NATO: Where is it Headed?

-Kalpana Chittaranjan, Researcher, IDSA


The end of the Cold War era that lasted a little more than four decades and had divided a major portion of the world into two distinct blocks, was marked by the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, the unification of Germany in October 1990, the disintegration of what had once been the powerful Soviet Union in December 1991 and finally, dramatic collapses and changes elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe. Now that the raison d'etre is over (i.e., to prevent the spread of Communism into Western Europe), what role has the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) today and what are the challenges it will face in the next millennium? Can the Organisation survive in a different political and strategic environment? Is it an anachronism in the post-Cold War era? The enlargement of the membership of the Alliance has brought about much discussion and debate: should NATO enlarge its membership by incorporating some or all of the Central and East European states; which countries should be made members and how quickly; should Russia be included in an enlarged NATO or should it, as was the case throughout the Cold War, have an implicit anti-Russian purpose in the post-Cold War period; can existing NATO members not entangle themselves in the numerous parochial quarrels and conflicts of Eastern Europe once expansion occurs? Other important issues include virtually unchallenged Cold War assumptions like the fundamental compatibility of interests between the USA and its European allies, the lack of power and means of other security organisations to be an adequate substitute for NATO and the irreplaceable nature of US leadership. To have a clearer understanding of how or whether these questions and issues can be resolved, we must delve into the past to find out why NATO was created and what its goals and objectives were and to what extent these were fulfilled.


Most Western analysts agree with Thomas W. Simons that, "It is true to say that the Cold War began with that division (of Europe) and that the division of Europe in turn has perpetuated the Cold War."1 According to Nicholas Henderson who was then working in the British Embassy at Washington and was a member of the seven-power working party which drafted the North Atlantic Treaty, he was surprised, in retrospect, to read the view expressed in his account of events leading to the signing of the treaty that "from the time the seven-power negotiations got under way in Washington in the summer of 1948, the ultimate achievement in some form or another of this main purpose was in little doubt," and though he added that "the actual shape and scope of what finally emerged as the North Atlantic Treaty was...only determined as a result of long negotiations--of the interplay of argument and personality--and of events which took place outside the conference room itself,"2 he was not sure that the treaty (North Atlantic) would have been inevitable. Henderson felt that in the decades since the treaty there had been many examples of engagements that were needed and that looked almost inevitable but had not come about, "on one pretext or another, but in reality and almost invariably on account of excessive focus on immediate national rather than common long-term interest."3

It was in the light of the perceived hostility of the Soviet Union as reflected in such actions as the creation of the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) in October 1947, the February 1948 coup in Czechoslovakia, and the June 1948 blockade of West Berlin as well as the imposition of Soviet-style regimes by the Soviets on Poland, Romania and Bulgaria in 1945-46 and on Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1947-48, the creation in 1949 of a Communist regime in East Germany, and, with some superficial variations, the establishment of single-party police-states in all these countries, that the post-War consolidation of Western defences was undertaken.4 In a series of measures developed over a two-year period, the American response to this perception (of Soviet hostility) started with the Truman Doctrine (March 1947) and the initiation of the Marshall Plan and programme (June 1947) and its implementation. The Vandenberg Resolution which was adopted by the US Senate on June 11, 1948, expressed US willingness to join Western Europe in a common defence system and subsequent negotiations culminated in the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty.

NATO was established on September 17, 1949, by action of the North Atlantic Council pursuant to the North Atlantic Treaty signed at Washington DC., on April 4, 1949, by the Foreign Ministers of the 12 countries of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the UK and the USA. While Greece and Turkey acceded to the treaty in 1955, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) became a member in 1955 and Spain was a signatory in 1982, thus increasing the NATO membership to 16 countries.

Purpose and Security Tasks

NATO was established to provide a system of collective defence in the event of armed attack against any member by means of a policy based on the principles of credible deterrence and genuine detente; also to work towards a constructive East-West relationship through dialogue and mutually advantageous cooperation. This included efforts to reach agreement on militarily significant, equitable, and verifiable arms reduction and to cooperate within the Alliance in economic, scientific, cultural and other areas.5

The following fundamental security tasks are undertaken by the Alliance to achieve its essential purpose:

* NATO seeks to preserve a strategic balance within Europe.

* NATO provides deterrence and defence against any form of aggression against the territory of any member state.

* Complying with Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, the Organisation serves as a transatlantic forum for Allied consultations on any issue affecting the vital interests of its members, which include developments that might pose risks to their security. Besides, it facilitates coordination of their efforts in fields of common concern.

* Based on the growth of democratic institutions and commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes, NATO seeks to provide a foundation for a stable security environment in Europe.6

Developments During Cold War Period

The North Atlantic Treaty had not prescribed the nature of the organisation that was to carry out the obligations of the signatory states. The treaty only stipulated that the members should establish a council which would, in turn, create a defence committee and the necessary subsidiary bodies. When the Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950, NATO's growth accelerated. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed, in 1951, as the first Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. Emphasis was laid on strengthening military defence of a broad area which was reflected in the expansion of the Organisation by the inclusion of new countries as well as the adoption of goals calling for a total of 50 divisions, 4,000 aircraft and strengthened naval forces during a meeting of the North Atlantic Council at Lisbon, Portugal, between February 20-25, 1952.7

Before the countries could become members of the Alliance, a protocol entitled "Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty on the Accession of" was negotiated. In his memoirs, Dean Acheson recalled that Greece and Turkey felt abandoned when they were not invited when Italy was invited in March 1949, to become an original signatory of the North Atlantic Treaty, even though in geographic terms, the latter was not a North Atlantic state.8 When the US government began considering collaboration on establishing a Middle East Command in January 1951, according to Acheson, "Greece and Turkey insisted upon being associated in the common defence through NATO and not indirectly through some regional organisation. Furthermore, Turkey would not cooperate with a Middle East organisation until her admission to NATO had been assured."9 NATO Deputy Ministers signed the protocol on accession by Greece and Turkey in October 1951 and on February 18, 1952, with the approval of the US Senate and its NATO allies and ratification by the Parliaments of the two countries, Greece and Turkey acceded to the treaty by depositing their instruments of accession.10

After the start of the Korean War, the USA, France and the UK called for a German military contribution in September 1950. Since the French were concerned about German rearmament, a plan was developed that called for German troops to be placed under the control of a continental European Defence Community (EDC) within NATO. The French Parliament defeated the EDC during the process of ratification. The Europeans sought to create the Western European Union (WEU) as a substitute for the EDC while the USA sought to establish an independent German military and admission of the FRG into NATO as a sovereign state. The FRG's Bundestag approved admission to both NATO and the WEU in February 1955.11 The country became a member of both organisations in May 1955, despite Soviet objections.

The Warsaw Pact was a multilateral military alliance formed by the Treaty of Warsaw and signed on May 14, 1955, by the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania.12 The USSR-dominated opposition grouping to NATO was theoretically initiated as a response to West Germany joining NATO in the same year. Other reasons given by official Soviet writers on the formation of the Pact, besides the establishment of NATO, include public actions by Western leaders, such as Winston Churchill's iron curtain speech, the Marshall Plan, the creation of the Brussels Treaty Organisation, the ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand, USA) alliance, the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation, and the Baghdad Pact.13 The military structure was known as the Warsaw Treaty Organisation (WTO). The Pact set up a unified military command structure under the control of Moscow and was largely armed by the USSR.

In the mid-1960s, the gravest problem that NATO had to face was France's estrangement over defence matters. French President Charles de Gaulle announced the removal of French forces from NATO's consolidated commands in 1966 and gave notice that all allied troops not under French command had to leave French soil by early 1967. This resulted in the re-routing of supply lines of NATO forces in Germany; transfer of the Alliance's European command from Paris, France, to Casteau, Belgium, and relocation of other allied commands and military facilities. Internal strains almost came to a head when disputes between Greece and Turkey, initially over Cyprus and later over offshore oil rights in the Aegean Sea resulted in Greece's withdrawal from NATO's integrated military command and a refusal to participate in NATO military exercises. Five months after Greece threatened to close down US bases on its territory, negotiations yielded an agreement on its return as a full participant.14 In 1977, NATO Defence Ministers agreed to seek a real increase in defence spending of 3 per cent per year (a commitment repeated in subsequent years) after US representatives attempted to convince their European allies to increase defence spending and to expand cooperation in weapons development programmes. US exhortation that the European members live up to the 1977 agreement subsequently brought about much discussion and was viewed as critical in the light of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq War, unrest in Poland, and the Reagan Administration's perception of a massive Soviet military build-up. The joint pressure of economic recession, budget limitations and a growing anti-nuclear movement in Western Europe offset the US demands for increased defence spending.15

Though 1982 witnessed Spain becoming the 16th member of NATO, as early as 1952, during Greece and Turkey's accession to the Alliance, Portugal, as an original NATO member, had urged that Spain also be admitted into the fold. A poll taken in Spain regarding possible Spanish membership of NATO had 57 per cent respondents favouring the proposal with 24 per cent opposed to the idea.16 The then US President, Jimmy Carter, reaffirmed in June 1980, his Administration's conviction that NATO's defensive capability would be significantly enhanced by Spanish membership of NATO. Such a possibility received increased attention in September 1981 when the USSR reportedly sent a message suggesting that Spain not enter NATO.17 It was only in October 1981 that Spanish President Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo and Foreign Minister Perez Llorca introduced the NATO accession issue for Parliamentary debate. The same month, the Spanish Congress of Deputies approved the application to join NATO by a vote of 185 for and 146 against and the Senate approved it a month later. The Protocol of Accession was signed in December 1981 at the NATO Foreign Ministers' meeting, a month after NATO began its process of considering Spanish accession.18 Spain became a party to the North Atlantic Treaty and a member of NATO in May 1982 following ratification by all the parties concerned.19

A 1979 agreement among NATO members saw deployment of intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) in the territories of Britain, Italy and West Germany. Belgium deployed the INF forces in March 1985 while Netherlands followed suit in November of the same year after debates and approval in their respective Parliaments. During the US bombing of Libya in April 1986, division arose among most of the West European governments. Apart from Britain, they were mostly critical of the attack and France and Spain refused to allow the use of their airspace for the action. When NATO heads of state and government met at Brussels in March 1988 for their summit after a gap of six years, it was decided that NATO would be dedicated to an "appropriate mix of adequate and effective nuclear and conventional arms which will continue to be kept up to date where necessary."20 In 1989, attention was primarily focussed on proposals made by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and other WTO leaders which called for major reductions in conventional capability. It was only after Gorbachev announced unilateral Soviet cuts in December that even sceptical NATO leaders eventually appeared to accept the offers as genuine. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, responding to domestic pressure, had called for the initiation of talks on the short-range nuclear weapons in April 1989. A crisis arose within the Organisation when the USA and Britain rejected the request and maintained their position that such negotiations should begin only after a conventional arms agreement had been concluded. West Germany appeared to gain support from a number of other NATO members thus threatening a rift within the Alliance on the issue of nuclear weapons as well as the larger question of NATO's role in what was rapidly becoming an era of diminishing East-West tension in Europe. The crisis was, however, averted during the May Summit of NATO leaders when US President George Bush had called for, inter alia, a mutual reduction of American and Soviet troops in Europe to 275,000, followed by talks on partial cutbacks in short-range missiles.

The demolition of the Berlin Wall dramatically underscored the shifting security balance as the structure of East-West relations was irrevocably altered by the political whirlwind which swept through Eastern Europe during the latter part of 1989 and the early part of 1990. A WTO Summit at Moscow in June 1990 and a NATO Summit in London in July 1990 confirmed the end of the Cold War. The "London Declaration" apart from suggesting that "we are no longer enemies"21 also declared a shift in military strategy which was away from "forward defence" which involved heavy troop and weapon deployment at the East-West frontier toward the stationing of smaller, more mobile forces which were away from the former "front lines." The Declaration also maintained that Germany would remain a full NATO member upon unification. This condition had initially been resisted by the Soviet Union but was ultimately accepted as part of the German-Soviet Union Treaty which was concluded in July 1990.

As NATO was no longer preoccupied with the possibility of a massive Soviet frontal assault on Western Europe and as the WTO continued to disintegrate, the Alliance began to pursue its own military retrenchment and reorganisation. Its Defence Ministers approved, in May 1991, a drastic cut in NATO's troop strength by agreeing to reduce it over the next several years from 1.5 million to 750,000 which included a cutback of US troops from the existing 320,000 to 160,000 or less. Additionally, the remaining troops would be redeployed into seven defence corps spread throughout Western and Central Europe. The plan also called for the creation of an Allied Rapid Reaction Corps to deal quickly with relatively small scale crises. It was also agreed that NATO nuclear weapons would be retained in Europe as a hedge against Soviet policy that might suddenly shift.22

The Warsaw Pact was formally abolished in July 1991 though it had effectively ceased to function after the beginning of the East European revolutions in 1989. The Pact had set up a unified military command structure under Soviet control and was largely armed by the Soviet Union. In reality, it was merely an extension of the USSR's military forces as it provided about 20 of the 70 or more divisions stationed in non-Soviet Eastern Europe. The Pact was engaged in military operations for the crushing of the Czech uprising in 1968. Most Western analysts believed that the Soviet Union's real interest in the Warsaw Pact was to control its satellites.23

Post Cold-War Developments

At the NATO Summit in Rome in November 1991, the Alliance introduced a new "Strategic Concept" which called for force structures that would enable it to respond effectively to the changing security environment by providing the forces and capabilities needed to deal with a wide spectrum of risks and contingencies which included the capability to undertake crisis management and crisis prevention operations, including peace-keeping, while continuing to defend the security and territorial integrity of member states.24

The North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) was created in December 1991 and was the culmination of a number of earlier steps taken by members of the Alliance in the light of the fundamental changes that had taken place in Central and Eastern European countries. The NACC is a forum for dialogue among the past NATO/WTO antagonists. The NACC's inaugural meeting was held on December 20, 1991, with the participation of 25 countries. There are now 39 NACC members which include the 16 NATO countries and Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.25 The Council is composed of Foreign Ministers or their representatives and meets regularly at least once a year and according to requirements. The NACC Work Plan focusses on political and security-related issues where Alliance members can offer experience and expertise. It works in liaison with various NATO bodies and meets regularly in conjunction with the North Atlantic Council.

Though NATO leaders endorsed a larger role for strictly European organisations such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union (EU) and the Western European Union (WEU), it was significant that leaders continued to insist at summits that proposed pan-European military forces would complement rather than supplant NATO. At the NATO Foreign Ministers meet in May 1992, it was agreed that forces would be made available on a "case-by-case basis" for future peace-keeping missions necessitated by inter-state conflict or ethnic dispute on the Continent.26 The same year saw Canada announcing that it would withdraw all its forces from Europe by 1994 due to budget restraints as also the activation of the newly created NATO Standing Naval Force in the Mediterranean.

NATO agreed to use its warships, in conjunction with WEU forces to enforce the UN naval blockade against the truncated Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in November 1992 and by April 1993, the Alliance had authorised its jets to monitor the UN ban on flights over Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many observers felt that the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina warranted a stronger NATO intervention. US President Bill Clinton suggested in May 1993, the creation of "safe havens" for Bosnian Muslims and though he had been previously criticised for not taking a more active role in the Bosnian controversy, agreement could not be reached within NATO on the proposal. Another suggestion of President Clinton was that US planes could be used to bomb areas in Bosnia under Serbian control if requested by the UN. The Clinton position was endorsed by the NATO Defence Ministers who were encouraged by the new US assertiveness and plans were discussed for a 50,000-strong NATO peace-keeping force which could be used in the event of a permanent Bosnian ceasefire.

The NATO Summit at Brussels from January 10-11, 1994, launched the highly publicised Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme, which, following a proposal of President Clinton, struck a compromise regarding NATO expansion and extended military cooperation but not full-fledged defence pacts to the non-NATO countries. By January 1996, the 27 countries that had signed the PfP Framework Document (former WTO members, former Soviet republics and "neutral" countries) were: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.27 These signatories were also asked to negotiate an individual Partnership Programme which delineated the scope and pace of its PfP participation. The aims of the PfP include:

* facilitating transparency in national defence planning and budgeting processes;

* ensuring democratic control of defence forces;

* maintaining the capability and readiness to contribute to operations under the authority of the UN and/or the responsibility of the OSCE;

* developing cooperative military relations with NATO, for the purpose of joint planning, training and exercises in order to strengthen the ability of PfP participants to undertake missions in the fields of peace-keeping, search and rescue, humanitarian operations, and others as may subsequently be agreed;

* developing, over the longer term, forces that are better able to operate with those of the members of the North Atlantic Alliance.28

NATO agreed, in return, to joint training and planning operations and the possibility of joint troops from PfP countries with NATO forces in future UN or OSCE peace-keeping missions.

After NATO Ambassadors agreed in February 1994 to conduct air strikes against certain Serbian targets if requested by the UN, in the first such direct military action in the Alliance's history, NATO aircraft shot down four Serbian planes that were violating the "no-fly" zone in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on February 28, 1994. In response to a request by the UN Secretary General to support the UN in its effort to end the siege of Gorazde and to protect other "safe areas", NATO planes bombed several Serbian artillery locations around Sarajevo in April 1994.

The continued conflict in Bosnia and planning for the expected accession of Eastern and Central European countries to the Alliance were the two issues that dominated NATO affairs in 1995.29 Following a bombing campaign against Serbian positions near Sarajevo on August 30, 1995, by NATO, the Serbians agreed to withdraw their heavy guns from the area demanded by NATO. The hardline approach of the Alliance also contributed to an intensification of peace talks among the combatants in the area. Consequent to these events, NATO tentatively agreed to the proposed deployment of 60,000 troops to take over peace-keeping responsibilities from UN forces in Bosnia should a permanent ceasefire go into effect. When President Clinton announced on November 21, 1995, an "historic and heroic" peace agreement consisting of dozens of Articles, 11 Annexes and 102 maps, enshrining the 51:49 partition between the Bosnian Croat Federation and Republika Srpska and proclaiming an undivided capital and central government in a unified and democratic state, it was the culmination of three-weeks of mediation marathon talks that began on November 1, 1995 at Wright-Patterson Air Base in Dayton, Ohio. The mediators included the Presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia and other representatives from the region plus officials from the USA, EU and Russia.30 The Dayton Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was formally signed in Paris, thus brought about a close to three and a half years of war in Bosnia and Herzgovina, during which, according to some estimates, 250,000 had died and 2.7 million people or one-third of the pre-war population became refugees and displaced persons.31

The bulk of the Dayton peace accord covered military agreements on the separation of forces and on the replacement of the UN (the war had seen the humiliation of the largest mission in the UN's history) by a 60,000-strong NATO Peace Implementation Force (IFOR), which would stay for a year. The Croation and Bosnian representatives had earlier signed an agreement which committed them to fully integrating the territory and institutions of the federation, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) exchanged official recognition.32 International conferences on Bosnia and Herzegovina were held in Brussels on November 29, 1995, to agree on NATO's deployment, in Budapest from December 7-8, 1995, to confirm the role of the OSCE in human rights and elections monitoring; in London from December 8-9, 1995, to consider implementation plans; and again in Brussels on December 20, 1995, to raise financial support. Former Swedish Prime Minister and EU mediator Carl Bildt was appointed coordinator of civil programmes, to be based in Sarajevo. The pledging conference estimated the reconstruction bill at $5.1 billion and it raised $500 million for immediate needs.33 The deployment of the IFOR to Bosnia which began operations on December 20, 1995, became NATO's first operational deployment with a pan-European force. For the first time in the Organisation's history, all 16 NATO members provided personnel under a single commander. NATO European countries provided half the 60,000-strong force, with the USA contributing 20,000 and the rest from 12 non-NATO European countries, together with Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia and Morocco.34 IFOR's mandate in the Bosnia operation was to be ready to fight and not simply to observe a ceasefire line or escort humanitarian-aid convoys. A smaller Stabilisation Force (SFOR) of about 25,000 soldiers took over from IFOR in December 1996. Its mandate is for an 18 month mission during which it is scheduled to progressively reduce its presence to a deterrent posture and eventually leave Bosnia.35

Recent Developments

At their twelfth meeting since 1993, the US President, Bill Clinton, and his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, met at Helsinki, Finland, on March 20-21, 1997, and their main focus here was the contentious issue of NATO enlargement. A joint statement issued on March 21, declared that "NATO-Russian relationship should provide for consultation, coordination and, to the maximum extent possible where appropriate, joint decision-making and action on security issues of common concern."36 Under a deal unveiled the same day, Russia agreed to sign a document defining its relationship with NATO despite its continuing opposition to the Organisation's enlargement. The country was given an assurance that nuclear weapons would not be stationed in new NATO-member states. Yeltsin dropped his demand that the document should be legally binding and it was instead agreed that it would be "an enduring commitment at the highest political level."37

The Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security Between NATO and the Russian Federation, better known as the Russia-NATO Founding Act, which is a 16-page text consisting of a preamble and four sections was signed on May 27, 1997, at Paris by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the heads of government of all 16 NATO members, after its details were finally agreed earlier, during a meeting between NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov held in Moscow on May 14, 1997.38 Besides providing for the establishment of a Russia-NATO permanent joint council to be chaired by the NATO Secretary-General, a Russian representative and, on a rotating basis, a representative of one of the NATO member states, to discuss issues of common security interests, Russia agreed in the Act to drop its objection to the eastward expansion of NATO. The Act made clear NATO's right to act independently and that Russia did not have any veto powers over NATO's decisions. Apart from confirming that it had on "intention, no plan and no reason to deploy" nuclear weapons or establish nuclear storage sites on the territory of new members, NATO assured Russia that it would not station permanently "substantial" numbers of conventional forces in "agreed regions of Europe, including Central and Eastern Europe."39 President Yeltsin made a surprise announcement during the signing ceremony that all nuclear warheads from Russian strategic missiles targetted against facilities situated in NATO countries would be stood down. Russian officials subsequently clarified that "standing down" meant non-targetting of missiles and not the dismantlement of missiles.40

The much-debated and controversial NATO's eastward expansion plans took a closer step to being realised when leaders of the 16 NATO countries decided to expand the Alliance by officially inviting the former Warsaw Pact members--Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic—to join NATO. The three countries can become members only when the Protocol of Accession is signed at the December 1997 NATO ministerial meeting followed by further bilateral negotiations and the ratification of all 16 NATO member countries. Membership is scheduled to become effective in time for the 50th anniversary of the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty at Washington, DC., in 1999. The summit statement stated that the question of additional new membership would be reassessed at the next heads of government NATO Summit in 1999, taking "account of the positive developments towards democracy and the rule of law in a number of southeastern European countries, especially Romania and Slovenia."41


As NATO approaches its 50th anniversary of existence and as it gets ready to face the next century, it has become stronger than before. However, as late as 1993, it faced a major existential crisis when the USA and its European allies disagreed fundamentally over how to resolve the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the reason being a "lift-and-strike" policy in the face of British and French objections, which threatened to undermine transatlantic solidarity and placed its existence in jeopardy. The primary catalyst for the post-Cold War process of reform within NATO was provided by the wars of succession in the former Yugoslavia.42 NATO's reputation was immediately enhanced when its interventionist posture in Bosnia which included extensive aerial bombardments of Serb installations in August-September 1995 was seen as contributing to the resolution of the conflict and the signing of the Dayton Accords in 1995. Its credentials as the only military organisation in Europe able to deal effectively with "hard" security demands of the post-Cold War era, while delegating the "soft" security elements of crisis management to bodies like the OSCE, the EU and the UN, was forcefully reasserted by the beginning of 1996.43 It is important to remember, however, that the Dayton Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina entrenched--rather than resolved--the fundamental causes of the conflict, especially the territorial division of the country and that it was military developments which ultimately brought the war to a conclusion rather than the number of peace conferences, diplomatic missions and UN resolutions. This raised questions about what the peace process had actually achieved and whether it had been properly conceived.44 Three important factors have come out of the deployment of IFOR and its operations:

* After a period of uncertainty following the end of the Cold War, NATO is now the primary security organisation in Europe.

* IFOR provided a good model for cooperation with Russia and other PfP members in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.

* European NATO member-states, without the USA, do not have the capability to mount a combined arms operation of more than 30,000 troops, with air and naval support, which is capable of engaging in a full-scale military conflict outside NATO borders.45

NATO expansion eastward has generally been opposed by Russian leaders and foreign affairs specialists. Duma members have expressed concern over the expansion plans and linked this issue to the ratification of START II signed between the USA and Russia on January 3, 1993. The treaty, which aims at reducing each side's total number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 3,000-3,500 has been ratified by the US Senate but its implementation has been held up due to non-ratification by the Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, and the START III framework of reductions to between 2,000 and 2,500 strategic warheads by the end of 2007, established by Clinton and Yeltsin at their Helsinki Summit in March 1997 could also be held up due to the same reason. Former Presidential candidate and leader of the party which controls the largest number of seats in the Duma, Gennady Zyuganov had stated that he opposed the treaty (START II) so long as there was a possibility of NATO expanding eastward. Former Russian Defence Minister, Igor Rodionov had warned that "NATO's eastward expansion is unacceptable to Russia" as it could eventually allow NATO aviation to reach central Russia as well as enhance the Alliance's naval capabilities if strategic naval bases were based in the former Soviet Baltic countries.46 The Clinton Administration, however, views the issue differently. Speaking to Russian opinion leaders about NATO enlargement at the Carnegie Centre in Moscow on May 2, 1997, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated, " should recognise that we view NATO enlargement as part of a broader effort to build a peaceful, undivided Europe, in which Russia plays an important role. It is our firm conviction that this effort is not a zero-sum game in which Russia must lose if central Europe gains, and central Europe must lose if Russia gains."47 Whether Russia pursues options to express its opposition to NATO enlargement would ultimately be determined by the extent to which the costs of a more confrontational relationship with the West override the perceived benefits of expressing its dissatisfaction over the issue in a forceful manner.

The primary challenge facing NATO today is how to manage enlargement. Though 12 countries had applied for new membership, only three--Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic--that were considered to be among the most advanced in terms of political and economic reforms were invited. The nine countries that were left out at the Madrid Summit in July 1997 were: Romania, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Macedonia, Albania, Slovakia, and Bulgaria. Prior to the Madrid Summit, Clinton faced criticism in the USA over the expansion issue, as 40 former US Senators, Cabinet Secretaries, Ambassadors and arms control and foreign policy experts addressed their fears to him in an open letter. The signatories to the open letter felt that if the Alliance went ahead with further, open-ended expansion, if would no longer be able to carry out its primary mission and would involve US security guarantees to countries with serious border and national minority problems and unevenly developed systems of democratic government.48 Another aspect is the cost implications involved in NATO expansion. A 31-page European security strategy study that the Clinton Administration submitted to Congress (February 24, 1997) estimated that it would cost up to $35 billion over the next 12 years for NATO to expand into Central and Eastern Europe, out of which the US' share would be $200 million of the total, each year.49

In conclusion, though NATO has emerged from the ashes of the Cold War stronger and larger, how it deals with the issues of its expansion; relationship with Russia; peace-keeping duties in Bosnia and new security challenges like separatism, ethnic conflict and intra-state conflict will decide how effective an Alliance it will be in the coming millennium.