NATO’s response to
1999 Strategic Concept recognised terrorism as a new challenge in
the post-Cold War era, it was not until 11 September 2001 that the
scale and scope of the threat was appreciated. Within 24 hours of
the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Allies invoked Article 5 of the Washington
Treaty, the collective-defence clause, for the first time. Since
then, nearly every aspect of work at NATO has been reconsidered in
the light of the terrorist threat, which has been factored into the
development of policies, concepts, capabilities and partnerships.
NATO’s contributions to what is certain to be a long and difficult
struggle reflect the Alliance’s comparative advantages and build
on its existing expertise. At the same time, given the nature of
the threat, cooperation with Partner countries and other international
organisations has become a key aspect of NATO’s approach. Continuing
terrorist attacks stand as a reminder of the gravity of the threat.
to counter terrorism
London underground bombings, Russian President Vladimir Putin lamented
how little international cooperation in combating terrorism takes
place, given the nature of the threat and the extent of the atrocities.
This is, nevertheless, a priority area for the NATO-Russia Council.
Russia, for its part, has a lot to offer, especially in the field
of anti-terrorism, including intelligence capabilities and political
influence in important regions of the world. In the NATO-Russia Council,
cooperation extends from developing joint terrorist threat assessments
through preparing joint studies of best practice to meet the challenge
to conducting joint exercises to prepare effective responses. Russia
has also confirmed that it will begin participating in Active Endeavour,
NATO’s counter-terrorism operation in the Mediterranean, early next
year. Although NATO and Russia have made considerable progress in
developing cooperation in recent years, this cooperation is still
in its early days and its practical dimension in particular needs to be enhanced.
Combating WMD proliferation
If it is to remain
credible as a security institution, NATO must play a part, and be
seen to play a part, in addressing challenges such as the proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Even if one agrees that NATO’s
military capabilities represent the key, distinctive contribution
the Alliance can make to dealing with future WMD threats, an agreed
strategic vision of how or whether to use force to pre-empt WMD threats
is lacking. The rise of “new threats” generally, and the Iraq intervention
specifically, have raised serious questions about the current meaning
and utility of basic concepts, such as prevention, pre-emption and
deterrence. Actions and policies that seem to break established paradigms,
such as what is often stereotyped as US unilateralism, can come as
a shock. But a simple, unexamined attachment to continuity is not
a viable alternative. The initiative currently under way in NATO
to improve the quality of political dialogue is of vital importance.
Success in making NATO more strategically effective depends on the political will of individual member states to share
information and analysis, but even more importantly to create and
sustain an atmosphere where Allies talk to each other, not at each other.
in the Mediterranean
In the course
of the past four years, Active Endeavour, NATO’s first Article-5,
collective-defence operation, has evolved from a small-scale deployment
providing a modest military presence in an important stretch of sea
into a comprehensive, continuously adapting counter-terrorism operation
throughout the Mediterranean. In the process, the Alliance has helped
maintain peace, stability and security in a strategic region, obtained
invaluable experience of maritime interdiction operations and developed
increasingly effective intelligence-gathering and information-sharing
procedures relevant to the wider struggle against international terrorism.
Active Endeavour is currently involved in four areas. It is helping
deter and disrupt terrorism at or from sea; controlling “choke” points
in the Mediterranean; providing escorts for merchant shipping through
the Straits of Gibraltar when necessary; and enhancing NATO’s Mediterranean
Dialogue programme. With cooperation from both military and civilian
agencies in all Mediterranean countries, the day will come when NATO is only required to provide
the coordination for a more holistic approach to countering terrorism,
and more generally illegal activity in the area.
Crossing the Rubicon
NATO’s first air campaign that lasted two-and-a-half weeks in August
and September 1995, ushered in a new era for the Alliance. Although
controversial at the time, a decade on it is clear that the operation
was critical to bringing the Bosnian War to an end with enormous
political consequences and obvious benefits for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In addition, though subsequently overshadowed by Operation Allied
Force, the Alliance’s Kosovo air campaign in 1999, Deliberate Force
may have contributed more to NATO’s post-Cold War transformation
than any other single event. Deliberate Force helped pave the way
for the Dayton Peace Agreement, which succeeded in establishing the
governing framework for Bosnia and Herzegovina that remains in place
to this day. It also helped set the foundation for the much larger
range of non-Article 5 missions that the Alliance is involved in
today, moving NATO decisively beyond the sole maintenance of its
own collective defence.
policy agenda is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, the Alliance
is no longer held back by its “out-of-area” debate. On the other,
it seems that today no security challenge falls outside NATO’s remit.
NATO is not only boldly going beyond Allied territory, it is increasingly
expected to take on everything from fighting international terrorism,
through dealing with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,
contributing to the democratisation of the Greater Middle East, training
Iraqi security forces and supporting the African Union’s peacekeeping
operation in Darfur. The many initiatives, activities and operations
on the NATO agenda reflect Alliance efforts to meet the challenges
of a changing strategic environment and are critical to keeping the
Alliance relevant in terms of US foreign policy. The Alliance has
initiated an ambitious transformation process. But the spirit of
transformation has yet to impact NATO’s Strategic Concept, which
remains unchanged since April 1999. Although the Allies have to date chosen not to open this potential can of worms, developing
a new Strategic Concept may, nevertheless, be the transatlantic catharsis
the Alliance requires.