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Pax NATO: The Opportunities of Enlargement

Authored by LTC Raymond A. Millen. | August 2002

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Summary

In addition to choosing new members, the NATO summit in Prague, to be held November 20-22, 2002, should strive to resolve two burning issues?the continued relevance of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Alliance?s future orientation. If managed well, the summit could lay the foundation of European security and stability for the next century.

NATO has made and continues to make a profound contribution to European security and stability. Unlike all other security organizations, NATO has evolved as the strategic environment changed during the post-Cold War period and is well-positioned to resolve near term challenges. The Partnership for Peace (PfP), the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF), and NATO Enlargement initiatives reflect a dynamic and vibrant organization. Given its military component, NATO matches enforcement with words, something the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Western European Union (WEU), and the much vaunted European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) cannot.

The variegated Balkan conflicts exposed the inherent weaknesses of attempting to resolve conflicts with diplomacy but without the enforcement mechanism of a military arm. In each case, NATO broke the cycle of violence in a matter of weeks and set the conditions for peace. One fact has emerged that no others can lay claim to?NATO produces results.

Critics are quick to point out that NATO?s relevance must be tied irrevocably to an imminent threat: no threat, no NATO. This simplistic approach to security presupposes that threats will never arise again, or if they do, sufficient time will exist for a coalition to form. Historically,aggressors are not so accommodating. NATO acts as a hedge against future threats. Moreover, instability along Europe?s border represents an insidious threat with an influx of refugees burdening the economies as well as criminal and terrorist organizations stressing the law enforcement and legal systems.

NATO enlargement and the membership action plan (MAP) enhance security and stability beyond expectations. Assured security provided by collective defense is responsible for creating the current conditions of stability in Central and Eastern Europe. Enlargement with its intrinsic transparency replaces the antiquated balance of power system that had destabilized Europe for centuries. NATO membership is a milestone process that permits candidates to institute reforms gradually through participation in OSCE, PfP, EAPC, and finally MAP. Participating in PfP exercises and peacekeeping operations reinforces the process. Selection for MAP is no guarantee for NATO membership, but participation pays big dividends and contributes to stability.

Since their induction into NATO, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have been making a positive contribution. In many areas, they are exceeding veteran members? contributions, and their inclusion has resulted in greater budgetary burdensharing. Unfortunately, their military contribution will lag until reforms and modernization take root.

The current MAP participants?Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Rumania, Slovakia, and Slovenia?are in various stages of progress towards membership. Slovakia and Slovenia have the greatest chance of membership since they have made the greatest progress, and their geographical position enhances NATO?s tactical position. The prospects for the three Baltic states are also favorable because they have made significant progress, and membership paradoxically would end the friction between them and Russia. Their geographiclocation detracts from NATO?s defensive disposition and may require a greater naval presence in the Baltic Sea if a crisis erupts. Bulgaria and Rumania?s chances more likely depend on their geographical location than any other factor. Although making progress, both need to continue with reforms before they are completely ready for membership. Nevertheless, they do provide a land bridge to Turkey and by extension the Middle East. Since the European NATO members rely heavily on road and rail for power projection, this land bridge may become crucial for potential crisis management operations in the Middle East. Albania and Macedonia are not ready in any capacity for NATO membership and are unlikely to become members in the near term.

NATO needs to institute several substantial organizational reforms that can harness the military potential of new (and old) members and transform the Alliance into a proficient expeditionary force.

The Alliance should rely on the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) as its high readiness force, composed of 10 integrated multinational divisions (IMD). The IMD comprises a host nation headquarters with member states contributing designated units according to their relative size and wealth.Integration is achieved by stationing allied units together, permitting the various allies to train and operate as a coherent whole. New members have the opportunity to buy or lease western equipment for the contributed units thereby allowing them to reduce domestic military expenditures. Common stationing also results in language immersion for soldiers and their families as well as exposing them to western culture and values. NATO members have the option of converting other divisions outside of the ARRC as well, but the ARRC must comprise IMDs. As a result, each member of the Alliance, from the smallest to the largest, can participate in NATO operations instead of allowing the few to shoulder the burden, and do so without sovereignty and command authority becoming issues.

Even though the ARRC has sufficient depth to counter all but the most dire threats, NATO must designate two other corps headquarters (e.g., European Corps [EUROCORP] and European Forces [EUROFOR]), fully staffed and with modern, redundant command, control, communications, and computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities to conduct sustained contingency missions. Each member also contributes combat support and combat service support units to form an area support group to provide the ARRC with a robust and sustainable logistical package. An integrated Special Operating Forces group would greatly enhance the shaping capabilities of NATO as well. Lastly, rotating the ARRC commander every 2 years permits each member country to experience the burden of command.

These reforms will allow members to lower the readiness of their other divisions as appropriate to the reduced threat. Behind the bulwark of the ARRC, member states can conduct timely partial or full mobilization as the strategic environment warrants.

With the reduced threat from the East, NATO can reorient its focus to the North African and Middle East regions to enhance their stability. In this regard, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Cyprus, and Malta gain greater importance and should be considered for MAP. Additionally, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland should receive open invitations to join the Alliance at their convenience because they will further strengthen the Alliance.

NATO enlargement and the structural reforms permit the U.S. Army to downsize its forces in Europe without downsizing its commitment to NATO. Although enlargement beyond Slovakia and Slovenia does result in geographical over-extension, the threat from the East is not there and the benefits outweigh the risks. The reforms permit greater interoperability between the United States and its Allies without exorbitant military expenditures. In some future conflict, the U.S. Army will be gratified that NATO made these decisions.

The following recommendations will strengthen NATO and ensure that it remains the preeminent security provider for Europe:

  • Offer NATO membership to Slovakia and Slovenia to extend access to Hungary and improve NATO?s defensive disposition.
  • Offer membership to the Baltic States to achieve closure with this troubled spot, and allow Russia and the Baltic States to move beyond a troubled past.
  • Offer membership to Romania and Bulgaria for NATO to improve access to the Middle East region.
  • Make a standing offer of membership to Austria, Finland, Ireland, Switzerland, and Sweden since they will strengthen the Alliance.
  • Offer the MAP to Croatia, Bosnia, Cyprus, Malta, and Serbia to enhance stability and security in the Balkans and permit greater access to the Mediterranean basin.
  • Convert the ARRC divisions into IMDs to assist in the assimilation of new members into the Alliance.
  • Designate the ARCC as NATO?s high readiness force, comprising 10 IMDs, an integrated area support group, and an integrated Special Forces Group.

No other security organization can compete with NATO. It is time for NATO to end the relevancy debate at the Prague summit and focus on more important manners. Enlargement will continue the wave of stability throughout Europe and beyond. The structural reforms will pay dividends beyondexpectations. As in the past, a bold vision from America will serve to energize Europe.

Introduction

Rarely has Europe enjoyed such security and stability in its history as it does today. In contrast to Europe?s mercurial past in which countries fielded dozens of active divisions, today the number of divisions per country can be counted on one hand. This unprecedented period of peace is a result of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and its foundation of collective defense.

Protecting Europe was no mean feat. Confronted by the powerful land and air forces of the Warsaw Pact, the NATO Alliance provided a suitable shield without exorbitant costs, permitting robust economic recovery and the maturation of strong, enduring democratic institutions. NATO was not just a military alliance, it was also an investment in Europe.

With the demise of the Soviet threat, the Alliance did not remain idle, resting on its laurels. Adhering to the ethos of adapt or die, NATO embraced a number of collective security initiatives designed to enhance European security and stability in the wake of significant military downsizing. As the only European multinational organization with military forces, NATO can exercise diplomacy backed by enforcement, making the Alliance the most versatile and effective security provider for Europe. Within this context, NATO enlargement represents an extension of NATO?s continuing security initiatives.

NATO enlargement dovetails with U.S. predominant strategic goals regarding Europe: to nurture European integration along democratic, prosperous, and peaceful means; and to assist ?allies and partners meet future challenges to collective interests that no nation can confront alone.?1 Enlargement is a natural extension of NATO?s coremission of collective defense.2 Continuing with the Clinton administration?s initiative, the Bush administration has made it clear that NATO enlargement is an important process for expanding security and freedom with no artificial lines ?eastward and southward, northward and onward.?3

When NATO convenes for the next round of enlargement at the Prague Summit on November 20-22, 2002, it will have three goals: (1) assess NATO?s capabilities to meet emerging threats, (2) extend membership to the new European democracies, and (3) reaffirm NATO?s relationships with Russia, Ukraine, and other Partners.4 During the remaining time leading to the summit, the Alliance needs to address and lay to rest the questions of NATO relevancy, the proposals of alternative organizations, and the critical views regarding enlargement.

This monograph assesses NATO?s continued relevance to Europe?s future security environment by evaluating:

  1. NATO?s unique contribution to European security and stability,
  2. the benefits of enlargement and the membership action plan,
  3. the contributions of the newest NATO members,
  4. the attributes of the second round candidates, and
  5. the need for organizational reforms to improve the integrated military structure. Lastly, this monograph will briefly discuss the future orientation of NATO and recommendations for future candidates.

Of all the organizations, NATO is the best positioned to provide assured European security and stability. Through NATO, North America and Europe can extend security and stability beyond the region without expending exorbitant costs and resources.

Conclusion

The NATO Alliance is the most robust, flexible, and proven security organization in Europe. OSCE may have greater membership, but it lacks the ability to enforce its declarations. WEU is the embodiment of obsolete coalition systems, lacking a standing command structure, logistical apparatus, and armed forces. NATO evolved successfully during the past decade to meet the challenges of the changing strategic environment. Its relevancy is no longer in question, and now is the time to institute new structural reforms. Alternative organizations are simply a waste of resources and funding. The wheel has already been invented.

NATO can improve its strategic position and cohesion by pursuing the following:

  • Offer NATO membership to Slovakia and Slovenia to extend access to Hungary and improve NATO?s defensive disposition.
  • Offer membership to the Baltic States to achieve closure with this troubled spot and allow Russia and the Baltic States to move beyond a troubled past.
  • Offer membership to Romania and Bulgaria for NATO to improve access to the Middle East region.
  • Make a standing offer of membership to Austria, Finland, Ireland, Switzerland, and Sweden since they will strengthen the Alliance.
  • Offer MAP to Croatia, Bosnia, Cyprus, Malta, and Serbia to enhance stability and security in the Balkans and permit greater access to theMediterranean basin.
  • Convert the ARRC divisions into IMDs to assist in the assimilation of new members into the Alliance.
  • Designate the ARCC as NATO?s high readiness force, comprising 10 IMDs, an integrated area support group, and an integrated Special Forces Group.

NATO cannot afford to rest on its laurels and transform the Alliance into a European country club. The Alliance provides hope to nonmembers and security for members. Under collective defense, NATO members have cast off the divisive and detrimental balance of power pursuits and focused on economic and political reform. Europe is a more stable, secure, and prosperous continent because of NATO. There is no good reason for this not to continue.

Endnotes

1. Stephen J. Blank, William T. Johnsen, and Thomas-Durell Young, European Security: Washington?s Shaping Strategy In Action, Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, March 2000, p. 3.

2. Department of State, The Enlargement of NATO: Why Adding Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to NATO Strengthens American National Security, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State, 1998, p. 13.

3. George W. Bush and Republicans About NATO, Internet, expand NATO. org, http://store.yahoo.net/expandnato/repsnato.html,June 15, remarks by the President in Address to Faculty and Students of Warsaw University, p. 2.

4. Prepared Statement of Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Department of State, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, May 1, 2002.