The Post-Cold War Transformation of the Atlantic Alliance

By May 1, 1997

The Madeleine Feher European Scholar Lecture


The Post-Cold War Transformation



I am greatly honored by your invitation to give this lecture. I am most grateful to Madame Feher and to your Center for giving me this unique opportunity to come to Israel, to learn more about your country and about the strategic problems of this region. I am no expert on this region, and I have never been to Israel before. In 1967, however, I was already ticketed to go to Tel Aviv when the Six Day War broke out. It is very befitting that this Center is dedicated to the memory of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat who made such a valiant effort to cope with the legacy of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and who laid the corner stone for peace in this region.

In my lecture I will deal with what I think has been the most important factor of stability in Europe, the North Atlantic Alliance. I will ask how NATO has changed after the end of the East-West conflict, and what functions it now serves, what has been its role in the Mediterranean, and what are NATO’s long-term prospects.

NATO during the Cold War

When Israel in 1948 and Germany in 1949 entered the international arena, the national survival of both was seriously threatened, although for very different reasons. While Israel was fighting for its independence, Germany was at the center of the Cold War. The control over Germany was the prize in the contest between the former World War II allies: the United States, Great Britain and France on the one side, and the Soviet Union on the other. The East-West conflict was the midwife that helped give birth to the Federal Republic of Germany, as well as to the German Democratic Republic. Located at the demarcation line not only of two competing superpowers and ideological camps, but also of two opposing military alliances, Germany’s security was highly endangered. The Federal Republic was also unable to safeguard its security with its own means. Furthermore, the legacies of the Third Reich added to a widespread sense of insecurity, as the Bonn Republic still had to develop a democratic tradition and dispel its neighbors’ concerns about an unhappy revival of Germany’s past.

When NATO was founded in 1949—parallel to the creation of the Federal Republic—it was, in the words of Lord Ismay, NATO’s first Secretary General, to serve three functions: “To keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” During the 40 years of East-West conflict, the Atlantic Alliance served these three functions extremely well. NATO provided for the military deterrence of the Soviet Union and, should deterrence fail, for the common defense of Western Europe. In doing so under the conditions of the nuclear age, each country was risking its own survival. To make deterrence as well as defense credible, it was important that the United States was closely linked to this Alliance. NATO’s integrated military force structure as well as the US military presence in Europe were the physical guarantees that America remained coupled to the fate of Europe. NATO also assured that no new German threat could arise. Initially, West Germany was controlled by an allied occupation regime that was closely enmeshed with that alliance, and later by integrating it militarily and politically into the NATO structures. It has been an irony of history that Germany, which was the object of that control, over time became one of NATO’s staunchest supporters.

In the 1960s and 1970s, NATO assumed other political functions. When the Cold War began to thaw, the Alliance became a clearing house for the West’s detente and arms control policies. While it could not boast of any significant break-through in the rapprochement between Western and Eastern Europe—this was effected by the US and the Soviet Union bilaterally—NATO’s 1967 Harmel Report helped making defense and detente compatible with each other.[1] It prevented that one detracted attention and resources from the other. In 1989, when the threat subsided, the Berlin Wall collapsed and, rather unexpectedly, German reunification was back on the international agenda, NATO acquired yet another role. Then, the alliance became at once a stumbling block in the course of this process as well as its facilitator. While the West’s precondition was that a reunified Germany had to be a full member of NATO, to make this possible the Alliance itself had to change. To reassure the Soviet Union and its Central European allies, NATO adopted a new political doctrine of cooperative security, of security not against, but with its former enemies.

NATO After the End of the East-West Conflict

After the end of the East-West conflict in 1989/90, NATO lacked a clear and present threat. Many observers predicted that the Alliance would either dissolve or gradually become obsolete. In his seminal piece inInternational Security, John Mearsheimer foresaw that the United States would withdraw across the Atlantic, and Europe would return to pre-1914 power politics.[2] He argued that without an outside threat, its members would lack a convincing reason to accept the constraints involved in an alliance and, instead, would follow their national preferences. Other gurus, such as Stephen Walt (also from the University of Chicago), predicted a slow erosion of the Atlantic Alliance.[3]

Another group of observers, academics and politicians, expected that NATO, with its threat dissipated, would evolve into an all-European system of collective security, or give precedence to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).[4] Another prediction was that NATO would survive because of its organization’s staying power, regardless of a new role or changed functions.

Currently, however, NATO neither resembles a dinosaur whose time has past, nor is it competing with other organizations for a collective security role. Instead, the Alliance looks sound and vital, and is developing a new profile of its own:

· NATO’s Implementation Force (IFOR) and Stabilization Force (SFOR) missions play a leading role in implementing the Dayton Agreement in Bosnia

· France again participates in the military activities of the Alliance from which President de Gaulle had withdrawn in 1966

· Many former Warsaw Pact countries have asked for admission to NATO

· In criticizing NATO’s future eastern enlargement, and trying to extract a prize should it happen, Russia, also, takes NATO seriously as a dominant political force in Europe

Why were those who predicted NATO’s demise so wrong? My argument is that NATO has always been a hybrid organization, performing a number of political and military functions at the same time. Besides providing for deterrence and defense against the Soviet threat, it controlled Germany and coupled the United States to the defense of Western Europe. All three functions remain important until today, though their configuration has changed. NATO is also assuming new functions, as it did in the 1960s and 1970s with becoming a coordinator of detente policy. Thus, after 1990, NATO leaders did not need a “grand design” for a new role of the Alliance. They were reacting rather pragmatically and creatively to the new challenges with which they were faced.

As has been mentioned before, the first challenge was German reunification. It could only succeed with NATO providing an integrative framework for a Germany that was not only bigger, but also relieved of some of its burdens: its division and its post-World War II legal restrictions. I am referring to the rights and responsibilities of the Four Powers, as agreed upon at Potsdam and written by the occupation powers into the treaties with their German client states. The Alliance needed to give reassurances to the Soviet Union and the other Central and East European countries that it would not exploit militarily its strategic gains. NATO therefore offered fully to consult and cooperate with the Warsaw Pact countries, creating channels of liaison, among them the NATO Cooperation Council (NACC).[5] It further changed its strategic concept.[6] The Alliance reaffirmed that its military posture would not be directed against any particular enemy. Instead of preparing for collective defense, the NATO members emphasized a commitment to common security with allies and former foes alike. The top priority for NATO was the creation of a stable European security environment, based on democratic institutions and the peaceful solution of conflicts, whether domestic or international.

Differing National Perspectives on NATO’s Future

In spite of NATO’s impressive record of adaptation to a changing international situation, this process was hampered by differing national preferences regarding the Alliance’s future role and tasks. For Germany, NATOremained at the center of its foreign policy interests. Not only is the Alliance an indispensable setting for its security, but it is also the main link to the United States. For these reasons, preserving NATO’s cohesion and efficacyhas been one of Germany’s main goals. In Germany’s perspective, this was only possible if the Alliance adapted to the international changes which took place after the end of the East-West Conflict, but retained those elements which proved their effectiveness in the past.

Germany has therefore been a strong supporter of NATO’s modernization, while at the same time it has sought to maintain the Alliance’s integrated military structure, which formed the basis of its credible deterrence and defense system. Further, Germany has attempted to preserve the political institutions which made possible extensive coordination of foreign policies among its members. For Germany, the Alliance continues to serve as a reassurance against possible military risks as well as an instrument for managing international crises. Additionally, Germany feels that NATO’s ability to cooperate with the states of Central and Eastern Europe—including Russia—should be strengthened in order to increase stability in this region. The German government thus has actively supported the establishment of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) and the Partnership for Peace(PfP) program. It has also been one of the staunchest supporters of NATO enlargement, provided it did not create new cleavages in Europe.

The German position differs in important aspects from that of both the United States and France. The French government continues to view NATO primarily as a military alliance whose main task is to provide for common defense and power projection. Accordingly, the Alliance should only be activated when a threat exists which cannot be met by national forces alone. In contrast to Germany that stresses the political functions of the Alliance, France, instead, considers the European Union and its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) to be the bodies primarily responsible for political coordination. Considering the different interests among the European and the North American partners, in the French perspective it was normal that issues were first discussed within a European group. France also insists that NATO reform—especially the Europeanization of the Alliance including its command structure—has priority over NATO enlargement. At the same time Paris emphasizes that this disposition is not an expression of anti-Americanism. France does not oppose the American military presence in Europe; quite to the contrary, it would like to see it continued for the foreseeable future. France’s own strategic build-up serves as a reassurance in the case that the United States were to pull its troops out. France is concerned that an American withdrawal from Europe would result in Europe being forced to provide for its defense.

Although the US has been the driving force behind NATO’s reform after the end of the Cold War, its attitude towards the Alliance has become more ambivalent. Without a doubt, the NATO’s significance has lessenedfollowing the demise of the acute military threat, even if polls record that over 60% of the American public are in favor of an active American role in NATO. The Clinton Administration sees the Atlantic Alliance primarily as an instrument for its global coalition strategy. This should serve as a common framework for supporting American goals and interests overseas. The NATO missions in Bosnia are good examples of military operations under Alliance authority that were the result of American initiatives. In these, the Alliance serves as the organizational framework, and NATO troops make up the core of deployed forces. General Joulwan in his capacity as Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), the highest ranking US officer in Europe, is functioning as their supreme commander. These missions thus differ fundamentally from the joint action taken during the Gulf War, which lacked any formal alliance connection, although it relied on forces assigned to NATO, as well as Alliance logistics and war plans. The IFOR mission was only possible after the US had forced the warring parties in the former Yugoslavia to accept the Dayton accords, while the SFOR mission could only be finalized after the Clinton Administration was safely reelected. Although the Europeans continuously demand a greater say in alliance affairs, it is still the US on which NATO operations rest.

Coping with New Kinds of Threats and Challenges

As the conflict in former Yugoslavia has clearly shown, the “new NATO” is not a NATO without a threat. Instead of deterring a clear and present danger, and being prepared to defend their members’ territory should deterrence fail, the Alliance is faced with a multitude of diffuse threats: domestic and economic instability in neighboring countries, that give rise to civil war, low intensity regional conflicts, and wide-spread migration, which all have negative repercussions on the well-being of NATO member societies. This new threat perception was well summarized by a speaker at the last IISS conference at Dresden:

For half a century we have fought against a formidable dragon. With the end of the Cold War, we observed that the dragon had collapsed. However, we now find ourselves in an impenetrable jungle full of poisonous snakes. And we discover that it is much more difficult to keep them at bay then to fight against the huge dragon.[7]

The Alliance’s effort at coping with these new threats has not exactly been a success story. Regarding the conflict in former Yugoslavia, initially the interests of the main NATO members diverged so widely that agreement on a common strategy was difficult, if not impossible. It was no help that the Europeans claimed that it was in their responsibility to work for a solution of that conflict. The United Nations, however, did not fare much better. Only after the war in Bosnia and Croatia had run out of steam, did Washington take the initiative. It forced the warring parties at Dayton to accept a peace agreement, and it convinced its NATO allies to join with the US in providing an intervention force to implement this agreement. That was the birth of the IFOR mission in which all 15 NATO members with military forces (Ireland has none) as well as Russia and a number of other countries participated. Another precondition to the formation of IFOR was France’s re-entry into NATO’s integrated military structure. While this force was able to stop the hostilities in Bosnia, so far neither peace nor stability have returned to the region. IFOR’s follow-up mission, SFOR is charged with the task of taking Bosnia another step toward normality during the next 15 months.

One of the small successes of both IFOR and SFOR has been the smooth cooperation between NATO and non-NATO forces, including Russian units. Russia’s prestige, however, required that its troops were not commanded by General Joulwan as SACEUR, but in his capacity as the highest ranking US officer in Europe. That in Bosnia the NATO organizational framework was able to coordinate military activities between its own forces and that of non-NATO members, at least to a certain extent, was due to the positive experiences with the Partnership-for-Peace Program (PfP). This specific program is discussed below.

The Gulf War has demonstrated to NATO members that threats to peace and stability can originate from outside the Transatlantic area. An omnipresent threat emanates from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Alliance members, irrespective of their nuclear status, have supported, therefore, the goals of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, as well as various steps to tighten the NPT regime. A special concern has been preventing the dissemination of fissile materials, especially from the many nuclear facilities in the former Soviet Union. NATO has formed two specific institutions to cope with the proliferation threat: a Special High Level Political Military Group (SPG) and a Senior Defense Group on Proliferation (DPG). In a dual approach, NATO is further strengthening its defense against weapons of mass destruction, as well as supporting arms control measures designed to control the spread of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. Given the fact that the source materials for chemical weapons are also used for a number of peaceful purposes, as is nuclear energy, agreement on which activities to control and restrain has not always been easy to reach. It was equally difficult jointly to devise methods impeding clandestine operations. However, within the Alliance there is a broad consensus that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction must be prevented. If worst comes to worst, NATO is prepared to interfere militarily with a surgical strike, most likely with conventional precision weapons.

A Policy of Reassurance and Enlargement

At the core of peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region is a new relationship with Russia and the states of Central and Eastern Europe. The Alliance wishes to reassure the former members of the Warsaw Pact that NATO is ready to cooperate with its former enemies. A first step was the concept of liaison and the creation of the NATO Cooperation Council. However, it soon became evident that more binding arrangements were needed if NATO wanted to transfer stability to Central and Eastern Europe. Poland and Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as the three Baltic States are asking for admission into NATO. Their reasons are quite diverse. Among them are their consciousness of a common European culture, a need for domestic stability, and a concern about a new Russian threat. In the early 1990s, the Alliance, however, was not yet ready for enlargement. In January 1994, upon an American proposal, NATO therefore offered all interested countries the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program as a halfway house to an admittance of new members. PfP is a very pragmatic, cooperativeprogram between the Alliance and individual European states. It encompasses a large range of activities, extending from consultation to joint military training and exercises to cooperation in arms control. As of 1997, some 21 states—including Russia—have signed PfP agreements, comprising several hundred bi- or multilateral activities with NATO partners. As has been mentioned above, the training received under this program, above all the participant’s experience of cooperating with NATO forces, has proven extremely valuable in the IFOR and SFOR missions.

Though to some extent conceived as an alternative to NATO membership, in practice PfP has had a different effect. It has further wetted the appetite of Central and East European countries for NATO membership, instead of satisfying them. At the same time Russia has made it known that Moscow was categorically opposed to any NATO enlargement.

Even before the PfP program was launched, German Defense Minister Volker Rühe in 1993 sounded his colleagues’ opinion about a potential NATO enlargement. Germany’s interest in an eastern extension of the Alliance was based on two considerations. It wishes to overcome its situation of sitting on the military perimeter of the Alliance, and to politically stabilize its neighbors to the East. At the time of the announcement, out of concern for alienating Russia, the US emphatically rejected such a proposal, and in a counter-move launched the PfP program. Somewhat later the American administration, mainly for domestic reasons, began to warm up to the idea of enlarging NATO. The Republicans added the question of NATO’s eastern expansion to its 1994 electoral platform and later to the “Contract with America,” the legislative program of the Republican majority in Congress. Their motives ranged from trying to win votes from Americans of Polish descent, to developing a “Neo-Containment” policy towards Russia, and to commissioning the Atlantic Alliance with a new task. The Clinton Administration reacted to these initiatives by shelving its earlier reservations. These had been motivated by the fear that such a step would harm its relations with Russia—the principal target of US engagement strategy.

By now, the Alliance, in a careful process, has achieved consensus among its members on the prerequisites of enlargement. In a report issued in September 1995, the conditions were spelled out on which new members may be admitted, without, however, committing NATO on which states will be invited to membership, and when.[8] On joining the Alliance, new members must accept the full obligations of the Washington Treaty. This includes participation in the consultation and decision-making processes of the Alliance with a commitment to working toward a consensus. New members must also be prepared to contribute to collective defense under Article 5 as well as to the Alliance’s new missions. Further, new members must accept and conform to the principles, policies, and procedures of the Alliance. This includes a commitment to settle international disputes by peaceful means. In their international relations they must also refrain from the threat or use of force in any way inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations, or with OSCE principles. These requirements put great demands on those states which have ethnic or territorial disputes. It basically bars from membership those states that have unsettled minority problems or border disputes, such as Ukraine or Moldavia. It thus disadvantages those states that share a population and a common border with Russia—such as the Baltic states—in fact those that are most in need of a NATO security guarantee.

While not granting Russia a say in internal NATO affairs, especially on its enlargement, the Alliance has tried to reassure Moscow that its policy is not directed against Russia and that the latter’s security interests arekept in consideration. Thus NATO, at its meetings in December 1996, committed itself not to deploy nuclear weapons or forces on new members’ territories. It is further negotiating with Moscow on a charter regarding joint consultation and common activities. For this purpose a special forum has been proposed, whether a G 16+1, as preferred by Washington, or a S 17, as suggested by German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel. Consultation and common activities should pertain to a broad range of issues, such as arms control and crisis management, but stop short of Article 5 activities. Additionally, NATO has agreed to collateral measures such as upgrading the PfP programs, revising of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) and concluding a START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) III agreement. With these measures the Alliance wishes to reassure not only Moscow, but also those other states who will not be admitted to NATO, either now or in the short term.

This dual strategy of enlargement and reassurance is supported by all NATO members. However, at present France and Germany are on record for placing more emphasis on reaching an equitable arrangement with Moscow than does the US The German government has also insisted that the Alliance extends similar assurances to the Ukraine and other countries, such as the Baltic states, which definitely will not be among the first echelon of new members. Besides upgrading the PfP program—to PfP II—a number of steps are discussed with which the emergence of new cleavages may be avoided. Among them is Washington’s proposal to create a new Transatlantic Partnership Council encompassing all interested parties, or the priority admission to the European Union of those countries not likely to be admitted to NATO soon. In a similar attempt, Germany argues for a strengthening of the OSCE regime to meet Russia’s request to give this all-European institution more prominence.

Among NATO members, this little disagreement over which countries should be invited for membership: Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary are the most likely candidates. For strategic and political reasons Washington initially was reluctant to include Hungary in this—so far unofficial—list. It has, however, deferred to especially German arguments that Hungary should also be included soon because of its 1989 contribution to bringing down Communist rule in Central Europe. Washington also has added Slovenia to NATO’s short list. France would have initially preferred that new members first be admitted to the European Union, and then to NATO, but it now fully supports the Alliance’s concept on enlargement. As to membership candidates, France promotes the idea of including Romania—a member of the Francophonie—into the first group. An unsolved question is how much NATO enlargement will cost, and who is going to shoulder the bill. The US Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the membership of the four Central European states will cost between 60.6 billion and 124.7 billion US $ over a period of 15 years. At a minimum, the forces of the new members need to be modernized, the NATO infrastructure extended and the C3I systems adapted. Of the overall costs, the new members will be expected to shoulder about 2/3 and the existing NATO members 1/3. How this sum will be divided among them, and what material help the new members should be given, has not yet been decided.

The remaining differences, however, seem small compared to the magnitude of the task. The Alliance is in the process of admitting a group of countries that, until six years ago, were members of the opposing Warsaw Pact, and to accomplish this without disrupting peace and stability in Europe. The critical question, however, is whether NATO will move forward on the enlargement issue at its July summit meeting if no agreement has been achieved with Russia. So far this question has been left unanswered on both sides of the Atlantic.

Reform of NATOעs Force Structure and Command System

NATO enlargement has been closely linked to NATO reform. The commitment of the Alliance toward a strategy of cooperative security was announced in the summer of 1990. It was given substance in NATO’s New Strategic Concept, approved at the November 1991 NATO Summit in Rome. A further element has been NATO’s institutional reform. This is to serve three functions: first, to alter the Alliance to make it for its new tasks, above all crisis management and peace enforcement; secondly, to transfer a greater amount of responsibility to its European members, commensurate to their increased weight; and thirdly, to streamline its command and force structure to take into account both a diminished threat and dwindling resources. This reform, however, is handicapped by a trend present in most member countries to reap the dividends of peace, and to economize on defense expenditures.

In order to implement a strategy of crisis management and peace enforcement, NATO needs not only rapid reaction forces which can be deployed out of area and are equipped with long-range means of transportation, but also a new command and control system. At its June 1996 meeting in Berlin, the NATO Council agreed upon a new, flexible command structure that should enable the Alliance to conduct operations in which not all members participate. In so doing, it answered the European request for using NATO forces and installations in those cases when the US chooses not to take part. Out of concern over an American military disengagement, France initially had called for the development of operational capabilities separate from those of NATO. They were to be placed under the auspices of the Western European Union (WEU), or of multinational operational commands grouped around national headquarters. This would have created a counterpart to the Eurocorps, that is independent from NATO, but can be placed under NATO’s operational command in the case of a militarycrisis. In such a circumstance, a non-NATO commander was to have authority over an operation with NATO troops. The US, however, insisted upon (a capability to have) a say on such operations, as well. It was thusdecided that the new Combined Joint Task Forces (CJTF) could only be deployed when all NATO members approve. What resulted were force and command structures “separable, but not separate” from the Alliance.

The Berlin compromise represented a way out of a dilemma. On the one side, the Alliance’s European members wished to ensure that both the cohesion of NATO and the continued participation of the US in European affairs were preserved. On the other side, they, above all France, saw a need to strengthen the European institutions, especially to reinforce the European Union and its capability for political action. NATO reform thus means walking on a tightrope: the Alliance needs more flexible structures to meet a more diffuse and regionally dispersed threat, but also it has to take care that the integrated military organization on which the efficiency of the Alliance rests is maintained, and the common formal and informal consultation and policy coordination processes are preserved on which the Alliance’s cohesion depends.

NATO has also set out to streamline its command structure. In a first step, the Allied Command Channel (ACCHAN) was abolished. This leaves two major NATO strategic commands: the Allied Command Atlantic (ACLANT) in Norfolk, USA, and the Allied Command Europe (ACE) in Mons, the latter with the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). Both are commanded by American four star generals or admirals. SACEUR’s deputy, most likely a European—British—officer, will be responsible for CJTF missions, whether under WEU or any other multilateral command. Of the formerly three regional headquarters, its northern and its central commands are to be combined, while its southern command at Naples (CINCSOUTH) is to be retained. With fewer headquarters to command, however, the question arose which nation would get what command. Though the scheme of a national rotation between commander, deputy and chief of staff has been accepted in principle, the Alliance is still far from an agreement. Under the name of Europeanizing the Alliance, France but also Italy, have laid claim to NATO’s Southern command. This request was strongly opposed by the United States, as the southern headquarters controls the strategic accesses to the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. Washington has further pointed to the fact that the American 6th Fleet, operating in the Mediterranean, is also assigned to this command. A compromise that has been discussed would leave this command to the US for a number of years, to be later included into a rotational scheme. Another solution would be a division of labor through which the command is turned over to a European commander, but the US control over the 6th fleet—basically a non-NATO force—is left intact. Until this problem is solved, neither can NATO’s new force structure be approved nor can further steps in advancing NATO reform be taken.

A European Pillar within the Alliance

The debate over the NATO command structure and CJTF illustrates the difficulties of balancing Atlantic and European interests. The US has made it very clear that for Washington NATO continues to act as atransmission belt for its European policy. The US also has stated clearly that it plans to carry on playing a political role within the Alliance. Until quite recently this aspiration has been in contrast to the traditional French goal of limiting American influence on European questions, and of developing a European defense and security identity separate from NATO. France wanted NATO to be based upon two pillars, one American and the other European, of which the latter would be formed out of the WEU. The latter, therefore, would be developed into the defense arm of the CFSP. In the 1992 Petersberg Declaration the WEU member stated their resolve to make its forces available, not only for common defense under Article 5 of the Treaty of Brussels, but also for humanitarian, peace-keeping, and peace-making activities (non-Article 5 missions). How the relationship between the WEU and NATO will look, has so far remained unresolved.

In 1994, the American position regarding a larger European role in the Alliance changed. At the NATO summit in January, the US Administration recognized that the WEU could play an important role in the coordination of European security policy. But Washington was emphatically against any previous European (WEU) agreement on a common position which would leave the US with a closed bloc in NATO. Another prerequisite for the Europeanization of NATO was the Atlantization of French defense policy that took place with the election of Jacques Chirac to the French Presidency in 1995. The rapprochement between the US and France was a precondition for the decision on CJTF, taken by the NATO ministers at their June conference in Berlin. Their Final Communique emphasized, on the one hand, the Alliance’s mandate for providing collective defense and the importance of maintaining the transatlantic link. On the other hand, it also stressed the need for flexible procedures to discharge its new tasks. In this connection, the communique explicitly referred to the development of a European defense and security identity, albeit within the Alliance.[9]

Many observers anticipated that with France’s rapprochement to the Atlantic Alliance and the compromise achieved at Berlin, the differences over the priority of European or Atlantic cooperation would become irrelevant. Yet, they have overlooked that France’s return to the NATO tables was to give Paris an ability to exercise greater influence within the Alliance after it had failed to establish a French dominated European Union as a counter weight to the American led Alliance. France does not intend to cut back on its goal of developing a European defense identity, nor does it fully share its partners conception of the future tasks of the Alliance. Although the French government made it very clear that its two-pillar concept was primarily a political concept and not an organizational structure, Paris continues to support such measures, like the CJTF program, which would convert NATO from an integrated defense organization—to which France has not yet fully returned—to a classical alliance.

The slow but steady change in the structure of the Alliance—replacing a common defense based on the principle of “all for one, one for all,” with the concept of “coalitions of the willing”—is confronting Germany with a dilemma. It neither has the option of joining Washington in preventing a progressive weakening of the Alliance’s integrated structure under the label of “flexibilization,” a step consistent with US interests as long as it retainedits political control over the Alliance’s instruments, nor does the German government have the option to put all of its eggs into the European basket, and together with France build the WEU into an effective defense alliance which could, over the long term, replace NATO. Such a course would further weaken NATO cohesion as well as aggravate transatlantic relations.

This issue was complicated when Chirac’s France began slowly to move away from its goal of forming a tighter political European Union, replacing it with a policy of “Europe al’ Anglaise.”[10] Germany found itself faced with another dilemma. In the German perspective, building a strong European Union means setting integration goals which are binding for all members, although with a flexibility clause, which would ensure that progress in integration would not be hindered by states which were not yet ready to take such far-reaching steps. It further sought to intensify the development of a Common Foreign and Security Policy, thus enabling the Union to speak with one voice. According to the German point of view, this would require arrangements for voting with qualified majorities, the integration of the WEU into the European Union, the development of suitable procedures for jointplanning and action; and the strengthening of the role of the European Parliament. Given French (as well as British) opposition to transforming the EU into a truly supranational institution, Germany has worked hard to achieve German-French compromises on at least some of the major stumbling blocs to a successful conclusion of Intergovernmental Conference (IGC). Afraid that a failure of the IGC would deal a deadly blow to the Maastricht process of intensifying European integration, Bonn has shifted its emphasis from working toward an ever closer European Union, to agreeing to a fixed agenda and timetable for the IGC, even if it produced less than fully satisfactory results. For this purpose, Germany and France have launched a number of bilateral initiatives in order to accelerate the conference’s deliberations. On various occasions the French President and the German Chancellor have addressed public messages to the EU presidency, outlining their compromise solutions with which the Maastricht II negotiations could be led out of the doldrums.[11]

A most spectacular symbol of Franco-German Entente was the two countries’ agreement on a joint strategic concept, signed by the German chancellor and the French President during the latter’s visit to Nuremberg in early December 1996.[12] This document, however, should not be interpreted as a radical new departure or as a devaluation of NATO. The agreement stands in the tradition of the Franco-German Treaty of 1963 and successive efforts at implementing it. Though the paper refers to joint strategic planning of conventional and nuclear forces, and includes a number of practical measures for military cooperation, it remains doubtful whether it will amount to more than a close coordination, not integration, of national defense policies. All in all, it has more symbolic than practical value. For Paris, it is a signal to Washington that the two countries are serious when they are talking about a European defense identity, though within NATO. Bonn, on its part, wants to convince its EU partners that Germany, together with France, are ready to implement a Common Foreign and Security Policy, and to work toward closer European integration.

NATO and Peace and Stability in the Middle East

With its engagement in Bosnia, NATO has been slowly assuming responsibilities beyond the Alliance treaty area. However, it should not be overlooked that NATO’s out-of-area’s activities are limited to non-Article 5 missions. Nevertheless, extra-regional missions are a departure for NATO. To intervene militarily in other regions of the world was nothing alien to some of its members—most notably the US, France and Great Britain. However, doing so jointly as NATO was. For Germany it required relinquishing one of the elements of self-restraint it had found opportune when the country was divided and its democracy not yet fully trusted. In a slow process, in order not to disrupt its internal stability or give rise to external concerns, Germany inched itself toward accepting international responsibilities which required the military engagement of Bundeswehr units. During the East-West conflict the restriction of the Alliance’s military activities to its members’ territories and the prohibition from sending forces north of the Tropic of Cancer was a precaution to ensure that no ally would become entangled in conflicts that fell outside the original mission of the Alliance. This clause was initially designed with a view to the colonial wars in which some of its members were involved. It also proved its usefulness during the Vietnam War, which could have seriously undermined the cohesion of the Alliance at a time when the Cold War was still at its height. Relaxing this geographical limitations, however, does open NATO for increased conflicts of interest among its members. The debate between the US and France on a peace mission to Zaire and Rwanda is just one case in point. NATO’s record in Bosnia—its political efforts at the reconciliation of the warring parties as well as its SFOR mission—is a crucial test case on whether the Alliance can be expected in the future to assume responsibilities beyond its original mission and treaty area.

A region of special concern to NATO is the Mediterranean. Here in Israel, I need not emphasize that the Mediterranean is rich in international trouble spots. The conflict on Cyprus is a mirror image of the rivalry between the NATO members Greece and Turkey. Fueled internally by ethnic strife and externally by a mixture of regional competition and domestic incentives, it has so far proven robust at various efforts of intra-alliance mediation. It threatens to reach another climax if the Cypriots implement their intention to base modern Russian air defense missiles on the island. Behind the scenes Alliance members are working at the diffusion of this new threat. So far, however, it has been difficult for NATO as an institution to reach a consensus in a conflict involving some of its members. Though, if NATO’s crisis management instruments prove effective in Bosnia, it is conceivable that the Alliance will try its hand also at a solution of the Cyprus conflict, provided that its members can muster the necessary political resolve.

The end of the Cold War has seen a number of changes on the southern shores of the Mediterranean and in the Mideast.[13] Most significantly, the PLO has lost its Soviet protection and has in turn looked for a settlement with Israel. With the 1991 defeat of Iraq, the United States has reasserted its hegemonic role in the Gulf. Other parts of the Islamic world, most notably Iran, Algeria and Afghanistan, have seen an increase in Islamic radicalism which could have disruptive effects on the West’s relations with the Arab world. This trend could further threaten the stability of Turkey. As an aside, I think the Alliance would have been less understanding with Ankara’s human rights’ violations and its support for the Turkish Cypriots if it were not concerned that NATO’s southeastern flank could collapse. The NATO members are also very much concerned about the acquisition of medium-range weapons of mass destruction by Iraq and Iran, which have or had clandestine facilities for the production of NBC weapons (Libya at least for chemical weapons).

To cope with this new situation in the Middle East the NATO members have adopted a dual strategy of containment and engagement. One aspect of containment is directed at the control of weapons of mass destruction, the other at the isolation of those states that are suspected of upsetting regional stability. However, because of cross-cutting traditional links and relationships, joint action has been difficult. While the United States wants to punish “rogue” states such as Iraq, Iran and Libya, France and Germany, which have strong economic relations with these countries, argue for a strategy mix of demarcation and dialogue. All NATO members, however, recognize that events in this critical region have far-reaching effects on European peace and stability. To cope with events in the Mediterranean that might be a threat to their security, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal have formed two special units, EUROFOR and EUROMARFOR, that are modeled after the Eurokorps and are intended for use in the case of a regional emergency.

NATO’s strategy of engagement is designed to stabilize relations in the region. The Alliance is also looking for partners in fighting Islamic fundamentalism. Parallel to the Barcelona initiative of the European Union, NATO in early 1995 initiated a bilateral dialogue with a number of countries in the Mediterranean, such as Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, as well as Israel. Quite recently, its participants have agreed to intensify this dialogue and to extend it to joint activities.

Another unresolved problem is peace for and with Israel, as well as a resolution of the Palestinian question. In the setting of traditional relationships, the US is supporting Israel’s position, while France has been somewhat more understanding of the Arab cause. As became evident at the occasion of French Premier Chirac’s visit to the region last October, France and the US are competing in the Mideast. Germany, for its part, has found itself on various occasions caught in a conflict of policy priorities. Because of historic legacies, it is committed to the support of Israel, but, because of its own national experience, it is also understanding of the Palestinians’ claim for self-determination. Further, Germany traditionally wishes to entertain close economic and political relations with the Arab countries. So far, the various conflicting loyalties among its members have prevented the Atlantic Alliance from taking a common stand. Until now, in the Middle East NATO is not even a “paper tiger”—it is a “paper butterfly.”


In concluding, we should recognize that NATO continues to exist, but that we are dealing with a different NATO – NATO III.[14] NATO III differs from its predecessors in regard to its functions, form, and role. Its general function, providing a forum for cooperation among its members, has remained the same, although, due to diverging national priorities have complicated this effort. Furthermore, lacking the uniting factor of the Soviet threat and assuming responsibilities beyond the confines of the NATO treaty area, the Alliance has become much more arduous to achieve agreements among the partners then it was during the Cold War.

The Alliance’s specific functions, deterrence and defense against outside threats, as well as security against a Germany acting irresponsibly, have diminished in importance. Due to differing geostrategic priorities on both sides of the Atlantic, the task of coupling North America to the fate of Europe has also become more difficult. Though still aware of a latent threat from Russia, the Alliance is now emphasizing crisis management and peace-keeping as its main tasks. However, NATO has not yet fully resolved whether its primary focus continues to be on Europe while major challenges are likely to originate from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

The Alliance’s form has changed along with its functions. It has developed from an alliance of collective defense as provided for under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty to an institution of security management under Article 4. Its integrated military organization has diminished in significance, while its defense structure has become more flexible. It has largely given up the principle of collective action in favor of forming coalitions of the willing. This as well as the abandonment of the principle of joint risk sharing have far-reaching consequences for Alliance cohesion and burden-sharing. The Alliance is thus moving away from being an integrated military organization to becoming a looser political functional association. In addition, special problems necessitate the process of Europeanizing the Alliance, giving its European members a role commensurate with their power.

In spite of these difficulties and uncertainties, from my perspective NATO’s transformation after the end of the East-West conflict has been a major success. The Alliance’s member states remain beholden to it, and it has proven to be an institution capable of enabling cooperation despite partially differing interests. With assuming new missions and adjusting its military structure accordingly, the Alliance has adapted well to the challenges of the post-Cold War era.

What has made the Alliance capable of change, and is this ability enough to insure its existence into the third millennium? Three factors have enabled NATO to adjust to new international challenges. First, the Alliance has always been a multifunctional, “hybrid” institution, serving more functions than defense and deterrence. Externally it fulfilled the demand for an alliance of collective defense, while internally it operated as a system of collective security. Therefore, it had no difficulty in taking on new tasks after the functions of deterrence and defense became less critical. The two biggest changes have been its policy of engagement with Central and Eastern Europe, including Russia, and its growing awareness that conflicts to Europe’s peace and stability will not stop at the edges of the NATO area.

Secondly, the Alliance has a high degree of institutional specificity which places at its member’s disposal various fora for the exchange of information and the coordination of interests. Within NATO, this especially applies to the numerous bodies and study groups (trilaterals, quad, ambassador breakfasts, etc.) that are used according to need. These instruments helped achieved an internal redistribution of power, especially allowing for an increased role of Germany within the Alliance. Most extraordinarily, this transition was accomplished without giving rise to new concerns. Externally, with NACC, PfP and the Contact Group on Bosnia, NATO has created subsidiary institutions to implement its new functions of stability projection and of conflict management.

The final factor for NATO’s staying power is its members’ valuation of shared norms and values, as well as processes for joint problem solving. It gave its member states a way of calculating the behavior of the partners, and of ascertaining their national preferences. So as not to endanger this setting, states were more willing to make concessions—regarding the implementation of their national interests in order to reach mutually acceptable compromises—than they would have been had NATO not existed. This is the most important motive for maintaining the Alliance in the changed international political circumstances.

Predictions for the future are relatively simple. The North Atlantic Alliance will continue to exist as long as cooperation within NATO promises higher benefits than would autonomous security policies, and as long as the institution is capable of adapting itself to the changing international challenges as well as to its members’ interests. One factor of uncertainty in this equation is the United States’ future preferences. For the Europeans there is no alternative to NATO, which, however, is not viable without US participation. The other factor of uncertainty is the future of the project of European Union building and the effects its potential failure could have on the European states’ ability to speak with one voice. But I am an optimist. I believe in NATO’s staying power as well as in its ability to provide for peace and stability, as well as to adapt to new situations and challenges.


[1] See “The Future Tasks of the Alliance” (Harmel-Report) (1967). The North Atlantic Treaty Organization: Facts and Figures, (Brussels: NATO Information Service, 1989): pp.402-404.

[2] See John J. Mearsheimer, “Back to the Future. Instability in Europe After the Cold War,” International Security, Vol. 15, No. 1, (Summer 1990): pp.5-56.

[3] See Stephen M. Walt, “Alliances in Theory and Practice: What Lies Ahead?” Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 43, No. 1 (Summer/Fall 1989): pp.1-17.

[4] See, e.g., statements from leading German political figures such as Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and SPD politician Egon Bahr, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, (2 February 1990).

[5] See “London Declaration on a transformed North Atlantic Alliance. Issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in London on 5th-6th July 1990,” NATO Review, Vol. 38, No. 4 (August 1990): pp.32-33.

[6] See “The Alliance’s New Strategic Concept. Agreed by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Rome on 7-8 November 1991,” NATO Review, Vol. 39, No. 6 (December 1991): pp.25-32.

[7] James Woolsey (former Director of the CIA) at the 38th Annual Conference of the IISS at Dresden, 4 September 1996.

[8] See, Study on NATO Enlargement (Brussels: NATO Information Service, September 1995).

[9] See “Communique from the Ministerial Meeting of the North Atlantic Council, Berlin, 3 June 1996,” NATO Review, Vol. 44, No. 4 (July 1996): pp. 30-35.

[10] Dominique Moisi, “Die Vereinigten Staaten als Faktor der deutsch-franzesischen Beziehungen, Handeln für Europe,” Deutsch-franzesische Zusammenarbeit in einer verenderten Welt, published by Centre d’Information et de Recherche sur l’ Allemagne Contemporaine (CIRAC), Paris; Deutsch-Franzesisches Institut, Ludwigsburg; Forschungsinstitut der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Auswertige Politik (DGAP), Bonn; and Institut Francais des Relations Internationales (IFRI). (Paris: Opladen: Leske & Budrich, 1995): pp. 52-61, (p.61).

[11] See the two joint messages from the German Chancellor and the French President to the EU Presidency, December 1995 and December 1996: “Gemeinsame Botschaft von Bundeskanzler Dr. Helmut Kohl und dem Presidenten der Franzesischen Republik, Jacques Chirac, an den amtierenden Vorsitzenden des Europeischen Rates und Ministerpresidenten von Irland, John Bruton,” (9 Dezember 1996), Bulletin, No. 102 (Bonn: Presse und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung, 11 December 1996): pp.1105-1108; “Schreiben des deutschen Bundeskanzlers und des franzesischen Staatspresidenten, Helmut Kohl und Jacques Chirac, an den amtierenden Vorsitzenden des Europeischen Rates, den spanischen Ministerpresidenten Felipe Gonzales, vereffentlicht am 6 Dezember 1995 in Bonn und Paris,” Internationale Politik, Vol. 51, No. 8 (1996): pp.80-81.

[12] See “Gemeinsames deutsch-franzesisches Sicherheits- und Verteidigungskonzept,” Bulletin, No. 12 (Bonn: Presse und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung, 5 February 1997): pp.117-120.

[13] For an excellent analysis of these changes from an Israeli perspective see Efraim Inbar, “Contours of Israel’s New Strategic Thinking,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 111, No. 1 (Spring 1996): pp.41-64.

[14] NATO I was the defense alliance resulting out of the Washington Treaty of 1949. NATO II refers to the Alliance after it was furnished with its integrated military structure in 1951. Thus, currently we are dealing with NATO III.