In Search for a Comprehensive Security Architecture. Is NATO the Answer?

The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the subsequent reunification of Germany were followed by the quick dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. Mikhail Gorbachev timely withdrew his support from the collapsing GDR. In June 1989, the former Soviet leader stated in Bonn, where he received a rapturous welcome: “I don't think the Berlin Wall is the sole barrier between East and West. We must improve many situations in Europe." That was a very wise and poignant remark. The fall of the Berlin Wall, allowing the re-unification of Germany, was meant to be the start but in no conceivable way the end, of the project of building constructive relations between the East and West. The jubilant mood began to spread through the following months: "a gentlemen's agreement" with the Bush administration was reached in February 1990 that NATO would not expand eastward beyond Germany. Gorbachev acknowledged that since no one could imagine then that the Warsaw Pact would shortly disappear, he had not pressed for formal commitments about other countries, and the US leadership had therefore not given them.

However, nobody can deny that George Bush senior promised, on the West’s part, that NATO would not take advantage of the situation by expanding eastwards. The European citizens, in particular, and the world citizens at large, naturally nurtured high expectations that the Cold War was approaching its end and that the demise of the East-West confrontation which troubled the old continent since the end of the catastrophic Second World War would soon be an accomplished fact.

As the Eastern bloc dissolved its military alliance, one would anticipate that the Western bloc would honour its part of the deal by dismantling its own military alliance. After all, what is NATO’s raison d’ être once the Warsaw Pact seized to exist? Instead of the mutual dismantling of military alliances, in the twenty years that lapsed since Germany’s reunification, the international community saw the Western military alliance do exactly the opposite: expand eastwards in an unprecedented way.

Driven by Washington, NATO has been encroaching closer and closer to Moscow’s vital space. The expansionist designs have been implemented at the expense of solving long running sores within the alliance itself. For more than a generation’s time, NATO failed dismally in resolving the complex sovereignty disputes between Greece and Turkey, its two old South-Eastern European allies.

Moreover, the Cyprus imbroglio involving importantly also the UK, in addition to Greece and Turkey, continues unabated. Alternating from a hot to a cold to a frozen conflict for more than two generations the Cyprus affair features probably as the longest running sore in the list of conflicts where NATO proved unable to come up with a lasting settlement. It is perhaps little known that the sizeable Eastern Mediterranean Island controlling strategic routes to Asia and Africa continues to hold the abominable record of being the most militarized place on earth. This fact has been recorded in UN Secretary General reports to the Security Council.

Moving to more recent years, one cannot fail to notice Kosovo as another NATO failure: ten years after the Western alliance’s humanitarian intervention the Kosovo conflict remains unresolved; the future of this southern Serbian province is now placed in the hands of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which is obliged, however lately, to issue a non-binding but influential ruling. NATO may have stopped the hostilities between the Serbs and the Albanians. Nevertheless it has failed in resolving Kosovo’s political future.

It seems that those who take decisions in NATO, intoxicated with their success of rampant expansion at the expense of the former Soviet Union meticulously plan to bring Moscow down to its knees by enlisting more and more members. The newcomers’ registration is by no means free of charge. It comes at a cost. The ‘novice’ member-states have to foot the bill of the so-called modernization of their armies to bring them up to NATO standards. I recall, a young Major from Skopje, FYROM, at the Indian Army’s UN Peace Keeping Training Centre at the outskirts of New Delhi (February 2008), briefed me in detail how many millions of dollars of US military hardware his impoverished country was obliged to order in order to gain the ‘wished for’ NATO membership, which is pending because of the country’s name (and minority) dispute with NATO-member Greece. Skopje claims that it can use the geographical region’s name Macedonia - which taken as a geographical entity, extends also into Northern Greece and Eastern Bulgaria - to designate its independent state and accuses Athens of mistreating a small Slav minority. The ongoing dispute originates since FYROM’s secession from Yugoslavia in 1992.

NATO honours its role as the prime instigator of the West’s weapons industry. The alliance issues standing directives to several member states to actively implement new vessel procurement programs: new members, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania are required to modernise their largely Soviet-era fleets. According to reports, the three countries are facing massive fleet upgrade. And of course Warsaw, Sofia and Bucharest will have to pick up the bill.

As argued above, the Aegean dispute for thirty-five years remains unresolved whilst Greece and Turkey continue to be the US best sophisticated weapons-systems customers worldwide, spending the highest GDP’s percentage for defence - more than double the alliance’s average and the two per cent that the Bush administration wished for from NATO members. The two NATO allies imported in aggregate in the 2000-2004 period more than $12bn worth of conventional weapons, mostly from the US.

The expansion of NATO, the doubling or tripling of its membership list of sovereign states coming under the US spell of influence does not necessarily mean that it is also a success story. It is rather a mess story. This short discussion of NATO’s record in Europe, challenges the ‘received wisdom’ that the Western Alliance, the most powerful military alliance in today’s world, is actually providing lasting solutions to problems of European security.

 


 

 

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Comments  

Prof.
written by Aleksandar Fatic, December 15, 2009 

Leventis is correct in stating that a further NATO expansion may not be in the security interest of Europe. In fact, it may well jeopardise a further EU expansion, which, despite statements by the Heads of State of EU members, is in crisis, because there are problems with the management of the current policies of the 27 member states and countries on the Eastern and Southern EU frontier are nowhere near ready for membership.
The main problem for the EU is how not to enlarge, because failure to do so may push the Stabilisation and Association Process Countries (the rest of the Western Balkans) towards Russia, which is positioning itself fairly aggressively vis-a-vis the EU in military terms. Russia has just decided to build a military base in the town of Nish, in Serbia. In addition, apparently President Medvedev and the Serbian leadership have agreed that a Russian nuclear power plant would be built by 2015 in the Eastern Serbian town of Kostolac. Finally, the entire length of the Southern Stream pipeline through Serbia is likely to be guarded by the Russian Army. This means that the Russian missile capabilities would be drawn very close to the EU borders. In addition, failure to admit Turkey may well push it towards Iran, as EU influence in Turkey is already dwindling.
A way to make sure that the EU may be able not to expand further, and still make Russia feel more secure and prevent a security dilemma with Russia, is to hald further NATO expansion. If NATO further expands to include the Ukraine, this would threaten the conventional Russian defence doctrine, based on the availability of the depth of territory to absorb the initial conventional strike, followed by a cummulative mobilisation of conventional forces and expulsion of the enemy from the Russian Federation. With NATO expansion this doctrine may no longer be feasible, as the Moscow Military District would become the first line of Russian conventional defence.
All in all, Leventis rightly points it out that NATO has played its part in bringing Russia to fold in strategic terms, but the point has been reached where this may no longer be so.

 

 

Captain (Navy, retd)
written by Lars Wedin, December 15, 2009 

There are many ways to read history. This is one, definitively not mine. It is impossible to compare WP and Nato in this way. The former was an organisation of occupied countries under the absolute leadership of URSS. The second was and is an organisation of free countries. The reason that Nato was not dissolved is that its members did not want to.
Nato was enlarged not as a result of some evil masterplan but as a result of the willingness of the new members to join. There was also a great reluctance on the part of leading Nato members, US included, to enlarge. One reason that enlargement became necessary was exactly the Russian opposition. Because, if Nato members then had said no to accept the new members, it would have been the same thing as to grant Russia a sphere of interest. Spheres of interess are not acceptable in today's Europe - something Cyprus should be aware of.
It should also be noted that Nato has tried, unsuccesfully, to increase cooperation with Russia through the Nato-Russia council. In fact, Russia has a much more favoured position vis-à-vis Nato than Sweden.
Regarding Nato's future, one could be somewhat pessimist as it will not be easy for its members to agree on a useful new strategic concept this spring. This has to cater both for the "new" and the "old" Europe to quote Rumsfeld.
A weak and fragmented Nato would lead to renationalisation of European security and that is the greatest danger of all.

 

 

Dr. + Lecturer, Ionian University
written by Bill Mallinson, December 17, 2009 

Both comments above are intelligent and thoughtful,not leaving me with too much to say.First, let us remember that NATO is well beyond its shelf-life, having transmogrified from an essentially regional organisation into a fanatical attempt to be a worldwide policeman. It was designed to expire in 1999, but instead used the illegal bombing of Yugoslavia as a PR exercise to continue, and to expand, NATO (see Michael MccGwire's famous article in International Affairs,volume 76,number 1, January 2000). Second, it is now an Anglo-Saxon tool to keep a European Army(in other words, a strong and independent CFSP, rather than the lukewarn and NATO-dependent ESDP) at bay. This explains the bigoted Geoffrey Hoon's inane statement in November 2000 that 'NATO is and will be the only organisation for collective defence in Europe.)Third, France's re-entry into NATO's integrated military stucture means that NATO may expire by default, transmogrifying into a Russia-friendly body, while an independent CFSP becomes, tortoise-like, more of a possibility, with more finabcial goodies for EU and Russian arms companies, than Anglo-US ones.There are various ways to skin a cat!

 

 

Dr. + Lecturer, Ionian University
written by Bill Mallinson, December 17, 2009 

Geoffrey Hoon said it in 2001, not 2000. Sorry!

 

Vice President, Democratic World Federalists, Councilor World Federalist Movement, LLM Candidate International Law
written by Shahriar Mahmoud Sharei, December 26, 2009 

Dr. Leventis, excellent short analysis of the status of NATO, after the cold war period, points out the important fact that NATO instead of dismantling is actually expanding! This might lead to a new version of cold war with Russia and its eastern allies. We have already seen signs in that direction with the 2008 events in Georgia and South Ossetia.

Further, NATO's adventures in Afghanistan, gives a further role to NATO, way beyond its European borders. Acting as a world army, without the control of a world authority or control is a dangerous situation which eventually might cause friction, not only with Russia, but also with other non NATO nuclear states in Asia, such as China, India, or Pakistan.

Last but not least expansion and strengthening of NATO, certainly does not help Article VI of NPT and its goal toward "nuclear and general disarmament".

 

 

...
written by Athanasios Fragkis, January 04, 2010 

Dr. Leventis's analysis is well researched and making a sound point. It is however only half of the problem. The expansion of NATO in Europe, serves to deprive Russia of a security buffer zone but also, taken together with the massive military presence of the U.S. in Japan and alsewhere in the Pasific, appears to threten the very existence of Russia. It is therefore of vital importance to world peace, that a new,
perhaps UN based re-balance of power is worked-out, in order to ensure the re-run of the post W.W2 saga or even a conflict between the West a Russia.