Issue No. 77, May/June 2004
NATO's Istanbul Challenge:
Transformation or Irrelevance?
NATO has faced serious divisions in the past two years over
Iraq. Whilst Alliance leaders will be keen to put on a show of
unity at their summit in Istanbul June 28-29, beneath the surface
there is a widening rift between the US and some of its allies
concerning NATO's future role and the best way to approach
Since the end of the Cold War NATO has struggled to find a
relevant role. Most recently, sharp divisions have emerged,
particularly over the extent to which NATO should engage in
operations beyond its own borders and the need for UN Security
Council (UNSC) authorisation for such operations. There is a marked
reluctance by certain NATO countries to be dragged into supporting
US-initiated military operations in which they have little say.
Moreover, many consider certain US initiatives to be
counter-productive for European security.
Issues for discussion at the Istanbul Summit are scheduled to
include: Allied responses to the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction (WMD) and terrorism; expanding NATO's presence in
Afghanistan; US demands for greater Alliance responsibility in Iraq
and - what it calls - the "Greater Middle East"; and the
development of new military capabilities.
As the NATO summit approaches, much greater public debate is
needed within and among member states concerning these serious
issues. Before the Alliance slips back to 'business as usual' some
fundamental questions need to be asked about its nature, future
role and purpose.
Collective Defence: an Unequal Relationship
NATO's basic role is still supposed to be collective defence of
its members, as set out in Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty,
whereby NATO members agree "that an armed attack against one or
more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an
attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such
an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of
individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of
the Charter of the United Nations , will assist the Party or
Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in
concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary,
including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the
security of the North Atlantic area."1
This constitutes a mechanism whereby the US will come to the
defence of its European allies and vice versa. But given the
differences in economic, political and military clout, this is an
unequal relationship. As US Ambassador to NATO R. Nicholas Burns
noted: "Europeans continue to rely on the US for the nuclear and
conventional defence of the continent."2 In contrast,
the US evidently does not rely on its allies for defence and
is willing either to operate with them in 'coalitions of the
willing' or unilaterally, without them.
On the only occasion when NATO actually invoked Article V,
immediately following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US,
many interpreted this as the allies attempting to restrain the Bush
administration rather than coming to its defence.
Essentially, what US administrations - Democratic and Republican
- traditionally want from their NATO allies is political and
military support for US policy.
What is NATO's role in the 21st Century?
Since the end of the Cold War US interests have shifted
considerably beyond traditional collective defence of the NATO
treaty area, into so-called "out of area" operations such as the
Balkans and Afghanistan. The Middle East is also now high on the US
agenda due to its focus on Iraq, Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, as well as the presence of a number of major oil
producers. It has also become increasingly interested in Central
Asia and the Caucuses, partly due to the occupation of Afghanistan
as part of the "war on terror", but also due to the Caspian energy
reserves and the likelihood that a number of Central Asian states
will become major world oil producers by the end of this
In the run up to the Istanbul summit, the US has indicated that
the future threats to NATO are "weapons of mass destruction and
terrorism, the huge increase in international crime, narcotics
flows, trafficking in human beings, global climate change, [and]
AIDS." It believes that the way to counter these threats is by the
Alliance backing up US policies in Afghanistan, Iraq and the
Greater Middle East.
Although the NATO allies share many of these perceived threats,
there is considerable divergence of opinion on how best to tackle
them. Many Europeans actually regard the US itself as one of the
major obstacles to progress, by its pursuit of policies that, for
example, obstruct reduction of carbon emissions, block progress on
arms control, and prioritise the aims of corporate America.
The drive from Washington is for NATO forces to operate on a
larger scale, ever further from home. According to Ambassador
Burns, "NATO's most profound change is in our mission, our
transformation from a defensive and static military alliance which
massed a huge, heavy army to deter a Soviet threat to Western
Europe to a more flexible and fast force focused on responding to
threats from well beyond the European continent."3
NATO is already putting these policies into effect. According to
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer the Alliance is
concentrating on making its forces more "deployable and usable". A
centrepiece is the new NATO Response Force, which Burns describes
as "conceived by Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld and already
partly operational, that will give us a powerful and quick
capability to deploy our troops within days to perform any
mission... in another part of the globe. This new force will give
NATO the ability to act more quickly and decisively inside and
outside of the transatlantic sphere than ever before in its
history."4 Other features that will be highlighted at
the Istanbul summit include new airlift and sealift capabilities -
all designed to enable NATO to intervene militarily further and
further outside its own borders.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer also argues for greater intervention
further afield. He states that whilst "territorial defence remains
a core function", NATO members "can no longer protect our security
without addressing the potential risks and threats that arise far
from our homes. Either we tackle these problems when and where they
emerge, or they will end up on our doorstep."5
This raises problems and tensions, many of which predate the
Bush Administration. NATO members still have widely differing
opinions on the extent to which the Alliance should operate outside
members' borders and whether there is a legal basis for such
NATO and the United Nations
NATO's relationship with the United Nations is set out in the
North Atlantic Treaty, which specifies that the UN Security Council
has "primary responsibility" for the maintenance of international
peace and security. The Treaty states that allies will refrain
"from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with
the purposes of the United Nations" and it authorises only "the
right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by
Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations".
Because US military capabilities dwarf those of its
allies6 the US has often been quick to resort to the use
of armed force. In contrast, many NATO allies recognise that they
no longer have the military resources to act independently and,
therefore, tend to attach a higher priority to multilateralism,
diplomacy, and international legal constraints.
Hence, the Clinton administration's reluctance to seek Security
Council backing for NATO operations has been supplanted by open
hostility towards the UN from the Bush team. In contrast, as has
been seen over Iraq, many other NATO members regard Security
Council authorisation as an essential prerequisite for their
involvement in military operations.
Because 'Out of Area' operations struggle to fall within the
definition of self-defence, they continue to present a potential
legal problem by falling foul both of the UN Charter and of NATO's
own North Atlantic Treaty. Even advocates of the Iraq war had great
difficulty arguing that Saddam Hussein posed an immediate threat to
any NATO country, and (after the event at least) have tended
instead to highlight the regime's human rights record as
justification for taking military action.
The need for Security Council authorisation of NATO actions 'out
of area' was hotly debated within the Alliance in early 1999, as
NATO prepared to take action against the Former Yugoslavia and
during negotiations on the Alliance's new Strategic Concept, which
was issued at NATO's Washington summit in April 1999. Reportedly,
Britain attempted to get UN backing for the military action against
the Former Yugoslavia, presumably anticipating legal challenges on
the domestic front. According to former US Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright, "The diplomacy became more complex when the
British circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution
authorising the use of force. This was well intentioned by not well
conceived. I called Robin Cook, who said his lawyers had told him a
Council mandate would be needed if NATO were to act. I told him he
should get himself new lawyers. If a UN resolution passed, we would
have set a precedent that NATO required Security Council
authorisation before it could act. This would give Russia, not to
mention China, a veto over NATO."7
Whilst the Bush Administration views Kosovo as having set a
precedent for future 'out of area' operations by obviating the need
for a Security Council resolution, others disagreed. France, for
example, viewed Kosovo as an exceptional case, primarily due to its
location in central Europe and as it was adjacent to Bosnia, where
NATO was already engaged in peacekeeping. Following the Kosovo war,
in what President Chirac described as a "victory for French
diplomacy", NATO's Strategic Concept reconfirmed that NATO
peacekeeping and other operations should take place "under the
authority of the UN Security Council or the responsibility of the
OSCE".8 The Bush administration appears to have chosen
to ignore this line of the Strategic Concept, however.
NATO Decisionmaking: a Consensus of One?
In theory, NATO's decisionmaking is by consensus, but in
practice the United States is extremely dominant. For many years,
Washington has expected to be able to assert that dominance and for
the rest of the allies to fall into line. For example, in the run
up to NATO's 1997 summit in Madrid, which focused on Alliance
enlargement, the major decisions were practically announced by the
Clinton administration beforehand.
Although the US position had only been to invite the Czech
Republic, Hungary and Poland to join NATO in 1997, a number of
allies including France, Italy and Germany had lobbied for Romania
and Slovenia also to join at this stage. President Clinton
ostensibly called the Madrid Summit with the purpose of
establishing "the who and the when" of NATO enlargement; since he
was on the campaign trail for the US Presidential elections in
Orlando9 and Detroit,10 this was a fairly
overt attempt to win votes from the sizeable Polish, Czech and
Hungarian communities in those cities. At the NATO Foreign
Ministers' meeting in Sintra in May 1997 only Britain and Iceland
backed the US position. However, US Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright recalls that in June the US "gave the consensus-building
process a nudge by going public with our position... We had waited
so that supporters of the other candidates would feel they had been
given fair consideration but now we had to make a decision... Since
NATO acts by consensus, our declaration essentially settled the
matter."11 In other words, once Washington had asserted
its position, other allies had little option but to back down -
which on this occasion they did.
Another example of the US finding ways of working around allied
decisionmaking happened during the Kosovo conflict. Several
countries - including France, Germany, Italy and Greece - made
clear that they were not prepared to escalate the aerial bombing
beyond certain limits laid out in the warplans approved by the
Alliance in October 1998 to include Phase Three targets. These
included power stations and buildings in central Belgrade that
would have a disproportionate impact on civilians. Any such
escalatory decision should have required a consensus within NATO.
However, once the NATO bombing campaign was underway, the allies
were told that the original phased plan was no longer going to be
used, though assurances were given that only "strictly military
targets" would be hit. Countervalue objectives from the Phase Three
list were then targeted and hit. According to NATO's Supreme Allied
Commander in Europe at that time, General Wesley Clark, "I didn't
always defer to those who wanted targets
At the time, BBC correspondent Mark Urban described the Kosovo
war as, "a triumph of ruthless alliance management by Washington.
When it suited them - for example in keeping the 'bombing pause'
lobby in check they used NATO's constitution with its stress on
unanimity skilfully. When Washington needed to escalate the bombing
and it didn't suit them, they worked their way around these same
Such manipulation of NATO decisionmaking caused dissatisfaction
amongst a number of the US's key allies, resulting in an increased
impetus within the European Union to develop a European Security
and Defence Policy (ESDP).
The "major mistake" of Iraq
This arrogance in its relations with NATO allies was also
manifest in US decisionmaking concerning Iraq. Clearly, the US was
set on invading Iraq regardless of the views of its allies, many of
whom opposed the invasion. Yet now, in the run up to the Istanbul
summit, the US is pushing hard for NATO to commit to an expanded
role in Iraq, which might include taking over responsibility for
one of the military 'sectors' and/or taking responsibility for
developing indigenous Iraqi forces.
Now that it needs NATO allies to risk the lives of their own
troops to help extricate the US-led coalition from a quagmire of
its own making, the Bush administration has recently adopted a more
conciliatory tone by emphasising that it supports "effective
multilateralism". Although 17 out of 26 NATO countries are already
present in Iraq, a number of key member states such as France,
Germany - and now Spain - are conspicuously absent. France remains
adamantly opposed to participating in Iraq: "NATO isn't the place
for considering or carrying out action in Iraq after 30
The unanimous agreement of UN Security Council Resolution 1546,
giving the "multinational force [i.e. US-led Coalition forces]...
the authority to take all necessary measures to contribute to the
maintenance of security and stability in Iraq... so that, inter
alia, the United Nations can fulfil its role in assisting the Iraqi
people",15 is likely to help smooth relations with US
allies. The US is also hoping that it will become harder for
countries like France and Germany to decline to support a Security
Council endorsed operation in Iraq. But the revelations of torture
and abuse of Iraqi prisoners have been a severe setback for any
significant NATO contribution. Indeed, the images of such abuse
have dramatically increased public opposition to involvement in
Iraq - a factor influencing Western European decision-makers.
According to US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, there
has been a diplomatic backlash against the US - "for many of our
European friends, what they saw on those horrible pictures is
tantamount to torture, and there are very strong views about
At the G8 meeting on Sea Island, Georgia, a Bush administration
official claimed that President Bush was on a "rapidly converging
path with respect to Iraq" with Germany's Chancellor
Schroeder.17 Similarly, a US official insisted that Bush
and Chirac were now "prepared to seek common ground and work
together."18 Chirac, however, remained outspokenly
opposed to what he described as NATO "interference" in Iraq. "Any
interference by NATO in this region appears to us to run great
risks, including the risk of a confrontation between the Christian
West and the Muslim East. We have clearly indicated that we could
not accept a mission of this type for NATO," he
stated.19 Chirac did, however, decline to comment on a
US proposal for NATO to give greater support to the existing
Polish-led multinational force and/or British forces in Iraq, or to
play a role in supporting the training Iraqi forces. This level of
NATO involvement would be much more limited than that originally
envisaged by the United States, but would allow the Bush
administration to claim that greater NATO involvement had been
achieved, whilst Chirac could continue to maintain his position of
refusing to commit French troops to Iraq.
As Spanish troops leave Iraq, there is pressure on some of the
other European countries to follow suit as quickly as possible. In
Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair is now seriously compromised by
his close relationship with George Bush and is under pressure from
within his own Party as well as from political opponents. Robin
Cook, his former Foreign Secretary, won considerable support when
he described Blair's Iraq policy as a "major
Although France and Germany remain opposed to NATO taking
playing a greater role in supporting Bush's adventure in Iraq,
behind the scenes NATO officials believe that they will not block
some form of Alliance agreement on Iraq this summer. Whilst NATO
members are keen to present a picture of unity and reconciliation
at the summit, relations are likely to remain lukewarm, with a
number of European countries determined to do "nothing that would
help George Bush get re-elected."21 And although NATO
allies rallied round the US in the wake of September 11, many are
now concerned that the war with Iraq has been counterproductive for
the "war on terror", having resulted in greater instability in the
Middle East and increased terrorist activity in the region and
Shared Values in the "Greater Middle East"?
Arguing that "NATO's future is directed outward to the arc of
countries from South and Central Asia and Middle East to North
Africa-that's where the new threats are",22 the United
States is strongly pushing for NATO to engage with countries and
establish a role in what it calls the "Greater Middle East".
While expansion of NATO's existing "Mediterranean Dialogue"
programme with Israel and six Arab states is currently on the
Istanbul agenda, any programme designed to address security in the
Greater Middle East must also inevitably address the
Israel-Palestine conflict - an area in which the US and many of its
European allies hold divergent views. The US is pushing for NATO
members to offer greater support to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon's proposals and actions. According to US Ambassador to NATO
R. Nicholas Burns, "A recent poll shows that a disturbing number of
Europeans believe Israel is a threat to world peace. Our perception
is fundamentally different, and we find such statistics astounding
and worrisome. Our friendship with Israel remains unshakeable, and
our commitment to Israel's security has never been
When Blair followed Bush in giving hasty blessing to Sharon's
latest plans for the region his decision caused widespread concern
in the UK diplomatic community. In an open letter to the Prime
Minister, 52 former senior British diplomats wrote: "the
international community has now been confronted with the
announcement by Ariel Sharon and President Bush of new policies
which are one-sided and illegal and which will cost yet more
Israeli and Palestinian blood. Our dismay at this backward step is
heightened by the fact that you yourself seem to have endorsed it,
abandoning the principles which for nearly four decades have guided
international efforts to restore peace in the Holy Land and which
have been the basis for such successes as those efforts have
Other NATO countries have not been so accepting of Sharon's
US-backed plans. President Chirac noted: "I have on several
occasions said to our American friends that any initiative in
favour of the Greater Middle East... comes up against these
preliminary conditions, i.e. the ending of the Iraq crisis and,
especially, the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict...
That [resolution] can't be imposed. It has to be negotiated... you
can't unilaterally modify international law, or pre-empt the result
of the negotiation, one which, sooner or later, will obviously be
There are also transatlantic differences in respect of Israel's
use of assassination of prominent Palestinian opponents and attacks
on civilians and their homes. Whilst US National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice described Israel's recent assassination of Hamas
leader, Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, as "not helpful", European leaders
went much further in their condemnation. The EU High
Representative, Javier Solana, said that such actions were "not
only unlawful, they are not conducive to lowering tension." He was
echoed by many others, and even Britain's Foreign Secretary, Jack
Straw, called the targeted assassinations "unlawful, unjustified
The underlying problem is that the US has tended to give
unqualified support for Israel's policies regardless of whether
they breach UN Security Council resolutions and international law -
support that is likely to continue irrespective of who wins this
year's US presidential election. In contrast, many Europeans
believe that Israel's actions are not only a major obstacle to
peace in the region but that they stimulate terrorist
Addressing Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction
To date, NATO's approach to terrorism and weapons of mass
destruction has focused on defensive measures, without addressing
ways of reducing the risk of these threats emerging in the first
In April, following the terrorist bomb attacks in Madrid, NATO
foreign ministers issued a Declaration on Terrorism, emphasising
that "[D]efence against terrorism may include activities by NATO's
military forces, based on decisions by the North Atlantic Council,
to help deter, defend, disrupt and protect against terrorist
attacks, or threat of attacks..."27
To do this, NATO has recently announced eight new armaments
programmes. In May an exhibition was held at NATO Headquarters on
"New Concepts for Defence against Terrorism". According to Jaap de
Hoop Scheffer the exhibition included "a good first choice of
efficient, innovative concepts and systems to counter terrorist
threats: weapons, protective devices, sensors, satellites, decision
aids, and many others."28 Alliance leaders also cite
NATO's involvement in Afghanistan as a contribution to preventing
terrorism. NATO's efforts on combating terrorism, therefore, remain
short-sightedly centred on military and hardware solutions, not on
addressing the underlying causes of terrorism.
In September 2003, the Alliance awarded a €15 million
contract to a consortium of companies led by Science Applications
International Corporation (SAIC) for a missile defence feasibility
study "which may lead to future decisions on proceeding with such a
system..."29 In December 2003, NATO launched a new
Multinational Chemical, Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN)
Defence Battalion designed to "respond and defend against the use
of weapons of mass destruction both inside and beyond NATO's area
NATO's approach to countering WMD emphasises military
capabilities to deter, defend against and counter proliferators.
Meanwhile, arms control as a means of preventing WMD proliferation
has pretty much dropped off NATO's agenda, apart from the
occasional reference to the need for (other countries') compliance
with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Far from acting to
reduce WMD proliferation, NATO's Strategic Concept indicates that
the Allies have no intention of complying any time soon with their
nuclear disarmament obligation under Article VI of the NPT, and no
steps have been taken to implement the May 2000 plan of action on
disarmament and non-proliferation, to which they have all
The other main strand of NATO's strategy to address WMD is still
nuclear deterrence. In recent months there has been some
speculation that the US may be about to reduce or withdraw some of
its last remaining tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) from Europe.
NATO's Supreme Allied Commander General Jones reportedly told a
Belgium Senate Committee that, "the United States will
significantly reduce its nuclear weapons in Europe".31
Nonetheless in December 2003, NATO Defence Ministers, "reaffirmed
the principles underpinning NATO's security objectives as set out
in the Alliance's Strategic Concept" vis-à-vis nuclear
weapons, and stated, "The nuclear forces based in Europe and
committed to NATO continue to provide an essential political and
military link between the European and North American members of
By describing nuclear weapons as providing "the supreme
guarantee of the security of the Allies" and by insisting that they
are "essential to maintain the peace" for the "foreseeable future",
the Strategic Concept sends entirely the wrong message to potential
proliferators.33 Within months of its publication, India
announced a nuclear doctrine based closely on the concepts
advocated by NATO. As long as NATO continues to assert so publicly
that it requires these weapons for its security, other countries
will try to follow suit. As International Atomic Energy Agency
Director General Mohamed ElBaradei puts it, "we cannot just
continue to say, well, we have 25 countries, say, the NATO
countries, who are relying on the nuclear umbrella, and everyone
else should sit quietly in the cold... That, as I said, in the long
run, is not sustainable."34
Although NATO claims to be pursuing a "capabilities based"
approach to weapons procurement, supposedly prioritising weapons
that are "usable and deployable",35 an exception seems
to be made for nuclear weapons, which the Alliance describes as
fundamentally "political"36 in purpose.
Whilst it would be very welcome if NATO did act to eliminate TNW
from Europe when it meets in Istanbul, much deeper cuts are also
needed in US and UK strategic nuclear forces, which continue to be
assigned to the Alliance. As former Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright and former UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook write, more
must be done by the nuclear-weapon states to reduce their nuclear
arsenals: "A failure in this regard would encourage states that do
not have nuclear weapons to rebel against nonproliferation norms
out of dissatisfaction with what they perceive to be a double
Nuclear weapons cannot play a role in deterring terrorism, and
their continued presence merely acts as a block on efforts to
strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime.
NATO and Human Rights
Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has presented human rights
as a centrepiece of its policies in a number of ways. In the 1990s
the NATO expansion process was driven by the stated goal of a
reunited Europe, "based on human rights, freedom and
democracy".38 Aspiring member countries were encouraged
to improve their record on human rights if they wanted to become
In 1999, NATO also argued that "appalling violations of human
rights and the indiscriminate use of force by the Yugoslav
government" necessitated military intervention in
Kosovo.39 Similar arguments have been put forward in an
attempt to justify the military actions in Afghanistan (where
emphasis was put on liberating women from Taliban strictures) and
Iraq, where Saddam Hussein's human rights record has been used to
justify invasion, especially since the failure to find WMD.
Yet, for years, NATO has remained silent on abuses by certain
other states - most obviously, perhaps, abuses carried out by one
of its member states, Turkey. Instead, because of that country's
important strategic position and willingness to host US forces
(including nuclear weapons), NATO leaders praise Turkey as a
"secular and democratic country"40 and the US continues
to advocate that the EU should accept Turkey into its fold.
In practice, NATO expansion appears to be driven more by
military and political support for US policies than by a desire for
human rights improvements. Welcoming new members to the Alliance in
March, President Bush emphasised that "all seven of these nations
are helping to bring lasting freedom to Afghanistan and Iraq".
Remaining aspirant countries were given a very strong hint: "Forces
from Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia are also contributing in
Afghanistan or Iraq - proving their mettle as they aspire to NATO
membership."41 The message was clear - if you want to be
in NATO be sure to support US military goals. Human rights records
are a secondary consideration, if that.
A lack of concern for international humanitarian law can also be
seen in NATO's increasing use of cluster munitions and preference
for high-altitude bombing as a military strategy. Whilst such
aerial campaigns appeal to NATO military commanders because there
is a greatly reduced risk of Alliance casualties, they greatly
increase the risks to civilians on the ground.
Graphic images of the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners at
Abu Ghraib gaol and growing reports of abuses in Afghanistan have
highlighted concerns about US practice. Less well publicised was an
Amnesty International report in May, which concluded that since the
establishment of the NATO-led stabilisation force, KFOR and the UN
Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Kosovo "has
become a major destination country for women and girls trafficked
into forced prostitution". Ominously, instead of KFOR being a
deterrent to such trafficking, KFOR troops and privatised security
corporations have themselves been identified, not just as consumers
of the trafficked women, which have included girls as young as 12,
but also as participants in the trafficking itself. Amnesty notes
that so far NATO has specifically avoided addressing the issue of
"demand" for prostitutes and "accountability" by troops for their
Transforming NATO for the 21st Century
As NATO gears up for the Istanbul summit, some allies are now
playing a waiting game, hoping for a new US President in November.
But many of NATO's difficulties predate the Bush Administration and
a regime change in the United States will not necessarily solve the
Rather than striving to project US military power further and
further beyond its borders, NATO should reaffirm its role as a
purely defensive alliance and give a much higher priority to
pursuing multilateral action aimed at addressing the root causes of
the threats that it faces. Issues such as climate change, WMD
proliferation, terrorism, and the Middle East conflict could all be
addressed far more effectively through multilateral diplomatic
efforts than by military responses.
The 1999 Strategic Concept is inappropriate for the 21st Century
security environment. Instead of promoting the role of nuclear
weapons, NATO needs to make a much clearer commitment to
nonproliferation and disarmament if it wants to tackle WMD
proliferation more effectively, at source. Similarly, if NATO wants
to address the causes of terrorism in the Middle East, Alliance
members need to distance themselves from Israeli military actions
that breach international law and not forge closer relationships
with the Israeli military.
Instead of operating on the basis of double standards when it
comes to issues of international law and human rights, the Alliance
must reassert the primacy of the UN Security Council and make clear
that NATO will not operate outside its borders without specific
Security Council authorisation. Rather than brushing the question
under the table, Alliance leaders should take responsibility for
preventing human rights abuses and ensuring the highest standards
of compliance with international law. NATO must respond to calls
from civil society for greater accountability for the actions of
NATO's expertise in peacekeeping should be made available to the
United Nations, rather than simply serving US-led coalitions. If
this is to work effectively, NATO will have to look hard at how to
develop its future relationships with Russia and China in
Before NATO allies decide whether to assist the US in Iraq, they
should insist on some fundamental changes; in particular, if the
allies are to be expected to increase their risks and
responsibilities on the ground, they need to ensure that the United
States pays heed to their views and concerns. NATO cannot continue
to operate on the basis that all allies are equal, but one is more
equal than others. NATO must also recognise that conflicts such as
those in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be resolved
solely by military forces and capabilities. As Special Adviser to
UN Secretary-General, Lakdhar Brahimi stated in his briefing to the
UN Security Council as it met to consider the latest UN resolution,
"the majority of Iraqis with whom we met stressed that the problem
of insecurity cannot be solved through military means alone. A
political solution is also required."43
To be relevant in the 21st Century, NATO should take the
opportunity in Istanbul to set out a new vision for its future -
not a vision of ever expanding military capabilities and spending,
but a vision that addresses real security needs, with human rights,
democracy, and a commitment to international law as its guiding
principles. Sadly, it is more likely that NATO will struggle to
carry on business as usual, papering over the cracks between its
1. The North Atlantic Treaty, April 4, 1949.
2. 'NATO and the Future of Trans-Atlantic Relations', Remarks by
US NATO Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns at Wilton Park, Sussex, United
Kingdom, February 9, 2004.
5. 'Projecting Stability', Speech by NATO Secretary-General Jaap
de Hoop Scheffer, May 17, 2004.
6. The US is expected to spend $400 billion on defence this
year, compared with a total of $140 billion by the other eighteen
7. Madeleine Albright, 'Madam Secretary: A Memoir', (MacMillan,
8. "The Alliance's Strategic Concept", NATO Press Release
NAC-S(99)65, April 24, 1999, paragraphs 15 and 31.
9. Press Briefing by Mike McCurry, September 6, 1996,
10. Remarks by the President to the people of Detroit, October
11. Albright, op.cit., p.259.
12. 'Nato's inner Kosovo conflict', BBC News online, August 20,
14. Informal European Union Foreign Ministers' Meeting, Press
Briefing given by M. Michel Barnier, Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Tullamore, Ireland, April 17, 2004,
15. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546, adopted unanimously
at Security Council meeting 4987 on 8 June 2004.
16. 'Armitage Sees "Backlash" Overseas from Abuse Allegations',
US State Department, Washington File, May 6, 2004.
17. 'Bush, Schroeder on "Rapidly Converging Path" Concerning
Iraq', Washington File, June 9, 2004.
18. 'Bush, Chirac Address Common Objectives at G8 Summit',
Washington File, June 10, 2004.
19. 'Chirac: NATO role in Iraq would run 'great risks'', AFP,
June 10, 2004.
20. Nicholas Watt, 'Labour trains its guns on Howard', The
Guardian, May 10, 2004.
21. John Vinocur, 'Concerned, NATO is not gloating on Iraq',
International Herald Tribune, May 12, 2004.
22. "NATO and the Future of Trans-Atlantic Relations", Remarks
by U.S. NATO Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns, Remarks in Oslo, Norway,
January 26, 2004.
23. Remarks by US Ambassador to NATO R. Nicholas Burns at Gala
Dinner Opening of the Trans-Atlantic Institute Conrad Hotel,
Brussels, Belgium, February 12, 2004.
24. 'A letter to Blair: Your Middle East policy is doomed, say
diplomats', Independent, April 27, 2004
25. Press Conference given by Jacques Chirac, President of the
Republic, Paris, April 29, 2004, http://www.diplomatie.fr.
26. Ewen MacAskill, 'Arab leaders say Bush backs Israel attack
policy', The Guardian, April 19, 2004.
27. 'Declaration on Terrorism', Issued at the Meeting of the
North Atlantic Council in Foreign Ministers Session held in
Brussels on 2 April 2004.
28. 'Speech by NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer',
May 6, 2004.
29. 'NATO Missile Defence Feasibility Study, Transatlantic
Industry Study Team selected', NATO Press Release (2003) 109,
September 26, 2003.
30. 'Launch of NATO Multinational CBRN Defence Battalion', NATO
Press Release, November 26, 2003.
31. Information received from Karel Koster, AMOK, Utrecht, March
32. 'Final Communiqué, Ministerial Meeting of the Defence
Planning Committee and the Nuclear Planning Group held in Brussels
on Monday, 1 December 2003', NATO Press Release (2003) 147,
December 1, 2003.
33. "The Alliance's Strategic Concept", April 24, 1999.
34. "The Challenges facing Nonproliferation", transcript of a
meeting held by Council on Foreign Relations New York, N.Y. May 14,
35. 'Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at
a dinner hosted by the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr.
Abdullah Gül', Istanbul, April 28, 2004.
36. "The Alliance's Strategic Concept", April 24, 1999.
37. Madeleine Albright and Robin Cook, "We must cut our nuclear
arsenals", The Guardian, June 9, 2004.
38. 'Madrid Declaration on Euro-Atlantic Security and
Cooperation', Issued by the Heads of State and Government, NATO
Press Release M-1 (97) 81, July 8, 1997.
39. 'The situation in and around Kosovo', Statement Issued at
the Extraordinary Ministerial Meeting of the North Atlantic Council
held at NATO Headquarters, Brussels, NATO Press Release
M-NAC-1(99)51, April 12, 1999.
40. Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at
Galatasaray University, April 29, 2004.
41. 'Remarks by US President George W. Bush at the NATO
Accession Ceremony', NATO Speeches, March 29, 2004.
42. 'Kosovo (Serbia and Montenegro) "So does it mean that we
have the rights?" Protecting the human rights of women and girls
trafficked for forced prostitution in Kosovo', Amnesty
International, May 6, 2004. 43
43. 'Briefing of Special Adviser to UN Secretary-General,
Lakdhar Brahimi, to Security Council on the political transition
process in Iraq', June 7, 2004.
Nicola Butler is research associate and web
manager for the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy
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