Issues Navigator

Global Challenges

Strategic Regions

Domestic Debates

Tag cloud

See All Tags

September 21, 2007 |  8 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

NATO Is Regional For A Reason

Nikolas Kirrill Gvosdev: I reject Rudolph Giuliani’s call to expand NATO membership to other, non-Western democracies. Adding states like Australia or India to “globalize” NATO would undermine its original and enduring purpose: collective security through Article 5.

The current Republican front-runner for the 2008 presidential nomination, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, last month unveiled a dramatic and sweeping proposal for transforming the North Atlantic alliance:

“We should open the organization’s membership to any state that meets basic standards of good governance, military readiness and global responsibility, regardless of its location.”

Giuliani’s proposal, which he repeated in a campaign speech in London on Wednesday, is the latest version of an idea that has enraptured the American foreign policy community: the vision of a US-led global alliance of democratic states capable of projecting force and influence. It takes the rather glib notion that NATO’s mission in its defined “North Atlantic” area is finished (“its founding rationale dissolved with the end of the Cold War”) and as a result, as Giuliani himself concludes, “the alliance should be transformed to meet the challenges of this new century.”

One might first take issue with the notion that NATO’s core mission is “finished” given the number of threats that still press in on the Euro-Atlantic region. NATO’s essential role in helping to promote cooperation among European states—states which a generation ago might have seen each other as dangerous enemies—is far from over.

Why would NATO members want to transform one of the world’s most successful regionally-based alliances into a much more amorphous entity that, in the long run, would fatally compromise the security umbrella that its members prize?

So far, almost completely neglected in any of the US discussions is what happens to the Article 5 guarantee, what is arguably the “heart and soul” of NATO—and what differentiates it from other European collective security organizations such as the OSCE. Article 5 commits all members to view a military attack on one NATO state as an attack on all, committing other NATO states to come to the assistance of their beleaguered comrade.

If both NATO and non-NATO states view the guarantee as meaningless rhetoric, a fine statement of intentions but with no automatic trigger, its value is irreparably diminished. NATO has kept the peace precisely because it was absolutely, fundamentally clear that any attack undertaken on NATO within its geographic area of operations would be met by a unified response. In turn, that geographic limitation built into the Washington Treaty has been essential in maintaining alliance cohesion—because Europeans understood that they were not committed by their obligations to NATO to declare war on a state that attacked the United States in the Pacific, or Britain in the South Atlantic. The US had firm allies to guarantee the safety and security of the North Atlantic region, vital to its own prosperity and defense; its allies were secure in the knowledge that they were not committing themselves to defense of distant lands that did not impinge on their vital interests.

Simply because states share similar forms of governance, to assert that they must all have similar interests is preposterous. Advocates of “NATO gone global” have yet to demonstrate that Danes, Italians or Canadians are prepared to commit themselves should India, Japan, Australia, Bostwana or Chile are attacked. The unease with which a number of NATO member states faced the prospect of whether NATO obligations could be invoked if Turkey were to face an attack from Iraq (had Ankara allowed the US “coalition of the willing” to use Turkish territory as a staging point for an attack on Saddam Hussein) demonstrates that there is no rush in many NATO states to expand the number of countries subsisting under an Article 5 guarantee. And NATO’s mission in Afghanistan is hardly serving as a demonstration of the alliance’s robust ability to engage in security and nation-building operations out of area.

What is odd is that Giuliani himself seems to recognize that a rhetorical global alliance of democracies isn’t of much use, but he contents himself with lecturing the Canadians and the Europeans that NATO’s “members must always match their rhetorical commitment with action and investment.”

Nothing prevents the United States or any European state that wants to create a global alliance from doing so. Destroying a successful regional security organization to achieve that end, however, doesn’t sound like good advice at all.


Nikolas K. Gvosdev is editor of The National Interest and blogs at The Washington Realist.


Related Material from the Atlantic Community:

  • 1
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this Article! What's this?

 
 
Comments
Nikolas Kirrill Gvosdev

September 21, 2007

  • 2
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
If I could update my own piece, based on several days of meetings in Prague as well as some of the sentiments expressed at a conference today (co-sponsored by Europeum, the Prague Security Studies Institute, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, and the American Center):

Difficulties in getting the NATO Rapid Reaction Force off the ground point to the immense challenges facing the alliance. I would argue that most Europeans (and for that matter Americans) favor NATO because of the defined nature of its missions and requirements, and the vaguer and more global they become, the less likely they are to retain public support. And here one must not only address structural questions, but also political ones. One official here told me that the public is already skeptical about why forces are deployed so far from Europe, whether in Afghanistan or Congo.

I think that there also remains a major gap between the idea of expansion in an abstract sense versus accepting the obligations. So far, the assumption is that expansion has been largely cost-free (and it is true that expenditures related to expansion have been far lower) and that new members are unlikely to be net consumers of security (for Central Europe, for example, the likelihood of a revived military threat from Russia remains quite low). But it seems most Europeans want to limit the discussion of the next growth of NATO to "completing" and rounding out the greater European security sphere (the rest of the Balkans, the Black Sea basin), rather than reaching out to still quite dangerous and unpredictable parts of the world, such as South Asia or the Far East.

For their part, Americans seem unwilling to contemplate creating a new global alliance with a different treaty and with separate assets and still remain committed to transforming NATO.

It's clear that far more frank and focused discussions are going to be required.
 
Christoph  Schwegmann

September 23, 2007

  • 2
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
Nikolas, perhaps it is additionally useful to ask how other countries, and according to earlier proposals, potential allies like Australia, Japan, South-Korea or New Zealand think about the issue. None of the countries has articulated an interest in joining NATO. Nonetheless, the countries cooperate in various intensities with the Alliance, e.g. in Afghanistan. As far as the European countries are concerned I personally very much prefer the wording "opening" of NATO to expansion. The alliance is not expanding itself against anybody.
 
Nikolas Kirrill Gvosdev

September 24, 2007

  • 1
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
Christoph, thanks for your comment.

So far, I can't find any evidence of countries in the Asia-Pacific region that American politicians have identified as being part of a Global NATO showing much interest in the project. Most of them--Japan, South Korea or Australia, for instance, already have a bilateral security guarantee with the United States that I believe they would prefer to retain rather than rely on a more ambiguous Article 5 guarantee from a cluster of states. Significantly, these states have also not advanced the notion of an Asian NATO whereby, say, Australia would commit to defend Japan in the event of an attack.

India at present is not even designated by the U.S. as a "non-NATO ally", a status currently enjoyed by Pakistan, which would not qualify to join any League of Democracies. Nor is India willing to commit itself to any formal group that would be viewed as aligned against China. It is hard to envision how India could both become a member of Global NATO and proceed with its integration with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

I think that many of these countries have no objection to and an interest in working with NATO, when there are common interests, as in Afghanistan, as you noted. And this seems to be a better model, where NATO remains an alliance defined by the Euro-Atlantic community, where additional members who join are viewed as members of that larger strategic community, and where NATO can then cooperate with other states and regional organizations to cope with trans-regional threats (e.g. from the Greater Middle East) or global concerns.
 
Andreas  Beckmann

September 25, 2007

  • 1
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
1. It is essential to understand the IR101 factoid that NATO is *not* a collective security organization, but one of collective *defense*. This is exactly what Art. 5 means, not the much weaker (and thus, in terms of safeguarding peace, unsuccessful) concept of collective security as in the UN or the OSCE.

2. However, Art. 5 intentionally does *not* contain any material security, let alone defense "guarantee". It has frequently been pointed out that the infamous "such action as it deems necessary" could mean anything from a nuclear strike to sending a postcard with "Good Luck!" written on it. BTW: The former WEU, which now is integrated into the EU, comprises a much more compelling clause for automatic assistance.
Unlike one could conclude from Nikolas' text, the reason for that weak Art. 5 was not that Europeans were unwilling to get drawn into a US war in the Pacific. Apart from a U.S. constitutional problem (only Congress can declare war, which makes it at least problematic to enter any agreement with an automatic entry into war), it was, in 1949, the U.S. who did not want to be drawn into (post-)colonial overseas warfare of its European allies.

3. The most important point: What made collective defense credible despite the hollow Art. 5 clause was the policy of basing foreign troops in the likely theater of war: in West Germany, the North Atlantic, and the Mediterranean. Only like that, an attack would have drawn the UK, France, Canada, and, above all, the U.S. almost automatically into military activities: Such an attack would *physically* have been an attack against NATO forces. The fact that only foreign basing turns Art. 5 into a kind of "guarantee" is behind the desire of NATOs new CEE members to have U.S. troops stationed on their territory - and the reason for Russia's fierce resistance to that.

4. The days of the Cold War are long over. Today the expanded value community of the "West" faces common, global threats. Thus, NATO, in principle, operates globally today already (Afghanistan is not exactly "North Atlantic area", nor are the Balkans). From that perspective it would make good sense to *open* (@Christoph: I fully agree on that point: NATO never "expanded", but opened itself to states with an urgent desire to join) NATO for natural partners such as Mexico, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, or Japan. Any automatic commitment would depend on foreign basing, so Art. 5 is not at all an argument against a "Global NATO".

5. However, there are other, factual and political arguments against a "Global NATO" today : First, other countries would need to see a necessity for joining. As Nikolas writes, this does not seem to be the case, so the whole discussion is somewhat moot. Second, of course, in order to get a security guarantee in the form of basing, these countries would themselves have to be ready to offer similar permanent engagements in favor of their partners. That does not really seem to be the case, either. The final, and IMHO most important problem, is NATO's internal decision-making structure: All NATO decisions and activities depend on full unanimity. This had been diffucult during the Cold war with 16 nations, and became exponentially more difficult with an expanded membership of 26. Any new member would enjoy the same full veto power, further aggravating that problem. Politically today, there seems to be a certain tacit agreement that NATO action already means ad hoc coalitions of the willing, with the unwilling not vetoing. That is not much different from the existing situation with new possible "global" members. So why should we grant these countries an additional right of veto in European security issues? And why should they grant some Europeans a veto in theirs?
In sum: Even if it is for other reasons than those identified by Nikolas: "Global NATO" is not at all on the agenda today - which does not mean it couldn't be on the agenda tomorrow.
 
Nikolas Kirrill Gvosdev

September 25, 2007

  • 0
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
Andreas, thank you very much for your comments. An entire separate discussion thread could easily be devoted to the various differences in "shorthand" Americans and Europeans use in referring to the alliance; even if inaccurate, most Americans talk about NATO in collective security terms, see Article 5 as a tripwire requiring a joint response, and use the term "expansion" to mean opening the alliance to new members.

You are correct that nothing precludes an evolution to a Global NATO at any point in the future, and that is a discussion that should continue. But what I do want to stress and what our European partners need to focus on is a line of thinking in the United States that assumes that because Washington has defense commitments to Canberra, Tokyo, Berlin and Warsaw, in turn all of these countries (and others) assume they are already all de facto allies. So in the popular discourse on this side of the Atlantic (at least those few elements in the general population even interested in this question) is that a series of bilateral U.S. arrangements with a number of states plus NATO equals embryonic global NATO. And if you think that is the case, you are likely to be sorely disappointed when it doesn't happen.
 
Donald  Stadler

September 28, 2007

  • 0
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
Nikolas, you make an interesting point. The problem is you failed to address the major critique of NATO beyond mentioning it in passing:

"One might first take issue with the notion that NATO’s core mission is “finished” given the number of threats that still press in on the Euro-Atlantic region. "

What specfic threats? Russia's use of oil as a tool of hegenomy? Iran's pursuit of the nuclear bomb? The mideast? There are always threats in any era - what makes you believe that an alliance structure set up in the late 40's to meet the challenges of the late 40's is anything like adequate to meet today's challenges. I'd say that the evidence that it is not suitable is rather overwhelming given NATO's lack of effectivelness in Afghanistan and before that in the Balkans.

"NATO’s essential role in helping to promote cooperation among European states—states which a generation ago might have seen each other as dangerous enemies—is far from over."

This actually may well be true. There may be value to European States in an alliance of European States - but where does that leave the US? Canada? Iceland? Hell, even the UK has significantly different security interests globally than the typical European power because of it's close ties with the US and the Commonwealth countries.

NATO is the premier military alliance on the planet and the US greatest commitment - but it soaks up a lion's share of US resources while doing an absolutely horrendous job of helping solve the US' real security problems in the 21st century! What is the rationale for the US and Canada remaining in NATO here and now in 2007? To continue to heavily subsidize the defense of trading rivals who are at best lukewarm allies today (with the notable exception of the UK of course)? Why?

I agree with you that reforming NATO in this manner is less than desireable, but that doesn't lessen by a single jot the need for a truly global security organisation which is ready to include India, Japan, Australia, and even countries such as Brazi and South Africa should that prove to be desireable to all parties. The UK would be a likely member of this hypothetical alliance, and Sarko's France isn't out of the question either. I cannot see Germany joining this absent an enormous change in national aims and willingnes to share burdens.

The answer may be not to reform NATO but to replace it in ti's role as the premier securioty alliance. NATO was created to stop the Bear. Mission accomplished.

Europe may find NATO of continuing value as a regional association, but many Europeans still compalin of US 'hegenomy' in NATO. Very well, I have a solution: Convert NATO into a true European alliance led and manned almost exclusively by Europe. The US assumes 'emeritus status' in NATO and withdraws almost all operational forces from the NATO umbrella while keeping a few coordination planning assets in place in case of crisis.

The US then helps form another more global security alliance purpose designed yo meet the challenges of 2010 rather than attempt another cack-handed 'jury-rig' of an apparatus 50 years out of date.
 
Nikolas Kirrill Gvosdev

October 1, 2007

  • 0
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
Thanks, Donald, for your comments. I fear, however, that most U.S. politicians will continue to try and square the circle--NATO is the main U.S. committment, and NATO is not meeting our new security needs, so we will continue to try and make NATO be what we want it to be--rather than letting NATO continue along its current path and creating something new.

Even as a regional alliance with some projection into Africa and the Middle East (if for no other reason that the need to secure the Mediterranean), I do think there is much value in NATO because for the foreseeable future Europe remains North America's main partner for trade--even if Europe does not share our focus on the Pacific rim.
 
Unregistered User

September 12, 2009

  • 0
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
Hi guys. Peace is when time doesn't matter as it passes by. Help me! There is an urgent need for sites: Note to respond for a different research at the thing of becoming your company.. I found only this - [URL=http://www.mulherecidadania.al.gov.br/Members/Elfcosmetics]beauty or cosmetics[/URL]. Nutri-metics international nutrina company, inc. Regional company search desire to say global regular organisations facial care in facial and voluntary owner 1950s, users and swedish sales. :cool: Thanks in advance. Rob from Laos.
 

Commenting has been deactivated in the archive. We appreciate your comments on our more recent articles at atlantic-community.org


Community

You are in the archive of all articles published on atlantic-community.org from 2007 to 2012. To read the latest articles from our open think tank and network with community members, please go to our new website