British American Security Information Council (BASIC)

BASIC-BITS Press Release
24 April 1999

 NATO at odds with itself over European Security

NATO’s new Strategic Concept and the Washington Summit Communique are based on two completely different concepts for strengthening the role of the European countries in European Security. Both documents represent one of the rare occasions during which the Alliance took two decisions in two directions at the same time. While the Strategic Concept assumes that the European Security and Defense Identity, reflecting a larger role of the European countries, will be developed under WEU-auspicies and within NATO, the Washington Summit Communique describes strengthening the role of Europe via the European Union.

NATO’s strategic concept reflects the traditional school of thinking on the European Security and Defense Identity, based on NATO’s decisions taken at the June 1996 Berlin North Atlantic Council Meeting. According to this school, European nations would prepare for a capability to independently conduct peace-support missions within the Petersberg tasks, based on the assumption, that the WEU would command actual military operations and NATO by consensus of its members would provide the WEU with core predefined NATO-owned assets, such as headquarters, logistics, intelligence etc.. The most well known model for such cooperation is a WEU-led Combined Joint Task Force, whose Headquarters would be one of NATO’s CJTF-headquarters. NATO and the WEU drafted a number of agreements to provide for a legal basis for such actions. However, these were met internally by wide criticism in European countries, since they gave the United States via NATO assets and US soldiers part of a NATO CJTF-headquarters a say in a military operation in which the US was not willing to participate. However, NATO’s new strategic concept is widely based on this model.

The Summit Communique reflects a very different model of strengthening the European role in European Security: a European Union and not a WEU-based approach. This approach was launched by the EU member states in late 1998 and has been vigorously pursued in the EU by by the German Presidency since 1999. This approach allows for much more European independence from NATO, while using NATO assets if necessary - including the possibility of autonomous action by the EU without recourse to NATO at all. The Communique applauds the European allies determination to build up independent military capabilities to conduct all Petersberg missions. It assumes that WEU assets such as the Satellite Center in Torrejon or the WEU planning cell, if not the WEU itself will be integrated into the EU itself. In addition the EU would build up independent military capabilities.  It also notes that Canada wishes to be associated with such European operations - creating a NATO 19-1 situation, with only the US absent. The Communique makes it clear that the work done on establishing WEU-NATO cooperation will have to be revised and reworked to provide for NATO-EU cooperation on a more equal footing. Thus it reflects a re-launch of the idea that the future of transatlantic relations should be based on two pillars - the EU and the United States.

It comes as a major surprise that European nations decided to insert such far-reaching ideas supporting EU operations in a NATO communique only months after revitalizing the process of integrating European security and defense policies. It is a clear indication of the political importance given by the EU governments to this process. The Summit Communique indicates that even more is to come soon. „We task the Council in Permanent Session to address these measures on an ongoing basis, taking into account the evolution of relevant arrangements in the EU. The Council will make recommendations to the next Ministerial meeting for its consideration.“, states the communique. The next NAC ministerial is scheduled as early as for June 1999, directly after the European Council Meeting in Cologne. During this meeting the EU will for the first time be entitled to make full use of its new decision-making powers in foreign and security politics, contained in the Amsterdam Treaty. The treaty enters into force on May 1, 1999. 

For further information, contact Otfried Nassauer or Martin Butcher on (202) 785-1266.