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CIAO DATE: 12/00

Nato Since Kosovo: The Impact Of The War In Kosovo On The Euro-Atlantic Security Community

Marybeth Peterson Ulrich

International Studies Association
41st Annual Convention
Los Angeles, CA.
March 14-18, 2000



In the post-cold war period, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has focused much of its energy on confronting the challenge of remaining relevant in a transformed European security environment. A key question has been whether or not NATO would be able to successfully transition from a military alliance poised to ward off specific and defined threats to an effective security organization capable of responding to more diffuse threats while also being a force for stability in the region. Another top concern has been NATO’s ability to remain the security institution of choice among the European allies in light of the evaporation of the Soviet threat and growing interest in a European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI).

The Euro-Atlantic community is in agreement that the achievements of the cold war era must be preserved. More contentious is the particular configuration of European security institutions, security strategy, national actors, and scattered security resources that will both preserve the substantial gains of the past while retooling appropriately for the currently evolving and future security environments.

As NATO prepared for its fiftieth anniversary summit in April 1999, many thought that key issues related to NATO’s transformation had been resolved. The formal accession of three new NATO allies, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland on March 12, 1999 in Independence, Missouri signified the culmination of a decade of efforts to reach out to NATO’s former adversaries in the East. Enlargement also epitomized the Alliance’s consensus that European security depended on the institutional ability of NATO to address the security interests of both the democratic and democratizing states of the Euro-Atlantic region.

The NATO enlargement process relied on the process created through the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program that was launched in January 1994. PfP served dual strategic purposes for the Alliance. First, it established a process with membership as the target for some partners. PfP allowed for self-differentiation among 24 partner states without extending the full benefits of NATO membership to the partners. Second, PfP was one means of carrying out the Alliance’s goal of “exporting stability” as envisioned in the new Strategic Concept. It was believed that such stability would be the result of creating key conditions, such as economic growth and development, for democratic consolidation in postcommunist Europe. PfP attracted several traditionally neutral European democratic states such as Finland, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, and, most recently, Ireland. NATO also forged special institutional relationships with Russia with the creation of the Permanent Joint Council (PJC) that gives Russia a “voice but not a veto” in NATO and with Ukraine via a distinctive NATO-Ukrainian Charter. Through these vehicles, NATO constructed the institutional means to involve all interested members of the Euro-Atlantic community in European security in ways compatible with their strategic interests and means.

The Washington Summit also showcased the christening of NATO’s newest Strategic Concept. This long awaited update of the 1991 Strategic Concept solidified the spirit of the earlier adaptation, but reflected further adaptations to update the 1991 document in light of the profound security and political developments of the intervening decade. The new Strategic Concept committed the Alliance to pursuing “a just and lasting peaceful order in Europe” that entails not only ensuring the defense of its members but contributing to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region. 1 The new concept decidedly shifted NATO’s post-Cold War center of gravity toward exporting stability. It also specifically emphasized the PfP’s role in achieving Atlantic security. Furthermore, the new Strategic Concept decisively states that further enlargement is in the strategic interests of the Alliance. The Strategic Concept also declares that members must be prepared to contribute to conflict prevention goals and to conduct non-Article 5 crisis response operations. 2

The fiftieth anniversary summit in April 1999 was envisioned as a gala affair to celebrate NATO’s triumphant transformation of its institutions, strategy, membership, and purpose. Slobodan Milosevic’s refusal to meet NATO’s demands at Rambouillet spoiled the allies’ upcoming Washington birthday party and started the process of unraveling the consensus that underpinned NATO’s post-cold war evolution.

NATO’s war against Serbia over Kosovo was a defining moment in the life of the North Atlantic Alliance. While some contend that NATO emerged victorious, united, capable of confronting 21 st century security challenges, and strengthened by the addition of its new members, 3 others argue that although the bombing campaign was paved with good intentions, it was a political failure 4 the roots of which can be attributed to the unsuitability of NATO for the achievement of Europe’s security interests in the current era.

NATO Transformed?

The decision to admit new members, agreement on a new strategic concept, establishment of a vibrant PfP process, creation of flexible constructs such as the Combined Joint Task Forces (CJTF), and the outreach to Russia and Ukraine with distinctive partnerships were all steps taken to transform and preserve NATO as Europe’s indispensable security institution. “The world has witnessed its progress from an outdated alliance looking for a mission to a set of new missions demanding an alliance to fulfill them.” 5 Up until its engagement in Kosovo, NATO’s success had been defined by its ability to deter war on the continent. But the simultaneous emergence of the newly retooled NATO and a mission suitable for the application of its new strategic concept in Kosovo placed significant strains on the “new NATO.” The Alliance’s use of force through its multinational air campaign against Serbia challenged the assumptions that the Euro-Atlantic security community is indivisible and that alliance cohesion can be maintained in the pursuit of NATO’s non-Article 5 strategic interests. An emerging legacy of Kosovo is the undermining of America’s unqualified role as the leader in European security affairs and the search for European alternatives to NATO’s dominance in European security.

The Struggle to Maintain Alliance Cohesion While Enhancing ESDI

The battle over the locus of the development of ESDI was thought to have been settled back at NATO’s ministerial meeting in Berlin in June1996. A deal was struck to build ESDI within the Alliance according to the principle of a European defense capability being “separable but not separate” from NATO. 6 This agreement made it possible for WEU states, under certain circumstances and subject to allied agreement, to borrow NATO assets for an all-European mission under European command. The US supported the initiative because it fulfilled the US’s twin goals of building a more robust European pillar in NATO to share the defense burden while ensuring that the transatlantic link remained firm.

The key innovative concept, indeed what some have described as “NATO’s most radical piece of thinking in its history,” 7 was the CJTF. Proposed by the Clinton Administration in 1993 the CJTF concept was devised as a compromise solution to overcome the deep divisions between the Atlanticists and the Europeanists in the Alliance. The Atlanticists believed that NATO should be retooled to take on out-of-area and non-article 5 missions thereby remaining the dominant security institution in Europe. The Europeanists, led by France, envisioned enabling other pieces of the European security architecture to take on these roles &-; especially the Western European Union (WEU). 8 The elegance of the CJTF approach was its ability to satisfy the European countries’ desire for the capacity to take independent military action while simultaneously preventing the WEU from developing separate military forces and structures from NATO. 9

Another significant step toward the development of ESDI was the Anglo-French joint declaration on European defense signed at St. Malo, France on December 4, 1998. The declaration stated that the EU “must have the capacity for autonomous action backed up by credible military forces, the means to use them and readiness to do so in order to respond to international crises.” 10 This initiative caused some concern in Washington because it represented the first time that Britain had departed from its traditional opposition to creating an independent European military structure. Previously, British governments had always taken the position that such moves could undermine NATO and endanger the transatlantic link. 11

The political leadership of Britain and France presented distinct visions of the accord to their populaces. While Prime Minister Tony Blair asserted at St. Malo that “We Europeans should not expect the United States to have to play a part in every disorder in our own back yard,” 12 he was also quick to assure the US that the move was completely consistent with the Berlin principles focused on building a European defense pillar within NATO. 13

Some contend that Blair was increasingly feeling pressure to support policies aimed at strengthening EU integration given Britain’s decision to opt out of the EU’s monetary union. 14 Seeking an end to Britain’s relative marginalization in Europe, Blair viewed cooperation with the French on defense as a means of re-exerting influence in Europe. 15 Support for the security accord came at little political cost – especially if he could spin its meaning to suit Britain’s Atlanticist vision of European security.

Meanwhile, in Paris the St. Malo declaration was presented as a major event in the history of European integration. French Defense Minister Alain Richard gloated that the two countries had, “up to now failed to agree on the way ahead for European defense. Now we are on a converging course. The new Amsterdam Treaty 16 will become a reality.” 17 The French, then, saw the declaration as another step toward the fulfillment of their dream articulated by Charles De Gaulle himself to build a “common defense system for which France has the responsibility of determining the guidelines and designating the leader.” The goal is to enable Europe to be a counterweight to America’s status as a “hyper-power,” a term coined by French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, in order to create a multi-polar international system in which France, through Europe, could play a more prominent role. 18

NATO Secretary General Javier Solana reflected the Alliance support for the ESDI pact when he spoke on the occasion of the enlargement of the alliance in March 1999, “A self-confident, more mature Europe will be a more useful security partner to North America. A Europe capable of coherent military action is a pre-condition for the alliance’s long-term health.” 19 The Washington 50 th Anniversary Summit affirmed these steps. The Clinton administration was determined to take advantage of the Washington gathering as an opportunity to put an “Alliance” stamp on the ESDI developments to date.

The deal to build “the European Security and Defense Identity within the Alliance” was trumpeted as one of the most significant developments of the summit and turned on a fundamental trade-off between Washington and the key European capitals. 20 As the only country with the sophisticated military capacity to perform such missions as were simultaneously being conducted in Kosovo, the US agreed to give the Europeans the US military capabilities they would need to perform an EU-led operation. In such cases, an EU chain-of-command would take over.

Key provisions of the accord include a stipulation that the Europeans build up their defense identity and capabilities within NATO and not separately under the EU. For instance, the US was insistent that the EU not develop a military planning system independent of NATO. The agreement also gives NATO the “first right of refusal” which means that EU leadership takes effect only after the alliance has declined to take on the mission – a step that effectively allows the US to pass up the opportunity to take political and military leadership of the particular crisis.

Several other initiatives were unveiled at the summit with the intent of keeping momentum for NATO’s retooling in key areas going. Building on the Berlin principles the Alliance launched the Defense Capabilities Initiative (DCI) designed to enhance European defense industrial cooperation and to help Europe close the defense technology gap. 21 Fifty-eight common projects have been identified both to help insure interoperability and to increase Alliance capacity for the type of highly mobile, flexible, sustainable, and survivable power projection needed to apply NATO’s new strategic concept. 22

The Membership Action Plan (MAP) was introduced to convince the remaining candidates for NATO membership that the enlargement process is ongoing and that NATO’s “open door” policy remains viable. While the aspirant states have long understood that the selection for NATO membership has significant political components, including political developments both within partner states and the internal politics of member states, they have been frustrated with NATO’s continual reluctance to provide a definitive “roadmap” to membership. The MAP’s purpose was to “highlight mechanisms through which preparation for possible membership can best be carried forward.” 23

The goal of MAP was to take some of the guesswork out of the preparatory steps taken to advance NATO candidacies. Ultimately, the decision to invite will still be politically driven meaning that well prepared, but politically problematic aspirants will continue to be overlooked, while lesser prepared but more politically palatable aspirants may get the nod for membership in the future. NATO’s challenge in the wake of its first enlargement round is to keep the remaining nine governments who have made substantial commitments to NATO through participation in the Partnership for Peace program, deployment of troops to Bosnia and Kosovo, and the rendering of political support for the Kosovo action which was often unpopular with domestic electorates, engaged in the process of earning membership. 24 Although NATO is in no mood to take in more members in the near-term, it is in the interests of members and non-members alike to keep the aspirant candidates engaged in the internal reforms and alliance activities that have gradually deepened through participation in the PfP process. It is important for European partners knocking at NATO’s door to perceive that the Article 10 provision of the Washington Treaty allowing for enlargement remains viable. The PfP process contributes to stability in the region and has thus far prevented the cleaving of various regional fault lines.

Kosovo as a Defining Moment

It appears, though, that NATO’s decision to intervene in Kosovo may presage the cleaving of the Alliance’s most critical fault line – at the mid-Atlantic marking the joining of the Euro-Atlantic region. Coincident with the show of Alliance unity in Washington over the war against Serbia was evidence that beneath the surface NATO was far less cohesive than it pretended to be at the summit. The Financial Times reported the day after the bombing started, “Seldom can a decision to launch massive military action have been taken with such obvious reluctance.” 25 Political leaders across the Alliance rushed to apologize in advance for the action in attempts to assuage the concern of their reluctant populations. Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister, remarked, “We have done everything conceivable to avoid this confrontation.” 26

Uneven Support Casts Long Shadow Over Future Operations

A brief survey of the depth of support across the NATO capitals paints a telling story of the difficulty of maintaining alliance cohesion across 19 member and key partner states when diverse national interests and domestic concerns influence varying degrees of political support for non-vital national interests. The French, British, and German governments remained steadfast in their support although domestic political rumblings at times threatened this cohesion and restricted the range of military action possible. In Germany, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, a leader of the Green Party, was a crucial advocate for German participation in the air campaign. However, the Green-Socialist coalition government could not have survived the transition to a ground war. In France, the political leadership remained stalwart although French public opinion over the bombing was deeply divided between France’s historical links to Serbia and the desire to topple Milosevic. Prime Minister Tony Blair and his faithful Foreign Minister, Robin Cook, will be remembered as perhaps the most hawkish members of the anti-Milosevic alliance. British public opinion held steady throughout the war emboldening Blair to take the lead in advocating the planning of a ground campaign – a move that both upstaged and annoyed President Clinton. 27 Other staunch supporters for the war included Denmark and The Netherlands. One month into the war 80 percent of Danes were still in favor of continued bombings and 69 percent backed the use of ground forces if necessary. 28 The Turks took a fully supportive role in the conflict contributing jets based in Italy and accepting over 10,000 Kosovar refugees. Turkey’s ethnic ties to their Ottoman ancestors fostered support for the ethnic Albanians, but the escalation of the conflict to a ground phase and the potential for the war to spread troubled this Balkan neighbor.

Beyond this list of faithful NATO allies, alliance cohesion started to drop off markedly. Belgium showed only lukewarm support for the war with almost 50 percent of the public opposed to the air strikes. Belgian politicians facing elections in June were nervous about seeming too enthusiastic about the effort. In Spain, a vocal Communist Party successfully mobilized large demonstrations against the war and several weeks into the bombing campaign half the public was against a ground offensive. Although the Portuguese contributed several F-16s to the air war, the general consensus played out in the press was that Britain and the US pushed the Alliance into an unnecessary war. Portugal’s political leaders had to weigh their continued support against growing domestic opposition to the conflict. Politicians in Italy and Greece were strongly challenged by anti-war protests with the Greeks particularly challenged by its passionately pro-Serb population.

Among the new allies, Poland outperformed its former Partnership for Peace colleagues enthusiastically supporting the operation and eagerly offering its ground troops if necessary. However, managing participation in the Kosovo campaign was more difficult for Hungary and the Czech Republic. Both balked at sending ground troops to support Operation Allied Force if necessary. The Czech political leadership’s performance as a fledgling NATO member during the war in Kosovo received the lowest marks from the Alliance. President Havel and Prime Minister Milos Zeman feuded openly in public about Czech support for the operation. Zeman announced on 26 April 99 the unconditional exclusion of Czech troops from a ground campaign before the Alliance even requested such support. 29

The Czech behavior stood out from the other new allies and from more cooperative aspirant members, such as the Slovaks who were more eager to offer the Allies the use of its airspace during the Kosovo war. There is a general sense within the Czech Republic, in particular, and in Hungary to a lesser extent, however, that neither society was prepared to support NATO’s new Strategic Concept in terms of non-Article 5 operations. In this respect some of the new members’ behavior has fallen short of the Alliance’s expectations. The under-performance of the new allies has also contributed to the de facto strategic pause in further enlargement. NATO will be reluctant to admit new members farther East while it perceives the contributions of the Central European allies to be lacking.

The EU summit meeting in Berlin that took place as the air attacks against Serbia began exposed the differences between the EU’s eleven NATO members and its four neutrals . (Who is 4 th neutral?) Austria refused to let NATO warplanes transit its airspace. Finland and Ireland balked at the issuance of an EU formal communiqué endorsing the attacks without an explicit mandate from the UN Security Council. 30 Such discord among EU members foretells the difficult road ahead to forge a Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Maintaining Alliance Consensus and Commitment in Pursuit of Non-Vital National Interests

The popular instinct expressed during the Kosovo crisis was that “a humanitarian exertion too divorced from a strategic national interest is not long sustainable.” 31 Curiously, waging the war in Kosovo fell to an eclectic group of former pacifists – Tony Blair, Joschka Fischer, and Bill Clinton. Indeed, the fact that no conceivable material or exclusive cultural interest was involved contributed to the justness of the war, and argued Blair, made the crusade even more legitimate. For the Europeans, the survival of the superior of two competing visions of Europe was at stake. Milosevic’s vision of a nationalist Europe composed of ethnically pure authoritarian and xenophobic states must be defeated by the vision held by the Europe of NATO, the EU and their partners – a Europe of integration, democracy, and ethnic pluralism. 32 There was also a feeling that previous European mismanagement of the menace in Yugoslavia contributed to Milosevic’s latest destabilizing behavior and that Europe had some obligation to set things right.

For the Americans, by contrast, the war in Kosovo represented only a derivative interest embodied in the achievement of certain incentives such as avoiding humiliation as the leader of the Alliance and preserving NATO to fight another day. European stability and humanitarian interests in Kosovo were also important, but lacked, Elizabeth Pond argues, the urgency of a scenario such as preventing Iraq from developing nuclear weapons. 33 The fact that the war was waged for important, but not vital interests, also determined the ways in which military power would be applied to achieve these interests. Casualties of any significant number involving both combatants and Serbian civilians were deemed to be unacceptable across the NATO capitals, although hundreds of Kosovar and Serbian civilians were killed in the conflict.

The achievement of international consensus to intervene on the behalf of the Kosovars was also complicated by the NATO leaders’ argument that there was a humanitarian exception to the long-held international principle of national sovereignty. NATO's war with Yugoslavia crossed an important threshold in international law. The sanctity of national sovereignty is the one principle that has largely governed nation-state relations for the past half-century. This exception came to be known as the Clinton Doctrine, which holds that the United States and the international community have an obligation to violate the principles of state sovereignty to protect the rights of a persecuted minority. 34 The Clinton Doctrine heralded a new approach to world affairs: “a right of humanitarian intervention within a country's sovereign borders to redress wrongs; a right that might be exercised irrespective of that country's wishes and without an explicit mandate from the United Nations Security Council.” 35

The UN conventions on genocide and torture also legally bind states to uphold basic human rights. And Chapter VII of the UN charter endorses collective action to counter "threats to international peace and security," such as internal actions that might cause massive refugee flows that could destabilize neighboring countries. In truth, as with most founding documents, the UN charter is subject to interpretation. 36

The problem with the presence of competing imperatives of international law is that the seeds of dissension lie in every application of the “humanitarian exception.” The United Nations Security Council mandate was not obtained, because its attainment was unachievable. Russia and China vehemently opposed the prospect of the erosion of their sovereign rights to conduct their domestic politics, no matter how offensive to some, in the manner that they chose. While forging consensus among the permanent members of the Security Council may often be problematic, the effect of earning a UN mandate is that it restrains the application of power in the international system. Even the NATO allies were concerned that US power was unrestrained by international institutions. The US-led action in Kosovo is also thought to have emboldened the Russian military to show in Chechnya that they too could take unilateral action in the furtherance of their perceived interests. 37

The irony of Kosovo is that while US power freed the allies from the conventional constraints of international law and enabled the application of the “humanitarian exception” to achieve important interests, it also drove home the hard truth of US relative hegemony. US leadership was essential to keeping the Alliance at least nominally united throughout the crisis. While many contend that the Alliance showed an impressive solidarity during the war, others point out that there were significant limits to the cohesion – evidence of which was already surfacing and would have undermined the mission if Milosevic had been able to hold on much longer than he did.

Cohesion continues to elude the Alliance in key areas in its on-the-ground cooperation in the various Balkan peacekeeping missions. Commitment to capture war criminals varies across the Alliance ranging from the aggressive British record of arrests to the French record of not forcibly apprehending any war crimes suspects. Such diverse reputations has led to the perception that the most notorious suspects have taken up residence in the French sector of Bosnia. 38 In Kosovo, European allies have not sent the full complement of promised troops to the various sectors nor has the budget for civilian administration been adequately supported. 39 The tacit division of labor at the onset of the war was that the US would bear the brunt of the air campaign if the European allies would provide the bulk of the peacekeepers and fund the cost of nation building and administration in the aftermath of the war.

In witnessing the first application of NATO’s new Strategic Concept it is clear that the diffuse threats against which it is aimed may often be threats to humanitarian principles versus threats to strategic interests. Such threats, by their very nature, will pose problems for Alliance unity or the unity of a coalition of EU states challenged to act. With no strategic interests at stake states will be influenced more by their domestic politics, the natural inclination to free ride, and the desire to posture against a hegemon – no matter how benign – on the world stage.

Kosovo as the Impetus of a Reinvigorated ESDI

The war in Kosovo upset the delicate balance between Europe and the US within NATO because it drove home the undeniable reality that Europe is a mere junior partner when it comes to contributing to its own defense. Said one NATO official during the conflict, “The fact is, without the Americans, without their airplanes and ships and command-and-control structures and all the other things they bring to the order of battle, we can’t win this.” 40 For all the talk of CJTFs and separable but not separate forces, European defense establishments lack the capability to conduct significant operations that require strategic airlift, “smart” weapons crucial for precision bombing, and the logistics train necessary to support forces in the theater of conflict.

As one prominent European editorial staff put it, “The air campaign focuses entirely on American fighters and cruise missiles, on Washington’s command and communications facilities, on its intelligence input. Take those assets away and no amount of moral outrage in London, Paris and Berlin would halt Mr. Milosevic’s terror.” 41 The US provided 80 percent of the aircraft and nearly all of the intelligence resources and strategic airlift needed for the operation. Britain and France combined contributed half of the aircraft supplied by the other 18 NATO members, but the French were able to pitch in only 8 percent of the total sorties flown. 42 The Europeans lacked the stealth technology of the F-117 and B-2 aircraft and consequently were not assigned sorties deemed too dangerous for aircrews flying less technically sophisticated planes. The NATO allies also proved incapable of making significant contributions in the employment of the precision weapons relied upon to keep allied combatant and Serb civilian casualties at a minimum. 43

The bottom line is that even with NATO’s newly flexible institutional structures and decision-making procedures, the practical reality is that Europe could not have employed the Petersberg 44 principles to manage the Kosovo crisis. Though some in Europe contended at the onset of the crisis the need to rein in Milosevic may have been a good opportunity to test ESDI within NATO, the generals in France and Britain advised their political leaders that if airstrikes were the means of choice to exert Europe’s political will over Milosevic, US leadership was indispensable. Furthermore, European diplomats argued that European peacemaking and peace enforcing without the participation of the US would be ineffective. 45

Many Europeans see their dependence on the US for security as humiliating and potentially undermining the very enterprise of a united Europe. While 1999 was a landmark year for the economic integration of Europe with the launching of the euro, the war in Kosovo highlighted in sharp relief the gains still to be achieved in Europe’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. Particularly hard to swallow was the perception that the war in Kosovo was being driven by Washington’s agenda that featured a plan without an exit strategy and a likely commitment to a ground war if Milosevic was unmoved by the bombing effort. Indeed, NATO’s air gamble threatened to end as a nightmarish land war which European governments did not want to wage, but did not dare denounce. 46

The declaration adopted at the EU summit in Cologne on 4 June 1999 while NATO planes were still bombing Serbia took one step further in the direction of pursuing ESDI outside of NATO. The British-French Summit declaration at St. Malo was carefully worded not to offend NATO. It stated that the EU’s motive was to “act through its own defense institutions either within NATO’s European pillar or outside the NATO framework.” The Cologne declaration speaks of pursuing such activities “without prejudice to actions by NATO.” 47 The Cologne declaration is much less ambiguous in its intent to commit the EU to a common policy on security and defense with the “capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces, the means to use them and the readiness to do so.” 48

For the EU to achieve ultimate independence in security policy – that is to have an all-European chain of command with the European Council giving orders to a European military staff carried out by European forces – the EU will have to create institutional defense capacities that it currently lacks. In the months following Cologne significant first steps toward this end were taken. The decision to incorporate the WEU into NATO was taken at Cologne although NATO will retain exclusive responsibility for collective defense. In June 1999, former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana was appointed the first EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy and in November 1999 he assumed the additional hat of the WEU Secretary General effectively merging the two organizations in his own person. 49 Finally, at the European Council meeting in Helsinki, in December 1999, the EU seeks to develop a unilateral ability to send 60,000 European troops to a crisis zone such as Bosnia, a military committee of chiefs of participating national defense staffs to advise European political leaders, 50 a permanent political and security committee, and strategic assets such as an independent command and control capacity, a European air transport command, and enhanced sealift capability.

The communiqué from NATO’s December 1999 ministerial reaffirmed the Berlin principles and Alliance support for the development of ESDI within NATO the Alliance’s desire to continue to pursue the agenda set at the Washington summit. But the communiqué with some apparent degree of discomfort also “acknowledges the resolve of the European Union to have the capacity for autonomous action so that it can take decisions and approve military action where the Alliance as a whole is not engaged.” 51 While NATO bureaucrats press on with their efforts to facilitate the construction of a European defense pillar within NATO according to agreements struck in Washington in April 1999, the national the focus of the European capitals has turned to the creation of a separate defense capacity within the EU.

The US is concerned about the lack of complete transparency of this embryonic process and the perception that the US is being intentionally cut out of the process. For now, the only formal link between NATO and the EU are twice a month breakfasts in Brussels where NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson and EU security chief Javier Solana meet. 52 The US also perceived for the first time at the North Atlantic Council (NAC) meeting at the December 1999 ministerial that there was evidence of an EU bloc during the discussions – suggesting the coordination of a common EU position in advance to bring to the NAC. The US has long fretted over such an outcome as its worst nightmare. 53

Is the Attainment of ESDI Feasible?

While the Europeans have sent a clear signal that they are determined to take steps in the direction of gaining security independence from the US, their capacity to actually achieve this goal is very much in question. Since the end of the Cold War military capabilities of the European allies have been reduced by 30 percent. 54 From 1992 to 1997 the dollar value of European defense budgets declined 22 percent with an additional decline of 7 percent in 1999 alone because of the fall of the euro. 55

The EU countries collectively spend on defense 60 percent of the US defense budget, but the inefficiencies inherent in the European defense industry as well as the political context of defense expenditures results in far less than the achievement of 60 percent of the defense competencies relevant in the post cold war security environment. For instance, such an investment produces neither 60 percent of the US’s force projection capability, nor 60 percent of the US’s military intelligence gathering capability, nor 60 percent of the US’s theater command and control capability. 56

Europe is further hampered by a reliance on inefficient separate national defense industries retained for their ability to preserve jobs and duplicate American systems rather than add to the military capability of the Alliance. Key incentives to retain national defense industry capacity also include maintaining sovereignty over national security and not foregoing states’ ownership stake in various defense companies. 57 Part of the ESDI agenda includes closer cooperation on defense procurement and production across European capitals. This is a good step toward recouping some of the inefficiencies that characterize present acquisition processes, but there is also a “fortress Europe” dimension to this effort that concerns the US.

A key reason why Europe does not get the defense capability for the euro that the US gets is that its determination to build a separate defense industry base comes at the cost of duplicating technological and production capabilities already expensively acquired by the United States. Such a “Europe first” approach, that foregoes the potential benefits of transatlantic defense cooperation, also undermines the already weakened and increasingly weakening political cohesion of the Alliance, while simultaneously shoring up the argument of the isolationist forces in the US set on withdrawing from leadership of European security affairs. 58

The domestic political climate characterized by Europe’s slowing growth, high unemployment -- 16.3 million people are out of work across the EU -- and publics less than enthusiastic about dramatic shifts in defense spending also greatly constrains the EU’s potential to realize significant defense gains. On the one hand, the political agenda favors defense integration that will stretch defense budgets. On the other hand, it is unlikely that frustrated national leaders have the political capital necessary to convince their publics to invest their tax dollars in quantities that could close the technological gap and result in improved real capacity for independent military action.


Conclusion: US Interests and Trends in NATO Since Kosovo

The retooled NATO was severely tested in the Kosovo crisis. Alliance cohesion and performance have been found wanting. Serious doubts now loom about the present and future effectiveness of the Alliance -- especially in the application of its power to achieve less than vital, but important interests. The European allies’ words and deeds increasingly indicate their preference for pursuing European approaches to European security problems. Yet there are also signs signaling a lack of commitment to collective action for the greater European good if such action exacts excessive political or economic costs on a particular European state.

While the US has been and will remain supportive in the future of European efforts to improve defense capabilities within NATO, US interests may be threatened by attempts to pursue increased European strength and autonomy through institutional mechanisms that are not yet demonstrated to be compatible with the unity and integrity of the Alliance. 59 Though some analysts forecast the rise of the EU as a strategic competitor to the US, the US interest in a prosperous and secure Europe will not fade.

The Europeans and the US agree on a set of core security interests in Europe that includes the territorial integrity of NATO members, fostering economic prosperity, preventing the negative consequences of various transnational phenomena such as crime, the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction, refugee flows from conflict-torn areas, and general stability in the region. However, the Euro-Atlantic community seems to be embarking on divergent courses to achieve these ends.

The effectiveness of any future European security organization will depend on its underlying political cohesion as a means of promoting collective action against a particular threat. The post-cold war era has shown that, increasingly, non-article 5 events both dominate the European security agenda and challenge the Alliance’s cohesion. Beyond Article 5 contingencies NATO interests diverge. For instance, the emphasis that the new Strategic Concept places on threats emanating from the Southern region is not as appealing to NATO members in northern Europe.

To be effective against a more diffuse set of threats, alliance cohesion will be crucial. Creating parallel security institutions will not only run into the practical limitations of finite quantities of competent staff officers to fill multiple institutional billets and the cost that such duplication of structures entails, the underlying premise of such an action is that weakening the cohesion of the Euro-Atlantic community is somehow in the interests of all parties involved. Such steps are unlikely to lead to greater effectiveness in the actual conduct of security policy in the European region.

NATO has transformed itself dramatically throughout the post-cold war era in an effort to be an effective instrument of its members in the achievement of their security interests. The war in Kosovo has challenged many of the assumptions undergirding the “new NATO” and forced members of the Euro-Atlantic community to rethink both their interests and the institutional vehicles available to achieve them. As a result, NATO is undergoing great strain as the goal of forging a Euro-Atlantic consensus on the “end state” of its continued evolution remains elusive.


Note 1: NATO Press Release NAC-S(99)65, “The Alliance’s Strategic Concept,” 24 April 1999,  Back.

Note 2: ibid, p. 10.  Back.

Note 3: James B. Steinberg, “A Perfect Polemic: Blind to Reality on Kosovo,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 78, no. 6 (November/December 1999), p. 133.  Back.

Note 4: Michael Mandelbaum, “A Perfect Failure: NATO’s War Against Yugoslavia,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 78, no. 6 (November/December 1999), p. 5.  Back.

Note 5: Robert E. Hunter, “Maximizing NATO: A Relevant Alliance Knows How to Reach,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 78, no. 3 (May/June 1999), p. 190.  Back.

Note 6: Robert E. Hunter, “Testimony Before the House Committee on International Relations,” Federal News Service, 10 Nov 1999.  Back.

Note 7: The Economist, “It Can’t Be Done Alone,” 25 Feb 1995, p. 19.  Back.

Note 8: Nora Bensahel, “Separable But Not Separate Forces: NATO’s Development of the Combined Joint Task Force,” European Security, vol. 8, no. 2 (Summer 1999), p. 55-56.  Back.

Note 9: Ibid, p. 58-59.  Back.

Note 10: “Europe & US: Self-Assertion in Alliance,” The Statesman (India), 11 November 1999.  Back.

Note 11: Felix Rohatyn, US Ambassador to France, “Remarks Before the National Press Club,” 25 October 1999, Federal News Service.  Back.

Note 12: Peter Riddell, “Tarnished? The Spreading War in Kosovo Reveals Europe’s Unreadiness to Act on Its Own,” The Washington Post, 4 April 1999, p. B1.  Back.

Note 13: Ibid.  Back.

Note 14: Interview by author of senior Norwegian military officer, Carlisle Barracks, PA, 1 March 2000.  Back.

Note 15: Simon Serfaty, Professor of US Foreign Policy, Old Dominion University, “Testimony Before House Committee on International Relations,” 10 Nov 99.  Back.

Note 16: Title V, Articles J1-18 of the Amsterdam Treaty signed on 2 October 1997 outlined the EU’s vision for forging a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). This agreement gave the EU its first military dimension although it was strictly confined to a peacekeeping, peace-enforcing, and humanitarian role commonly referred to as “Petersberg tasks.”  Back.

Note 17: “Europe & US: Self-Assertion in Alliance,” The Statesman (India), 11 November 1999.  Back.

Note 18: Rohatyn.  Back.

Note 19: Javier Solana, “Growing the Alliance,” The Economist, 13 March 1999, p. 23.  Back.

Note 20: Joseph Fitchett, “Kosovo Spur to Military Role for EU,” International Herald Tribune, 30 Apr 99, p. 5.  Back.

Note 21: Peter W. Rodman “Testimony Before the House Committee on International Relations,” Federal News Service, 10 November 1999.  Back.

Note 22: Robert E. Hunter, “Testimony Before the House Committee on International Relations,” Federal News Service, 10 Nov 1999.  Back.

Note 23: NATO Press Release (NAC-S(99)66, “Membership Action Plan,” 24 April 99,  Back.

Note 24: Jeffrey E. Simon, remarks in lecture to “European Regional Strategic Appraisal,” United States Army War College, 3 March 2000.  Back.

Note 25: John E. Rielly, “Lessons of Kosovo,” The Financial Times, 25 March 99, p. 18.  Back.

Note 26: Ibid.  Back.

Note 27: The Economist, “A Power in the World: Alone or As One of 15?” 6 Nov 99.  Back.

Note 28: The Evening Standard, “Cracks Start to Show in NATO’s United Front,” 21 Apr 99, p. 8.  Back.

Note 29: Jiri Sedivy, “The Kosovo Test: Are the Czechs Out?” Newsbrief, vol. 19, no. 6 (London: Royal United Services Institute, June 1999).  Back.

Note 30: Martin Walker, “EU Members’ Views Differ on NATO Action,” Delegation of the Commission of the European Community 1999, no. 385, April 1999, p. S2-S3.  Back.

Note 31: Peter W. Rodman, “The Fallout from Kosovo,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 78, no. 4 (July/August 1999), p. 51.  Back.

Note 32: Javier Solana. Speech on 21 June 1999 to the 16 th International NATO Workshop in Vienna; Solana, too, was an opponent to the War in Vietnam and to Spain’s admission to NATO in the early 1980s.  Back.

Note 33: Elizabeth Pond, “Kosovo: Catalyst for Europe,” The Washington Quarterly, vol. 22, no. 4 (Autumn 1999), p. 77.  Back.

Note 34: US Newswire, “Cato Institute Study Warns Clinton Foreign Policy Doctrine Creates Slippery Slope,” 20 December 1999.  Back.

Note 35: Jonathan Marcus, “Kosovo and After: American Primacy in the Twenty-First Century,” The Washington Quarterly, vol. 23, no. 1 (Winter 2000), p. 79.  Back.

Note 36: James Kitfield, “Not So Sacred Borders,” The National Journal, PBS Online, Frontline, War in Europe;  Back.

Note 37: Ibid.  Back.

Note 38: Philip Shenon, “War Crimes Suspects Seen As Living Openly in Bosnia,” The New York Times, 13 Dec 99, p. A15.  Back.

Note 39: Steven Erlanger, “NATO General Hopes GIs Will Return to Kosovo Town,” The New York Times, 28 Feb 00, p. 3.  Back.

Note 40: Quoted in John-Thor Dahlburg, “Crisis in Yugoslavia: Battle For Kosovo Shows Europe Still Needs US,” The Los Angeles Times, 20 Apr 99, p. 1.  Back.

Note 41: The Financial Times, “Dark Continent: The War in Kosovo has Awoken the European Demons of Nationalism, Fascism, and Racial and Religious Conflict,” 23 Apr 99, p. 20.  Back.

Note 42: Jeffrey Gedmin, “A Yawning gap on defense: We should care about Europe's weapons,” The Washington Times, 8 Dec 99, p. A15.  Back.

Note 43: Iain Duncan Smith, MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, “Testimony Before House Committee on International Relations,” 10 Nov 99.  Back.

Note 44: The Petersberg tasks are named after a town located near Bonn where in 1992 the WEU Council of Ministers adopted a declaration stating that humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping, crisis management and peacemaking tasks could be pursued through the WEU.  Back.

Note 45: Rielly, “Crisis in Yugoslavia,”  Back.

Note 46: Simon Serfaty, “Testimony Before the House Committee on International Relations,” Federal News Service, 10 Nov 99.  Back.

Note 47: Rodman Testimony, 10 Nov 99.  Back.

Note 48: Rohatyn speech, National Press Club, 25 Oct 99.  Back.

Note 49: David Buchan, “Forward March for Europe,” The Financial Times, 25 Nov 99, p. 23.  Back.

Note 50: Craig R. Whitney, “Military Posture of Europe to Turn More Independent,” The New York Times, 13 Dec 99, p. A1.  Back.

Note 51: M2 Presswire, “NATO Ministerial meeting of North Atlantic Council held at NATO Headquarters, Brussels, on 15 December,” 16 December 1999.  Back.

Note 52: Buchan, 25 Nov 99.  Back.

Note 53: Interview with senior US officer familiar with the proceedings, US Army War College, February 2000.  Back.

Note 54: Dahlburg, 20 Apr 99.  Back.

Note 55: Smith testimony, 10 Nov 99.  Back.

Note 56: Heisbourg in Dahlburg.  Back.

Note 57: John Deutch, Arnold Kanter, and Brent Scowcroft, “Saving NATO's Foundation,” Foreign Affairs, November 1999, p. 54.  Back.

Note 58: Ibid.  Back.

Note 59: Rodman testimony, 10 Nov 99.  Back.