies and each candidate country every autumn. This preliminary dialogue is followed by in-depth discussions in aspirants' capitals the following spring with a NATO team representing both the Alliance's civilian and military staffs. On the basis of these discussions, an individual progress report is produced on each of the aspirant countries. This in turn is the basis for further discussion between NATO ambassadors and a delegation, usually led by the foreign and defence ministers, of each aspirant country, in advance of the spring NATO ministerial meetings, at which an overall report on the MAP is provided to Alliance ministers.

This intensive process aims to ensure both that Allies have the best possible information about the preparations aspirants are making towards membership and - equally importantly - that the aspirant countries fully understand what will be expected of them as future NATO members. It also serves to highlight areas where either the Alliance, collectively, or individual Allies should increase assistance to aspirants to help them in their preparations for membership. In some of the areas covered by the MAP, such as legal and security issues, work is likely to be complete at, or shortly after, the Prague Summit. In others, particularly defence and military issues, aspirant countries invited to join the Alliance in November will need to continue their work to integrate into the Alliance for many years.

Defence matters

Management of the defence and military chapter of the MAP is based on the Partnership for Peace in which aspirants have participated for many years. These include the Planning and Review Process (PARP) and the Individual Partnership Programme (IPP). As part of the PARP, assessments are made of the state of each aspirant's defence plans and their progress in meeting agreed planning targets. These planning targets, or Partnership Goals, are negotiated with all aspirants to provide guidance on priority areas to ensure that forces are better able to operate with NATO militaries and to define capabilities that countries will be expected to provide as Alliance members. The IPP, which is tailored to the needs of each aspirant, provides guidance on which Partnership for Peace activities countries should concentrate on to focus efforts in becoming familiar with the way in which NATO operates.

The defence and military assessments are the central element of work on the defence and military issues dealt with in the MAP. They are based on individual aspirants' responses to the Survey of Overall Partnership for Peace Interoperability.
This document, which all countries participating in the PARP complete, is more comprehensive for NATO aspirants, since they are additionally obliged to fill out Part III, which is optional for non-MAP participants. The Survey is based on, and virtually identical to, NATO's Defence Planning Questionnaire that is completed annually by Allies taking part in collective defence planning.

The information sought in Part III of the Survey is extremely detailed. In addition to information on security and defence policy, it asks for detailed figures of defence spending (including forward projections); information on individual units (such as the number of personnel, numbers and types of equipment held and the amount of training conducted); modernisation plans (including projections of expenditure on different types of equipment year by year); the level of logistic stocks and the extent of logistic capabilities; progress in meeting agreed planning targets; and a number of other areas, such as command and control capabilities. Assembling so wide a range of information is extremely difficult for aspirants, as it is for Allies. However, it is vital to enable NATO members to determine the military capabilities that aspirants would be able to contribute in future to the Alliance. In addition, it is a useful discipline for aspirant nations to ensure that their internal defence planning and management processes are organised to meet the future demands of the NATO planning system and that, domestically, they operate in a transparent fashion, which is essential to ensure democratic control of armed forces.

Monitoring military reform

Full integration into the Alliance's military structures and development of the capabilities needed to become effective Allies, will likely take many years. As a result, defence and military assessments have focused on how aspirants are planning to develop their armed forces and whether they will be in the best possible shape for future NATO membership. This approach has two essential components. The first is examining the ways in which aspirants plan to ensure that their forces are being prepared to contribute to the full range of NATO missions - from collective defence to peace-support operations - within the future framework of Alliance membership. The second, closely linked to the first, is examining aspirants' defence plans - in particular, their plans to develop or restructure their armed forces and to develop future capabilities - to ensure that they are realistic, achievable and affordable.

In some respects, aspirants have been obliged to change their mindset. Before the MAP was launched at the Washington Summit, efforts to develop interoperability with NATO were concentrated on forces made available for NATO-led peace-support operations, such as the Stabilisation Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has been important to ensure that they understand that such missions are only one of the circumstances where in future they would also participate in military operations. Collective defence, both of national territory and the ability to deploy forces abroad for operations in defence of other Allies, is a fundamental task for NATO and it is vital that aspirants' plans should reflect the necessity to develop capabilities required for this task. The military action in Afghanistan, in which Allies supported US forces in the framework of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, is a salutary reminder that, although the security environment has improved during the past decade, the world is not a safe place and that NATO's collective defence role remains as relevant now as it was when the Alliance was created.

It is in nobody's interest for aspirants to devote time and effort attempting to implement plans that are over-ambitious and not realisable. NATO needs to have the best possible assessment of how far aspirants will have progressed by the time of the Prague Summit and how much further progress they can realistically have achieved, say, five years after that. In examining aspirants' plans, therefore, Allies have concentrated on determining whether they are based on a clear national assessment of each country's security goals; whether the intended future force structure and capabilities are best designed to meet those goals; and whether, in terms of the organisational effort required and the human and financial resources likely to be available, these plans stand a good chance of being brought to fruition.

During this process - formalised in a Partnership Goal asking all aspirants to review their planned force structures in consultation with the Alliance - all aspirant countries have examined what they had hoped to achieve compared to the resources available now and in the future. In this way, they have all revised their plans to bring ambitions into line with resources. Allies are scrutinising these changed plans during the course of this spring's work on the MAP. The conclusions they reach will contribute to the decisions to be made in Prague on who should be invited to join the Alliance.

It should be emphasised that NATO is not seeking to provide aspirant countries with a blueprint of how they should organise their defence structures. Each country has its own characteristics and traditions. Some are in the process of building their armed forces from scratch. Others are working to modernise structures that they inherited from the Cold War. In each case, the challenges are different and the solutions have to be adapted to fit the precise circumstances. However, the dialogue with NATO, conducted through the MAP, will ensure that the ways in which they develop their armed forces is coherent with their future responsibilities as Alliance members. 

Aiding aspirants

As aspirant countries address the development of their capabilities, they benefit from assistance from a number of sources. Participation as Partners in many areas of Alliance work gives them an opportunity to align their own efforts with those of Allies and prepare for their future role as NATO members. Personnel from these nations, along with those of other Partners, already serve at NATO headquarters and in the various NATO commands, which gives them hands-on, practical experience of how the Alliance operates. The NATO command structure at all levels is heavily engaged in providing advice on a range of military issues and providing training, including, for example, through the NATO School at Oberammergau, Germany.

Even more important, however, is the assistance provided bilaterally by individual Allies. This includes help in providing defence assessments as a basis for future work on developing force structures and capabilities; language training and the development of air surveillance capabilities; and the provision of advisers on issues such as military education and training, the development of cadres of non-commissioned officers, the reorganisation of logistic structures, operational planning methodology, personnel management, and financial management and budgeting. This assistance has allowed these countries to accelerate progress in specific areas. That said, bringing this work to completion will, in many cases, be a long-term process.

The MAP has proved an extremely effective mechanism to allow Allies to monitor progress made by aspirants in a wide range of fields. It has challenged aspirants to examine fundamental assumptions and has been a powerful engine for military reform, providing a means for NATO to give feedback on the ways in which Allies would wish this progress to be continued. In this respect, therefore, it has been of great assistance to aspirants in helping guide their preparations for NATO membership.

Completion of the third MAP cycle will coincide with this spring's ministerial meetings. The MAP will, nevertheless, continue in the run-up to the Prague Summit and aspirants will be expected to provide an updated Annual National Programme this autumn. At the same time, the Alliance will need to consider future refinements to the MAP and how it is to be applied after the Prague Summit, including for new aspirants. Decisions will also need to be taken on how the accession of aspirants invited at Prague is to be handled. While much will depend on the detail of the decisions taken at Prague, many of the lessons learned from the MAP will undoubtedly influence the shape of future arrangements for the admission of new members to the Alliance.

Frank Boland is deputy director of force planning in NATO's Defence Planning and Operations Division.