An atrocity took place on a scale and of a level
of barbarity that it appalled the entire world and, from the NATO
perspective, led to a fundamental change in the way in which the
Alliance operated and the kind of task it dealt with. The atrocity
was the Srebrenica massacre of July 1995.
The groundwork for NATO's expanded role in Bosnia
and Herzegovina had been prepared in the previous years in internal
Alliance documents as well as agreements with the United Nations
and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. However,
before the Srebrenica massacre, Allies had remained reluctant to
take the logical next step and launch the kind of intervention that
might end the war.
In the wake of Srebrenica, in which possibly
as many as 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were summarily executed
by Bosnian Serb forces, international attitudes against the Bosnian
Serbs hardened. Within two months of the massacre, NATO had carried
out its first air campaign, leading to the signing of a peace agreement
to end more than three-and-a-half-years of fighting. By December
of that same year, NATO was leading a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia
and Herzegovina and providing the security for a peace process to
The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 have
had an even greater impact on Alliance strategic thinking than the
Srebrenica massacre. A day after hijackers flew commercial airliners
into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington,
the Allies responded by invoking Article 5 of the Washington Treaty
for the first time in the Alliance's history. And by agreeing that
a terrorist attack by a non-state actor should trigger NATO's collective
self-defence obligation, the Alliance had, in effect, mandated itself
to make combating terrorism an enduring NATO mission.
Since then, NATO's political and military authorities
have put in place the building blocks for a comprehensive Alliance
approach to terrorism, which could have similar, long-term implications
for the way in which NATO operates. On the political side, the North
Atlantic Council has decided that NATO should be ready to help deter,
defend, disrupt and protect against terrorist attacks directed from
abroad, as and where required. It should be ready to help national
authorities cope with the aftermath of attacks. And, on a case-by-case
basis, the Alliance should consider providing its assets and capabilities
to support operations, including those against terrorism, undertaken
by or in cooperation with the European Union or other international
organisations or coalitions involving Allies. On the military side,
NATO now has a military concept for defence against terrorism for
which the Alliance's military authorities are now developing a concept
of operations to put it into effect.
Such measures have clearly been in the Alliance's
best, long-term interest as increasingly its relevance is measured
by its contribution to the war against terrorism. Indeed, had the
Alliance been unable or unwilling to contribute to addressing the
challenges posed by terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, it
would have risked detaching itself from the US security agenda thereby
ceasing to be an effective organisation.
To be fair, what the Alliance was doing before
9/11 — rebuilding failed states in the former Yugoslavia,
forging partnerships with Russia, other former adversaries in the
East and countries in the wider Mediterranean region and expanding
Europe's zone of stability by bringing more countries into the Alliance
— was extremely relevant for Euro-Atlantic security and remains
equally relevant today.
Moreover, even prior to 9/11, the Alliance was
beginning to face up to the challenge of terrorism. The Strategic
Concept that NATO leaders adopted at their Washington Summit in
1999 included the following reference: "Alliance security must also
take account of the global context. Alliance security interests
can be affected by other risks of a wider nature, including acts
of terrorism, sabotage and organised crime, and by the disruption
of the flow of vital resources..."
However, despite this recognition, the Alliance
gave terrorism relatively little collective attention. This was
largely because there was no consensus on NATO's role in what were
seen by most Allies as internal security problems. As a result,
there was little or no sustained discussion of the nature of terrorism,
of its sources, or its implications for Alliance concepts, policies,
structures or capabilities.
But 9/11 changed terrorism from what was essentially
a domestic, law-enforcement concern, into an international security
problem that, if it is to be adequately addressed, requires a broad
spectrum of political, economic, and law-enforcement measures, as
well as military engagement.
The first step in NATO's response was the invocation
of Article 5. But having taken this unprecedented action, the Allies'
initial contribution to the US-led campaign against al Qaida
and the Taliban in Afghanistan was modest [for details of early
NATO support, see article Aiding America in the winter
2001 issue of NATO Review]. In the intervening period,
however, Allies have played an increasingly significant role. Indeed,
14 NATO countries deployed forces to Afghanistan.
At their Reykjavik meeting in May last year,
NATO foreign ministers agreed that: "To carry out the full range
of its missions, NATO must be able to field forces that can move
quickly to wherever they are needed, sustain operations over distance
and time, and achieve their objectives." Since then, NATO has begun
to provide support to those countries, currently Germany and the
Netherlands, which are running the International Security Assistance
Force in Afghanistan. And at the Prague Summit, NATO leaders endorsed
a lengthy package of measures and initiatives, virtually all of
which can be considered as designed to combat terrorism.
NATO's new capabilities initiative, the Prague
Capabilities Commitment (PCC), is designed to improve, among other
things, the Alliance's terrorism-related capabilities and in general
to ensure that European militaries are equipped to move faster and
further afield, to apply military force more effectively and to
sustain themselves in combat. It includes the following eight fields:
chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence; intelligence,
surveillance and target acquisition; air-to-ground surveillance;
command, control and communications; combat effectiveness, including
precision-guided munitions and suppression of enemy air defences;
strategic air and sea lift; air-to-air refuelling; and deployable
combat support and combat service support units.
Once implemented, the PCC should at least quadruple
the number of large transport aircraft in Europe, from 4 to 16 and
possibly more. It will also significantly increase air-to-air refuelling
capacity among NATO's European members by, among other initiatives,
establishing a pool of 10 to 15 refuelling aircraft. And it will
increase NATO's stock of non-US, air-delivered, precision-guided
munitions by 40 per cent by 2007.
Another Prague initiative, the NATO Response
Force, which should have an initial operating capability by October
2004, is designed to give the Alliance a new capability to respond
quickly to an emergency, to go wherever required, and to hit hard.
And NATO's Military Command Structure is undergoing transformation,
including the creation of a strategic command in the United States
responsible for the continuing transformation of Alliance military
The Prague package also included a Civil-Emergency-Planning
Action Plan to assist national authorities in improving their civil
preparedness; improved intelligence sharing and assessment arrangements;
improved crisis-response arrangements, including a new air defence
concept for dealing with "renegade" aircraft, so that procedures
are in place to deal with a repetition of 9/11; streamlined arrangements
for deploying AWACS aircraft where needed; and increased cooperation
with Partners, with a Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism
[see article Working with Partners to fight terrorism by
Osman Yavuzalp in this issue of NATO Review].
In addition, Alliance leaders endorsed implementation
of five nuclear, biological and chemical weapons defence initiatives,
which will enhance the Alliance's capabilities against weapons of
mass destruction. These are a Prototype Deployable NBC Analytical
Laboratory; a Prototype NBC Event Response team; a virtual Centre
of Excellence for NBC Weapons Defence; a NATO Biological and Chemical
Defence Stockpile; and a Disease Surveillance System. NATO is also
strengthening its capabilities to defend against cyber attack and
has initiated a missile defence feasibility study to examine options
for protecting Alliance territory, forces and population against
the full range of missile threats.
NATO's new military concept for defence against
terrorism sets out four categories of possible military activity
by NATO. These are anti-terrorism; consequence management; counter-terrorism;
and military cooperation. In this context, anti-terrorism means
defensive measures to reduce vulnerability, including limited response
and containment actions by military forces and such activities as
assuring threat warnings, maintaining the effectiveness of the integrated
air defence system and providing missile defence. Consequence management
means post-attack recuperation and involves such elements as contributing
planning and force generation, providing capabilities for immediate
assistance, providing coordination centres, and establishing training
capabilities. Counter-terrorism means the use of offensive measures,
including counter-force activities, both with NATO in the lead and
with NATO in support of other organisations or coalitions involving
Allies. And military cooperation covers among other things cooperation
with Russia, Ukraine, Partners, Mediterranean Dialogue countries
and other countries, as well as with other organisations, including
the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation
in Europe, and the United Nations.
Even NATO's science programme, which has traditionally
focused on encouraging cooperation between scientists from different
countries, has been redesigned in such a way that it, too, is now
addressing efforts relevant to defence against terrorism, especially
within the context of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and
the NATO-Russia Council.
Implementation of what is an impressive package
of measures and initiatives may still prove problematic. Even if
countries do live up to their commitments, NATO itself will have
to change the way in which it operates to reflect the requirements
imposed by a new strategic environment. Although the Alliance will
soon have 26 members, the organisation's working methods have remained
largely unchanged from those developed for an Alliance of twelve.
Here again, the Prague Summit has made a good
start since NATO leaders agreed to reduce the numbers of committees
— currently more than 450 — by 30 per cent. More decisions
will in future be pushed towards subordinate committees, leaving
the North Atlantic Council more room to discuss strategic issues.
The procedures for ministerial meetings have been streamlined as
well, sacrificing formality in order to gain time for more substantive
exchanges. Over time, these changes should lead to a different working
culture within the Alliance.
NATO has moved a long way since 9/11 to be able
to contribute effectively to the war on terror. Nevertheless, many
issues related to this war remain controversial and achieving consensus
on concrete actions may prove difficult. Indeed, in many ways, the
situation today concerning NATO's role in the war of terror is akin
to that in 1994 or the first half of 1995 concerning taking on out-of-area
missions in the former Yugoslavia. That said, the rift within the
Alliance was probably greater in the 1990s over policy towards Bosnia
and Herzegovina than it is today, though its nature is clearly different
today because this time the United States has a vested national
interest at stake.
NATO came to terms with the problem in the 1990s.
Whereas it took three-and-a-half years of war for NATO to intervene
in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Alliance took action to stop the
fighting in Kosovo after one year and NATO deployed preventively
in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* to forestall greater
conflict. In this way, the Alliance demonstrated that, although
it might take some time to adapt to a new security paradigm, once
it does adapt, NATO learns its lessons fast and delivers results
It took the Srebrenica massacre to persuade Allies
of the merits of the initial intervention. The challenge today,
therefore, is to achieve consensus around the best strategy to address
the threat posed by terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of
mass destruction without another such atrocity.