NATO'S 60th Birthday Party

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    NATO'S 60th Birthday PartyBernard E. BrownPublished online: 21 Oct 2008.

    To cite this article: Bernard E. Brown (2008) NATO'S 60th Birthday Party, American Foreign Policy Interests: The Journal of theNational Committee on American Foreign Policy, 30:5, 288-291

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  • NATOS 60th Birthday Party

    Bernard E. Brown

    AbstractThe site selected for marking NATOs 60th

    birthday party next year suggests the direction

    in which the organization has developed since

    the anniversary of its first half-century was

    celebrated in the U.S. capital 10 years ago.

    The developments that characterized the decade

    between both celebrations was marked by the

    attacks of 9=11; the menace of Islamic funda-

    mentalism; the decision to use force in Iraq,

    which precipitated the split between Europe

    and the United States; and the rise of the BRIC

    nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China)all

    expressions of a change in the balance of power.

    To determine how to deal with that change and

    define the relationship between the European

    Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) and NATO,

    Europeans and Americans are planning a ser-

    ies of meetings. This analysis concludes by

    recommending that they, like the next president

    of the United States, give priority to discussing

    the efficacy of establishing a mechanism to

    facilitate those meetings, which are crucial to

    strengthening the U.S.European relationship.

    NATO will be celebrating its 60th birth-

    day in April 2009 at a site fraught with

    symbolism: Strasbourg (France) and, just

    across the Rhine River, Kehl (Germany). What

    a contrast with the 50th birthday party in

    Washington, D.C.! In 1999 the members of

    NATO could congratulate themselves on having

    won the cold war. Europe was whole and free.

    Soviet armored divisions were no longer a short

    distance from Hamburg; the Evil Empire had

    collapsed; Germany was unified; the former

    Soviet satellites were independent and in the

    process of integrating into the West; Russia

    seemed to be in transition to democracy. The

    overriding question was whether NATO still

    had a function to perform or whether it was

    time to declare mission accomplished and

    close the store. With the Balkans on the way

    to stabilization, the European Union seemed

    to be capable of assuring its own security. So

    it was thought or hoped by many Europeans

    and Americans alike.

    The problems confronting NATO today are

    altogether different. In the interval came the

    terror attacks of 9=11, the menace of Islamic

    fundamentalism, and the decision to use force

    in Iraqresulting in a split within Europe

    and the United States and between them and

    the rise or resurgence of the BRIC nations

    (Brazil, Russia, India, and China)all expres-

    sions of a change in the balance of global power.

    Through a dangerous decade and shifts in poli-

    tical leadership, NATO has survived, although

    it has not flourished. Now NATO once again

    is a fulcrum for diplomacy. Two events in partic-

    ular dictate that the next nine months will be

    a period of intensive activity within NATO:

    France has assumed the presidency of the

    European Union for the period July through

    December 2008; and the United States will

    choose a new president in November. The

    French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is a man in

    a hurry; he is determined to bring simmering

    issues to a head and force critical decisions

    before his term as president of the EU Council

    expires. The American election in November

    will represent if not a rupture with the Bush

    administration, at the very least a new

    American Foreign Policy Interests, 30: 288291, 2008

    Copyright # 2008 NCAFPISSN: 1080-3920 print

    DOI: 10.1080/10803920802435302




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  • beginning. In 1999 holding the birthday party in

    Washington suggested a kind of tribute to the

    leading role played by the United States in

    containing the military might and global

    reach of the Soviet Union. In 2009 two founding

    members of the European Union will use the cel-

    ebration as an opportunity to seize the initiative

    and take a course that they trust will yield a

    more influential role for Europe within the alli-

    ance, in transatlantic relations generally, and as

    a global actor.

    Preliminary moves were made recently on

    both the European and American sides to clear

    the way for negotiations. Speaking on behalf of

    the EU, President Sarkozy laid out a basic prin-

    ciple for the renovation of EuroAmerican

    security relations: to strengthen both the

    European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP)

    and NATO simultaneously. The ESDP origi-

    nated in the St. Malo agreement in December

    1998 between Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac

    to create an autonomous European defense

    force to take action in cases in which the United

    States preferred not to be involved through

    NATO. Since then some 20 operations have

    been undertaken under the rubric of the ESDP,

    of which 5 involved the deployment of combat

    troops. Few Americans are aware that in the

    most recent military intervention, in Chad,

    although most troops involved are contributed

    by France, there are also contingents from

    Poland, Sweden, and Austria, all serving under

    the command of an Irish general. As Europe

    fleshes out the ESDP, promises Sarkozy, France

    will gradually reintegrate the military com-

    mand structures of NATO. Instead of rivalry

    between ESDP and NATO, there will be mutual

    reinforcementa win-win situation. A work-

    shop to be organized by French Foreign Minis-

    ter Bernard Kouchner is to make specific

    recommendation on how to mesh the separate

    ESDP and NATO mechanisms, particularly as

    regards responsibility for force planning. It is

    expected that personnel will be added to the

    ESDP staff to permit a lead European nation

    (depending on the geographic area involved) to

    take responsibility for coordinating military

    operations when NATO assets will not be used.

    On the American side a signal has been sent

    that the United States is in principle in favor

    of a strong ESDP on condition that it contrib-

    utes to the achievement of common European

    and American objectives. The American ambas-

    sador to NATO, Victoria Nuland, declared in

    February 2008 that Europe needs room within

    which to take independent military action,

    and the United States wants a Europe able

    and willing to act in defense of common alliance

    interests. An ESDP using only soft power, she

    warned, is not enough.

    Transforming those general principles into a

    EuroAmerican agreement will be a tough

    assignment. The central ambiguity of the 1998

    St. Malo declaration is yet to be eliminated.

    France inserted language emphasizing the need

    for an autonomous European defense force that

    would be free of American control, leading per-

    haps to a European power (puissance) rivaling

    that of the United States. Britain insisted on

    language affirming that a European defense

    force would strengthen NATO EuroAmerican

    bonds. Sarkozys offer to reintegrate NATO is

    conditional upon a redistribution of command

    posts that could enable Europeans to veto if

    not control actions by American forces within

    NATO. In dealing with specific issues, who gives

    and who takes will vary according to the

    national interests involved. To take some

    examples from the recent past, Europeans have

    complained that the U.S. refusal to agree to

    the Ottawa Protocol outlawing land mines, the

    Kyoto Convention on controlling carbon

    emissions, and the establishment of the Interna-

    tional Criminal Court constituted unilateral

    action. American negotiators reply that the

    Europeans seemed to be intent on presenting a

    take it or leave it package, using their voting

    advantage to promote their own national

    interests and refusing to offer concessions.

    Statements of good intentions are easy to

    make; engaging in genuine negotiations are

    far more difficult.

    NATOS 60th Birthday Party 289

    American Foreign Policy Interests




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  • The central problem in renovating the alli-

    ance remains the asymmetrical relationship

    between the two sides. The United States is a

    state; the European Union is not in the same

    sense. It is more a federation of nation-states

    that forms a largely integrated economy but

    within which the member states remain

    centers of power as regards defense and secur-

    ity policies. For many Germans the EU is a

    zone of peace and prosperity that exerts power

    through force of example and the promise of

    future membership or close association to

    nearby states. The EU, then, is not suited to

    be a new military power rivaling the United

    States. For many French the EU is a potential

    power that may even wrest leadership of the

    West from the United States. That point of

    view is likely to predominate in any workshop

    on EUNATO relations under the French

    presidency. For many Britons, it would be self-

    destructive to cut ties with the United States;

    Europe should be a more effective partner,

    not a rival. One reason for Sarkozys determina-

    tion to move fast is that the next presidency,

    beginning in January 2009, will be held by

    the Czech Republic, whose president is a Euro-

    skeptic. Many East and Central European

    states are not willing to give up national sover-

    eignty that they associate with democracy and

    prosperity. They also would be the first to suffer

    if the United States withdraws or is forced to

    withdraw from European security affairs.

    Negotiations between Americans and

    Europeans for the renovation of NATO will

    require diplomatic skills on both sides. The

    National Committee, along with other organiza-

    tions in civil society, will be following those nego-

    tiations closely. We believe that the following

    guiding principles should be kept in mind as

    both sides participate in the coming workshops,

    North Atlantic Council meetings, and summits.

    An increased role for the ESDPwithin NATO should be encour-

    aged. Many Europeans will more

    readily increase their defense

    contributions to NATO if they are

    coordinated through the ESDP,

    including force planning and

    unified commands. It is hard to

    conceive of any military action

    undertaken through the ESDP

    that would be in opposition to

    American interests.

    However, as some critics have putit, we should not let the ESDP do

    what the mighty Soviet Union

    could not do: bring down NATO.

    Too many veto points in the

    structure of NATO will prevent it

    from functioning at all. Decision

    making in NATO must remain

    sufficiently flexible to allow for

    speedy action and the use of

    overwhelming force.

    Much has been achieved by theEuropean Union, especially in

    creating an integrated economy,

    and much can be accomplished

    in security and defense policy

    by working through EU institu-

    tions. But it is an illusion to

    believe that 27 European nations

    can achieve consensus on contro-

    versial foreign policy and defense


    Suppose we assume that increasedregular dialogue between the

    United States and Europe on

    long-term political and diplomatic

    strategy will serve their common

    interests. Suppose further that

    some kind of umbrella structure

    should coordinate existing transat-

    lantic summits and economic com-

    mittees, the Brussels institutions,

    and NATO. What would such a

    structure look like? This urgent

    question should be discussed now

    in North American and European

    civil society.

    290 Bernard E. Brown

    American Foreign Policy Interests




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  • About the Author

    Bernard E. Brown is professor emeritus of poli-

    tical science at the CUNY Graduate School, the

    author or coauthor of more than a dozen books on

    comparative politics and political theory, and direc-

    tor of the Transatlantic Relations Project of the

    National Committee on American Foreign Policy.

    NATOS 60th Birthday Party 291

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