Paradoxically,Only a strong NATO will lead to a strong Europe. As the world becomes more populous competitive and more dangerous, the NATO alliance will must necessarily go global, as the focal point for security for all like-minded states. Paradoxically only then will we see the emergence of the strategic culture, military capabilities and political space that are vital if Europe is to realise its full potential. It will not be easy, becauseand with so much of Europe is today locked into a form of euro-isolationism, . Consequently the development of European security will depend on an enduring security relationship with the United States. This is especially so as the connection between the European Security Strategy and the planning and capabilities it should generate is still tenuous at best. That said, Ffor all the mismatch between America’s high strategy and the low strategy that marks much of Europe, the US still hangs on tenaciously to the alliance for five six key reasons.
More than two centuries ago, George Washington warned in his famous 1796 Farewell Address to the nation, “Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand on foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, humour or caprice?” Yet in 1949, with the creation of the Atlantic alliance, the US cast aside 150 years of Washingtonian grand strategy. NATO was forged first and foremost by Britain, and ityet also represented a seismic shift in America’s grand strategy. The Cold War success of the alliance still remains the greatest protection against any remaining vestige of American isolationism, so. NATO thus represents an entangling alliance that has by and large worked well for Americans, effectively organising others behind Washington’s leadership. Now, Washington is slowly getting used to a new alliance, in whicheven if the strength of European pluralism has diminished NATO as a forum for decisive American leadership.
America has long seen NATO as the leitmotif of US engagement with the world. For a brief political moment, neo-conservatism threatened to replace American’s internationalism with unilateralism, as Americans played with the idea that the US was indeed more powerful than the rest of the post-9/11 world. But with the challenges posed by Afghanistan and Iraq, that moment has now passed, and it is once again to the mature democracies, most of which are in Europe, that the American people look to instinctively for support. When on September 12, 2001, NATO invoked Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty in support of the United States, many observers on both sides of the Atlantic dismissed this act of solidarity as an empty gesture, but not the vast majority of the American people. They saw Europe standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them in their hour of need, an act of political symbolism that has had an important impact on American public opinion. If NATO has a problem with the American people, it is not that they think it too weak but rather they believe it far stronger than it is. The ‘NATO must do something’ school of thought in the US will surely grow over time.
American leadership of the West is at a crossroads. In all but the most extreme of cases, unilateralism is dead. But with the collapse of the always fragile strategic consensus with Russia and China, it is difficult for Washington to be sure that its actions will ever be ‘legalised’ through the UN. Europeans who suggest that action can only take place when and if the UN has legalised it are in effect neutralising and neutering the West and thus preventing it the West playing its rightful role as the “Great Stabiliser”. The present international system is, after all, the one the West builtbuilt by the West, and if a basic strategic consensus with Russia and China is not re-discoveredfashioned, the UN could even become a dangerous constraint. The behaviour of North Korea gives grounds for hope that at least some such limited consensus might emerge, but right now the name of the game in the UN Security Council is as much about constraining the West as about supporting it. In such an environment – and given the damage that Iraq has undoubtedly done to the prestige of American power – the US is looking much more closely at the role other democracies can play in legitimising such actions.
"American leadership of the West is at a crossroads. In all but the most extreme of cases, unilateralism is dead"
The absence of a strategic consensus within the UN also means that humanitarian intervention must necessarily come to an end in all but the most extreme situations. In its place, a new concept is emerging of structural intervention, in which the West reserves the right to intervene in pursuit of its own interests through strategic stabilisation, underpinned by the legitimacy afforded by collective democratic action. For Europeans, this represents a challenge; to begin with because the ESDP hasESDP was first and foremost been designed as a tool for humanitarian intervention, and secondly, because Europeans have always taken a more legalistic view of international relations. Unfortunately, geopolitics is rendering such niceties at best problematic.
Europeans are consequently faced with a profound dilemma; their limited military forces intended for humanitarian missions find themselves involved in ever more robust structural interventions in places like Afghanistan and, potentially, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, thus reinforcing. This basic fact of strategic life reinforces the need for greater surge and augmentation capacity, coming from the and given poor levels of European defence investment for the foreseeable future that can only come from the Americans via NATO.
NATO is in this way part of a new transatlantic contract in which Europeans minimise the very considerable risk their forces face in the field and, in return, they legitimise American-led structural interventions. To be effective, though, this contract requires two basic tenets. First, a new Franco-American strategic consensus within the alliance, the absence of which is at present blocking much practical work. Second, that even the smallest members of the alliance must accept that while membership affords them the security of the strongest, they also have to bear their share of global responsibilities.
Much is made of the so-called capabilities gap between the US and its European allies. There is a gap and it is a potentially dangerous one. At the same time, too much is also made of itthe case can be overstated. If the political will is there, within reason and given practical constraint, militaries can be made to work together. That indeed, is the whole essential point of NATO. Given the need for American action to be legitimised by other democracies, US-led coercion also needs to be reinforced by allies on the ground. NATO is unique in this regard, representing as it does a body of standards, structures, knowledge and protocols for complex multinational military coalitions that is unrivalled in history. For all America’s complaints about under-performing European militaries, the US will thus never throw away such a priceless asset just at the moment when Washington’s grand strategy seeks to organise other like-minded states beyond Europe behind its leadership. That is the essence of NATO’s new Global PartnershipThere can be no Global Partnership without an effective transatlantic security relationship.
Through its Response Force, NATOthe NATO Response Force, the alliance also affords the US every opportunity to modernise military interoperability within the alliance. It is true that NATO transformation has too often found itself caught up in the ongoing battle within the Pentagon about the nature of the forces needed both now and in the future, but. tThankfully, that debate has evolvedis evolving and NATO is now moving towards a much smarter concept of transformation. And Consequently, as the 2006 US National Security Strategy attests, NATO is stillremains a vital part of the US military strategy.
For Americans, the most pressing case for continued American involvement in the alliance is indeed strategic. The transatlantic security relationship has never been very good at small picture security of the type witnessed in Europe in the 1990s, however tragic the loss of life in the Balkans. The issues the big power world faces are of a different order – the rise of immature great powers, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the competition for diminishing fossil fuels when thedriven by the just desire of the newly-rich want for more growth and even greater prosperity, and perhaps above all else what one might term the democratisation of destruction as and the democratisation of destruction as ever smaller groups gain access to ever greater destructive power. The alliance thus offers the West a politico-military mechanism for the organisation and application of legitimate coercion and strategic stabilisation, which must inevitably be remain the foundation of its diplomacy. Moreover, without a capacity to protect, it is difficult to see how Europeans will project. Consequently, the need for effective homeland security is pressing and can only be organised at the European level. As the August 2006 attempt to destroy transatlantic airliners attests this is an urgent problem requiring transnational solutions. Consequently, European homeland security must necessarily lead to a direct security relationship between the EU and the US, and indeed so many of And it will of course continue to embody a direct security relationship between the EU and the US, because so many of the issues that Europe must confront require the transnational aggregation not just of European power, but that of the West.
NATO is thus part of a new transatlantic “contract” in which Europeans minimise the very considerable risks they face in the world, in return for legitimising American-led structural interventions when Europeans so agree. However, to be effective, this “contract” still requires two basic clauses to be agreed. First, a new Franco-American strategic consensus, the absence of which is at present blocking much practical work. Second, there must be an acceptance by the smaller members of the alliance that whilst membership affords them the security of the strongest, it also imposes the burden of global responsibilities.
That is the broad security picture, not the military-security one, and the two should not be confused. In such a complex worldIn today’s broad and complex security picture, it is right and proper to recognise the leadership roles of both the EU and NATOthat both the EU and NATO should play leadership roles. The flag put on an operation, and the political identity it suggests, will be vital to communicating essential messages about intent and method that will necessarily differ from operation to operation. The Americans are rightly holding out for a pan-European realisation that a strong Europe must be dependent on a strong NATO as part of a strategic transatlantic relationship. Because Because NATO must in the future necessarily go global, the EU itself must develop rapidly to take responsibility for security in and around Europe. A strong ESDP is thus vital to a strong NATO, and vice versa. The The effective combination of civil and military power generated by Europeans for Europeans is part of the political contract by which Europeans can escape from euro-isolationism and take their rightful place as partners, not surrogates, of the United States. But without the guarantee that the Americans bring through NATO to European security and stability, it is very hard to see Europeans going that extra mile on security in the wider, unknown world we are entering… and without European support it is very hard to see how America can fulfil its self-imposed mission of making the world a safer place through the universal introduction of democratic values and practices.