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Building effective partnerships

Christopher Bennett examines how NATO has forged effective partnerships with non-member states and other international organisations since the end of the Cold War.

Historic handover: NATO deployed in Bosnia in 1995 thereby laying the platform for other international organisations to help rebuild peace and stability (© NATO)

One of the great changes in NATO's approach to providing security since the end of the Cold War is the way in which it has reached out to form partnerships with non-member states and other international organisations. This policy bore early fruit with the creation of forums and programmes to assist the democratic transition in Central and Eastern Europe, evolved pragmatically in response to the wars of Yugoslavia's dissolution and received added impetus and a sense of urgency following the terrorist attacks against the United States of 11 September 2001. Moreover, its on-going importance to the Alliance as it transforms itself to combat the threats posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism was reaffirmed at last year's Prague Summit.

The rationale behind this policy is simple, namely that as the strategic environment has become increasingly complex, no single institution can claim to own the magic formula to guarantee peace. Rather, the way to provide the greatest possible level of security both to NATO members and to the wider world is by creating a network of cooperating partners all with a vested interest in preserving and promoting stability and prosperity. Today, barely a week goes by without either the NATO Secretary General meeting with the head of another international organisation or the leader of a Partner country, or a visit to Alliance Headquarters by an individual of similar standing. And NATO has even developed effective working relationships with international financial institutions and non-governmental organisations working in crisis areas of the world.

The starting point for NATO's partnership policy was the hand of friendship that the Alliance offered to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe soon after the Berlin Wall came down and the Warsaw Pact disintegrated. In the first instance, this manifested itself in the creation of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) at NATO Headquarters in December 1991 as a forum for discussion and promotion of security issues for both NATO members and the Alliance's former adversaries. At the time, the pace of change in Europe was so rapid that the Soviet Union actually disintegrated during the NACC's inaugural meeting with the result that the Soviet ambassador present was only able to speak on behalf of the Russian Federation by the end.

In 1994, NATO launched the Partnership for Peace, a practical programme of military cooperation and assistance tailored to the individual needs of each participating country, designed initially to help establish democratic control over armed forces, assist the military reform process and help develop NATO-compatible militaries. As other European countries saw the benefits of security cooperation through the NACC and the Partnership for Peace, more wished to join and membership was extended beyond the NATO members and former communist countries to include Western Europe's traditionally neutral states. To reflect this change and the evolution of NATO's relationship with Partner countries, the NACC was renamed the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) in 1997.

Today, all countries in the Euro-Atlantic area are members of both the EAPC and the Partnership for Peace with the exception of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia) and Serbia and Montenegro, both of which hope to join next year. Moreover, in line with NATO itself, the EAPC has become increasingly focused on addressing modern security threats since 11 September 2001. In this way, for example, EAPC leaders endorsed a Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism at last year's Prague Summit (for more information on the evolution of NATO's partnership policy, the EAPC and the Partnership for Peace, see Building security through partnership by Robert Weaver in the autumn 2001 NATO Review and for more on the Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism, see Working with Partners to fight terrorism by Osman Yavuzalp in the spring 2003 NATO Review).

Security variable

Probably the greatest variable influencing security in the Euro-Atlantic area since the end of the Cold War has been Russia. A democratising, Western-oriented and reforming Russia would clearly be a major stabilising factor for the whole Euro-Atlantic area. This explains the enormous investment in building and improving relations with Moscow that the Alliance has made in recent years, one that after several false dawns increasingly appears both farsighted and shrewd.

In the first half of the 1990s, a still suspicious Russia joined and participated in both the NACC and the Partnership for Peace. And in 1996, it contributed 2,000 soldiers - the largest non-NATO contingent - to the Alliance's first peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. These soldiers, who remained in Bosnia until August this year, worked together with their peers from NATO countries and, in the process, helped break down barriers and build bridges on both sides paving the way for a more formal NATO-Russia relationship.

In 1997, NATO and Russia signed the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security. This was an ambitious document that established the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council to "provide a mechanism for consultation, coordination and, to the maximum extent possible, where appropriate, for joint decisions and joint action with respect to security issues of common concern". In practice, however, it failed to deliver fully on its promise. This was in part because the Russian élite tended to see it as a damage-limitation exercise in the context of NATO's first post-Cold War enlargement, and in part because many NATO members also harboured residual suspicions of Russia's intentions. Moreover, many analysts viewed the very decision-making process within the PJC as flawed, since NATO members had already arrived at common positions before PJC meetings on the basis of a discussion process within the Alliance and were reluctant to relinquish their hard-won consensus on the basis of Russian objections. When in 1999, Russia walked out of the Permanent Joint Council in protest at the Alliance's intervention in Kosovo, few missed its meetings.

The Permanent Joint Council did, nevertheless, resume meeting in May 2000 and NATO opened an Information Office in Moscow a year later, but it took the tragedy of 11 September 2001 to bring NATO and Russia into a fuller, more trusting partnership. In the wake of the terrorist attacks, both sides recognised that they could only gain in security terms from cooperating with each other. This led to the creation in May 2002 of the NATO-Russia Council. This body, which has replaced the Permanent Joint Council, works on the basis of consensus and includes all NATO members and Russia as equal partners. Moreover, the first 18 months of its existence have proved extremely positive with achievements in a wide range of areas (for more on NATO-Russia relations, see Building hope on experience by Paul Fritch and the interview with General Konstantin Vasiliyevich Totskiy, Russia's ambassador to NATO in this issue of NATO Review).

NATO also has a vested interest in stability and a smooth transition to democracy in Ukraine, the second most populous independent state to emerge from the disintegration of the Soviet Union. NATO-Ukraine cooperation has intensified since the signing of the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership in 1997. This Charter provides the formal basis for NATO-Ukraine consultations on issues of Euro-Atlantic security and a NATO-Ukraine Commission was created to direct activities undertaken within this partnership, including promoting defence reform, civil-emergency planning and disaster preparedness and cooperation in the fields of science and the environment. NATO opened an Information and Documentation Centre in Ukraine in 1997 and a Military Liaison Office in 1999. In 2002, NATO and Ukraine agreed an Action Plan providing a strategic framework for intensified consultations on political, economic and defence issues and setting out Ukraine's strategic objectives and priorities on the road towards full integration in Euro-Atlantic security structures. Moreover, Ukraine has formed a joint peacekeeping battalion with NATO Ally Poland and has participated actively in NATO-led peacekeeping operations (for more on NATO-Ukraine relations, see Edging erratically forward by James Sherr in this issue of NATO Review).

Seven years before the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 highlighted the importance of good relations between the West and the Arab world, NATO had already established a Mediterranean Dialogue. This initiative, which today involves seven countries — Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia — in the wider Mediterranean region, seeks to contribute to regional security and stability and achieve better mutual understanding between NATO and its Mediterranean Partners. Moreover, it, too, has been upgraded in the wake of the terrorist attacks against the United States of 11 September 2001 (for more information on NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue, see Enhancing NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue by Alberto Bin in the spring 2003 NATO Review).

Interestingly, the desire to build relations with NATO goes far beyond the Euro-Atlantic area. Japan has attached considerable importance to its relations with the Alliance with the result that regular, biannual NATO-Japan security conferences have taken place since the early 1990s. Two NATO secretary generals — Manfred Wörner in 1991 and Javier Solana in 1999 — have made official visits to Japan. And a series of so-called "high-level talks" have taken place between a NATO team headed by the Deputy Secretary General and senior officials from the Japanese Foreign and Defence Ministries. Moreover, as the Alliance continues to transform itself to meet the security challenges of the 21st century and moves beyond the Euro-Atlantic area, interest in partnership with NATO grows. Indeed, today China too is investigating the potential of a closer relationship (for more on China-NATO relations, see Beijing calling by Zuqian Zhang in this issue of NATO Review).

Practical cooperation

One very practical benefit to NATO of its many partnerships is the contribution that Partner countries have made, and continue to make, to Alliance-led peacekeeping operations in terms of troops, equipment and resources. Indeed, generating the 70,000 troops that were required for the NATO-led operations in Bosnia and Kosovo in 1999 and 2000 would have been extremely difficult without Partner contributions. By contributing troops, Partner countries were demonstrating their commitment both to Euro-Atlantic security and to Euro-Atlantic security cooperation. But the task of rebuilding peace and stability in war-ravaged regions of the former Yugoslavia was one that required more than simply military solutions. In addition to working with non-member states, therefore, NATO has forged increasingly effective partnerships with other international institutions in the interest of eventually achieving self-sustaining peace processes.

Although the wars of Yugoslavia's dissolution caught the international community largely unprepared, the key institutions involved — the European Union, NATO, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations — gradually came to grips with the situation and, in the process, began to forge effective working relations. Moreover, the experience of working together on the ground firstly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, then in Kosovo and then in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* has helped shape all these organisations and their relationships with each other.

NATO deployed into Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 to oversee implementation of the military aspects of the Dayton Agreement. In doing so, it provided the conditions in which other international organisations, including the European Union, the OSCE and the United Nations and a range of non-governmental organisations, could contribute to rebuilding peace and stability in the country. Despite the historical silence that had existed in the past between NATO and its new partners, practical relations were quickly established that have since been intensified and improved as a result of the experience of working together.

That model proved a valuable guide for Kosovo. In 1999, a NATO-led force deployed in the province to provide security with a mandate from UNSC Resolution 1244. And the United Nations divided responsibility for the peace process between itself (police and justice work as well as civil administration), the OSCE (democratisation and institution building) and the European Union (reconstruction and economic development). In this way, each organisation has a specific role to play in rebuilding peace and stability.

The focus of NATO's relationship with the United Nations today is clearly on peacekeeping issues. The NATO Secretary General reports to his UN counterpart on progress in NATO-led operations, including that of the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, for which NATO took responsibility in August, and informs the United Nations of key decisions of the North Atlantic Council. Staff-level cooperation and the flow of information have increased in recent years since the appointment in 1999 of a NATO liaison officer to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the attachment of a liaison officer from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to NATO's Civil Emergency Planning Directorate. Meanwhile, international responses to the threat posed by terrorism is emerging as an area for enhanced relations.

European security architecture

Already in December 1990, NATO foreign ministers envisaged a triangular construction to shore up security in Europe, declaring that: "The three key elements of the European architecture are the Alliance, the process of European integration and the CSCE ." But here again, it was practical cooperation in the former Yugoslavia that paved the way for regular contacts and intensified exchange of information. And the profile of NATO-OSCE cooperation and cooperation of both organisations with the European Union was raised in 2000 and 2001 as the NATO Secretary General made regular visits to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* with his OSCE and EU counterparts in what proved a successful attempt to head off a growing conflict there.

NATO's most important relationship in the coming years will likely be that with the European Union

NATO-OSCE relations are governed by the so-called Platform for Cooperative Security agreed at the OSCE's 1999 Istanbul Summit. In this, the Allies expressed their readiness to deploy NATO's institutional resources in support of the OSCE's work, particularly in the areas of conflict prevention and crisis management.

NATO's most important relationship in the coming years will likely be that with the European Union, as that organisation seeks to enhance its security — including military — capabilities. When both organisations work together with a common aim, as they did in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* in 2001, they can be a powerful force both for conflict prevention and crisis management. Moreover, as the European Union enlarges to take in ten more countries, thereby increasing its membership to 25, and NATO enlarges to take in seven more countries, thereby becoming an alliance of 26, the overlap in membership will grow to 19.

The development of a European Security and Defence Policy can and should strengthen both Alliance and EU crisis-management capabilities. This will especially be the case as the European Union meets the Headline Goal that it set for itself in Helsinki in 1999: to be able to deploy and sustain for at least one year, military forces of up to 60,000 troops to undertake the so-called "Petersberg tasks" of humanitarian and rescue missions, peacekeeping and tasks of combat forces in crisis management.

Although NATO established formal relations with the European Union in January 2001 and the two organisations have been meeting formally since then, the relationship remained largely a blueprint with little substance until December of last year, when an EU-NATO Declaration on ESDP was adopted. Since then, a series of agreements have been agreed between the European Union and NATO on cooperation in crisis management. These agreements have made it possible for the European Union to take over from NATO responsibility for peacekeeping in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* on 1 April (For more on EU-NATO relations, see articles The ties that bind by Julian Lindley-French and Taking EU-NATO relations forward by Pol De Witte in this issue of NATO Review).

The many partnerships that NATO has helped establish in recent years and is continuing to develop have not been created simply for their own sake. In the face of transnational security threats, there can be no substitute for international cooperation - between countries, and between institutions. This is why partnership has formed a key element of the Alliance's transformation since the end of the Cold War, and why the partnerships will be further deepened and enhanced in future.

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