Can NATO Survive Europe?

Can NATO Survive Europe?

Mini Teaser: E. Wayne Merry advocated that NATO should give way to a purely European defense system. John Hulsman, Radek Sikorski and Hans Binnendijk & Richard Kugler disagree. A rejuvenated NATO can strengthen the Atlantic alliance.

by Author(s): John C. HulsmanRadek SikorskiHans BinnendijkRichard Kugler

Wayne Merry's essay, "Therapy's End", in the Winter 2003/04 issue of The National Interest advances a controversial proposition: "The main instrument of the Cold War now inhibits rather than encourages transatlantic cooperation and should be eliminated." The National Interest has asked four distinguished scholar-practitioners to provide their opinions and responses to this argument.

Getting Real
An Unromantic Look at the NATO Alliance

John C. Hulsman

AS Alexander Pope explained, "If folly grow romantic, I must paint it." Which brings me to E. Wayne Merry's piece. I have enjoyed Merry's company for a number of years. Yet there has always been something about his aversion to NATO, more in tone than anything else, that has failed to ring true. With this piece, at last I have it. For Merry, all outward appearances to the contrary, is a romantic about the alliance, failing to see it for what it is genuinely in the process of becoming.

In this line, he follows a long and noble historical pattern. Members of the first postwar generation, which invented NATO, were also romantics, seeing the alliance as the elixir that would save them from the ghastly European history of the first half of the 20th century. Statesmen on both sides of the Atlantic--giants like Adenauer, Bevin, Churchill, Acheson, Truman and Eisenhower--felt that, come what may, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization must be supported as the last, best chance to avoid either the Armageddon of World War III or slavery under the Stalinist system. All differences, problems, national rivalries and controversies (and, as now, they were legion) were paltry in comparison to this wholehearted commitment.

In a very different way, the generation that followed (of which Merry is a member) oddly echoed the romantic proclivities of their fathers. Men such as Gerhard Schroder, Joschka Fischer, Javier Solana, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair grew up during a time of rebellion against the cozy consensus of their predecessors. If the older generation could get Vietnam so wrong, so the thinking went, perhaps even more vital foreign policy calculations were also flawed. In their youths, such men rebelled against the alliance, seeing it as little more than a symbol of American domination. The Sixty-Eighters (as they came to be known in Europe) instead looked to the increasingly growing European Economic Community as a long-term antidote to perceived American hegemony. In a queer reverse manner, Merry is merely echoing the views of a number of European leaders, held particularly in their youths, that America (and by association its Trojan horse, NATO) was preventing "Europe" from emerging as a third pole of power to challenge both the United States and the USSR. The Sixty-Eighters may have reviled De Gaulle and helped to end his reign, but they subconsciously echoed his critique of the bipolar era. The problem with this latter view is that it misunderstands what NATO and "Europe" really are and what they are becoming.

I am the product of the third postwar generation, a realist Hegelian synthesis of the romantic notions of NATO as everything on the one hand and NATO as imperialist tool on the other. For my generation, NATO is just one politico-military tool of many, to be used when both operationally and politically applicable. For the simple fact is that NATO is again evolving to meet the challenges of the post-9/11 world. For there is little doubt that Merry does not understand what NATO is and does. In fact, nowhere does he mention perhaps NATO's greatest strength: to serve as a clubhouse, allowing fractious states on both sides of the Atlantic to calibrate diplomatic positions privately, coordinating such positions when it becomes practicable. This absolutely vital political function would have to be reinvented if the alliance ceased to exist. For in a world where "Europe" does not yet exist, it allows the United States to cherry-pick allies issue by-issue and case-by-case, a comfortable middle diplomatic ground between going it alone on major strategic matters and allowing chronic divisions in Europe and elsewhere to grind American foreign policy decision-making to a halt.

NATO ITSELF has operationally been in the process of reinventing itself (as it did in both 1949 and 1952) to deal with the more diffuse post-9/11 era. Up until recently, members of the alliance had only two decision-making options: either agree en masse to take on a mission or have one member block the consensus that would allow such a mission to proceed. Fortuitously in April 1999, NATO governments ratified the new Combined Task Force mechanism (CJTF) that adds a needed dimension of flexibility to alliance operations. Through the CJTF mechanism, member-states can decline to participate actively in a specific mission if they do not feel their vital interests are involved, but their opting out of a mission would not stop other NATO members from participating in an intervention if they chose to do so.

This new modus operandi is a two-way street. In fact, the first time it was used (de facto) involved European efforts to head off civil conflict in Macedonia. The United States, sensibly enough, noted that Macedonia was, to put it mildly, not a primary national interest. However, for Italians, with the Adriatic as their Rio Grande, the explosion of Skopje would have had immediate and direct geostrategic consequences, in terms of both the further destabilization of a nearby region and the consequent refugee flows that were bound to follow in its wake. By allowing certain European states to use common NATO wherewithal, such as logistics, lift and intelligence capabilities (most of which were American in origin) while refraining from putting U.S. boots on the ground in Macedonia, the Bush Administration followed a sensible middle course that averted a crisis emerging in the alliance. This operational evolution for out of area missions, far from amounting to "a silent, political coup d'etat", as Merry's fevered, romantic imagination would have it, merely signifies the primary reason NATO works: its ability to adapt to changing global structural conditions. Contrary to Merry's assertions, this is the stuff of robust alliances.

Likewise utopian is Merry's incessant reference to "European interests", to Europe acting as a coherent entity in the politico-military realm. Merry's second fallacy, a misunderstanding of what the EU is and does, and what it wishes to be, is as equally a flawed assessment as is his misunderstanding of today's alliance. One has only to look at the seminal issue of war and peace during the past year--what to do about Saddam Hussein's Iraq--to see a complete lack of coordination at the European level. Initially, the UK stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States; Germany's militant pacifists were against any sort of military involvement, be it sanctioned by the UN or not; and France held a wary middle position, stressing that any military force must emanate from UN Security Council deliberations. It is hard to imagine starker and more disparate foreign policy positions being staked out by the three major powers in Europe--and all of them based on their own specific national, rather than European-wide, interests. As the diplomatic crisis went on, what the Iraq crisis showed to all the world is that beyond comforting EU communiques, the reality is that Iraq was not about European governments versus the United States. It was about European governments versus European governments. The Europeans are light-years away from developing a common foreign and security policy (CFSP). While doubtless Euro-federalists will say, as they always do, that this specific diplomatic failure will galvanize them to collective action, what we have here is a faith-based view, nothing more. On the high politics issues of war and peace, national interests still come first. Until this changes, the "Europe" to which Merry alludes will remain little more than a romantic fantasy.

PARENTHETICALLY, if the Europe of Merry's imaginings does not exist, there is little reason to suspect that America would do better if it did. The United States finds itself in a difficult social situation regarding greater European efforts at centralization: it neither wants Europe to succeed (and challenge American pre-eminence) nor fail (inducing chaos that could ultimately weaken dependable allies). Merry says America should "welcome a little friendly competition from Europe", without understanding that balancing powers rarely remain "friendly" for very long.

Indeed, those Europeans pushing for a more centralized, federal, coherent European Union do so by increasingly defining themselves through their differences with Americans. European Gaullists see the emergence of a European pole of power as an effective foil to overwhelming American global power. The French position, predictably the most suspicious of America, could not have spelled this out more clearly. Any thought that classical balance-of-power thinking is no longer a relevant tool for today's global environment ought to be put to rest by even vague scrutiny of the Chirac government's rationale for a more coherent Europe.

In separating rhetoric from reality there is a comforting final conclusion that needs to be drawn by American policymakers, namely that the very lack of European unity that hamstrings European Gaullist efforts to challenge the United States presents America with a unique opportunity. If Europe is more about diversity than uniformity, if the concept of a united Europe has yet really to exist, then a general American foreign policy based on cherry-picking coalitions of willing European allies on a case-by-case basis becomes entirely possible. Such a stance is palpably in America's interests, as it provides a method of managing transatlantic drift while remaining engaged with a continent that will rarely be wholly for, or wholly against, specific American-led foreign policy initiatives. Such a sensible middle course steers between the Scylla of foregoing allies and the Charybdis of allowing a perpetually divided Europe to scupper all American diplomatic and military initiatives.

Militarily, such an approach is exhibited in present efforts at NATO reform. Beyond the sacrosanct Article 5 commitment, the future of NATO consists of coalitions-of-the-willing acting out of area. Here, a realist cherry-picking strategy confounds the impulses of both unilateralists and strict multilateralists. Disregarding unilateralist attitudes towards coalitions as often not worth the bother, this strategy calls for full NATO consultation on every significant strategic issue of the day, as there is little doubt that moving forward with a full multilateral institution is better, if politically practicable. As was the case with Iraq, if full NATO support is not forthcoming, realists would doggedly continue the diplomatic dance, rather than seeing such a rebuff as the end of the process, as many strict multilateralists would counsel.

A CJTF--where a subset of the Alliance forms a coalition of the willing to carry out a specific mission using common NATO resources--would be this strategy's second preference. If this too proved impossible, due to a general institutional blocking of such an initiative, a coalition of the willing outside of NATO--composed of states around the globe committed to a specific initiative based on shared immediate interests--would be the third best option. Only then, if vital national interests were at stake, should America act alone. Cherry-picking is the way around what has become a cartoonish debate, as very few decision-makers are either entirely unilateral or multilateral in orientation. The world is simply more complicated than this.

Finally, Merry forgets one thing more: countries are still clamoring to join NATO, despite the pernicious role he believes it plays in the international system. Whatever the disputes between America and Europe, NATO remains the one vibrant transatlantic institution in which Americans sit cheek by jowl with the major European states. If America is to search for allies in the future, there is little doubt that most of the primary allies will continue to come from Europe. As Keith Richards is reputed to have said to Mick Jagger during one of their periodic spats as members of the Rolling Stones when Jagger is reported to have threatened quitting, "It's bigger than the both of us, darling. You'll be back tomorrow." This is the unsentimental, dare I say it, unromantic reality of the dawn of the 21st century. Romantics on both sides of the Atlantic would do well to keep this in mind, as the rest of us struggle mightily to keep them from forcing us to jump alongside them into the dark unknown they seem so desperately to want to explore without much light.

John C. Hulsman is a Research Fellow for European Affairs at the Davis Institute for International Studies of The Heritage Foundation.

NATO Has Not Perished Yet While We Are Still Alive
(with an acknowledgement to the first line of the Polish national anthem)

 Radek Sikorski

IT IS NOT every day that a former Pentagon official encourages the Europeans to cut alliance ties with the United States. So, when one does, we should pay attention, especially when he does so as eloquently as Wayne Merry did in "Therapy's End." It is, certainly, a mark of a civilized man constantly to question one's first principles. Similarly, it is a sign of intellectual vitality to discuss the assumptions of Western security. One cannot help but agree with him that armies, alliances and international staffs are too expensive to be treated as job-creation schemes. Nor do we want to go down the route of the Soviet Union, which bankrupted itself spending too much money on an ossified defense establishment. In principle, when circumstances change, so should we.

And clearly, circumstances have changed. The reality of a belligerent Soviet Union threatening to spread communism into Western Europe--the threat which NATO was founded to deter--is thankfully no longer with us, and we should draw lessons from that success. Equally, the struggle for mastery in Europe, at least by traditional means, seems over and has been replaced by the economic, legal and, possibly soon, constitutional ties of the European Union. Merry is also painfully right about Europe's misallocation of its defense expenditures, which makes it feel like a midget despite jointly having the second largest defense expenditures in the world.

Merry proposes a radical solution: Defy that version of Parkinson's law that says that when institutions lose their purpose, they grow. Instead of enlarging, the Alliance should be dissolved and the EU should be encouraged to become a fully-fledged superpower, also in the military field. Let the Europeans take charge of their self-defense and let them define their own security interests beyond their borders as well. Let them grow up, in short, and not only will we save ourselves a great deal of transatlantic aggravation, but the United States will acquire a more responsible and competent ally at the end of the process.

If Merry's manifesto for the liberation of Europe from American tutelage had been written by a former colleague at the Quai d'Orsay, it would no doubt be cited as another proof of a Gallic plot to undermine the hyper puissance. But since it comes from this side of the Atlantic, we can examine the arguments without the usual histrionics. In the spirit of free enquiry, let us therefore imagine a world in which Wayne Merry's dream has come true: a world without NATO.

It is true that if the Europeans coordinated their defense policies better, they would gain a much bigger bang for their buck. Europe spends about a third of what the United States spends on its military but has nothing like a third of America's capabilities. If instead of 25 armies, navies and air forces, it had one of each, it would enjoy the economies of scale that benefit America. But one wonders if you need to dissolve NATO to do this.

THE dissolution of the alliance would entail the withdrawal of American troops from Europe, since NATO is the main political and legal framework for their stationing. Europe taking charge of its own security surely means that, if it means anything. And that would have its downsides.

Firstly, the transition costs, both for Europe and for the United States--the disappearance, on the one hand, of all those American customers and, on the other, the need to relocate them to bases stateside--would be problematic. This would amount to tens, perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars. It's not a clinching argument--we don't want to be like a company that fails to downsize because of one-time charges--but it's something to keep in mind.

Secondly, the political and regional implications could become noticeably troublesome. Germany's democracy is sufficiently entrenched to survive the end of America's ultimate tutelage, but even a democratic Germany would be more tempted to play geostrategic power games in central Europe and the Balkans--games that led to disaster in the past. Much of "New Europe" itself, deprived of an American presence as the ultimate guarantor of security, would have no choice but to adopt the Franco-German terms of European integration, with all their anti-American undercurrents. Russia would react by speeding up the restoration of its empire. Ukraine, which gave up its post-Soviet nuclear arsenal in return for Western security guarantees, and which has tried to steer a middle course between Russia and the West, would probably succumb to a Russian sphere of influence. Britain would complete its internal realignment. With the security connection with the United States gone, Atlanticist political forces would decline and the UK would finally become a true European social democracy. Spain, Italy, Scandinavia, Turkey--they would all lose the wiggle room that a security connection with the United States gives them in their European policy. The one country that would feel vindicated at last would be France, or rather that part of the French elite which has dreamt of a non-Atlantic, European Europe for all these decades. In short, all of America's friends in Europe would be weakened, while all of America's potential rivals would be boosted. A Europe without American troops on its soil would be more likely to succumb to its lowest-common-denominator ideology of anti-Americanism. A Europe with its own independent military capability will more frequently say 'No' to the United States on a plethora of international issues and, unlike today, that may not mean resentful acquiescence but active opposition.

The third downside, even without falling into outright anti-Americanism, is that a fully fledged European power that had a bigger population and economy would naturally start to think of itself in terms of comparison and competition with the United States in all fields. A unified defense establishment that was a third of America's size in expenditure terms, but much smaller in terms of capabilities for many years to come, would demand what defense establishments do everywhere: a bigger share of resources. But the line between keeping up with the Joneses and an arms race is fluid, and one can lead to the other.

Fourthly, a purely European defense establishment would develop a community of interests with a purely European defense industry, large parts of which already see themselves as competitors with American defense giants. You don't have to be a Marxist to believe that commercial competition can feed into other types of competition as well and that these might reinforce one another, leading to volatile and unpredictable crises.

Fifth, such a non-NATO European defense establishment would also do what all weaker powers do in relation to stronger ones: seek allies. Russia, China, various Middle Eastern satrapies that have found the unipolar moment so constraining would finally find a partner in the balancing game. Multipolarity would come back with a vengeance and would not enhance the joint power of the Western democracies. A non-Atlantic Europe with its own army might be a more confident partner for the United States, but it would not necessarily add to America's--or Europe's--ability to achieve its objectives.

And then--either because of shared values and interests, or because common enemies bring us together--if these two powers tried to fight together, what would their military cooperation look like? Without standardized communications, friend-or-foe codes, intertwined lines of military and political authority, they would no longer be a workable coalition. Instead, they would resemble armies of Napoleon's time camped on opposite sides of the river with the European and American emperors sulking in their tents and never sure whether, at the crucial moment, the other would come to their assistance or stab them in the back. If they really wanted to collaborate, they would find that joint staffs, standardized procedures and compatible communications would be indispensable. Pretty soon, they would be working to reinvent NATO.

Let us take as an example, the biggest military coalition currently in the field: the 10,000 strong international division in the Central South sector of Iraq (it is under the command of Poland), which I visited recently. It has relieved U.S. Marines who previously secured the sector and has successfully provided security to over five million Iraqis. The biggest problem its commander has to deal with is the challenge of coordinating two dozen militaries with their different military sub-cultures, different equipment, different rules of engagement and different political directives from their capitals. After more than six months both the participants and the Americans have come to the conclusion that it would be useful to back it up with the institutional resources of an organization for which coordinating diverse militaries is a daily routine, namely NATO. The organization can be useful not only as an American toolbox, but also as an international staff experienced in working with the American military.

THERE IS A middle course between leaving everything as it is and rashly dissolving a successful alliance, and it is in fact what is taking place. Europe will increasingly co-ordinate its foreign and defense policy, and it will progressively strengthen forces and capabilities that it might want to use either inside or outside of NATO structures. But NATO can remain the bedrock of our common security, and we can both use it as a toolbox for those actions that the other side does not object to, but feels no inclination to get involved in. We can be Europe and America, but we are also the Western civilization, with NATO as our invincible arm.

Radek Sikorski was Poland's Deputy Minister of Defense and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and is Executive Director of the New Atlantic Initiative at the American Enterprise Institute.

Transform NATO
Don't End It

Hans Binnendijk & Richard Kugler

WE PROPOSE a dual-track strategy for healing the transatlantic rift over Iraq and bolstering NATO's ability to play a helpful role in the Greater Middle East. We can best begin by examining E. Wayne Merry's "Therapy's End", which advocates NATO's elimination because it is allegedly a barrier to such a partnership. Merry fingers NATO's maddening features, and we agree with him that Europeans should become more capable of carrying out their security responsibilities. But dismantling NATO would weaken Europe's defense capabilities and destroy the institutions that the United States needs to wage the War on Terror successfully. Instead of dissolving NATO, we must transform it into an institution better suited to performing its new missions.

MERRY'S article is reminiscent of Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal, in which Swift suggested an extreme solution to solve two of England's biggest contemporary problems. Swift was not serious about his proposal, but he was serious about highlighting the issues of 1729. Perhaps this is Merry's purpose in 2004 as well. Certainly no senior U.S. official of either party advocates dissolving NATO, nor does any European government. Nonetheless, the notion needs to be put to rest before turning to the real business of transforming NATO.

Merry gives two main arguments. First, NATO stands in the way of Europe's fully unifying under the EU flag and accepting responsibility for its own security. Second, the United States and Europe have such disparate interests and policies in other regions that they are best advised to go their own ways when they cannot agree. Merry argues that dismantling NATO is far better than continuing to perpetuate Europe's unhealthy dependence on the United States and allowing the United States to use NATO merely as a tool in its involvements elsewhere. These are bold arguments, certainly, but that does not make them right. While Europe needs to acquire a stronger capacity to carry its own security weight, dismantling NATO is not the way to achieve this goal or to grapple with the problem of transatlantic policy disputes about the Middle East. As for the United States, it was a champion of multilateral planning during the Cold War, and it should not view NATO as a mere tool now. It needs partners, not vassals, and it should prefer integrated forces to improvised ad hoc coalitions. Transforming NATO, not dissolving it, is the best way to develop such relationships.

Merry gets it exactly wrong: far from NATO being an obstacle to European unity, it remains (as it has been for decades) a principal mechanism for promoting European integration. Without NATO, the Common Market and the European Union (EU) would never have been founded.

The divisions in Europe today over Iraq policy are temporary and much less deep than they would be if a strong defensive alliance did not exist. In fact, without the security framework provided by NATO, the EU might well splinter. The United States has supported Europe's unity since the early 1950s. Today, America asks only that the European Security and Defense Policy be implemented so as to respect NATO's responsibility to perform agreed-upon missions. If the United States and NATO are barriers to Europe's unity, as Merry claims, then why has its unity advanced so far in the past fifty years? If NATO is widely resented across Europe as a dying relic of subservience to the United States, then why has it grown from 16 to 26 members in the last five years alone? To say the least, this is odd behavior for a supposedly purposeless and unwanted alliance.

We also disagree with Merry's second argument, that NATO perpetuates unhealthy European dependence upon the United States. Yes, the United States still provides crucial security guarantees to Europe through NATO. But the vast majority of NATO's border-defense forces are provided by Europeans, NATO's military commands are well-populated by Europeans, and the U.S. military presence on the continent could decline by as much as 50 percent in the next few years. Moreover, the historical record shows that since NATO's founding, its defense strategies have reflected a healthy balance of U.S. and European views, not ideas imposed by the United States. Yes, NATO is led by the United States, but this does not mean that its European members are second-class citizens with little influence. Yes, Europeans need to carry a larger share of the defense burden with bigger military budgets and better forces for power projection. But NATO is encouraging them to do so, not trying to block them. Progress is being made. The new NATO Response Force (NRF) is today operational, and it is the European states that provide the principal contributions. The Prague Capabilities Commitment designed to strengthen European forces is making progress. A new NATO command designed to facilitate European military transformation is in place. Europeans now dominate peacekeeping missions in the Balkans. NATO plays a leadership role today in Afghanistan and supports the Polish-led division in Iraq. NATO is not atrophying as Merry suggests, but rather is adapting fairly rapidly to new requirements.

Merry also makes a dangerous assumption about institutions. He believes that the United States unconnected to the European states by a defensive alliance will still have the ability to coordinate transatlantic national security policies on an ongoing basis. NATO today provides a mechanism for coordinating national responses to the new challenges. Remove the Alliance, and the coordinating mechanism is lost. Policy differences are likely to go unresolved if the respective positions have hardened. Resolving those differences without NATO institutions will cause more not fewer transatlantic rifts.

Why Transform NATO?

WE OFFER A different prescription than Merry because we diagnose NATO's ills differently. He views NATO as perpetuating the weaknesses of dependent allies capable of free-riding on America while back-stabbing it at the same time. In our view, the allies are not weak in Europe. The real problem is that apart from Britain and a few others, they are inward-looking and preoccupied with the future of Europe in ways that leave them uneager to become involved in out of area adventures (this includes, most obviously, the Middle East). If dissolving NATO were to prod them into activity outside Europe, the risk is that they would adopt an approach that is at odds with U.S. policy. Absent NATO, there would be no transatlantic institution to blend these different approaches into a common, coherent strategy.

Such a strategy is needed because the Europeans are now coming to realize that they can no longer insulate themselves from a dangerous world, and the continent needs America to move that realization in a constructive policy direction. This is not to say that only Europe needs America. America needs Europe as well, for both political and military reasons. If the United States and Europe stand apart, there will be no success in the Middle East. While cooperation does not guarantee success, it increases the likelihood. That alone is a compelling rationale for a renewed partnership, for NATO remains the best vehicle for making such a partnership work.

WHETHER NATO will be able to do so is yet to be seen. But instead of dissolving, NATO needs to adopt a bold reform strategy--beyond that embraced at the Prague Summit of 2002--in order to restore its unity and develop a better capacity for common action. Such a reform strategy should stem from two sensible premises about NATO's role inside and outside Europe, for while continuity is needed in the former case, change is needed in the latter.

The first premise is that NATO continues to be of high value in serving the interests of both the United States and Europe on the continent itself. By helping make the continent secure, NATO enables the United States to address other dangerous regions without constantly looking over its shoulder in fear that Europe may unravel because it is preoccupied elsewhere. Meanwhile, Europe benefits from NATO because American defense commitments allow the continent to protect its security at a vastly lower expense than otherwise would be the case. Indeed, the amount of money that Europe saves each year roughly equals the EU's annual budget. The result is a long-standing, healthy transatlantic bargain that remains profitable for both sides.

European integration is best pursued by a healthy NATO and EU evolving in tandem, with each body performing the strategic functions for which it is best suited. The EU is far from being able to perform NATO's still-important security roles. NATO still is needed in Europe because its traditional mission of security and reassurance still makes sense even though it is now being carried out in new ways.

A second premise is that the United States and Europe share many common interests in the Middle East and other regions even though their policies sometimes are at odds. Above all, they share an interest in ensuring that the Middle East does not go up in flames in ways that could consume them and their interests. Beyond this, they share an interest in promoting not only peace and stability there, but also democracy and market economies. These common interests give the United States and Europe ample scope to cooperate, but only if they can rise above their daily policy squabbles to find common ground for an enduring multilateral strategy. Achieving this goal may be hard, but it is not impossible. The alliance merely needs to remember how it found common ground in the past when its disputes were equally intense: through dialogue and accommodation.

Implementing a Dual Track Strategy

WE PROPOSE a new dual-track strategy, modeled first on the 1960s NATO combination of deterrence and detente to coordinate transatlantic approaches to the Soviet Union and second on the 1980s combination of missile deployments and a zero nuclear arms control proposal as a way to remove the SS-20 threat. It is a strategy of defense transformation for military preparedness and political transformation for strategic realignment, and could be adopted in outline as early as the June 2004 Istanbul Summit.

Our defense agenda is aimed at bolstering NATO's military capability for new-era missions outside Europe. It begins with strong commitment to the NRF, which will provide a small but potent expeditionary strike force staffed mostly by Europeans. By instituting a composite of ground, naval and air units capable of swift deployments and modern combat operations, this joint force of about 21,000 troops will help close a huge gap in NATO's preparedness while maintaining interoperability with U.S. forces as transformation intensifies. Adopted at the Prague Summit, the NRF is on schedule to be fully operational by 2006, but success will depend upon continuing high-level political support. Our defense agenda also includes the building up of a small NATO Stabilization and Reconstruction Force (SRF) to complement the NRF that can help perform postwar occupation duties in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

Our political transformation agenda is aimed at enhancing NATO's political capability for multilateral action outside Europe. The first component is to produce a special report that presents a common vision of threat perceptions, goals, strategy and standards for using force. Its purpose would be to help close the transatlantic gap that now exists in these areas, and to set the stage for issuing a new NATO strategic concept afterwards. The second component is to replace NATO's current decision-making procedures for handling security issues outside Europe with more flexible and responsive procedures. The point is to make it easier to form coalitions of the willing within NATO. Such a new approach would lessen the danger of NATO being paralyzed by a few dissenters. It would aim to delegate proper authority to members charged with responsibility for new missions while ensuring that all crisis actions receive proper review by the NAC. It would permit NATO military authorities to prepare for new missions in advance, and it would allow NATO to mount crisis operations even if a few countries dissent--provided a large majority agrees.

The third component of our political agenda would be to prepare NATO to become involved in future peacekeeping, stabilization and reconstruction missions in the Middle East and beyond. This step already is being taken in Afghanistan, and when the time comes, it should be taken in Iraq. Preparing military forces for this activity is as important as instituting multilateral agreements on policies.

The fourth component is the establishment of what we call a "Partnership for Cooperation" (PfC) with friendly Middle Eastern countries. Unlike NATO's "Partnership for Peace" in Europe, a PfC would not aim to prepare these countries for admission to NATO. Instead, it would form a flexible, slowly growing tent under which NATO members could work with participating Middle Eastern militaries on such common endeavors as peacekeeping, counter-terrorism, border control, planning and budgeting. The PfC would aim to draw its members closer to NATO while instructing them in democracy.

Appraising the Balance Sheet

THIS dual-track strategy of reform may dismay those who want to dissolve NATO and those who want NATO to stand pat. Standing pat is not the answer because it will ensure NATO's slide into irrelevance and ultimate demise. Dissolving NATO makes as much sense as a well-married couple divorcing because husband and wife fail to agree on how to handle the next-door neighbors. The real issue is whether this dual-track strategy, or something like it, can succeed. We think it can succeed if it is given a strong push at the Istanbul Summit. The core reason for optimism is that both the United States and Europe, including Germany and France, have incentives to see this strategy work rather than allow NATO to atrophy.

Yes, this strategy is bold. Yes, it will take hard work. Granted, all of it may not be fully achievable. But even partial success--if it includes a healthy blend of military and political achievements--is preferable to no attempt at all or to divorce. Above all, this strategy provides a compelling strategic vision of a restored transatlantic partnership and a new NATO capable of playing a meaningful role inside and outside Europe. Such a vision is exactly what NATO needs in this time of trouble and opportunity.

NATO must become more relevant to today's troubled security affairs outside Europe. Failure to pass the relevancy test will mean that the most successful military alliance in the history of the world will pass into history because the Europeans will lose interest and the United States will pull away. Only the drift to irrelevance, based on false premises and ill will, will prove Merry right.

Hans Binnendijk is Director of the Center for Technology and National Security Policy at the National Defense University (CTNSP). Richard L. Kugler is a Distinguished Research Professor at CTNSP. The views expressed within this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the United States government.

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