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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 77, May/June 2004

NATO's Istanbul Challenge:
Transformation or Irrelevance?

Nicola Butler

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 security.

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 decade.

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 operations.

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 withheld."12

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 rules."13

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 June."14

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 that".16

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 mistake".20

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 elsewhere.

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 firmer."23

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 produced."24

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 necessary."25

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 and counter-productive".26

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 recruitment.

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 place.

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 of responsibility".30

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 agreed.

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 the Alliance."32

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 standard."37

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 full members.

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 actions.42

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 main problems.

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 its forces.

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 future.

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 member states.


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.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

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 allies combined.

7. Madeleine Albright, 'Madam Secretary: A Memoir', (MacMillan, 2003), p.384.

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, http://clinton6.nara.gov/1996/09/1996-09-06-press-briefing-by-mike-mccurry.html.

10. Remarks by the President to the people of Detroit, October 22, 1996, http://clinton6.nara.gov/1996/10/1996-10-22-president-speech-on-foreign-policy-in-detroit-mi.html.

11. Albright, op.cit., p.259.

12. 'Nato's inner Kosovo conflict', BBC News online, August 20, 1999.

13. Ibid.

14. Informal European Union Foreign Ministers' Meeting, Press Briefing given by M. Michel Barnier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tullamore, Ireland, April 17, 2004, http://www.diplomatie.fr/actu/bulletin.gb.asp?liste=20040420.gb.html&submit.x=17&submit.y=10.

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 11, 2004.

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, 2004.

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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