How to Strengthen Alliance Cohesion
The recent crisis within the European Union and North Atlantic Alliance arose several question regarding the future of these two organizations. The general perception is that due to lack of leadership, this feeling enhancing exacerbated nationalism and the extend influence of Russian influence, especially over the former soviet satellites. The Alliance must take action and rebuild the trust and cohesion among member states, along with the security and stability in the region.
After World War II European security was challenged by a number of factors. To the East stood a massive Soviet presence, consolidating its gains through the creation of puppet regimes throughout Eastern Europe. Western Europe was so economically devastated and militarily weak that it could not balance Soviet power alone. Economic disaster, fragile democracies and dispirited populations also made these Western European states susceptible to internal Soviet-backed communist influence and destabilizing nationalism. Nowadays, threats are so different to that time, and the capabilities are improved, and yet the Alliance is facing new challenges and difficulties to implement its projects, due to few internal dissensions. The strength of NATO comes from its unity, however member states perceive the severity of various security risks and threats differently, due to their geographical position, economic interdependence or historical background. NATO Allies have to tackle these issues that have challenged the cohesion of the Alliance and find new ways to map out NATO's strategic direction for the future and reaffirm the commitment of the Allies to each other security.
In the recent years the European Union has been buffeted by a range of crisis; the euro crisis, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and just a few days ago, "Brexit". None of these problems can be solved by countries acting alone; the key to an effective response is cohesion. The Alliance also faces simultaneous dangers from its east, south and south-east. It is confronted with several broader security challenges, most of them global in scope and unbound by geography, and on top of all this, the divergent domestic pressures are threatening to pull Allies apart and leave the Euro-Atlantic security in shatters.
NATO faced the first major setback to its "Open Door" policy with the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, this in the immediate aftermath of the NATO Summit in Bucharest, that declined to extend a Membership Action Plan to Georgia. Later in 2015, Russian destabilization activities against the Baltic States prompted further problems for the Alliance. Russia's actions are clearly intended to intimidate the Baltic states therefore Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania pinned their security interests over general problems. Poland, as well, fears that Russia poses a military threat following the recent events in Ukraine, and have asked for further security guarantees from their NATO partners. Romania is very interested in putting the Black Sea region's security on the agenda. Yet the southern countries are more preoccupied about the migrant crisis and its evolution. In a nutshell, at this point, few NATO member states articulate their own problems with the expense of a general view of cohesion.
Three key decisions could help restore transatlantic cohesion and reassure the European allies:
1. NATO should renew its commitment to a successful strategy of deterrence, through credible defense and détente. At this point for Putin the main provocation is the Alliance's weaknesses and lack of determination. NATO should exploit the flexibility offered by the NATO-Russia Founding Act to the fullest extent possible and strengthen its capabilities to defend the NATO Treaty Area (NTA) collectively. NATO should also consider establishing additional NATO-owned and operated multinational component forces such as the Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) programme, whilst further improving the deployability of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) throughout the NTA and in its periphery. Simultaneously NATO should offer Russia a renewed dialog on mutual stability, aiming for the restoration of the 1990 Charter of Paris principles.
2. NATO should develop a comprehensive strategy for the security and defense of its southern and south-eastern regions and their peripheries. Such a strategy will enhance the provision of the Article 4, and includes swift and well-tailored responses – including military deployments –to military and non-military threats. The instruments of choice can be multinational NATO forces capable of cooperating with regional partners form the south and south-east through enhanced partnership arrangements. It is also important to improve NATO-EU cooperation and enhance partnership with the African Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
3. NATO should signal its commitment to contributing to the management of crisis beyond the NTA, under the provision of Article 4. Crises outside the treaty area, in todays interconnected world, usually have a major impact on the security and stability of all NATO nations. Therefore NATO must state with utmost clarity and transparency that the security of all its members is indivisible, and that this commitment requires resolute answers, full solidarity and cohesion by all member states, if and when it is necessary.
These three policy proposals could strengthen NATO's cohesion while opening the door for fine-tuning NATO's Strategic Concept to the realities of today's dramatically changed world, and to future challenges. Such steps might help in restoring the sense of solidarity and security policy, and possibly help in developing a new vision about NATO's role in peacekeeping efforts.
Ioana-Nelia Bercean has studies international relations UBB-Cluj Napoca. She is MA student transatlantic studies, FSE, UBB, and security studies at the Faculty of Sociology and Social Assistance, University of Bucharest.
This article has been submitted outside of the "Shaping Our NATO: Young Voices on the NATO Summit" competition. However, it looks to answer the questions set out in category D "Increasing Solidarity in the Face of Divergent Threat Perception", so comments are most appreciated. You can also read the other articles in this category. Category D marks the end of the competition. We would like to thank all participants and members who have submitted op-eds and/or provided comments.
Learn more about this competition.
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