NATO’s role in nation-building
1989, the frequency, scale, scope and duration of nation-building
missions have steadily risen with beneficial effects
for international peace and security. The demand for
nation-building is, however, fast outpacing the supply
of nation-builders, partly because new operations begin
before old ones end, partly because the size of most
Western armed forces continues to shrink while developing
societies are becoming more populous and urbanised.
This has significant institutional implications. The
United Nations should remain the West’s nation-builder
of first resort and Western governments should work
to strengthen its capabilities. NATO’s capacity for
peacekeeping should also be strengthened, since UN
peacekeeping can never fully meet the need for collective
military action. Given its limited capacity for civil
implementation, the Alliance should develop more reliable
arrangements with the European Union, the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations
to ensure that these organisations contribute civil assets in support of Alliance-led operations. NATO should
also work to generate more troops that are trained,
equipped and prepared to conduct peacekeeping operations.
Afghanistan's transformational challenge
The reciprocal influence and beneficial impact of both NATO transformation and the Alliance’s engagement in Afghanistan is greater than often recognised. By bringing to an end the debate about whether NATO should operate beyond the Euro-Atlantic area, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has been an important milestone in NATO’s post-Cold War political transformation. It has also impacted significantly on NATO’s military transformation. By providing an opportunity to test and refine NATO’s new command and force structures, it has, among other things, complemented ongoing efforts to keep the NATO Response Force on track for full operational capability in 2006. ISAF has also contributed to NATO’s military transformation by exposing operational shortfalls. In particular, the operation has led the Alliance to review its force-generation procedures, to focus its capability and force-planning mechanisms on enhancing the usability and deployability of forces, and to launch a review of the eligibility of operations for common Allied funding.
Cultural and religious factors have an impact on peace-support operations. Cultural differences among soldiers participating in multinational formations may lead to friction and a loss of trust between peacekeepers, limiting a commanding officer’s options and thereby undermining mission effectiveness. Similarly, lack of cultural expertise risks leading to a breakdown in relations with the local population. This risks undermining any operation since peacekeepers depend greatly on good relations with the local population to carry out their tasks safely. Despite this, cultural considerations only play a limited role in Allied pre-deployment preparations and do not form part of NATO’s planning, training and operational procedures. To put this right, a transformation of attitudes is necessary. NATO should recruit linguistic, cultural and area experts, and cultural awareness should become a core element of Alliance doctrine for peace-support operations.
Improving linguistic interoperability
Since the end of the Cold War, foreign language training – especially the learning of English – has become increasingly important to NATO due to the ever-increasing number of NATO-led peace-support operations and the Alliance’s enlargement and Partnership activities. Poor language skills risk contributing to mistakes in peace-support operations, which might result in casualties. Moreover, weakness in English may reduce the influence of some nations thereby creating unnecessary tension and frustration as a result of perceived “cultural discrimination”. Since the mid-1990s, significant progress has been made in improving soldiers’ language skills in Partner countries, prospective Allies and new members thanks to a number of initiatives. But more needs to be done, since both new members and many older Allies report experiencing difficulties in identifying, training and retaining soldiers with relevant skills for international assignments. To overcome this problem, NATO should develop Alliance-wide guidance concerning requirements and best practices. If the Alliance fails to undertake this task, it will face increasing problems of interoperability as it strives to reinvent itself to address the security challenges of the 21st century.
Improving civil-military cooperation the Danish way
In March 2004, Denmark launched the Concerted Planning and Action initiative to improve civil-military cooperation in peace-support operations involving Danish troops. Under this scheme, Denmark has established a permanent group of civil servants chaired by the Danish Foreign Ministry to plan and coordinate military and civilian humanitarian efforts. In addition, civilian steering units are to be deployed with or close to Danish troops in mission areas. Denmark is also seeking to widen the scope of common training of civilian and military actors and will, on an ongoing basis, review and evaluate collaboration to maximise the impact of Danish contributions to international peace operations. Efforts are also being made to ensure that the Danish engagement is planned within a coordinated, international framework. Although useful procedures have been developed, both NATO and other key international actors would clearly benefit from a more systematic approach to civil-military cooperation.
Germany's Accession to NATO: 50 years on
Germany’s accession to NATO 50 years ago was an important step in the country’s post-war rehabilitation and paved the way for Germany to play a substantial role in the defence of Western Europe during the Cold War. Germany’s road to NATO membership was anything but straightforward, however, partly because of domestic opposition to rearmament and partly because of French fears of a resurgent Germany. Initially, it appeared that German rearmament would take place within the framework of a European Defence Community and not NATO. Eventually, the Federal Republic joined the Alliance following the French National Assembly’s vote to drop the EDC treaty in August 1954, taking its place at the NATO table on 6 May 1955. On balance, German membership in NATO served German interests well throughout the Cold War. It provided the Federal Republic with a vital security umbrella and a framework within which to evolve as a responsible and important nation. It also provided a link to the United States which made deterrence credible and provided crucial assistance during the German unification process. Today, NATO membership is likely to remain central to German defence policy.
Reinventing NATO (yet again) politically
NATO is engaged in more missions and activities than ever before, yet key transatlantic actors see it as less central. The reason for this paradox is straightforward. While NATO effectively reinvented itself politically in response to the initial changes brought about by the end of the Cold War, it has not yet reinvented itself, in the wake of 9/11, to face the challenges of the post-post-Cold War era that are based beyond Europe. To address this situation, the Allies must reinvent NATO politically for a second time. This should entail pursuing two connected agendas. Firstly, NATO should continue to promote stability and democracy deeper into Eurasia and into the Black Sea region. Secondly, the Alliance should project stability with an eye towards the broader Middle East. A precondition for pursuing this agenda is reaching a new sense of strategic purpose and unity between Europe and North America, recognising the role that other institutions besides NATO can play, and bringing about an internal re-balancing between the United States and an increasingly integrated Europe.
The progress of the European Security and Defence Policy is one of the European Union’s greatest recent successes. Yet obvious limitations undermine Europe’s aspiration to become an effective crisis manager. Conscription remains in place in many countries, strategic lift is lacking, and obsolete equipment is over-abundant. Moreover, only a few European countries, notably France and the United Kingdom, have started to introduce networked-enabled capabilities. The chief obstacle to force transformation is the level of defence spending. The consequence is that European countries will have to specialise within a top-down framework if they want to modernise their forces. They will also have to cooperate with NATO in order to plug in to US-interoperable C4ISR capabilities. Finally, because Europe has only one pool of forces, the Battle Groups and the NATO Response Force must be congruent.