The Importance of NATO as an Institution
In an early paragraph the Declaration states: NATO continues to be the essential transatlantic forum for security consultations among Allies. During the Cold War, and into the 1990s this was true. But NATO has been bypassed in some fairly important security discussions since then. For example, trans-Atlantic coordination on Iran's nuclear programme is a bilateral US-EU affair. Even though Iran presents a legitimate security concern for Turkey, a NATO member; and even though NATO as a whole is in a position to give the Iranian government the kind of security guarantees they require to negotiate with confidence; NATO is not involved. Twenty years ago that would have been inconceivable. After 9/11, although NATO invoked Article V, the US under President Bush was deeply reluctant to accept any assistance. Partly because the US did not need help, and partly because Bush did not want to have to work with the North Atlantic Council in making decisions on war or peace. Only later did he invite NATO into Afghanistan. Perhaps, under President Obama this can change. Or perhaps NATO is rebalancing, particularly with France reentering the integrated military command. Perhaps the US and the EU will do far more security cooperation in the future.
Deterrence, based on an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities, remains a core element of our overall strategy. This is a standard expression of the role of nuclear and conventional forces in Alliance policy, and suggests that the new Strategic Concept will not abandon nuclear deterrence. However, it may be significant to note the absence of the normal formulation (or some variant of it) that: Nuclear forces based in Europe and committed to NATO provide an essential political and military link between the European and the North American members of the Alliance. The Alliance will therefore maintain adequate nuclear forces in Europe. Will the new Concept give less salience to nuclear weapons? Will it allow for the withdrawal of the few remaining free fall bombs from Europe? It is interesting that the juxtaposition of nuclear deterrence with action on arms control in this statement mirrors the national policy expressed by the Obama administration in its joint statement with Russia. This may well allow NATO to downgrade and reduce nuclear forces, perhaps only relying on Trident, while negotiating away some potential external threats.
Enlargement is slow-tracked by this declaration. The Alliance maintains its open doors policy, but new members must: contribute to common security and stability. It is very hard to see how The Ukraine and Georgia could fulfil that criterion for the foreseeable future, although Macedonia would have an easier time if it can strike a deal with Greece over its name. The Bush policy of pushing NATO quickly to the southern border of Russia is gone.
The Declaration states that: We will improve our ability to meet the security challenges we face that impact directly on Alliance territory, emerge at strategic distance or closer to home. Allies must share risks and responsibilities equitably. It seems clear that power projection, as in Afghanistan or off Somalia will continue. It is equally clear, as President Obama has made abundantly obvious this weekend, that European NATO members will be expected to do their bit in any missions that NATO agrees to take on. This is the 21st Century version of the old burdensharing argument from the Cold War, and will probably never be completely resolved. However, it will be incumbent on Europe to do more, more efficiently, with the money it spends on defence.
In another change of tone from recent years, multilateral cooperation is given a prominent part in the Declaration: We aim to strengthen our cooperation with other international actors, including the United Nations, European Union, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and African Union...
NATO and the EU
France and the United States are together in their desire to see the EU play a greater role in European defence policy and practice. The Declaration reflects this.We are determined to ensure that the NATO-EU relationship is a truly functioning strategic partnership ... Can the EU step up into this role? Will the Conservative government that is likely to be elected in the UK go along? The UK is such a major defence player in the EU that its agreement will be essential. Tony Blair tried to move this way at the St Malo Summit with France in 1998, only to fail because France remained semi-detached from NATO. NATO-EU relations have been fraught with difficulty for years, but supporters of deeper European unity will be pleased to try to make this work, and Obama still has enough credit in Europe that it just may.
And finally, relations with Russia are deemed extremely important to European stability and security, as they should be. A strong, cooperative partnership between NATO and Russia, based on respect for all the principles of the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act and the 2002 Rome Declaration, best serves security in the Euro-Atlantic area. While difficult discussions over Georgia lay ahead, and undoubtedly there will be other areas where Russian and NATO interests do not align, this weekend has already been a positive restart. Obama has done enough in the short term to defuse Russian anger at the way NATO has pressured them (as they see it) over the years. Backing the good words with action will be harder, although new and deep cuts in nuclear weapons will help, as will the back-tracking on missile defence. A desire for true cooperation through the NATO-Russia Council will be vital.
There is enough of the 1999 Strategic Concept in this declaration that, if things go badly, nothing much will change. However, there is enough that is new and positive that, if things go well, NATO could be substantially reformed.
There are immense problems to be overcome. The Afghan mission is far from a guaranteed success. The scission in views of Russia between old and new NATO is very deep. The reluctance to even discuss the role of nuclear weapons in Alliance strategy has enormous inertia that makes change very hard. These are only some of the difficulties. But in Strasbourg President Obama proved adept at negotiating the shoals of the Alliance, and this will serve NATO well over the coming year or more of negotiating a new Strategic Concept.
Full Text of the Declaration on Alliance Security
Issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Strasbourg / Kehl on 4 April 2009
We, the Heads of State and Government of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, met today in Strasbourg and Kehl to celebrate the 60th anniversary of our Alliance. We have reaffirmed the values, objectives and obligations of the Washington Treaty which unite Europe with the United States and Canada, and have provided our transatlantic community with an unprecedented era of peace and stability. We have also reaffirmed our adherence to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
NATO continues to be the essential transatlantic forum for security consultations among Allies. Article 5 of the Washington Treaty and collective defence, based on the indivisibility of Allied security, are, and will remain, the cornerstone of our Alliance. Deterrence, based on an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities, remains a core element of our overall strategy. NATO will continue to play its part in reinforcing arms control and promoting nuclear and conventional disarmament in accordance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as well as non-proliferation efforts.
NATO’s enlargement has been an historic success in bringing us closer to our vision of a Europe whole and free. NATO’s door will remain open to all European democracies which share the values of our Alliance, which are willing and able to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership, and whose inclusion can contribute to common security and stability.
Today, our nations and the world are facing new, increasingly global threats, such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and cyber attacks. Other challenges such as energy security, climate change, as well as instability emanating from fragile and failed states, may also have a negative impact on Allied and international security. Our security is increasingly tied to that of other regions.
We will improve our ability to meet the security challenges we face that impact directly on Alliance territory, emerge at strategic distance or closer to home. Allies must share risks and responsibilities equitably. We must make our capabilities more flexible and deployable so we can respond quickly and effectively, wherever needed, as new crises emerge. We must also reform the NATO structures to create a leaner and more cost-effective organization. We will strengthen NATO’s capacity to play an important role in crisis management and conflict resolution where our interests are involved.
We aim to strengthen our cooperation with other international actors, including the United Nations, European Union, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and African Union, in order to improve our ability to deliver a comprehensive approach to meeting these new challenges, combining civilian and military capabilities more effectively. In our operations today in Afghanistan and the Western Balkans, our armed forces are working alongside many other nations and organisations. In Afghanistan, our key priority, we are committed to helping the Afghan Government and its people to build a democratic, secure and stable country that will never again harbour terrorists who threaten Afghan and international security.
NATO recognizes the importance of a stronger and more capable European defence and welcomes the European Union’s efforts to strengthen its capabilities and its capacity to address common security challenges. Non-EU Allies make a significant contribution to these efforts in which their fullest involvement possible is important, as agreed. We are determined to ensure that the NATO-EU relationship is a truly functioning strategic partnership as agreed by NATO and by the EU. Our efforts should be mutually reinforcing and complementary.
We will develop our relationships with all our partners, both in our neighbourhood and beyond, with whom we have a joint commitment to cooperative security. Our partners are key in enabling us to implement our vision of a community of shared values and responsibilities. We value the support that many of our partners bring to our operations and missions.
A strong, cooperative partnership between NATO and Russia, based on respect for all the principles of the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act and the 2002 Rome Declaration, best serves security in the Euro-Atlantic area. We stand ready to work with Russia to address the common challenges we face.
We are committed to renovating our Alliance to better address today’s threats and to anticipate tomorrow’s risks. United by this common vision of our future, we task the Secretary General to convene and lead a broad-based group of qualified experts, who in close consultation with all Allies will lay the ground for the Secretary General to develop a new Strategic Concept and submit proposals for its implementation for approval at our next summit. The Secretary General will keep the Council in permanent session involved throughout the process.