What does the future hold for an expanding NATO?

After the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the future of NATO was set out in «The Alliance’s Strategic Concept» of 1991 and 1999. Now with 28 member states, compared to 15 in 1991, the alliance’s strategic raison d’etre lies in confronting security challenges, in crisis management with or without military action, and in cooperation with the United Nations and European Union, as well as exploring cooperation with other strategically selected countries apart from the new member states, based on their geographical position, regional characteristics and their particular strategic interest, importance and influence. The foundations have already been laid for collaboration at a different level with member states of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, Mediterranean Dialogue, the Istanbul Cooperative Initiative, with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Gulf States and others. No doubt one should not overlook the potential for cooperation with countries in the Organization of African Unity. For NATO, deepening and broadening cooperation with the EU is of vital importance, as is rapprochement with Russia, particularly since the USA-Poland-Czech Republic accord on regional ballistic missile defense (BMD) appears to be on hold, and given the USA-Russia accord on the amendment of the Start I treaty by December 2009. However, there has been no strengthening of the climate of trust between member states, neither in the military nor in the political wing of NATO. Various aspects of that situation have become clear in certain characteristic instances of NATO decision-making (Yugoslavia, the dual strategy in Afghanistan – International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) / the USA’s Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) – Iraq, restructuring processes and new Structures, among other things, although one should not overlook the considerable and justified reasons that led France and Greece to withdraw from NATO’s military wing. The rapid change in the geopolitical environment and the diverging interests of the 28 member states have created, along with the abovementioned alliances, a different strategic contingency within the alliance than existed in 1999; these are the basic parameters for the future shape of NATO. A look at the five possible scenarios as presented at Warsaw’s Center for International Studies on September 6, 2003 by the strategist Dr Hanns W. Maull shows that these are still relevant today: NATO fading away, NATO revived, European NATO, American NATO, NATO as a battleground. The demand to define a new Strategic Concept for the alliance was a priority for the Strasbourg/Kehl summit on the future of the Alliance (April 3-4). The new Strategic Concept is to be submitted for unanimous approval of the 28 member states at the next NATO summit in December 2010 and will replace that in force since the one agreed by the then 19 member states in Washington in April 1999. The Strategic Concept is the most important document since NATO’s Founding Treaty of April 4, 1949, and it presents the alliance’s strategic perspective in the light of current and imminent challenges and risks to stability and security in the emerging strategic environment. At the same time, it provides the allied forces with the strategic directions it needs. The alliance sees its future projected to 2030 and has begun (July 7, 2009) to discuss its new Strategic Concept. Already the SACT has presented four scenarios in its Multiple Future Project for 2030: the Dark Side of Exclusivity, Deceptive Stability, Clash of Modernities, and New Power Politics. The strategy being sought will determine the breadth of NATO’s political feasibility and strategic effectiveness, while the political issue for the alliance lies not only it is role as an international organization, but the form the new policy will take and the limits of the manner in which it will be implemented. Clearly, the strategic catalyst for any future strategic approach lies in learning from the lessons of the past. However, the most critical and important issue is the restoration of trust between member states so as to avert any future strategic backsliding or irregularities which split the Alliance’s defense unity, lead to an inappropriate and unfounded «policy of equal distances» on issues that bypass the legality on which NATO was founded and only exacerbate, again in «equal distances,» the lack of trust in NATO and its credibility, since it does not ensure mutual security between member states as a prerequisite for collective defense. Therefore these many and various potential dangers should be neutralized in good time by establishing a framework of principles, always based on Article 1 of the Founding Act, which will guarantee trust between member states as the supreme political component and absolute foundation for seeking cohesion and solidarity, in order to ensure NATO’s credibility. Thus there will no longer be any margin for novel and unwise geostrategic action by one member state against another, not only in Greece’s area of immediate interest, but in other areas within the alliance. These issues should be discussed at NATO Headquarters, in view of the new Strategic Concept and the forthcoming visit to Athens and Ankara by NATO’s new secretary-general, on the basis of a search for strong foundations of trust in relationships between member states, and by coordinating the new Strategic Concept with the values of member states. Otherwise I believe that there will be many people who will quote the extremely appropriate phrase by the allied forces first commander and subsequent 34th president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, when he said, «What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.» Admiral (ret.) Panayiotis Hinofotis Former Chief of Defense State Deputy for New Democracy