The Debate on NATO’s New Strategic Concept

Written by World Federalist Movement – Canada*



The World Federalist Movement – Canada (WFM – Canada) is a national non governmental
organization that addresses a range of global governance issues.
WFM – Canada’s 1,100 members support measures to progressively reinforce
the rule of law in international affairs and develop a more democratically
accountable framework of global governance. The WFM – Canada National
President is Hon. Warren Allmand. WFM – Canada is a national member
organization of an international NGO, the World Federalist Movement – Institute
for Global Policy. The WFM-IGP International President is Hon. Lloyd Axworthy.

WFM – Canada welcomes the inclusive and participatory character of the current
process for development of the new NATO Strategic Concept. This brief will
include recommendations on:

A) NATO’s evolving role within the multilateral system

B) Strengthening the Alliance’s political role

C) A NATO comprehensive approach to security

D) NATO policy regarding nuclear weapons

E) NATO’s evolving role within the multilateral system 

The North Atlantic Treaty of 1949 clearly sets out the Alliance’s mission and

frames it within the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
Chapter VIII of the UN Charter provides for “regional arrangements” and the
North Atlantic Treaty unites members in collective efforts toward security and
stability in the North Atlantic area.

In 1999, when NATO last renewed its strategic concept the Alliance was
composed of 19 members, compared to the 28 it has today. In 1999 NATO’s
focus was very much on challenges within Europe or on Europe’s periphery.
Today NATO’s largest operation is in Afghanistan, and other “out of area”
operations include combating piracy threats off the coast of Somalia and terrorist
threats that, by definition, emanate from a multiplicity of geographic sources.

NATO cannot be everywhere and do everything. As an alliance of North Atlantic,
developed states, it is perceived by others as representing the interests of those
states. Meanwhile, the United Nations, the world’s universal membership
organization with a mandate to maintain international peace and security enjoys
an international legitimacy that NATO does not.


1) The new NATO Strategic Concept should reaffirm that NATO’s area of
operations is limited to the North Atlantic area.

2) The new NATO Strategic Concept should affirm the primary
responsibility of the United Nations for the maintenance of international
peace and security.

B) Strengthening the Alliance’s political role 

In our view NATO’s greatest contribution to international order and stability in
recent years has been through the integration of states that were formerly
members of the Soviet Union into the broader architecture of democratic Europe.
Together with the European Union, the Council of Europe and the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), NATO has provided a
framework of democratic norms and state practice that has helped guide and
anchor Europe’s transformations.

We recall that the founders of the North Atlantic Alliance created a treaty
framework that includes numerous possibilities not only for military cooperation
but also for building political and economic partnerships. Article II of the North
Atlantic Treaty states that:

“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.”

Working with other organizations, like the EU, the Council of Europe and the
OSCE, represents one of NATO’s most important challenges in the years ahead.
On Dec. 1, 2009 the EU Treaty of Lisbon entered into force and the European
Union’s foreign policy has taken the next steps toward an institutional
restructuring. The Lisbon Treaty introduced a permanent President of the
European Council as well as the post of High Representative for foreign affairs,
and established a European foreign service corps.

To be sure, these institutional advances are proceeding in an incremental, stepby-
step manner. NATO’s institutions are challenged to adapt to these changes in
a manner that complements and supports the deepening of these
complementary European political processes.


1) NATO should support the development of capacities for an EU foreign
and military policy.

2) The new NATO Strategic Concept should emphasize the need for
stronger roles for NATO’s political organizations, the NATO Council and
the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

C) A NATO comprehensive approach to security

In the years since the end of the Cold War, NATO has adapted to a world where
security threats have become more numerous and diverse. The growing
prominence of terrorist threats and the impacts of conflict within, not between
states have been among the prominent changes to the international security
landscape in the last two decades.

We are inclined to support conceptual frameworks that adopt comprehensive,
multi-faceted and holistic approaches to identifying, understanding and
responding to security threats. For example, we feel that NATO has much to gain
by better integrating the “human security” model that has served well the foreign
policy and planning machinery of many of its members.

However, a “comprehensive approach to security” is not synonymous with
“everything but the kitchen sink.” There are real limits to the kinds of security
challenges for which an organization like NATO is well placed to respond. We
are concerned that the new Strategic Concept not set forth a menu of security
challenges that is simply too ambitious and leads the organization astray, dealing
with issues that are best left to others.


1) The new NATO Strategic Concept should employ a comprehensive
approach to security. But such a comprehensive analytical framework
should also lead to a clearly delimited, clearly understood mandate.
Conflict impacts of climate change, anti-piracy, organized crime, cyber-
terrorism, energy security are examples of topics that are, quite simply,
beyond NATO’s remit.

D) NATO policy regarding nuclear weapons

A review of NATO’s Strategic Concept is timely, in part because there is a
movement towards the progressive reduction and elimination of nuclear
weapons, a goal that has been recently endorsed by the President of the United
States. It is also timely in that dangerous increases of late in nuclear proliferation
challenge all nations to sort out their nuclear weapons policies so that these
policies are consistent with progress in halting nuclear proliferation and, most
importantly, with obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty.

NATO’s reliance on nuclear weapons is nothing but excessive and bizarre. If we
step back to the days of the Cold War, NATO historically reserved for itself the
right to initiate nuclear weapons into a conflict in order to offset the conventional
weapons superiority of the Warsaw Pact. Many then argued that such a policy
lacked credibility in that it was predicated on the supposed practicality and
morality of a so-called “limited nuclear war” and consequently was either a
gigantic bluff or a dangerous suicide pact.

Today the conventional weapons picture in Europe has been reversed. Now
Russia, outgunned in the European conventional weapons sweepstakes, has
also adopted a nuclear first use option. That development has no more
justification than NATO’s earlier rationale for a similar policy. While Russia
should, of course, be strongly challenged on this policy, its existence should in no
justify NATO maintaining its own nuclear first use option. It is bad enough that
one party has a misguided and dangerous policy. Having another party
preserving a similarly ill-advised posture does not in any way neutralize the other;
it only makes a bad situation worse.

NATO adoption of a no nuclear first use policy should in no way be contingent on
Russia necessarily doing likewise. And from a practical point of view it should be
understood that any chance in the near future of Russia reversing its nuclear first
use policy will depend on a similar reversal from NATO.

In April 2009 President Obama stated that, “To put an end to Cold War thinking
we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and
urge others to do the same.” If however NATO persists in believing that nuclear
weapons have a military or political usefulness beyond simply deterring their use
by others, then it can surely be expected that some non-nuclear nations may see
that as legitimating their own nuclear aspirations. No good surely can come of

To continue to state – as NATO did at it’s Washington 1999 Summit – that
“nuclear forces are vital to the security of Europe” is indicative of precisely the
attitude that will prevent NATO from realizing progress in moving towards a world
without nuclear weapons.

There are currently U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in five European countries
(Belgium, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Turkey). All of these countries
are non-nuclear weapon states parties to the NPT. The future of these
deployments is under review, particularly in light f the German government’s call
for removal of nuclear weapons from German territory.
(Belgium, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Turkey). All of these countries
are non-nuclear weapon states parties to the NPT. The future of these
deployments is under review, particularly in light f the German government’s call
for removal of nuclear weapons from German territory.

The NPT requires that “each nuclear weapon State Party undertakes not to
transfer to any recipient whatsoever (and non-nuclear weapon states undertake
not to receive) nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control
over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly.” Without the
removal of nuclear weapons from the territories of non-nuclear weapon states,
those states (and the U.S. as the supplier state) cannot claim full compliance with
the NPT.

It is high time that NATO took actions to fortify the Non Proliferation Treaty.


1) The new NATO Strategic Concept should state that the elimination of
nuclear weapons, not their retention, is essential to security.

2) The new NATO Strategic Concept should phase out the deployment of
tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belgium, Germany, Italy, The
Netherlands and Turkey.

3) The new NATO Strategic Concept should adopt a no first use policy for
NATO’s nuclear weapons.

We encourage the development of a NATO Strategic Concept that reflects an
understanding of the limits of a military alliance in an interdependent world; that
reinforces solidarity and democratic practice among member states; and that
contributes to the goal of a more secure world without nuclear weapons. 

* Brief submitted by the World Federalist Movement – Canada to the NATO Group of Experts on the Alliance’s New Strategic Concept, February 2010.




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written by Frederic Labarre, November 16, 2010 

Again, a worthy set of commentaries, fully in keeping with the Alliance’s renewed openness. Understandably idealistic (it is a Canadian document), I feel it suffers from the same ailment as similar efforts recently produced, and that means that it is the brainshild of too few people, and people who do not grasp how NATO functions.

First of all, there is a difference between the Alliance and the Organization. Few people remember this, but the Treaty was signed in 1949, yet the Organization was stood up in 1951. There is a corresponding difference between what the Allies want, and what the international civil servants want. When we say “NATO”, people think they mean the Organization, but in fact, they mean the Allies. The Secretary General is only the steward of the Organization, not its leader. It is the North Atlantic Council, co-equal with the Military Committee (at least primus inter pares) that leads. This said, the recommendations, however laudable, could be refined.

A2: The primacy of the UN is stated in the Treaty. In the face of UN incapacity, however, recent history shows that it is unwised to stay on the sidelines. The concept of “Responsibility to Protect” (which I abhor) now makes general consensus in the international community, and exists precisely because that international community is often unable to do the things it should, therefore leaving it to regional organisations, or local actors to intervene. In this sense, Kosovo is a case in point, as is Georgia, which saw NATO and Russia intervene respectively.

Recommendation B1: This is unlikely to occur, because the new NATO members will not want to develop a potentially rival system and/or without American might. Furthermore, Canada might say no simply because the 117000 dead that lie in military cemetaries across Europe have been laid there because of Europe’s past attempts at setting up security systems.

Recommendation B2: Already the end of the Cold War has seen the organization move from hard-core military to a political institution, especially with regards to the different levels of partnerships, PfP, IPAP, etc. What would strengthening the North Atlantic Council look like, I wonder? Already it meets at the level of Ambassadors every week, at the level of Foreign Ministers every 3 or 4 months, and at the level of Defence Ministers every 3 or 4 months also, in addition to a Summit of Heads of State almost every year. Regarding the Parliamentary Assembly? Sorry, NO. It shouldn’t do that.

Recommendation C1: Clearly there is a lack of understanding of what comprehensive approach is, here. Comprehensive approach, or whole-of-government approach is a method which is gaining wider acceptance after the difficulties of post-conflict reconstruction in the Balkans and the mission in Afghanistan. It sprang from the concept of Effects-Based Operations, spun by Allied Command Transformation and the US Joint Forces Command. The very fact that the World Federalists are entitled to send their recommendations is proof that NATO is “employing” a comprehensive approach.

Recommendations on nuclear weapons:

D1: True, safety is in disarmament, but in theory, the jury is still out on that one. Admittedly, the context today is more permissive of disarmament. If one looks at the odds of having the New START Treaty ratified by the US House of Representatives before the Democrats lose control of Congress, the World Federalists will be wishing for LESS parliamentary meddling, not more, contrary to their earlier recommendations. In the case of general disarmament, the new NATO members, who think they rely on that sort of deterrence against Russia, will certainly veto that motion.

D2: Indeed, this is the way to go. See my contribution from June 2010 to see my argument about tactical nuclear weapons. There are signs that this is where NATO is headed.

D3: Although NATO exercises frequently used nuclear weapons first (before the Soviets did) in their scenarios, First Use has never been an Alliance policy. In fact, flexible response has emerged from the 1967 Harmel Report in great part.

For the rest, should NATO stick to its original area of operations, or go out-of-area? Most people will say that it needs to go out-of-area. The nature of our world requires it. Let me give an example, which I developed in a recent book chapter: The internal security of Greece, say, is currently threatened by adverse economic conditions, which trigger public unrest. To recover economically, Greece needs energy resources that are reliable and cheap. Because of where she is located, she will get those resources from Central Asia more and more. Because a significant portion of deliveries will be made by pipeline, the security of that line, wherever it may lay, and from whatever source of danger, directly concerns Greece. Greece is a NATO member, and therefore she is entitled to stress that her security is dependent on these factors. All of a sudden, both Greece as a member, and NATO as an organization have to work to ensure the security of deliveries of energy, although the source of danger may lie outside of either’s jurisdiction. But because the “victim” of the potential threat is a signatory of the Washington Treaty, which sets geographical limits to a conventional attack (initially, this is what was in the offing), does not mean that the Allies do nothing when the threat emanates from without the region. What if Iran launches a ballistic missile that falls on France? The other Allies do nothing? It is not as simple as that.

No. NATO should go out of area if it needs to, and the existing structures are more than adequate to determine that need.

Frederic Labarre




Lecturer and author
written by Dr. William Mallinson, November 20, 2010 

Some knowledge of historicl fact is necessary here: the paper slyly says that in 1999, NATO ‘renewed its strategic concept’, thus diverting attention from the fact that the treaty that established it in 1999 was due to expire, along with NATO, in April 1999. Instead,the US and Britain, with France as a sceptical partner ( the EU was useless) decided to revive an organisation that was already beyond its shelf-life, following the demise of the Warsaw Pact. It chose to simultaneously take in three new former Warsaw Pact members (giving the Russians good grounds for perplexity and fury), and indulge in the illegal bombing of Serbia.It went against its own rules, and breached the UN Charter.As Michael MccGwire, a former naval officer and NATO war planner, wrote in ‘International Affairs’ in January 2000,

‘Is symptomatic that the substantive political objective of averting civil war had to yield precedence to the time-bound public relations objective, with its deadline of NATO’s birthday.This ruled out consideration of potentially more fruitful ways of achieving the substantive objective within a different time-frame.This was a classic example of image taking precedence over substance[…].

The official reason for NATO’s illegal attack ion Serbia was to avert a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’.But in MccGwire’s words:

‘According to NATO, the conflict in 1998(including the KLA spring offensive and the summer counter-offensive by the Serbs)resulted in the deaths of something over 1,500 Kosovar Albanians,while the KLA(according to George Robertson)killed a slightly larger number of Serbs during bthe same period.Was this wht we went to war in 1999, killing another 2,000 Serbs(1,500 of them civilians) and indirectly causing the deaths of an even larger number of Albanians?’

The fact is that Russia was NATO’sindirect target, wlth Serbia as the whipping-boy. NATO aggravated, even created, a human catastrophe, by egging on Milosevich(the US Balkan envoy called the KLA a ‘terrorist organisation on 23 February 1998, encouraging the Serbs to attack the terrorists in Kosovo,while the US banker, Holbrooke, called had a love-in with the terrorist organisation in summer 1998).
If NATO cannot recognise limitations on where,when,why or how it can beginn wars, then it is a danger to world peace. One of the main reasons that it still exists is to circumvent the UN, weaken European independent defence(i.e. the CFSP, as opposed to the NATO-dependent ESDP)and to earn billions of dollars for arms manufacturers.As Russia moves closer towards influencing NATO,moderate people hope that this dangerous and megalomaniac dinosaur will finally bite the dust, and that a French- and Russian-promoted multi-polar system will come into operation.The alternative is a continuation of the childish ‘them and us’ mentality, promoted by cynical strategic armchair warriors, accompanied by the robotic rush of Gadarene swine, namely the droves of IR pundits enslaved in their prisons of simplistic paradigms, models and ‘conceptual frameworks’,beyond which they become stultified.  



Strategic Analyst
written by Frederic Labarre, November 30, 2010 

Now, that’s griping! The argument in the paper reflects a tendency in Canadian policy-making which has trouble distinguishing between ends and means. The jury is still out as to whether is needed or not, but I do not believe, as Dr. Mallinson says, that a multipolar system is the way to go. It has given enough trouble in the past, and there is no reason to believe that the current peaceful trends would perpetuate themselves in a system that would be less normative or bound by international legal rules (if you have the traditional concept of multipolarity in mind, that is).

There may have been ulterior motives behind (or before) the air raids on Kosovo, but I am satisfied with the knowledge of acting on behalf of humanitarian necessities even they are propagandist expedients. By your own argument, the Serbs had killed some 1500 Albanians and the KLA had done in slightly more Serbs. The official line for intervening was to prevent more bloodshed. I believe it has achieved that aim.

Yes, NATO was used to circumvent the UN, after the UN allowed itself (through a Russian veto) to manifest its unwillingness to act. What was the Western world to do? Do like it did in Bosnia and let the UN take care of it, and then, after nearly 200 000 had died, let NATO come in? For once, under the probable pretense of humanitarian intervention, NATO upshot the UN, moved in and avoided that other catastrophe.

I am more than willing to give up on NATO if the UN will take its rightful place, a place that it has earned through achievements (small pox and trusteeship council notwithstanding). But I am not ready to cede to the UN at the price of true multilateralism.



professor dr
written by Katarzyna Żukrowska , December 01, 2010 

I disagree with the opinion that NATO is unable to be everywhere and do everything, assuming that this relates to the sphere of security. NATO is – in my opinion able to be everywhere and do ewverything in this area and with enlargement and reforms of the Strategic Cncpets those abilities increase. Also the direct area of responsibilities expands. NATO is not alone here as it works with the EU, OSCE, UN and UN Security Council. Support for the political and military integration in Europe is something that seems to be natural but I am very careful in accelrating this process. The EU has a long list of problems to solve in the field of development and it is better received without becoming a reflection of the US. In other words the persception of the US being from MArs and the EU from Venus should be kept as long as it is possible. Political integration of the EU will come as a natural consequence of enlargement of the EU as well as a result of closer ties established by the Commission with all regions in the world. Returning to NATO: I support the visions of strengthening the political isntitutions of NATO which can foster political dialogue of this organization with third countries, helping them to slove their political problems, security demands and democratic deficit. NATO is a middlemen for each country after the end of cold war which wants to join the EU. This means that states need to trust each other before they start doing business together. I see NATO as well as the EU in much more global context than the Author of the statement above. NATO and the EU enforce each other, both using similar patterns of cooperation with countries but both have their own, different areas to work and they cant become alike. Become similar for the two isntitutions would mean that they loose their power and thus identity what will result in short in lack of needed authority. NATO is a platform which enables cooperation of states in area of security which from international matters moves into internal ones. Some of those matters are international for the NATO members but have impact on national solutions in the NATO member states. This is the new aspect of security which often is lost in evaluating the security structures and their functioning.




Strategic Analyst
written by Frederic Labarre, December 02, 2010 

Well it all depends on the meaning of “integration.”

Reading your comment, I believe you are using the term integration in the correct way. That is, the adoption of norms, values, principles, and ways of doing of the dominant group. Enlargement, sooner or later, would make the behaviour of every member of the group similiar (and correspondingly predictable, thus bringing more security) to one another. Incidentally, I have worked in or with the Baltic States long enough (nearly as long as their NATO aspirations and membership have lasted) to tell you that unfortunately, it is easier to get some countries out of the Soviet orbit than to get the Soviet Union out of those countries. Integration does not automatically follow always.

I would have to vehemently disagree about NATO’s role relative to EU membership. Why isn’t Canada a EU member? God knows its attitude to trade is a lot more like the EU’s. With regards to the US being from Mars and the EU from Venus, what we see now is a US trying to leverage its feminine intuition to the best effect possible after Bush’s misguided machismo. That will have an effect which I think is beneficial. It will also have to mean an end to enlargement, and the reassertion of the UN to its rightful place. I just hope the UN can do that job properly (it all depends on the member states, of course).

What NATO should do and where it should do it is spelled out in the latest concept through the missile defence prism. First, it sets a date to get out of Afghanistan by putting the burden on performance on Karzai. Second, it solidifies the reset with Russia. Third, it functionally limits the operational role of NATO to the traditional region broadly defined through the use of a putative missile shield. Regardless of whether or not the shield will work or not, this would prevent NATO from say, going to North Korea to answer a missile launch on a NATO ally.

Finally, the latest concept, although the President of Lithuania said it addressed all members’ concerns (that CAN’T be true relative to the Baltic States) is in fact the Summit of Russia and Missile Defence.

More political NATO, yes I agree, but I don’t believe we can ascribe a meaning to that phrase which is wider than what the Summits and the Treaty intend.



written by Bill Mallinson, December 04, 2010 

It is a shame that so many IR pundits are incapable of thinking ouside their NATOified prison boxes and ‘political realist’so-called ‘paradigms’.They have been truly brainwashed by Kissinger and co.The main purpose of NATO is to serve the interests of shareholders in arms and arms-related corporations, and to keep the ‘terrorist’ threat on the boil,so as to give good business to the sprouting private security companies. NATO is in fact going through rigor mortis. It has still not learnt its lesson in Afghanistan, like the Russians did.Yet it knows that it cannot win. On the other hand,big business loves it. Of course,the real terrorists love NATO, as it gives them the excuse they seek to continue their war….Think about it, consider the ideas of Francesco Guicciardini, Giambatista Vico,and,yes, even le brave general Charles de Gaulle…escape from your coagulated and robotic formulae,and scrutinise more broadly and deeply.Discard your silly ‘road maps’,’state actors’,Nazi Haushofer-Kjellen-Mackinder-Kissinger geopolitics,’windows of opportunity’ ‘zero sum games’,’game theory’,and the rest of the linguistic bulimia, and get downn to brass tacks!