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A More Political Alliance – Force of arms are not the only tools transforming NATO’s battlefield.

US Rep Mike Turner

By James Thomas Snyder and Brett Swaney

Headlines wouldn’t suggest it, but protestors and pundits were on common ground during the NATO Summit concluded last month in Chicago. Street demonstrators attacked the alliance for drone strikes while policy critics debated burden-sharing in an era of austerity, yet both agreed on one thing: NATO’s primary tool for dealing with threats and challenges today is primarily force of arms.

But hard power, to borrow a tired phrase, is not the totality of NATO’s character. NATO remains unique for its collective defense provision, but its political aspect is too-often overlooked.  And it is the political NATO that has done far more to spread peace, trust and security across Europe and beyond than through force.

The political NATO is defined not by the military operations and capacities of the Alliance, but rather by the ability to negotiate, consult, and reconcile with friends and, where possible and appropriate, also with adversaries.  This remarkable ability is recounted again and again by NATO member ambassadors to the United States in an interview project the Center for Transatlantic Security Studies at National Defense University produced for the NATO Summit, “A More Perfect Alliance”, which can be viewed online.

NATO’s ability to reconcile goes back surprisingly far, even to the time of the Cold War.  During the mid-1980s, the NATO states negotiated with the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union through the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe  and also concluded the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE). The former helped to promote the end of the Cold War.  The latter landmark arms control framework still limits the means to make war on the European continent.

Peter Taksøe-Jensen, the Danish ambassador to the United States, participated in the CFE negotiations and saw how the two sides, NATO and the Warsaw Pact, came together to build the future.  “We saw the Warsaw pact falling apart during negotiations,” he told us, “but we managed to nail a negotiation and a result that… helped in shaping the Europe we know today.”

NATO similarly engaged in high-stakes trading during the waning days of the Cold War as the United States and the Soviet Union wrote the breakthrough treaty on intermediate nuclear forces in Europe. Member states negotiated among themselves in a little-known process to reduce tactical nuclear weapons in Europe by more than 90 percent.  Claudio Bisogniero, the Italian Ambassador to the United States and former NATO Deputy Secretary General, recalled his service at NATO in the late 1980s as an exciting time of remarkable change. “We signed a treaty or memorandum at NATO once a month … with the Russians or among us allies,” he told us.

Today NATO is often accused of aggravating tensions with its former adversary.  Less understood is how NATO has helped ease and reconcile relations between its member states and Russia.  The Latvian ambassador to the United States, Andrejs Pildegovics, remarked on how his country has improved relations with its great neighbor. “Since we have joined NATO, the climate in the region has improved dramatically,” he told us. “This is due to the fact that the borders are clear, the structures are there, and there are no temptations for any changes.”

NATO’s ability to reconcile former adversaries is not limited to the ties between former Soviet republics.  Croatia joined NATO in 2009, barely 15 years after the wars of succession in the former Yugoslavia.  Today with Slovenia, Croatia champions expanded NATO membership in the Balkans to include its former warring neighbors.  Joško Paro, the Croatian Ambassador to the United States, explained why.  “We believe if our neighbors join us in NATO,” he told us, “then our neighborhood is going to be better.”

NATO’s political power is significant now because it may be the final way out of Afghanistan, the Chicago Summit’s signature issue.  Special forces, drone strikes and the persistent effort of allied soldiers have greatly diminished the Taliban and affiliated groups.  But counterinsurgency doctrine suggests the lasting way to break the back of an insurgency is to co-opt reconcilable elements through a political process.  As the allies committed themselves to the future of Afghanistan for their own security, they assumed responsibility to end the insurgency by force or by politics.  Thankfully they have the experience and means to do it.

NATO has been critical to resolving long-standing disputes with old adversaries and new.  Whether ending the Cold War and expanding the area of peace and stability in Europe or dismantling the Taliban, NATO has more than just weapons in its toolkit.  Not only through force of arms but through the political power of democratic states acting in concert will NATO continue to resolve the threats that challenge us, in Afghanistan and beyond.


James Snyder served on NATO’s International Staff in Brussels from 2005 to 2011. Brett Swaney is a research assistant in the Center for Transatlantic Security Studies at the National Defense University, Washington, D.C.

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NATO: Chicago Summit – A Vision of Success, or a Missed Opportunity?

Successes and failures are often in the eye of the beholder; the following two blogs offer contrasting views on the outcomes of the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago.  We call it “Dueling Blogs”…….

Image of a fencing foil

NATO Summit: A Swing and a Miss
by Brett Swaney
Edited by Mr. Mark Ducasse

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated that the Chicago Summit was an outright success, declaring: “We [NATO] have focused on the future of Afghanistan; we have decided to invest smartly in our defense, even in times of austerity; and we have engaged with our partners around the world to address the challenges we all face in the 21st century.”[i]  Yet on all counts, the Summit was a shadow of what could have been a critical moment in the history of the organization.  This was a failed opportunity to provide a desperately needed vision of the future for the world’s premier security alliance.

The headline grabbing issue for the Chicago Summit was Afghanistan.  While milestones in the Afghan conflict were announced and leaders “took stock” of their progress, they were little more than a rehash of financial and military commitments, as well as agreement on a timetable for withdrawal.

Critical issues were left unaddressed. Almost all of the closest U.S. allies failed to commit specific amounts of funds to help finance Afghanistan’s military forces through 2024.  The long term funding question is vital to the future of security in Afghanistan.

Further, allies agreed to a plan that would see Afghan security forces shrink by 120,000 men – but how do you demobilize those soldiers and remove their not insignificant spending power when the Afghan economy is already in shambles?

The details of future NATO engagement in Afghanistan also remained opaque.  Will it be only advising and training?  Will there be special operations units in place to aid Afghan forces in trouble?  And no one was willing to even broach the topic of Afghan political reform – the real threat to democracy in the war-torn country.

Yet, the greater question of NATO’s future after Afghanistan remained the unaddressed elephant in the room, and that the future of the Alliance will rely-in part- on expanding global partnerships.  Yet, according to Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin, this summit “is the first in decades to make little or no progress on the enlargement of the organization.”[ii] For aspirants such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Montenegro, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia the path to membership has been significantly delayed.

The last round of NATO enlargement occurred in 2004 with the accession of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. The accession of the Baltic States was a success and the Alliance became stronger as a result, demonstrating that NATO can play a key role in reconciliation between former adversaries.  Estonia in particular is making significant contributions as the host of the NATO Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, and is a strong advocate for cyber defense.

Will NATO wait for another Kosovo or Bosnia before pursuing a similar process in the Balkans?  In this light, the Summit was another missed opportunity to resolve unfinished business in Europe.

The Summit was also an important opportunity to mend ties, and shore up the often-cantankerous relationship with Pakistan.  Pakistan’s closure of NATO supply routes, and the exorbitant fees demanded to reopen them are in protest to drone attacks and a U.S. air strike that killed two-dozen Pakistani troops in November of last year.

Yet after being invited to the Summit at the last minute, President Obama refused to meet with Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari face-to-face.[iii]  This very public snub will certainly fail to convince Pakistan to acquiesce and re-open its supply routes for NATO, and it is unlikely that this diplomatic sleight will further U.S., or NATO goals in the region.

The Summit also focused on capabilities.   The ongoing fiscal challenges in the United States, and the continuing Eurozone crisis catapulted the Secretary General’s personal initiative “Smart Defense” to the top of the list at the Summit.  Smart defense is a good idea in an economically challenging context, when a system for coordinating and pooling defense resources to mitigate duplication and cost is needed.  Leaders at the summit announced twenty-two projects under the Smart Defense initiative, including the extension of Baltic air policing, and improving the Alliance’s ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) capabilities by signing a contract to buy five Global Hawk Drones from Northrop Grumman.[iv]

While these are no doubt needed capabilities and important symbolic operations, none of the projects will significantly impact the course of the Alliance in the future.  In fact, a plurality of experts surveyed by the Atlantic Council and Foreign Policy magazine believed that smart defense would only “mask NATO’s inability to make major necessary reforms.”[v]

The Summit in Chicago was an unrealized opportunity to lay concrete foundations for the future of the Alliance and reaffirm U.S. leadership therein.  A set of rather modest successes at best does not mask the larger questions plaguing the Alliance.  Missed opportunities to answer critical questions about Afghanistan, Smart Defense, and Pakistan leave the impression of an alliance struggling with current crises, and unable to get its head above water.  With some continuing to debate the relevance of NATO, an uninspired, unambitious summit of missed opportunities does not portend a hopeful outlook for the future.

Brett Swaney is a research intern at the Center for Transatlantic Security Studies.


[i] Parrish, Karen.  “NATO Secretary General Terms Summit a Success.” U.S. Department of Defense.  21 May 2012.  Retrieved May 28, 2012.  http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=116436

[ii] Rogin, Josh.  “The NATO non-enlargement Summit. ”Foreign Policy.  May 21st, 2012.  Retrieved May 25, 2012.  http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/05/21/the_nato_non_enlargement_summit

[iii] MacAskill, Ewen.  “US-Pakistan Tensions Deepen as Obama Snubs Zardari at NATO Summit.”  The Guardian.  May 21, 2012.  Retrieved on May 26, 2012.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/21/us-pakistan-tensions-deepen-nato

[iv] Daalder, Ivo, Gideon Rose, Rachel Bronson.  “Ivo Daalder Discusses the Chicago NATO Summit.” May 23, 2012. Retrieved May 26, 2012.  http://www.foreignaffairs.com/discussions/news-and-events/ivo-daalder-discusses-the-chicago-nato-summit?cid=rss-rss_xml-ivo_daalder_discusses_the_chic-000000

[v] “Atlantic Council/ Foreign Policy Survey: The Future of NATO.”  May 14, 2012.  Retrieved May 28, 2012.  http://www.acus.org/event/atlantic-councilforeign-policy-survey-future-nato

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reverse image of fencing foil

NATO Summit:  Mission Accomplished.
By StephanieChristel
Edited by Mr. Mark Ducasse

“We came to Chicago with three goals. And we have met them,”[i] were the words of NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen after the two-day series of meetings focused on Afghanistan, Alliance capabilities, and global partnerships. Luckily, this summit avoided being one for the history books—in a negative sense.

Significant issues, such as newly elected French President Francois Hollande’s announcement of the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, sour relations between the Alliance and Pakistan, or security concerns in Chicago could have easily derailed the Summit.  But they did not and clear decisions were taken on each item of the agenda.

Afghanistan headlined the Summit agenda.  With all eyes on the Alliance and its partners, the Summit produced concrete decisions among leaders and assurances to both ISAF-contributing nations and the Afghani people.  To the citizens and soldiers of Allied and partner nations, leaders emphasized the “irreversible transition of full security responsibility”[ii] to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and signaled the official closure of what will be a thirteen-year combat mission.

The concerns of Afghan citizens were not ignored, and the pledge of some $4.1 billion per year in support of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), 87.5% of which will come in the form of foreign donations, codifies the Alliance’s commitment to the State and people of Afghanistan, long after our troops have left.[iii]

While some will be disappointed by the lack of public monetary promises made to the fund, it was never intended for this summit to be a donors’ conference.  From the outset, the discussion of this summit was focused on security issues related to Afghanistan.

In July, the Tokyo Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan will delve into the non-security, mainly financial and developmental aspects, of support during the “Transformation Decade.”[iv]  The United States is confident that the international community will be able to obtain full funding.[v] Tokyo will be an extension of the NATO Summit’s commitment to a sustainable Afghanistan and it’s fledgling security forces.

The continuance of the Eurozone crisis and reality of declining U.S. defense budgets brought credence to the decisions taken at the Summit on Alliance capabilities.  Leaders approved twenty-two projects under the “Smart Defense” banner.  These projects include extending the Baltic air policing mission and improving the Alliance’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities (an area in which the organization lacks an independent capability, as was highlighted in Libya – where the allies relied heavily on the U.S. to fill this role).[vi]  In addition, leaders declared interim missile defense capability, a major feat when considering the significant political and military capital needed to make this system a reality.  The Atlantic Council’s Barry Pavel describes this as “a good start” but noted, “more needs to be done.”[vii] It is essential to view this Summit as the first of many that bring new perspectives to Alliance capabilities.

The Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR), mandated at the previous NATO Summit in Lisbon, stated that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance,” reassuring concerned NATO allies and demonstrating to potential adversaries that nuclear weapons would remain a core component of the Alliance’s deterrent and defense capabilities.

After the wave of concern that the U.S. “pivot” to Asia set off, this strong stance quelled the concerns of some member States and, in part, reinforced the transatlantic relationship.

The least noted of agenda topics, partnerships, was an extremely successful component of the Summit.  This summit was the largest ever, with 63 nations in attendance plus representatives from the European Union and United Nations.

With the approval of the other 27 nations, President Obama asked Secretary General Rasmussen to begin a process that will allow highly involved partners, those with both the political will and military capability, to engage significantly, and to be integrated into the planning and training discussions of the Alliance.[viii]

Support of NATO aspirant nations by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her statement that Chicago should be “the last summit that is not an enlargement summit,”[ix] indicated the necessity of spreading the linkages of stability and security NATO provides for its members. This statement has already marked an important agenda item for the next summit, a date and location for which have yet to be determined.

Focusing on the “what could have been” is not enough to condemn efforts in Chicago as “unsuccessful.”  This summit emphasized NATO as a hub of global security—out-of-area operations, working with an expanding network of partners around the world, and efficient operator of pooled capacities—and reiterated the steps being taken to continually transform the Alliance.  This Summit made tangible contributions to global security, and highlighted the Alliance’s continuing relevance to its members, partners, and the rest of the world.

Stephanie Christel is a research intern for the Center for Transatlantic Security Studies.


[i] “NATO-News: NATO Chicago summit meets its goals.” May 21, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2012. http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/news_87603.htm

[ii] “Chicago Summit Declaration” May 20, 2012.  Retrieved May 22, 2012.  http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_87593.htm

[iii] “Chicago Summit Declaration on Afghanistan.”  May 21, 2012.  Retrieved May 25, 2012.  http://www.nato.int/cps/en/SID-8E723D85-B8AC5902/natolive/official_texts_87595.htm

[iv] Ibid; “NATO Chicago Summit: Afghanistan.” UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  Retrieved May 25, 2012.  http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/global-issues/afghanistan/chicago-summit-2012/,

[v] Daalder, Ivo, Gideon Rose, Rachel Bronson.  “Ivo Daalder Discusses the Chicago NATO Summit.” May 23, 2012. Retrieved May 26, 2012.  http://www.foreignaffairs.com/discussions/news-and-events/ivo-daalder-discusses-the-chicago-nato-summit?cid=rss-rss_xml-ivo_daalder_discusses_the_chic-000000

[vi] “The NATO Chicago Summit: Outcomes and the Way Ahead” Conference. Atlantic Council. May 24, 2012.

[vii] Bennett, John T.  “Grading Obama’s NATO Summit Performance.” U.S. News.  May 22, 2012.  Retrieved May 24, 2012.  http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/dotmil/2012/05/22/grading-obamas-nato-summit-performance

[viii] “The NATO Chicago Summit: Outcomes and the Way Ahead” Conference. Atlantic Council. May 24, 2012.

[ix] Clinton, Hillary.  “Remarks at the North Atlantic Council Meeting.”  May 21, 2012.  Retrieved May 29, 2012.  http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2012/05/190466.htm

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NATO Partnerships at Chicago: Assessment

By Dr. Isabelle François
Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow
Center for Transatlantic Security Studies

 

The NATO summit in Chicago was organized around three key themes, including partnerships, and according to the Declaration by the twenty eight Heads of state and government agreed in Chicago, the North Atlantic Council gathered “to strengthen our wide range of partnerships” among other things.

The Summit certainly showcased partnerships in terms of the meetings that took place.  Three of those meetings involved NATO partners: the “expanded International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) meeting” and the meeting between Allies and 13 “core partners” (defined as those who “recently made particular political, operational and financial contributions to NATO-led operations”)[1], as well as the meeting at the level of Foreign Ministers with the 4 leaders of countries aspiring to join the Alliance (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Georgia.) The mere fact that these meetings took place delivered three strong messages.

First, it completed the work set in motion at the previous summit in Lisbon whereby a new partnership policy seeking increased flexibility and rationalization of the partnership frameworks was developed, agreed, and in Chicago demonstrated in action. The Alliance was able to have a meeting with 13 selected partners from different regional frameworks showing NATO’s flexibility in terms of who gets invited and in terms of the agenda setting. These leaders were gathered to talk about NATO-led operations as a testimony to their considerable contributions to the Alliance over the past few years.

Second, the meeting with aspirants ensured that the open door policy was not forgotten in what was publicized as “not an enlargement Summit.”  The point was brought home when Secretary Clinton indicated in Chicago that this was the last summit, which would not have enlargement on the agenda.

Third, the summit reiterated with the ISAF meeting that operational partnership is fundamental to the Alliance, and that NATO will continue to work with partners until and beyond 2014 in building an enduring partnership with Afghanistan. The meeting included the countries in the region from Central Asian countries to Russia and Pakistan, as well as Asian contributors from Japan to Australia and beyond.  The Declaration devoted a particular paragraph to the regional dimension recognizing “that security and stability in the “Heart of Asia” is interlinked across the region.”

That said for all the nice words and focus on partnerships there is not a single tasking in the communiqué, which pertains to partnerships.  There are some very timid efforts referring to partners in paragraphs dealing with emerging security challenges and smart defense and reiterating Allied commitment to engage with relevant partner nations on a case-by case basis as appropriate (i.e. with the usual qualifiers), which is nothing new and remains obviously sensitive within the Alliance.

Moreover, the partnership related paragraphs of the Declaration (26 paragraphs out of 65) are extensive. They cover everything one can possibly imagine from all the various frameworks (Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, Mediterranean Dialogue, Black Sea, Middle East and North Africa) to the specific relationships  (Russia, Ukraine) and the flexible meetings above-mentioned (meeting with 13 partners, and with 4 aspirants).  In addition, the Declaration refers to partners in almost all other paragraphs be it on Afghanistan, missile defense, smart defense, cyber defense to name but a few. Nonetheless, there is no tasking coming out of Chicago to guide work ahead in the area of partnerships.  In NATO terms, this means that work will not be required to prepare for the next high-level meetings, be it at ministerial or summit level.

Some might interpret this as marking a time for reflection given that partnership has been high on the agenda of the Lisbon summit and the Chicago summit.  It will no doubt be also welcome by those who prepare for further cuts at a time of austerity.  Others, however, have indicated that partnerships will be central to NATO’s work ahead and an area where a lot of creative thinking is and will be required.  Without any tasking, however, NATO as an institution has no mandate to get this work underway.  As a result the thinking and the political agenda will have to be initiated by nations, and serious leadership will be required to accompany any new idea to be developed in this field given the resistance encountered on the part of some nations within the Alliance on any new developments in the area of partnerships. Leadership and serious political pressure will also have to be devoted to enlargement if the Alliance is to have it on the agenda of the next summit.

That said there seems to a positive assessment within U.S. official circles on partnerships at Chicago.  Asking a high-ranking official from the Obama administration a couple of days after the summit about U.S. expectations with regard to work ahead on partnerships in the absence of any tasking from the summit, I was told that President Obama indicated clear expectations that NATO would initiate further work towards getting countries like Australia to continue contributing to the Alliance beyond operational commitments and beyond the draw down of operations.  More specifically, expectations were that the NATO Secretary General would initiate such work.  While I have no doubt regarding U.S. intentions and the U.S. level of commitment to partnerships, my own assessment is that, in the absence of significant political pressure from key nations, such work cannot easily be initiated by the NATO Secretary General, irrespective of his own personal commitment to NATO partnerships over the past few years.  Leadership will be extremely important to go beyond Chicago.  New thinking will have to be done in capitals and Delegations in NATO will have to work it through the system, but this will be uphill in the absence of a formal tasking. There is of course always the option of inserting a tasking in future high-level meetings, and perhaps this is how it should be given that creative thinking has barely begun in Washington.


[1] The meeting was attended by the leaders of Australia, Austria, Finland, Georgia, Japan, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Qatar, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

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Focus Recommendations for NATO’s Summit in Chicago

Logo for NATO Summit meeting in Chicago

By Darren Ruch

As a general rule, wars are not fought unilaterally without the financial, political, and materiel assistance of other states.  Examples of historical, large-scale alliances include Allied (Entente) Powers and the Central Powers during World War I, the Allies versus the Axis during World War II, and the Cold War, involving a prolonged war between North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members and the Warsaw Pact nations.  The commonality of alliances and multilateral action in conflicts remains today, such as in the Libya Civil War, in which the National Transitional Council, NATO, and other states formed an alliance to topple the Libyan regime.

Maintaining well-established alliances is a smart investment because of their many benefits and military effects.  Coming into its 63rd anniversary, the NATO alliance has survived the end of the Cold War, the Balkan wars in the mid 1990s, and the Libya intervention in 2011.  As the 25th summit in Chicago approaches, NATO will need to reaffirm its mission and prepare for another decade of following its charter and continuing the strongest and oldest alliance still in effect.  Furthermore, it is in every member’s interest, especially the U.S., that NATO not only remain intact, but continue to be a strong alliance for the future.  This paper will argue that NATO is far from retirement or in need for a major overhaul, but rather should continue promoting its values and demand an equal contribution from all its members.  The paper will briefly touch on NATO’s values and ideals, identify some shortcomings of the alliance with lessons learned from the Libya campaign, and conclude with some recommendations for the upcoming Chicago Summit.

On April 4, 1949, NATO was founded on the foundation of “democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.”[1]  Within the first five articles of the treaty, the principles of joint negotiation, training, sovereignty, defense, and alliance are emphasized to promote defense stability and economic collaboration between its members.[2]  Successfully carrying out those ways and means is an important end for all the participating states: providing financial and materiel support to the military-strong states (US, UK, France, and Germany) and affording modernization and equipment to the members with smaller armed forces.[3]

NATO is an alliance for alliances; it rarely engages in operations solely with its own members.[4]  As of May 2012, NATO supports five operations: leading the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan (Operation ENDURING FREEDOM), NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR), detecting and deterring terrorist activity in the Mediterranean Sea (Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOR), counter-piracy in the Horn of Africa (Operation OCEAN SHIELD), and supporting the African Union on the African continent, mostly focused in Somalia.[5]  Additionally, last year NATO completed its training mission in Iraq and, in October, concluded a successful four-month operation in Libya, Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR, which provided a no-fly zone over the country.  In all of those operations, past and current, NATO was just one alliance within a wider coalition force.

By continuously working in partnership with other nation states, NATO achieves a number of additional objectives and promotes core values aside from its military operations.  NATO requires its member states to maintain a democratic political system, operate a market economy, respect persons belonging to national minorities, resolve neighbor disputes, commit to peaceful dispute settlements, have the ability and willingness to make military contributions to alliances, and achieve interoperability with its member forces.[6]  All of these values are within the member states’ interest to promote, both within the alliance and abroad, because of the beneficial peaceful and economic partnerships they build.  For example, liberal peace theory hypothesizes that established democracies do not conduct war with one another.[7]  By requiring democratic governance to those wanting to join and maintain membership, NATO sends a clear message that its primary ways of conflict resolution is through peaceful means.  With regards to NATO’s desired economic ends, market economies tend to attract foreign investment and cause an increase in production and rapid development, which is likely to grow the global markets of those members with weaker economies.  Through its neighbor disputes clause, NATO ensures that its members maintain diplomatic channels of communication.  Therefore, there should always be a dialogue among the partnered nations regarding national security and strategic matters.  Maintaining open channels of communication is especially beneficial to those members who do not maintain strong diplomatic relations within the Organization, such as Turkey and Greece.

While NATO promotes peace and economic expansion, there are aspects that need to be strengthened.  After Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR, a number of deficiencies were brought to light, despite NATO’s long history, lessons learned, and best practices.  In his departing speech from NATO as Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates concluded NATO’s “military capabilities simply aren’t there.”[8]  His reasons for such a failure included a lack of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities; the inability of some nations to utilize their fighter aircraft effectively; insufficient targeting professionals; NATO’s failure to launch air sorties at over a 50% capacity; and a general shortage of munitions by member nations.[9]  To remedy these issues, the US military had to provide more ISR assets and targeting professionals than originally planned and had to front additional costs to replace the munitions stockpile.

In this speech, Gates stressed another weakness in NATO – an uneven distribution of responsibility.  In addition to pointing at some failures, Gates highlighted a few countries in the same speech, including Norway and Denmark, as members who were contributing more than their allies.  He remarked, “[those two countries] provided 12 percent of allied strike aircraft yet [had] struck about one third of the targets.”[10]  His overall message was clear: “[in NATO, there are] those willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership – be they security guarantees or headquarters billets – but don’t want to share the risks and the costs.”[11]  When Secretary Gates left his position in the Department of Defense, he expressed his frustrations with the members of NATO, saying some countries primarily reap its benefits, while others contribute more than their fair share.  Along with a wide range of commentators, Gates pointed at the failures of the alliance and, more importantly, highlighted that those failures will not enable NATO to be successful in the future, should a larger conflict than Libya arise, unless improvements are made.

NATO must reaffirm its mission and improve its interoperability to overcome its shortcomings.  The upcoming Chicago summit is a venue where issues such as NATO’s overall lack of assets, training, certified personnel, and insufficient financial contributions should be addressed.  The core values of NATO and the positive impact on both its members and nonmembers are too important to abandon because of recoverable shortages.  The core values of democracy, market economy, and mutual respect promote peace and economic growth with its partners.  With NATO continuing its five operational missions – most notably in Afghanistan – in accord with other nations, promoting these values and demonstrating its successes are invaluable as a continuing model alliance for the international community.  With today’s economic and security challenges, nations subscribing to the values and benefits of NATO cannot place their obligations to their partner states as a last priority.  The hardships that states are facing will pass in time, but the treaty organization will persevere well into the future, and NATO members must make their commitment a top national priority.


[1] “The North Atlantic Treaty.” NATO. http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_ texts_17120.htm (accessed April 1, 2012).

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Chapter Four: Europe.” The Military Balance 112, no. 1 (07 Mar 2012): 71-76.

[4] ISAF maintains a force of over 130,000 troops from 50 countries, including 27 NATO countries, in Afghanistan.  KFOR is comprised of 29 countries, 22 NATO countries and seven supplemental state contributors.   Since 2004, Israel, Morocco, Russia, Ukraine, Finland, Sweden, and Georgia have augmented NATO’s Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOR, through informal partnerships, liaison, or ship deployments or other physical assets.   12 Countries augment NATO in their other maritime operation, OCEAN SHIELD.   The African Union (AU) does not have a legal framework for their partnership with NATO, but the organization has been augmenting AU missions, mostly in Somalia, since 2005.

[5] “NATO operations and missions.” NATO. http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/ topics_52060.htm (accessed April 6, 2012).

[6] John Finney and Ivo Šlaus, Assessing the Threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Role of Independent Scientists (Northwestern University: IOS Press BV, 2010), 30.

[7] Doyle, Michael. Ways of War and Peace: Realism, Liberalism, and Socialism. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997.

[8] Robert, Gates. “The Security and Defense Agenda (future of Nato).” Speeches. http://www.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1581 (accessed April 1, 2012).

[9] Ibid.

[10] Robert, Gates. “The Security and Defense Agenda (future of Nato).” Speeches. http://www.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1581 (accessed April 1, 2012).

[11] Ibid.

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NATO: Misrepresented and Misunderstood

Chicago Lake View

By Mark Ducasse, Center for Transatlantic Security Studies

With NATO’s Chicago Summit just over two weeks away, the build-up has been both fascinating and disappointing. As a relative newbie to the workings of NATO, I have been amazed by the Alliance’s inability to convey its successes to the American public. If the American public does not realize the benefits of being part of NATO, the Alliance will be increasingly perceived as an unnecessary burden, a drain on U.S. resources in a time of scarcity, and could very easily become a target for cuts by U.S. politicians, even beyond the reduction of U.S. forces deployed in Europe announced by the Pentagon earlier this year.

The Alliance can no longer afford to ignore public opinion, especially during an American election year when foreign policy is relegated to a low priority. Both Democrats and Republicans are clambering over each other, utilizing wag-the-dog style politics in an effort to steal a minimal lead over their opponents. With the NATO Summit being held in President Barack Obama’s hometown of Chicago, Illinois, between the 20th and 21st of May, it is already overly politicized.

Given this situation, three key questions have continued to boggle my mind. First, why did NATO agree to hold its biggest political event in Chicago during a U.S. election year? Second, why did NATO agree to hold its Summit back-to-back with the G-8 Summit and potentially link itself to the mass protests of the anti-globalization and Occupy crowds such G-8 events always attract?[*] And third, why hasn’t NATO been bombarding the American public with non-technocratic information about the Alliance and its successes, instead of wasting its limited resources preaching to the converted about “capability gaps” and “Smart Defense”? If your head were being placed under the guillotine, you would not talk to your executioner about wood and metal care products; you would be loudly professing your innocence and calling every available witness to testify to your high moral standing.

The Alliance should distance itself from the quagmire that is domestic U.S. politics, and demonstrate its strategic importance to the citizens it protects instead of becoming a pawn for politicians who have their own agendas, decidedly different from promoting transatlantic relations. NATO especially requires the support of the American public. After all, the United States is the world’s only remaining superpower. The United States is key to everything that NATO does. In short, no American support, no NATO. But to garner this critical body of American support, NATO’s public relations machine needs to be spreading the good word of the Alliance’s continued relevance in maintaining the national security and international standing of the United States.

As a European living in the United States and working in the realm of policy, I have realized that public diplomacy, strategic vision, and concise justifications are scantily held skill-sets among Europeans. Perhaps this stems from the differences in working cultures, political systems, or simple confidence? Who knows? The point is that NATO’s public relations machine has done little in the build-up to Chicago to counter with fact and logic the plethora of thumb-sucking articles from shortsighted political commentators with banal titles such as, “Whither NATO,” or “The End of the Alliance.”

Memories are also short, too short. Not many Americans recall the first and only time that NATO’s Article 5 commitment was invoked – the famous three-musketeer clause of the NATO’s founding Washington Treaty that reads, “…an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all…” happened the day following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, and Article 5 was not invoked by the United States to support Europe – as was originally foreseen – but the other way around: Europeans and Canadians coming to America’s aid!

Every one of the NATO’s members rallied to the aid of their stricken ally, which included the active securing of U.S. airspace against the possibility of another attack. Under the auspices of Operation Eagle Assist, NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft flew more than 360 operational sorties over the United States between October 2001 and May 2002, ready to identify and if need be to summon fighter aircraft to America’s rescue if there were any follow-on threats.

Then there was Hurricane Katrina in 2005. NATO and its partner countries responded to the United States’ request for assistance with offers of food, medical supplies, and equipment following the hurricane’s devastation. Every single allied nation is also fighting in Afghanistan, not necessarily out of national interest or priorities, but out of allied solidarity and their nations’ desire to engage and partner with the United States.

In short, NATO is a force multiplier – and indeed, a security multiplier – as well as a forum for international legitimation the United States cannot do without.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Alliance has continued to play an essential role in transatlantic security. It has intervened in conflicts to bring an end to ethnic violence and genocide, enforced United Nations Security Council resolutions, stabilized and rehabilitated nations, fought against terrorism, brought former adversaries into the flock of Western democratic States, and allowed for security and stability to be taken as a given, a necessary underpinning to development and prosperity.

We cannot and must not let such an alliance be misrepresented and misunderstood any longer. That is NATO’s real task between now and 20thMay in Chicago.


[*] The G-8 Summit was originally proposed to be held back-to-back with the NATO Summit in Chicago. The G-8 Summit has now been moved to Camp David, in part to avoid the risk of popular demonstrations in Chicago and the media’s memories of the 1968 Chicago riots during the Democratic National Convention.

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The United States “Pivot to Asia”: It’s NATO way or the highway

Logo for the Chicago 2012 NATO Summit

By Stefano Santamato, Center for Transatlantic Security Studies

The closer we get to the NATO Summit in Chicago, next May 20 and 21, the more European Allies and Atlanticists become worried about the United States “pivot to Asia.”  This is producing a degree of questioning in Europe about US steadfastness that has few if any precedents.

Every speech, every statement, every policy memo by U.S. government officials is finely combed in search of references to NATO or to Europe. As regularly happens on the eve of every major NATO event, the “relevance” debate is dusted off the shelves of transatlantic opinion makers and think tanks. Word counts are run to calculate how many times the Alliance or the Old Continent are mentioned in US official documents and in the US media as if the sheer articulation of these names would equal interest, regard or significance. In doing so, however, we confuse relevance with visibility, substance with narrative, demonstrating an Atlanto-centric vision of the strategic environment that is no more.

To begin with, let us be clear on the difference between policy and slogans. While “pivot to Asia” is an effective and evocative catchphrase, it is not accurate in describing the evolution of the United States defense policy. The Strategic Guidance Review unveiled last January specifically refers to the necessity to “re-balance” towards the Asia-Pacific region. Webster dictionary’s definition of (re)balance is to “arrange so that one set of elements equals another”. Equals, not overtakes or replaces. Coincidentally, NATO is also the only alliance mentioned in a document that refers heavily to working with partners and allies. Hardly a verdict of irrelevance.

Truth to be told, many European Allies are more concerned about the risk of reduced U.S. leadership in NATO than of a reduced U.S. military presence on the Continent, itself now underway. After all, when it comes to wider security issues, the United States still remains the glue that keeps Europeans together. And make no mistake: the President of the United States is doubtless well aware of this fact, and in Chicago he will surely reiterate the U.S. commitment to Europe and the importance of NATO in substantive and no uncertain terms.

But Europeans should also realize that what the “pivot to Asia” may mean in terms of Europe’s lost geographical prominence could be more than compensated of in terms of relative weigh in the transatlantic relationship. There are at least four reasons why the United States’ increasing focus on the Asia-Pacific region is an opportunity for Europe to redefine the North Atlantic Alliance on the basis of shared missions and shared responsibilities, without renouncing the transatlantic security bond.

First, between failed North Korean missiles launches and the long-term military growth of China, most of the immediate geo-strategic challenges to the United States are still well-anchored to the arch spanning East Africa through the Middle-East to Central Asia. The only way that the United States can afford to pivot to Asia is to make sure that its European allies remain closer and more engaged than ever in these areas that remain of critical importance to the U.S.

Second, coalition operations in the past twenty years, from Desert Storm to Operation Unified Protector in Libya, demonstrate that the only way the United States and its partners – including from the Middle East and Asia – can operate together, is by following NATO doctrines, procedures, and standards. To move away from this template would be like trying to switch from digital to analog communications. It is always a feasible alternative, but at what cost in terms of efficiency and effectiveness?

Third, in an age of fiscal austerity, NATO’s education, training and exercise facilities and programs have the unique potential for maintaining, improving, and expanding allies’ and partners’ ability to work together, while minimizing or even zeroing new investment costs.

Fourth and possibly most important, Afghanistan teaches us that NATO is the only alliance in modern history that has demonstrated the capability for enduring over ten years of military conflict without falling apart politically – indeed, while and even attracting new partners.

For these and other reasons, NATO and its European members should not worry overmuch about the narrative of the United States’ pivot to Asia. Rather, they should welcome the substance of a strategic shift that will guarantee NATO’s continued relevance for years to come, not because of its geography or its place in the pecking order of U.S. priorities, but because of its ultimate proven value. After all, unless the United States adopts a doctrine of strict isolationism and military unilateralism, meeting its strategic needs indeed means the “NATO way or the highway;” — never mind if the Alliance is not a big topic in speeches or the media. Maybe, in fact, this quiet reality of its critical importance to the United States is exactly what NATO needs.

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The Evolving Relevance of NATO’s Article 5, Ten Years After 9/11

Logo for the Center for Transatlantic Security Studies

By Mark Ducasse and Stefano Santamato
Center for Transatlantic Security Studies

Ten years after 9/11, nine months before the NATO Summit in Chicago, and four weeks after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Tripoli, discussions over resources and capabilities are overshadowing the transformational nature of NATO’s new Strategic Concept and the operational successes of the Alliance. Lately, too much focus is being placed on a mercantile approach to NATO by which the value of the Alliance is seemingly measured, almost exclusively, in terms of input versus output. This approach, sound in accounting terms, does not bode well for statesmanship or international alliances. It is time to change the course and the discourse.

Even in these challenging times of financial pressures and operational fatigue, the debate over NATO’s role, relevance and resources needs to be, first and foremost, a political one. The history of NATO is one of solidarity, not of an internal balance of capabilities. Burden sharing has always been a feature of NATO’s compact, yet it has never defined the Alliance. The “transatlantic bargain” – if there ever was one – was political not financial. The universal message that Article 5 has sent to the world for more than sixty years is that “…an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all…”

It is mainly because of this message of unqualified solidarity that NATO continues to be the world’s most successful political-military alliance. During the Cold War, the essence of Article 5 laid in the double bluff of the United States’ nuclear umbrella – of its readiness to sacrifice “Chicago for Hamburg” – and of the misunderstanding that an “armed attack” would be countered by an equally, if not superior, purely armed response. In reality, as scholars and close observers know all too well, the three musketeer clause represented by Article 5 is more nuanced, and the Allied nations would stand all for one and one for all only to take such actions each of them would “deem necessary” to restore peace and security in the North Atlantic area. The use of armed force, while specifically mentioned by Article 5, only represents a possible option the Allies are ready to resort to.

However, this reinforces the view that no matter what the Allies’ response to a possible attack on one or more of them would have been, Article 5 would be the right answer, as it had been after the 9/11 attacks on the United States. The speed with which the Allies then agreed, unanimously, to invoke Article 5 stands as a monument to the transatlantic relationship. Against this definitive show of solidarity the discussion over the nature of the attack – armed or not – and on the level of individual or collective response, becomes less relevant.

With its new Strategic Concept, agreed at its Lisbon summit in 2010, NATO has redefined its mandate, vis-à-vis collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security. The Alliance also reaffirmed its core values of individual liberty, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Between the two, the core of the Alliance’s strength is still represented by the recognition of the centrality of the Allies’ unchanging bond of solidarity. However, as demonstrated by the Allies’ reaction to the 9/11 attacks, this bond has both evolved in nature and acquired new relevance in the post-Cold War world.

NATO’s primary challenge remains one of political unity rather than one of burden sharing. Alliance members face a plethora of unconventional, asymmetrical, and transnational threats to their security. These threats include, among others, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, cyber attacks, disruptions to energy supplies, and mass migration. The perceived threat posed by these examples varies among the Allies, together with their understanding of the role NATO should play in dealing with them.

The new Strategic Concept has very ably mastered the ensuing centrifugal forces by identifying NATO’s three essential tasks to allow all of its members to recognize that, in the Alliance’s mandate, the best way to address their vital security interests is through either collective defense, crisis management, or promoting international security through cooperation.

Equally skillful has been the way the drafters of the new Strategic Concept have ensured the continuity of the solidarity bond by reframing the essence of Article 5 in its Preface and by redefining the scope of collective defense. By introducing the concept of threat to the “fundamental security” of an individual Ally or of the Alliance as a whole, NATO members have underscored their commitment to the spirit of Article 5 and recognized that a threat to the fundamental security of an individual Ally “rests in the eye of the beholder” and need not necessarily entail exclusively an “armed attack.”

As Operation Unified Protector in Libya demonstrated, NATO remains the only viable and effective political-military organization. Through this operations, the Allies’ capability shortfalls have become visible to a considerable degree because people have started writing more often about them, not because they did not exist before; whilst concurrently, the operational flexibility of and success of the Alliance have quietly increased. Article 5 however, remains the cornerstone that holds NATO together and ensures that democracy, security, flexibility, and mutual understanding continue to spread even if the original threat this alliance was envisioned to counter has long since receded.

During the Cold War, the prevailing threat perception, like a light shining through a lens, was clear and focused in one direction: the Soviet Union. In today’s threat environment, the light is shining through a prism, displaying multiple threats with differing levels of complexity, emanating from and ending at various points, all requiring tailored reactions. What is and is not an Article 5 threat may be more confusing than ever, and deciding that point will require significant consultation and discussion, in order to create consensus among the Alliance’s members.

NATO has evolved from an organization embodying largely military goals conceived in relation to a single threat, and become an alliance regarded as a community of countries sharing common values with the promotion of good governance at its core. The Alliance is moving away from the “collective defense” doctrine of deterring potential aggression with military force alone, to one of “collective security,” involving active conflict prevention via increased cooperation, flexibility and solidarity among members and non-members alike. Article 5 has transformed itself into a conduit through which a new understanding of solidarity can flourish. In these uncertain times, the continuation of a proven alliance that acts as a forum for dialogue and as a tool for crisis management will remain of key importance to the security requirements of its members well into the twenty-first century.

Mr. Mark Ducasse is the Principal Research Analyst for the Center for Transatlantic Security Studies (CTSS) at National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies (NDU-INSS);  Mr. Stefano Santamato is a Senior Visiting Research Fellow also at CTSS. Mr. Ducasse may be contacted at (202) 685-0820 or mark.ducasse.ctr@ndu.edu. Mr. Santamato may be contacted on (202) 433-9661 or s.santamato.ctr@ndu.edu.      

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