Subject: Analysis of the Prague Summit. The NATO Enlargement and its consequences.
Executive Summary: The Prague Summit was a success -in the sense that almost all summits are successes. They are generally well prepared, and all parties are anxious to demonstrate that their diplomacy has been effective. All that said, the meeting does not guarantee a long-term future for the Alliance, nor did it address the profound difficulties currently troubling the transatlantic relationship in its old form.
Analysis: The Prague Summit was a success, in the sense that almost all summits are successes. They are generally well prepared, and all parties are anxious to demonstrate that their diplomacy has been effective, and that the leaders have triumphed in their policies. That NATO's members affirmed the importance of the Alliance, and what was accomplished in Prague, is no surprise. Moreover, the invitations to seven prospective new members are really important and the consequent enlargement will be a helpful factor in consolidating European stability. For those invited, membership will be a most welcome badge and sign.
All that said, much that came out of the Summit about NATO, and particularly about its new missions and new capabilities, deserves close, not to say sceptical, scrutiny. The meeting does not guarantee a long-term future for the Alliance, nor did it address the profound difficulties currently troubling the transatlantic relationship in its old form.
The original purposes of NATO were clear; they were essentially to do with enabling weak and potentially unstable European states to resist Soviet aggression. Lord Ismay's classical formulation was that it was to keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down. Until the end of the Cold War, and the subsequent reunification of Germany, it did all those things effectively. (Keeping Germany down meant, in effect, reassuring its smaller and weaker neighbours that it would not be able to threaten them again. That factor was still present when Gorbachev agreed to reunification within NATO, rather than risking the re-nationalisation of its defence effort.) Western Europe became rich and stable and the EU grew up behind NATO's shield; so long as the Soviet Union existed, the USA's security depended directly upon the security of Europe. The world, however, is now very different. The Soviet Union is gone; US security is much less centred on Europe; the Europeans (with the possible exception of Turkey, most of whose territory, in any case, lies outside Europe) face no classic external threat of any significance; a new democratic Germany is now embedded in the EU. Indeed, so great has been the revolution of affairs that one might almost invert Ismay's formulation. The need now is to bind Russia into wider European structures; to help with US disengagement; and to encourage Germany to grow out of its unmilitary and over-pacifist approach to security.
The North Atlantic Alliance has always had both military and political functions; it still does, even though these have changed greatly. Even, or perhaps especially, if NATO is to die, some of those functions will still need to be conserved. The important thing is to be clear which, and why. The Prague Summit has not helped much with that.
Its communiqué refers to the 1999 Strategic Concept, the product of another Summit, and, like most such documents, embracing almost every conceivable function and possible opinion. That it is still possible to find in it a wide range of functions is no surprise. What is not easily discerned is what NATO is really about. Part of the problem, of course, is that it is important to different countries for very different things, but not all those things can easily be openly said. For example, nowadays NATO is important to the USA for maintaining its influence over European foreign and security policies; to some small European states its importance is in limiting the influence of the larger ones; to potential new members from Eastern Europe, it may still be for an assurance of territorial defence. Such a diversity of interests makes it difficult to agree openly in any focussed way on what NATO should be about.
Political Role: Inclusiveness
Nevertheless, opening up to the former Soviet and Warsaw Pact states is clearly important, for them and for European stability. Helping to inculcate in those newly developing societies principles of democracy and the rule of law is a beneficial outcome, even if NATO's role in that is largely indirect, by insisting on the need for progress as a condition of being invited in. Providing a serious forum where Russia can discuss European and wider security issues on equal terms is also highly desirable, and progress appears to have been made on that in 2002. There is thus a useful body of political work for NATO, though it must be stressed that NATO itself does not take the policy and political decisions. Those are for member states.
On the military side, NATO has two important functions: developing and applying common procedures and doctrines so that its members can operate together in demanding operations; and providing certain assets that the European members cannot provide themselves, essentially Headquarters and some communication functions. It also serves as a forum where greater seriousness in defence can be urged.
In the Cold War, planning for territorial defence was the prime military function and even after the Cold War there was a tendency to continue to refer to this as the bedrock of the Alliance. It is no longer so, mainly because neither the US, nor most of the European allies, perceive an external threat against which to plan. Moreover the treaty article concerned with territorial defence, Article 5 of the Washington treaty, was given effect not by its wording, which is very permissive, but by deployments of (especially US) troops and nuclear weapons forward close to the threatening Soviet forces. Whatever changes in membership may occur, there will be no such forward deployments in the foreseeable future, and hence, Article 5 has lost much of its force. There is a commitment to do whatever each state thinks appropriate in the case of an attack on an Alliance member; that may be much or little.
More generally, Kosovo may be the Alliance's first and last shooting war. The US feels great resistance to being constrained by allies in the conduct of operations. Many European members feel very differently from the US about the role and use of military force. Whereas in the Cold War the assumption was that the Alliance would fight as one, the prudent current assumption is that its members, perhaps with others, will make ad hoc coalitions depending on circumstances. To enable such coalitions to operate effectively NATO's force planning procedure and its operational procedures will be important, most of all for the Europeans. The US is so increasing its defence budget, and so far advancing its weapons systems and doctrines, that it may not easily be able to operate with others, and militarily, may prefer not to do so. Politically, it may sometimes wish to have allies, and certainly if the Europeans are to operate with any degree of seriousness away from their home continent, they will need in the immediate future to be able to operate with the US. Enabling that to happen will be NATO's most important military function in the next few years.
The Prague Decisions
The Europeans need to improve significantly their military capabilities, whether for national, EU, ad hoc coalition, or NATO operations. The reference in the Prague Capabilities Commitment to firm specific commitments to improvements in key areas is most welcome. However, it follows similar efforts with the Defence Capabilities Initiative at the 1999 Washington Summit, with the various European efforts in connection with the Headline Goal, endorsed at successive EU summits, but there is still no general sign of the Europeans spending significantly more, or spending more effectively. The same is true of the agreement to create a technologically advance, flexible, deployable, sustainable and interoperable Response Force. This is what modern conditions require, and on a rather larger scale than the 20,000 men strength now envisaged. In short, these Prague decisions are useful, desirable, but hardly make for significant new capabilities. If fully and effectively implemented, and that must remain a major question at this stage, they will carry NATO members a little way down the necessary path to military effectiveness.
The same is true of the proposed reform of NATO's over-heavy and complicated Headquarter structures. Reform is needed if they are to be suited for the conditions of the 21st century rather than the Cold War. The proposed structure is sensible, with one operational HQ, and one, in the US, to liase with the US on doctrinal development, etc. However, the history of past HQ reorganisations indicates that reform may not, in practice, be either speedy or radical. The CJTF concept, for example, has yet to be properly implemented, and a range of national interests will probably keep far too many subordinate HQs in being.
The Prague Summit Declaration asserts that the members have approved a comprehensive package of measures to meet current security challenges. That was put in the context of the attacks of September 11th 2001, and NATO's subsequent invocation of Article 5. The Summit also endorsed a military concept for defence against terrorism, though this has not been published. Nevertheless, despite what was said after 11th September, NATO has little role or capability to address terrorism combating, which is largely a matter of police, intelligence and judicial cooperation, with very small elements of military participation, largely of a sort for which NATO plans and structures are ill-adapted.
Improving Civil Emergency Planning to enhance preparedness against chemical, biological or radiological attacks is desirable, as is strengthening capabilities to defend against cyber attacks. However, the extent to which NATO structures will be able to integrate with national police and emergency services in the case of a terrorist attack seems still doubtful. Likewise, the endorsement of five initiatives for dealing with WMD attack is useful and may lead to some modest improvements but this is the Alliance that, for forty years, faced a USSR heavily armed with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. There have, no doubt, been technical advances since 1990, but if significant preparations were not put in hand against such earlier massive WMD threat, then it may be doubted whether very great changes will now be made.
Under great US pressure, NATO has already extensively studied ballistic missile defence in recent years. Americans believe strongly in the virtues, indeed necessity, for such defence in some form. Most Europeans are much more doubtful, not least given the great costs and uncertain effectiveness. NATO's returning to this issue indicates only the usual sort of Summit compromise on wording.
The pressing military need in present circumstances is for the ability to conduct expeditionary warfare. The Americans have that, most European states do not (France and the UK are the partial exceptions. They have the will and sufficient capabilities for modest interventions). NATO has an important role in enabling coalitions of the willing to be put together; its force planning, common procedures and Headquarters would enable Europeans to do what they could not otherwise attempt. However, the US is pulling ahead in its military developments and transatlantic interoperability will be very difficult to maintain. Certainly the US will not hold themselves back to NATO standards, any more than they will accept Alliance control over the pursuit of what they see as the necessary pursuit of their interests. Meanwhile, despite the pressures for Europeans not to develop their own major international HQs, but to use NATO's, they are being driven to that by the persistent squabbles over their rights of access to NATO assets. So long as there is a real possibility that a Greek-Turkish quarrel over unrelated issues could deny them those assets, or the US might deny them for its own political reasons, the Europeans will, understandably, feel that they must develop their own. Prague has done nothing to assuage such concerns.
Until the end of the Cold War, NATO was the visible expression of the wider transatlantic relationship. That relationship has now altered fundamentally, though many would seek to conceal the fact. NATO can no longer be the sole, or even the main, expression of the current relationship. The deepening European sense of identity; the very increase in NATO membership; the increasing unilateralism of the US and its wish to avoid external constraints, all mean that NATO has to change. Change has been proclaimed since 1991, and reiterated in Prague. However, what are said to be new missions and new capabilities are really nothing of the sort; none of NATO's significant current missions is really new.
Certainly Europeans need to become more effective militarily, but that is hardly a new thought; they should have long ago developed effective deployable forces. The Alliance is not the instrument to address terrorism. Political dialogue goes back to at least the Harmel Report of 1967; in present circumstances, enlargement is much to be welcomed, it is a useful, if not fundamentally, important matter for wider European security, and the Prague decision on that cannot be faulted. Beyond that the great question, not addressed, is -What is NATO for?
Conclusions: In principle, it might be to enable the Europeans and the US to collaborate militarily worldwide. In practice, neither side sees likely to be able to accept that on a grand scale. So its role will be to help the Europeans to put together working coalitions, which might, or might not, have an EU flag on them, and to facilitate so long as it can, which may not be very long, US and Europeans collaborating in coalition warfare. However, not until the Europeans are much more effective militarily will that be any thing like a true partnership; it will rather be allowing the Europeans to fill niches in US directed operations. In short, NATO, to the extent that it is transatlantic, is about global security; to the extent that it is about European security, it is a tool for Europeans, which will demand much more say over the instrument for which they pay. This is, of course, what Prague did not say in addressing new missions and new capabilities. In short, Prague did come up with some moderately useful things for the Alliance to do, but they will not have a decisive impact on the major security concerns of its members.