From the CIAO Atlas Map of Europe 

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CIAO DATE: 05/03

The New NATO Response Force: Challenges for and Reactions from Europe

Ronja Kempin

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute
November 2002

“The United States wants NATO to be important. We believe in the Alliance and want it to succeed. [...] If NATO does not have a force that is quick and agile, which can deploy in days or weeks instead of month or years, then it will not have much to offer the world in the 21th century.” 1

With these words US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld opened his speech at the informal North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) defense ministerial meeting in Warsaw on 24 September 2002. He went on putting forward a proposal to be discussed at the North Atlantic Council meeting in Prague, 21/22 November 2002. NATO’s Prague summit was originally thought as a platform to invite another round of seven new members 2 to join the Alliance and to discuss a new defense capabilities initiative. Now, it’s agenda has been broaden by another major topic: Rumsfelds proposal aims at setting up a NATO “Response Force” (NRF). A four pages report had already been transmitted to the European allies several days ahead of the Warsaw meeting, précising the Pentagon’s plans of the Response Forces structure and tasks.

What exactly will this NATO Response Force be? What will it look like and what will be its tasks? In order to be able to understand how the European NATO members reacted to this proposal, this papers first chapter is designated to give a descriptive picture of the Response Force.

What is the proposals main challenge? Does the NATO Response Force challenge the European Allies militarily enhancing the capabilities gap between the US and Europe? This paper argues that NATO Response Forces crucial challenge is a political one. In the following it will be claimed that NATO’s Response Force and EU’s European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) with it’s military component the European Rapid Reaction Force (ERRF) will &-; on the long run – be politically incompatible. The two are based on completely different concepts of security. If the European NATO member vote in favor of the NRF in Prague, ESDP’s future and Europe’s future as a political actor are more uncertain then ever before. “Who wins this battle will determine the shape of the future EU” Janet Bush rightly points out. 3

For this reason it matters to draw a careful look on Great-Britain’s, France’s and Germany’s reactions on Rumsfeld’s proposal in a second chapter. These three European core countries differ most in their views on NATO’s and ESDP’s military and political roles and functions. Will the Response Force be build up at the Prague summit? And what do their reactions teach us on the future of ESDP? Is there a chance that the three agree on a complementary view especially on ESDP?

The consequences of their reactions on both NATO Response Force’s and ESDP’s future will be discussed in this paper’s final chapter. Whereas the international scientific community in it’s majority foresees a transformation of NATO “from an essentially military organization to an essentially political one” 4 and stresses that “Washington is likely further to reduce its military presence in Europe” 5 , this paper claims that the opposite will happen. Howorth states that “[a]n Alliance with less US military involvement and with more involvement from former Warsaw Pact members will be a very different actor from the body founded in 1949 and even from thebody reinvented in April 1999.” 6 The enlargement will undoubtedly transform NATO, but proposing the building of a Response Force is the contrary of a lesser US military involvement. Even though NATO will transform, it will survive as a military Alliance. Giving the same statement on the military future of the EU is much more risqué as will be shown in the following.


Note 1: BBC News World Edition, 25.9.2002. Back

Note 2: At Prague summit Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Rumania and Bulgaria will be invited to join the Atlantic Alliance. Back

Note 3:, 20.11.2002. Back

Note 4: Foster, Wallace (2001-2002): 107. Back

Note 5: Howorth (2002): 3. Back

Note 6: Howorth (2002): 3. Back