Reorienting Transatlantic Defense

Reorienting Transatlantic Defense

Mini Teaser: NATO is neither obsolete nor a threat to a common European defense force. Rather, it is the centerpiece of Euro-Atlantic foreign policy and a catalyst for European defense reform.

by Author(s): Doug BereuterJohn Lis

Furthermore, the EU should assume command of the peacekeeping missions in Bosnia--perhaps at the beginning of 2005--and later in Kosovo. In fact, NATO leaders are expected to agree at Istanbul to end the Stabilization Force mission in Bosnia at the end of this year and turn over responsibility to the EU. The combination of improving EU capabilities and an improving security situation in Bosnia has created a situation in which NATO can withdraw without a large risk of an immediate return to violence. NATO should retain a small office in Sarajevo to work with the newly unified Bosnian military and to help track down indicted war criminals. In addition, the Alliance will maintain an "over the horizon" reinforcement capability in case the security environment should deteriorate.

To the south, Kosovo is a much more difficult case because it remains an integral part of Serbia, despite the desire of its ethnic Albanian majority for independence. The deplorable outbreak of ethnic violence in March 2004, much of it apparently orchestrated by ethnic-Albanian elements, underscored the instability in Kosovo. Therefore, NATO should retain command of the Kosovo Force (KFOR), at least until the final status of the entity is resolved. The acceptance of the decision on final status and its implementation could be a difficult and volatile process. Once that danger passes, the EU should succeed KFOR. Even before that happens, the EU should actively guide the development of the entity's institutions in keeping with European standards, with an eye toward the possibility of Kosovo's eventual membership in the EU.

The EU also aspires to play a role in operations outside of Europe, as demonstrated by the operation in 2003 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The EU should be encouraged to undertake crisis management and humanitarian tasks outside of Europe, provided that it has the necessary capabilities. Having the EU avoid duplicating NATO's collective defense function in no way limits the geographic scope of EU operation. In fact, there are regions like Africa where European interests and historical relationships may lead to an EU operation. Given that 19 of the 26 NATO members are also EU members, the Berlin Plus agreements that are meant to facilitate NATO-EU military relations should be scrupulously followed. These seven agreements make NATO assets and capabilities, including operational planning, available to the EU, and they facilitate smooth coordination between NATO and EU missions. This allows two organizations to avoid conflicting calls on the same national assets.

That overlap in membership between the two organizations also means that the EU can take advantage of the interoperability that NATO has engendered among its member countries. By standardizing communication and doctrine among its 26 member states and by integrating officers from those nations in headquarters with a single operational language, NATO facilitates multinational operations. That cooperation has been extended to partner nations through the PfP and through on-the-ground collaboration in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Retooling NATO Partnerships

WHEN NATO invited the seven newest members to join at the 2002 Prague Summit, it recognized that the emphasis of its PfP program would have to shift from helping candidate countries become members to cooperation between the Alliance and states that may never formally join the Alliance but may become close partners. The Alliance already has offered enhancements to PfP that range from improvements in interoperability and greater consultations with the twenty partner nations to individualized assistance with defense reforms. Russia is a special case, and the Alliance has already developed the NATO-Russia Council as a unique institution for a closer relationship.

At a minimum, NATO should engage in technical military cooperation with all nations of Europe and Eurasia which are at present members of the OSCE. Afghanistan should be included in the existing PfP programs, given its geographic proximity and cultural ties to the Central Asian members of PfP.

Several PfP nations are authoritarian dictatorships that are no closer to democracy than they were under Soviet rule. NATO must not lend such countries political legitimacy, but the realities of the international security environment mean that defense cooperation may advance the security of both Alliance members and a given partner nation. The most obvious example is Uzbekistan, a detestable dictatorship that nonetheless has offered invaluable assistance with military operations in Afghanistan. America and its allies should do nothing to sustain the oppressive rule of President Islam Karimov, but they should continue cooperation with Uzbekistan in counter-terrorism and at the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base. To the extent that NATO can enhance its ability to work with such countries through PfP, it should do so. It could also create benefits in the longer term, by exposing local officials to concepts like democratic control of the armed forces.

Beyond that, PfP assists nations that are moving toward democracy to reach Western norms, particularly in transforming their militaries from instruments of internal repression to guarantors of external security. Most notably, the Planning and Review Process enables the Alliance to help partners develop armed forces that can work alongside NATO forces. Some partners might never apply for NATO membership, but the Alliance nevertheless can assist them in developing the structures that are needed to ensure democratic civilian control over armed forces that are efficient, effective, and able to contribute to regional security alongside NATO forces.

Three aspirant countries--Albania, Croatia and Macedonia--currently remain in NATO's Membership Action Plan, the process through which the Alliance helps countries prepare for full membership. At the Istanbul Summit this June, NATO leaders should act on the recommendation of the House of Representatives (H.Res. 558) and agree to hold a summit no later than 2007 to consider their applications and decide at that time whether they and perhaps others should be invited to begin accession negotiations. Already, these nations are acting as allies, with all three contributing to NATO's ISAF operation, and Albania and Macedonia contributing troops to coalition forces in Iraq. Admitting these countries into NATO should cement their transformation from crisis zones to full membership in the Alliance's zone of stability.

IN ADDITION, NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue should be both enhanced and enlarged. Given today's security threats, deeper cooperation with the region is imperative. A new partnership that incorporates elements of PfP would enable cooperation in counter-terrorism operations and could allow the Alliance to work with regional actors to increase their ability to work alongside NATO. It could assist them in defense planning and reforms, along the lines outlined above, and facilitate their transition to more representative forms of government. Moreover, it could help promote understanding and perhaps build confidence between Israel and some of the more moderate countries in the region with regard to security concerns.

Likewise, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly's Mediterranean Special Group should intensify its activities, particularly in assisting the parliaments of the region develop effective defense oversight. The Assembly should also consider extending associate status, heretofore reserved for PfP nations, to the members of this new partnership. This would allow their parliaments to gain a deeper understanding of the role of an independent legislature in a democracy and to build ties to their counterparts across the Mediterranean.

At the same time, this new partnership should be broadened, for example, to the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates). These six U.S. allies have experience working cooperatively on defense matters. A broader partnership with the Mediterranean Dialogue countries could facilitate this defense cooperation under a NATO umbrella. A democratic, sovereign Iraq should also be offered membership in this partnership, which would enable the NATO nations to work directly with nations of the Middle East on security issues of mutual interest.

The Future of Cooperation

SECRETARY of State Colin Powell recently wrote, "NATO is transforming itself from an Alliance whose main task was the defense of common territory to an Alliance whose main task is the defense of common principles."5 No longer are NATO troops stationed along the Fulda Gap, prepared to halt a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. The values that set the West apart have been embraced by former adversaries. Many of those states have become a part of NATO, and they have pledged their willingness to fight for our collective freedom. They recognize that there are those who seek to destroy democracies not because of what they may do, but because of what they are.

Collective defense has taken on a different manifestation, but at its heart, the principle remains the same: 26 democracies, standing together to defend one another against those who seek to do us harm. This mission requires new capabilities and new doctrines, but the same depth of commitment. Defending freedom requires more than military hardware; it requires keeping NATO's door open to help bring freedom's blessings to lands that have not known them. We must ensure security beyond our borders, and we must work alongside partners, some of whom may someday embrace our principles and become our allies.

Those who declare that NATO should be euthanized either misunderstand how the Alliance has transformed itself to confront today's security threats or value institutional development above the safety of their citizens. Maintaining NATO's primacy in transatlantic security is not a barrier to European integration. Rather, it is essential for the security of Europe and North America. No one nation alone can defend against today's primary security threats: global terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the states that support them. The United States needs allies in this effort, and NATO must remain the cornerstone of our common defense.

Essay Types: Essay