Ten west European countries joined with the United States and Canada to form NATO in 1949 as a military alliance intended to provide collective defense in the event of an attack by the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, NATO was countered by a similar alliance among the communist countries of Eastern Europe, which joined with the Soviet Union to form the Warsaw Pact. With the collapse of communist governments in the Soviet bloc between 1989 and 1991 and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, however, observers questioned NATO's mission in a post-Cold War world.
In the early 1990s NATO asserted that its collective defense mission remained relevant despite the fall of its major adversary. Reiterating its commitment to European security, NATO announced plans to expand its membership into the former communist countries of eastern Europe.
Russia viewed NATO expansion as a threat to its territorial integrity and security. Despite ongoing attempts at dialogue between NATO and Russia, the 1990s were characterized by poor relations, sparked mainly by NATO's insistence on expansion into the former Soviet bloc. Relations reached their lowest point in 1999 and 2000 over the conflict in Kosovo.
The terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 opened a new chapter in the history of NATO and its relations with Russia. Despite Europe's invocation of NATO's collective defense clause for the first time, the United States rejected military aid from its allies in a move that will likely have significant repercussions for the alliance in the future.
Russia also pledged unconditional support for the United States' war against terrorism, toning down its objections to NATO expansion for the time being. Although further expansion into eastern Europe is still planned, the terrorist attacks have altered the global climate to the extent that NATO-Russia quarrels no longer take center stage for either side.
Britain's Lord Ismay, the first secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), famously said that the purpose of the alliance was "to keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down." The quotation speaks to the perceived need in post-World War II Europe to prevent an American return to isolationism, to pursue an anti-communist domestic agenda, and to ensure that Germany not achieve hegemonic power in Europe again.
Lord Ismay's assessment may have been overly simplistic in many ways, but it certainly struck a chord in succinctly identifying NATO's mission. Today, 53 years after NATO's formation, and 11 years after the fall of its main adversary, the Soviet Union, Lord Ismay's words seem dated. Yet they continue to represent three poles that remain crucial to NATO's mandate: the leading role of the United States, the significance of Russia's voice, and the importance of maintaining stability and security in Europe.
The history of NATO since its formation in 1949 is a turbulent one, marked by internal power struggles, most notably involving France, and heated debates over the addition of new members, which took place in 1952, 1955, 1982, and 1999. The 1990s were a particularly difficult decade for NATO. With the collapse of communist power in eastern Europe in 1989, and then in the Soviet Union in 1991, NATO in the 1990s was forced to reevaluate its mission for a post-Cold War world. Chief among its concerns has been the place of post-Soviet Russia in the NATO mindset. Would Russia continue in the Soviet Union's role as foe, become a democratic friend, or settle somewhere in between?
In the 1990s the ever-changing domestic situation in Russia precluded any easy answers about its role in the post-Cold War global power structure, and one of the most difficult paths to negotiate has been its relationship with NATO. In particular, Russia has raised repeated objections in the past decade to NATO's efforts to expand its membership into the former communist countries of eastern Europe. NATO argues that including these countries in the alliance will help ensure the security of the European continent; Russia insists that the presence of NATO member states on its borders threatens its territorial integrity and security.
The debate between the two sides has been ongoing for a decade, marked by highs--such as the 1997 Founding Act that established a Russian voice in NATO affairs--and lows--such as NATO's 1999 air campaign against Yugoslavian forces in Kosovo, which Russia bitterly opposed. The alliance's first post-Cold War expansion, which saw the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland become members in 1999, was also met with trepidation by Russia, and the debate over a second wave of expansion, expected in late 2002, continues.
Both sides, however, have been affected by other global security concerns. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, for example, marked a significant change both in NATO's world outlook and in Russia's position on the alliance's expansionist goals. The two sides will likely continue to quarrel, with each looking out for its own security concerns. In a new global climate that affords them the opportunity to work together against the common enemy of rogue terrorism, North America, Europe, and Russia may yet find a way to use NATO's framework to pursue common security goals.
History of NATO, 1949-89--Origins
NATO resulted from a range of European and U.S. concerns that plagued the post-World War II era. In 1947 the United States initiated a recovery system known as the Marshall Plan, named after Secretary of State George C. Marshall, which offered technical and financial assistance to rebuild the economies of west European countries from the devastation of the war. In addition to economic problems, Europe also faced a major refugee crisis and political instability from domestic communist parties eager to take advantage of postwar vulnerability in order to stage revolutions--as occurred successfully in Czechoslovakia in 1948. To this end, it became apparent that Europe also required military aid, not only because of the threat of political coup d'états, but also because of deteriorating relations with the Soviet Union.
Following the end of the war in 1945, the Soviet Union quickly re-annexed the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which had declared their independence during the war. The Soviet Union then sponsored communist governments in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania, expanding its sphere of influence and creating a buffer zone between itself and Western Europe and drawing Western fears of a new threat to Europe-communism and the Soviet Union. In addition, the Soviet Union entered a clash with the West over the occupation of Germany.
Tensions were high on both sides in June 1948. After the United States and Britain merged their occupation zones, Soviet leader Josef Stalin (1879-1953) closed all roads to Berlin located within the Soviet occupation zone. The Soviet blockade of the city meant that the Western countries were cut off from their troops in Berlin. To overcome the blockade, the United States initiated a campaign to airlift supplies to Western troops in the city. The blockade continued for almost a year, until May 1949, and provided a major impetus for the formation of a defensive alliance among Western countries that could counter the Soviet security threat that the Berlin Blockade had revealed.
In 1948 the first seeds of NATO were sown with the Brussels Treaty, in which Belgium, Britain, France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands pledged an economic, cultural, and military alliance. Most significant was the military component of the agreement, in which the five signatories committed to collective defense should any one of them face attack. With the East European rejection of Marshall Plan assistance, however, plus the formation of the Cominform (Communist Information Bureau) to coordinate communist parties across Europe, including those in France and Italy, Western Europe began to feel that it needed further military aid from beyond the continent. The Berlin Blockade confirmed this, as the United States took charge of the airlift to the city's Western occupation zones.
Even as the Brussels Treaty took effect, Western Europe began negotiations with the United States and Canada for a collective defense agreement that would provide North American military assistance in the event of an attack on Western Europe. (The agreement also worked in the opposite direction, of course, as we shall see with the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. In 1948 and 1949, however, the major concern was for a Soviet attack on Western Europe.)
After months of negotiations, 12 countries signed the North Atlantic Treaty on April 4, 1949, in Washington, DC. The signatories were Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United States. The rather short text of the treaty itself consists of only 14 articles. Article Five is often cited as the most significant, as it encapsulates the treaty's purpose. It binds all signatories to a collective defense agreement, in which an attack on any one of them is regarded as an attack on all, and would be met with the full military strength of each member country. For Western Europe in 1949, this meant that it could rely on U.S. military support in the event of an attack, a provision greatly welcomed by the war-weakened European countries.
All those involved, especially the United States, hoped that binding European countries together in an alliance would help prevent a return to the cycle of wars that had plagued Europe for centuries. This rationale revealed the United States' motives in signing the treaty: it had been drawn into a European war twice already in the first half of the twentieth century, and it wanted to prevent a third war. Further, the United States saw the treaty as a strategy for containing Soviet expansionism, which had already swallowed much of Eastern Europe and threatened to absorb Greece and Turkey as well. The treaty suited the interests of all its signatories, on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Early Cold War and the First Wave of NATO Expansion
Despite the tensions of the Berlin Blockade and Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe, NATO's signatories did not expect an imminent Soviet attack when they signed the treaty in April 1949. They simply wanted the security shield in place so that they could continue with their economic reconstruction work. Later that year, however, the mood changed drastically. In September 1949 the Soviet Union successfully tested its first atomic bomb, startling U.S. and European observers who doubted the Soviet Union's atomic capabilities.
Suddenly, the American monopoly on nuclear weapons, achieved during WWII, was over, and the global climate immediately chilled. A conflict between the Soviet Union and the West now threatened to include the use of nuclear weapons, elevating NATO's commitment to the mutual defense of its members. In June 1950 the perceived threat of communist attack deepened when the northern half of Korea invaded its southern half. The West believed that the Soviet Union firmly backed the invasion (although the situation turned out to be much more complicated), and it became increasingly feasible to the West that it could soon face a Soviet attack.
In an attempt to broaden its security against possible Soviet aggression, NATO, in February 1952, expanded its membership for the first time, admitting Greece and Turkey as the thirteenth and fourteenth members of the alliance. These two countries had caused concern among West European countries, as well as the United States, since the end of World War II, as they remained politically unstable and prone to revolutionary activity. In 1947 President Harry Truman (1945-53) had issued his now famous Truman Doctrine, which pledged U.S. support for all democratic countries resisting communist takeover, with Greece and Turkey in mind. By including these two countries in NATO, the alliance hoped to solidify its commitment to democracy and offset its members' vulnerability to communist or authoritarian influences.
In May 1955 NATO expansion encountered its first controversy when West Germany became a member of the alliance. In the aftermath of the Berlin Blockade in 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany was created out of the Western occupation zones; the Soviet Union countered by creating the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) out of its occupation zone in the east. Those in favor of including West Germany in NATO, including the United States, argued that German isolation as a pariah state following World War I had contributed to the rise of Adolf Hitler. By that logic, supporters argued that the best way to rehabilitate Germany and prevent another German-led war in Europe was to integrate it into a Europe-wide power structure, where it could work cooperatively with its neighbors, rather than antagonistically against them.
Opponents of NATO membership for West Germany, particularly France, argued that German integration into Europe may well be desirable in the political and economic realms, but that offering it membership in a military alliance remained dangerous. France remembered all too clearly the threat that a militarized Germany had posed twice already in the century. After heated negotiations, West Germany was admitted to NATO in 1955 under a complicated agreement that forbade the manufacture of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons on its soil.
Internal Dissent: France
A challenge NATO faced throughout the Cold War, and continues to struggle with since 1989, involves keeping each member happy. The debate over West Germany's admission to the alliance was one example of the difficulties inherent in obtaining unanimity from over a dozen countries with diverse interests. The case of France best exemplifies this problem, through its historically fraught relationship with NATO. France faced a multitude of problems following World War II, which taken together precipitated great anxieties over its national identity and its role in the postwar global order. Humiliated by its quick defeat and occupation during World War II, France remained not only fearful of a resurgent West Germany in the immediate postwar years, but also somewhat envious of Britain, which had earned great acclaim for its conduct during the war. Moreover, France in the 1950s saw its Asian and African colonies fight for independence, which France vehemently resisted.
Under the leadership of the charismatic and nationalistic Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) from 1958 to 1969, France embarked on a path to redeem West European independence from what it viewed as American hegemony. De Gaulle distrusted the United States' commitment to risk its own destruction to save Europe from a Soviet attack, and after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, he saw that the United States was prepared to act unilaterally, without consulting its allies, in the event of a direct security threat.
As a result of these factors, de Gaulle withdrew France from NATO's integrated military command in 1966 and expelled all NATO troops from the country. Frustrated with NATO's integrated military structure, de Gaulle felt that France had too little control of its own troops, and minimal power to influence NATO decisions. It feared being drawn into a conflict with the Soviet Union on the basis of U.S. strategic decisions and sought to reclaim the sovereignty it felt it gave up by participating in the integrated command. It would not rejoin NATO's military structure until 1995.
France remained a member of the alliance during this time; de Gaulle's action affected only France's integration into NATO's military command. Nevertheless, the conflict exposed weaknesses within the alliance, which did not go unnoticed by the Soviet bloc. The Soviet press, for example, delighted in lampooning the French-American rift within NATO. It used the affair as an opportunity to reaffirm the historic Russian fondness for all things French, and to portray France as a potential Soviet ally against the United States.
NATO and the Soviet Bloc
While Western Europe and the United States were busy in the late 1940s negotiating a way to defend themselves against a potential Soviet attack, the Soviet Union was equally fearful that the West planned to strike before the Soviet army could recover from its devastating losses in World War II. With the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, it appeared to the Soviet Union that the Western allies were preparing to wage war. The expansion of the alliance to include West Germany in 1955 proved to be too much for the Soviet leadership.
Less than a month after West Germany formally joined NATO, seven East European countries signed the Warsaw Treaty Organization, commonly known as the Warsaw Pact, with the Soviet Union. Unlike NATO, the Warsaw Pact never expanded its membership during its 36-year existence, always consisting of its founding members: Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union. Its mission, however, was virtually identical to NATO's. In the event of an attack on one or more of the Warsaw Pact countries, the others pledged to consider it an attack on all and to respond using the integrated resources of the treaty members. Cold War politics and diplomacy were thus supported on both sides by a military alliance charged with ensuring the security of each region.
The era of détènte that emerged in the late 1960s and led to a relative relaxation of tensions between the two sides was based on the "military détènte" that contributed to arms reduction talks in the early 1970s. The resulting treaties in 1972 (Strategic Arms Limitation Agreement, or SALT I), and 1977 (SALT II) had significant military implications for NATO and its counterpart, the Warsaw Pact, as their mandates were defined foremost in military terms. In 1987 U.S. president Ronald Reagan (1981-89) and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev furthered arms reduction with the Washington INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty, which eliminated intermediate-range missiles in Europe. By 1989 one might argue that NATO was in need of the shake-up it was about to receive, as its original mission was already becoming obsolete.
Recent History Since 1989: The Collapse of Communist Power
Germany, already the instigator of two monumental twentieth-century calamities, again found itself at the center of world events in 1989. Soviet reforms under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, notably the policies of perestroika (a restructuring of the Soviet economic system) and glasnost (a more open government policy allowing criticism) helped pave the way for an easing of tensions between Eastern and Western Europe. Gorbachev also changed his policies toward Eastern bloc nations, lessening Soviet influence and allowing them to take more control of their own affairs.
In East Germany, as in several other Eastern bloc nations, this resulted in public, antigovernment demonstrations and calls for reform and greater freedom. The East German leader, Erich Honecker, and several other East German officials were forced to resign. The new leader, Hans Modrow, instituted reforms to decentralize the economy and lessened travel restrictions between East and West Germany. By opening its border with West Germany, East Germany unwittingly set off a chain reaction that unloosed the political, economic, and social tensions that had been building in Eastern Europe.
The Berlin Wall, which had divided the city of Berlin between East and West since 1961, was torn down. Shortly thereafter, other communist regimes throughout the Warsaw Pact countries also collapsed. Almost a year later, in October 1990, East and West Germany formally reunited, and the newly unified Germany replaced West Germany in NATO. The following month, NATO and the Warsaw Pact announced a joint declaration of non-aggression. Clearly, the new political climate in Eastern Europe rendered nonsensical NATO's founding fears, in 1949, of attack from Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union. Accordingly, in July 1991 the Warsaw Pact dissolved itself, signaling a new era in collective security. Before that new era could begin, however, a major player in the game had its own transformation to undergo.
The Soviet Union had quietly watched its allied governments fall in Eastern Europe in 1989, as Gorbachev recalled Soviet troops from the region and tried to initiate reforms that would enable the Communist Party to maintain power in the Soviet Union. Internal dissent within the Party proved to be the catalyst, however, and an attempted government coup d'état against Gorbachev in August 1991 not only failed, but provided the unstable political setting necessary for the country's economic and social problems to tumble to the fore. Before the year was out, Gorbachev had banned the Communist Party and dismantled the Soviet power structure. Fifteen independent countries emerged from the wreckage, including Russia, the unpredictable and ever-tumultuous heir to the Soviet regime.
NATO and Russia in the 1990s
The collapse of communist power in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact immediately led many Western observers to question NATO's role in the post-Cold War world. Originally conceived as a military alliance to protect a vulnerable, war-ravaged Western Europe from Soviet attack, NATO clearly needed a new mandate in the wake of the removal of its chief adversary from the game and the reorientation of global security concerns that accompanied it. Some observers initially suggested that NATO too should disband, as its mission was obsolete in the absence of an enemy. Such talk quickly faded, however, and while the suggestion that NATO has no place in a post-Cold War world occasionally resurfaces, policymakers and observers alike generally agree that NATO still has a role to play in the twenty-first century.
That role was outlined early in the 1990s as NATO members decided amid the fall of the Warsaw Pact countries that European security remained a priority, just as it had been in 1949. Along with the European Union (EU), NATO argued that, as with Germany following World War II, integrating the new democracies of eastern Europe into a broader European coalition offered the best strategy for ensuring their political stability. To this end, NATO by 1993 had raised the possibility of its expansion into former Warsaw Pact countries.
Predictably, this announcement alarmed the new leaders of Russia. From their perspective, western Europe and the United States were still the war-mongerers they had been in 1949--exploiting Russia's vulnerability and weakness in order to expand Western military power ever closer to Russia's borders. The revolutions of 1989 had cost the Soviet Union, and now Russia, its carefully cultivated buffer zone between itself and the West, and now NATO had declared its intention to move into that zone. The threat that Russia perceived to its security was understandable. NATO and Russia have conducted an ongoing dialogue through the 1990s and into the twenty-first century, aimed at achieving a solution that could reconcile NATO expansion with Russian security concerns. One outcome of this dialogue was the 1994 Partnership for Peace initiative, and another was the 1997 Founding Act.
While not a formal expansion of NATO, the Partnership for Peace established relations between NATO and a series of countries in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, including Russia. Officially introduced at the NATO Summit in Brussels in January 1994, it affords partner countries a limited voice in NATO activities without holding NATO membership. Partner countries must demonstrate a commitment to democratic government and a civilian military structure. They are permitted to participate in joint planning, training, and operations with NATO, particularly pertaining to rescue operations, disaster relief, and peacekeeping. Partner countries may send representatives to NATO headquarters, and NATO pledges to consult with any partner whose security suffers a direct threat.
In part, the Partnership for Peace resulted from a European plea that Washington reaffirms its commitment to NATO and to European security in the post-Cold War world. Although it did accomplish this task, the Partnership for Peace quickly became bogged down by calls for full NATO membership by some of its partner countries and their advocates. Meanwhile, it also aimed at incorporating Russia more formally into an ongoing NATO dialogue with non-NATO countries, a goal that took on increased urgency after the success of ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky in Russia's Duma elections of December 1993. Zhirinovsky's popularity reminded NATO leaders that isolating Russia could prove dangerous and caused some observers to draw parallels to Germany in the 1930s. Russia was reluctant to join the Partnership for Peace, however, and did so only in the footsteps of several east European countries and former Soviet republics.
While the Partnership for Peace opened communication channels between NATO and Russia, it did not solve the ongoing problem of Russian opposition to NATO expansion. The 1997 Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation, and Security provided another attempt to bridge the gap between NATO and Russia, but it too has so far proved ineffective. The Founding Act established a NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council with the goal of giving Russia a "voice but not a veto" in NATO affairs. From NATO's perspective, the Founding Act was a critical step towards Russian acquiescence on the issue of NATO expansion. From the Russian side, gaining a seat at NATO's table was key to achieving even a marginal ability to influence Western policy and maintain support for Western economic investment in Russia. Since 1997, however, the Permanent Joint Council established by the Founding Act has proved more symbolic than substantial.
While the Council represents the façade of dialogue between NATO and Russia, in practice the two sides have spent much of their time at the Council sessions talking past each other. Russia has complained that NATO has already made its decisions when it comes to the Council, and simply informs Russia of its policies rather than engaging in any meaningful debate. Still, the mechanism is in place for communication, and the fact that the Council has proved ineffective in the past does not mean that it will not be useful at some point in the future.
Crisis in Yugoslavia
NATO's revamped mission in the 1990s--to continue to monitor European security while working to weave post-communist eastern Europe into a broad European fabric--was tested almost immediately by the series of wars in Yugoslavia. The United Nations, the European Union, and NATO have all been blamed to some extent for failing to take action early in the conflict that may have prevented its escalation to full civil war. It is a debate that is certain to continue among observers for years to come. NATO's reluctance to involve itself in the conflict was rooted in the famous Article Five of the treaty: not only was Yugoslavia not a member of NATO, but also it had not technically suffered an attack from outside. According to its treaty, NATO was under no obligation to intervene in Yugoslavia. As the crisis worsened, however, particularly in the breakaway republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, it became increasingly clear to NATO's leaders that the war posed a threat to European security as a whole.
In 1993 NATO agreed to provide limited military support for action by the United Nations (UN), including the deployment of NATO jets to patrol the airspace over Yugoslavia and to enforce the UN's no-fly zone for military craft. Early in 1994 NATO jets shot down four Serbian warplanes violating the ban on military flights, marking the alliance's first military action in its 45-year history. The incident also marked the beginning of NATO's involvement in the Yugoslavian war. By 1995 NATO was participating in UN-mandated air strikes against Bosnian Serb targets in an effort to drive the Bosnian Serbs to the bargaining table and end the war. The action eventually achieved its goal; the Bosnian Serbs joined the peace process in Ohio, and in December 1995 the Dayton Peace Accord ended the war in Bosnia.
To enforce the peace, NATO deployed a multinational peacekeeping unit known as the Implementation Force (IFOR) to Bosnia. After lengthy negotiations Russia agreed in late 1995 to contribute troops to IFOR. The move was significant for NATO-Russian relations, particularly as discussions on the establishment of the Permanent Joint Council continued in 1996, because it signaled that Russia was willing to accept that in certain circumstances--such as the Bosnian war--NATO indeed could play a role in the post-Cold War world.
Still, Russian participation in IFOR was limited and was more about rebuilding Russian military morale after its debacle in the breakaway republic of Chechnya than about helping NATO. After the 1997 Founding Act promised to improve relations between NATO and Russia, a new crisis in Yugoslavia--this time in the province of Kosovo--emerged to send relations into a downward spiral, hitting a post-Cold War low in 1999.
A province of ethnic Albanians located amid the Serbian-dominated remainder of Yugoslavia, Kosovo sought independence, which Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic was not prepared to grant. The conflict quickly deteriorated into a civil war between Yugoslavian forces and Kosovar guerrilla fighters, with civilians caught in the middle. The situation became a humanitarian catastrophe, and refugees streamed out of Kosovo in search of safe haven from war-fueled atrocities.
As with the earlier war in Bosnia, NATO viewed Kosovo as a powder keg with the potential to ignite a wider European conflict. Again, European security was declared to be at risk, and moreover, after the international community's failure to prevent the mass human rights abuses that had occurred against civilians in Bosnia, NATO felt increasing pressure to take swift action in Kosovo. In March 1999 NATO initiated an air campaign against Yugoslavian forces in Kosovo, with the goal of bringing Milosevic to the bargaining table. The air strikes quickly became the largest military operation NATO had ever undertaken. Rather than coercing Milosevic into negotiating an end to the conflict, however, the campaign only strengthened his resolve, while also affording him the opportunity to wage a propaganda war in Yugoslavia against NATO and the West. NATO's campaign quickly drew widespread criticism from other countries as well, most notably Russia.
Whereas NATO had acted as the military arm of the UN in Bosnia, with its limited military engagement sanctioned by the UN, in Kosovo NATO had acted alone. Russia, China, and India accused NATO of violating international law by not seeking a UN mandate for its action against the Yugoslavian forces in Kosovo. These three countries, each embroiled in its own dispute with renegade provinces, feared the precedent NATO set by unilaterally intervening militarily in Yugoslavia's domestic affairs. Still facing problems with Chechnya, for example, Russia was alarmed by the possibility of NATO becoming a global police force instead of a defensive alliance, as its actions in Kosovo seemed to suggest.
After three months of NATO bombardment, Yugoslav leader Milosevic finally accepted NATO demands in June 1999, and the air campaign in Kosovo ceased. The province was placed under international control, and NATO led a multinational peacekeeping force in Kosovo known as KFOR. Its mission, which continues indefinitely, includes overseeing the safe return of refugees to Kosovo, supervising the disarmament of the Kosovo Liberation Army of guerrilla fighters, and monitoring the peace process in the province.
Russia's role in the conflict was complicated. It objected to NATO's offensive tactics, and it publicly opposed unilateral action against a sovereign state, and in particular, against a Slavic neighbor. To protest NATO actions, Russia severed its diplomatic ties with the alliance and introduced a UN resolution calling for an end to the air strikes, which was soundly defeated. Still, Russia could not claim complete ignorance of NATO's plans, as it had participated in a series of discussions over the worsening Kosovo crisis in 1998 and early 1999. Moreover, Russia passed over a potentially effective role as mediator between Milosevic and the West prior to the air strikes.
Once the campaign was underway NATO tried to bring Russia into the diplomatic fray as a means of reminding Milosevic of his increasing isolation, even among Slavic allies. To an extent this strategy did work, and the air campaign ceased after Milosevic realized that Russia could neither support his actions in Kosovo nor wrangle a better deal from NATO in return for peace. Still, NATO-Russian relations were seriously damaged by the conflict, both diplomatically and in Russian public opinion. The two sides would not resume contact with each other until 2000.
Post-Cold War NATO Expansion
As the Yugoslavian conflicts wore on throughout the 1990s, and as NATO-Russia communication proposals followed the bumpy road to the 1997 Founding Act, a major component of NATO's declared post-Cold War mission gathered strength. This component was NATO's pledge, first announced at the Brussels Summit in January 1994, to expand its membership to include select post-communist states in eastern Europe. In the summer of 1997, less than two months after establishing the Permanent Joint Council to ensure a Russian voice in NATO affairs, the alliance issued membership invitations to the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland at its summit in Madrid. The last expansion of NATO had been in 1982, when Spain joined as a full member, and the extension of membership to former communist countries and Warsaw Pact allies demonstrated a significant change in NATO's mission since the end of the Cold War.
The exact reasons for NATO's drastic policy shift may remain locked behind closed doors for many years to come. Supporters of expansion, including NATO itself, argue that the potential instability of the post-communist states requires the incentive that the offer of NATO membership provides, in order to ensure that eastern Europe remains on the democratic path. Proponents also cite the need to finally dissolve the artificial line between eastern and western Europe and to establish a collective security plan for the continent as a whole. In the wake of the Yugoslavian crises, those in favor of NATO expansion argue that incorporating all of Europe into the alliance would prevent the isolationist militarism espoused by Milosevic.
Opponents of expansion, including not only Russia but many observers in the West, argue that despite NATO's claims to the contrary, expansion is exactly as Russia sees it: a means for the West to absorb the Soviet Union's former buffer zone in eastern Europe and creep ever closer to Russia's borders. NATO is perfectly aware, opponents say, that the post-Soviet Russian military is in shambles following its humiliation in Afghanistan in the 1980s and its inability to quell the Chechen rebellion in the 1990s. Expanding Western military power closer to the borders of a militarily weak Russian state is rightly viewed by the Russians as a threat, opponents of expansion argue, and NATO should think carefully about the future implications of that perceived threat.
Despite continued opposition from Russia and Western anti-expansionists, NATO formally extended full membership to the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland in March 1999, just weeks before the air campaign in Kosovo began. Russia, increasingly frustrated that its repeated denunciations of NATO expansion had gone unheeded, insisted that NATO not expand beyond its Red Line--the 15 former Soviet republics.
One result of the strained relations between NATO and Russia that emerged from the Kosovo crisis was Russia's renewed opposition to NATO expansion into former Soviet territory. This pronouncement referred mainly to the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which have long been considered the most progressive and Western-oriented of the post-Soviet states, and the frontrunners for the next wave of NATO expansion. The fact that the first wave of post-Cold War expansion took five years to implement, between its initial announcement in 1994 and its final result in 1999, indicates that NATO is sympathetic to Russian concerns, and is committed to maintaining a dialogue with Russia over the smoothest path to expansion. There is no longer any debate, however, over whether or not expansion will occur at all; that was decided early in the 1990s. All Russia can do now is try to gain a voice in how expansion occurs, and more importantly, where it occurs.
NATO and Russia resumed diplomatic ties in 2000 after a brief suspension over the Kosovo crisis, but the frosty relationship between new American president George W. Bush (2001-) and Russia's president Vladimir Putin in early 2001 prevented any breakthroughs on the issue of NATO expansion. Bush came to power criticizing former President Bill Clinton's (1993-2001) warm relationship with former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, and then immediately announced his intention to pull the United States out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to build new missile defense systems, a move Putin vigorously opposed.
The spy scandal that erupted in February 2001 with the arrest of accused Russian spy Robert Philip Hanssen in Virginia further cooled relations between Bush and Putin. Shortly after Hanssen's arrest Bush expelled 50 Russian diplomats, many of whom were suspected by U.S. officials of actually being Russian intelligence officers and even of being involved with Hanssen's espionage. , Putin responded in kind two days later, expelling American diplomats from Russia in the most serious diplomatic row since the end of the Cold War. The deterioration of Russian-American relations also affected Russia's relations with NATO, and by the late summer of 2001 it looked as though NATO expansion into the Baltic states would continue to meet fierce resistance from Russia.
Recent History and the Future
September 11, 2001
The terrorist attacks that destroyed both towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and part of the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, proved a watershed for NATO-Russia relations. President Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell have repeatedly stated that Russian president Vladimir Putin was the first world leader to call Bush after learning of the attacks that day, and Russia immediately pledged its support for Bush's war on terrorism. The attacks also marked a turning point for NATO, in that they represented the first time in the alliance's 52-year history that Article Five was invoked. NATO released a statement immediately following the attacks, invoking Article Five and declaring that NATO considered this attack on the United States as an attack on all NATO members, and pledging the resources of its members in any forthcoming diplomatic, political, or military action.
NATO faces a crossroads over the September 11 attacks, however, because with the exception of marginal assistance from Britain, the United States has rejected NATO's invoking of Article Five and dismissed offers of military assistance from France, Germany, and Italy. If the use of Article Five in the first place was a historic moment for NATO, the U.S. rejection of allied assistance is even more significant, and betrays not only Bush's unilateralism, but also a severe fault line between the United States and Europe. Although there has not yet been any public fallout between NATO members over the United States' action, it is clear that the structure and purpose of NATO will require reevaluation in light of the aftermath of September 11.
While the terrorist attacks may have revealed the cracks in relationships between NATO allies, it marked a monumental change in NATO-Russia relations, and in particular, in Russia's policy towards NATO expansion. While Russia remains opposed to expansion in principle, since September 11 Putin has dropped his formal objection to NATO expansion into the Baltic states in the near future. A Baltic expansion--widely expected to be next on the list--would not only encroach onto former Soviet territory, but would put NATO on Russia's borders, the two potential developments that Russia has most vehemently opposed since the end of the Cold War.
In part, Russia's change of heart undoubtedly comes from its genuine desire to participate in the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism. Having itself suffered terrorist attacks, including the bombings of an apartment complex and an underground shopping mall in Moscow in the late 1990s, allegedly by Chechen separatists, Russia's own security interests merge with those of the United States on this issue. In addition, the change in Russia's policy towards NATO expansion has likely been influenced by the American rebuff of its allies' assistance in the war against terrorism. The fact that the United States rejected NATO military aid demonstrated to Russia that NATO is not necessarily the unified war machine that Russia imagined it to be. NATO's role in the world has clearly changed, and while its new position may remain ill-defined, Russia welcomes any change that refocuses the alliance's collective defense structure away from Russia as the enemy.
A Look to the Future
Observers of NATO and Russia alike are now looking ahead to the Summit scheduled for November 2002 in Prague, where NATO is expected to issue invitations for new memberships for the first time since it invited the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland to join at the Madrid Summit in 1997. Although up to nine east European countries may be invited to join in Prague, the three Baltic states remain the frontrunners. Supporters of Baltic membership argue that the three states deserve a reward for their commitment to democracy since the fall of the Soviet Union, and for their efforts to reorganize their military structures and treat their sizable Russian minorities fairly. Baltic membership may still hit a snag, however, as Russia remains opposed, if more quietly of late, to any expansion that brings NATO to its borders, which the Baltic expansion would do.
Other countries under consideration for NATO membership include the former Yugoslavian republic of Slovenia, which managed to avoid the prolonged civil war that secession brought to its neighbors Croatia and Bosnia, and which has quietly worked to establish economic and cultural relationships with Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. Slovakia is another country keen to join NATO, particularly after watching the West embrace its Czech neighbors since Czechoslovakia split into two countries in 1993. Former authoritarian president Vladimir Meciar's plans to run for office again in 2002 may scuttle Slovakia's chances at NATO membership, however, fueling doubts about the country's political stability.
Further back in the membership contest are Bulgaria and Romania, whose membership goals have caused a rift between northern and southern European NATO members. France, Greece, Italy, and Turkey support Bulgaria and Romania's NATO ambitions, out of a desire to increase membership in southern Europe. France and Italy have already voiced their disappointment that Romania was denied a membership invitation in Madrid in 1997. Both Bulgaria and Romania have a long way to go before meeting NATO's demands of democratic political stability, civilian military command, and other requirements.
Albania and Macedonia represent the most distant hopes for a membership invitation in Prague, yet some observers insist that NATO may extend sweeping invitations to all nine aspirants in an attempt to avoid alienating any of them. More likely, however, the Baltic states and possibly Slovenia will receive invitations.
Meanwhile, NATO's relations with Russia remain strained over the issue of expansion, which Russia will likely never fully accept, but the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 ushered in a thaw that is sure to continue for some time. Russia continues to face a series of domestic concerns, from military reform to media censorship, that need to be addressed before its position as a diplomatic power in the world can be reestablished. While the 1990s were marred by poor relations between NATO and Russia, capped by the 1999 crisis in Kosovo, the first decade of the new century offers the two sides the opportunity to engage in a meaningful dialogue that may help dispel the sense of threat that still hangs over NATO-Russia relations.
1945 The end of World War II also signals an end to the brief wartime alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union. Their ideological conflict intensifies and becomes known as the Cold War.
1949 In April ten western European countries, plus the United States and Canada, sign the North Atlantic Treaty and form an organization (NATO) to oversee it. Western Europe, struggling to recover from the war, can now rely on military aid from North America in the event of an attack. The famous Article Five ensures that an attack on any member of NATO is considered an attack on all, and will be met with the collective resources of all member states.
September 1949 The Soviet Union successfully tests its first atomic bomb, ending the United States' monopoly on nuclear weapons and solidifying NATO's commitment to collective defense in the wake of this new Soviet threat.
1952 NATO expands its membership for the first time, admitting Greece and Turkey to the alliance.
1955 Less than a month after West Germany joins NATO, seven countries in Eastern Europe sign a treaty with the Soviet Union, known as the Warsaw Pact, ensuring their mutual defense in the event of an attack from the West.
1966 Arguing that Western Europe has become too dependent on the United States, French President Charles de Gaulle pulls French troops out of NATO's integrated military command and expels all NATO troops from France. The country would not rejoin NATO's military structure until 1995.
1989 A wave of revolutions in eastern Europe leads to the collapse of communist governments there, marking the first step towards the end of the Cold War.
July 1991 The post-communist states of eastern Europe dissolve the Warsaw Pact.
August 1991 A failed coup d'état in the Soviet Union ignites a chain of events that lead to the collapse of communist power there and the dissolution of the regime. Russia emerges as the dominant successor state to the Soviet Union.
1993 NATO agrees to provide limited military support for UN actions in the civil war in Yugoslavia.
1994 At the NATO Summit in Brussels in January, the alliance announces its intention to expand its membership to include select post-communist states in eastern Europe, revealing NATO's new mission to preserve European security in the aftermath of the Cold War. Although the program is launched in part to improve NATO-Russian relations, Russia is skeptical of it and joins reluctantly.
1995 NATO conducts UN-mandated air strikes against Bosnian Serb targets in Yugoslavia in an effort to force the Bosnian Serbs to participate in the peace negotiations in Dayton, Ohio.
December 1995 NATO establishes an Implementation Force (IFOR) of peacekeepers to enforce the Dayton Peace Accord in Bosnia. Significantly, Russia agrees to contribute troops to IFOR.
1999 At NATO's fiftieth anniversary summit in Washington, DC, the former Warsaw Pact nations become official members of the organization. NATO leaders indicate that further expansion into eastern Europe will occur in the future.
March-June 1999 NATO conducts an air campaign against Yugoslav forces in the province of Kosovo. NATO-Russian relations suffer severe damage, and Russia suspends its diplomatic ties to the alliance until 2000.
2001 Terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11 lead NATO to invoke its mutual defense clause for the first time in its 52-year history. The United States rejects the offer of military assistance from its European allies, however, marking a significant turning point for NATO's mission. Russia offers full support for the United States' war on terrorism, and for the time being tones down its objections to NATO expansion.
Excerpt from the North Atlantic Treaty
Washington D.C.--4 April 1949
The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments.
They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.
They seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area.
They are resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security.
They therefore agree to this North Atlantic Treaty:
The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.
The Parties will contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded, and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being. They will seek to eliminate conflict in their international economic policies and will encourage economic collaboration between any or all of them.
In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.
The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.
Article 6 (1)
For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:
on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France (2), on the territory of or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;
on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.
This Treaty does not affect, and shall not be interpreted as affecting in any way the rights and obligations under the Charter of the Parties which are members of the United Nations, or the primary responsibility of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security....
1) The definition of the territories to which Article 5 applies was revised by Article 2 of the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty on the accession of Greece and Turkey signed on 22 October 1951.
2) On January 16, 1963, the North Atlantic Council noted that insofar as the former Algerian Departments of France were concerned, the relevant clauses of this Treaty had become inapplicable as from July 3, 1962.
NATO's official Web site at http://www.nato.int/docu/basictxt/treaty.htm.
Statement by the North Atlantic Council
NATO invokes Article 5 for the first time, September 12, 2001.
On September 12th, the North Atlantic Council met again in response to the appalling attacks perpetrated yesterday against the United States.
The Council agreed that if it is determined that this attack was directed from abroad against the United States, it shall be regarded as an action covered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack against one or more of the Allies in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.
The commitment to collective self-defence embodied in the Washington Treaty was first entered into in circumstances very different from those that exist now, but it remains no less valid and no less essential today, in a world subject to the scourge of international terrorism. When the Heads of State and Government of NATO met in Washington in 1999, they paid tribute to the success of the Alliance in ensuring the freedom of its members during the Cold War and in making possible a Europe that was whole and free. But they also recognised the existence of a wide variety of risks to security, some of them quite unlike those that had called NATO into existence. More specifically, they condemned terrorism as a serious threat to peace and stability and reaffirmed their determination to combat it in accordance with their commitments to one another, their international commitments and national legislation.
Article 5 of the Washington Treaty stipulates that in the event of attacks falling within its purview, each Ally will assist the Party that has been attacked by taking such action as it deems necessary. Accordingly, the United States' NATO Allies stand ready to provide the assistance that may be required as a consequence of these acts of barbarism.
Опубликовано 04 сентября 2007 года
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