Changing role of NATO, EU and OSCE in Europe
Introduction to NATO, EU, OSCE and European Security Issues
The end of the Cold War saw a new era in the European states that highlighted new challenges and threats to the political, social, and economic security. The Central and Eastern European states felt the need to design a framework to enable these states to coordinate their foreign policies and develop suitable measures to handle security issues. The United States and European states converged to meet the threats posed by the changed security environment post Cold War. The NATO and EU played a significant role during the period in bringing peace and stability in the European states.
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The North Atlantic Treaty (NATO), an alliance formed during the World War II, played an important role in ending the Cold War assisting the United States and Europe to face the hostile Soviet Union and the wave of communism that threatened to Western Europe. An alliance of 12 countries initially NATO’s membership grew to 26 nations by the end of 2002. “NATO’s original purpose was to provide collective defense through a mutual security guarantee for the United States and its European allies to counterbalance potential threats from the Soviet Union” (Archick et al., 2004). Post-Cold War, the NATO alliance undertook the mission of spreading security and stability in the Central Europe. The primary goal behind this mission was to strengthen the position of the United States and Europe, build a strong alliance between the two that enables them to “address new global challenges” (Asmus, 2008).
The European Union (EU) too had its origin under similar circumstances with the vision to strengthen the European Community through improved security and stability in the region. Its goals were “to provide political stability to its members through securing democracy and free markets” (Archick et al., 2004). The Maastricht Treaty signed in 1992 with the purpose of setting up a new body to nurture political ties between the European States to enhance security in the region to combat effectively the threat from Soviet Union. Both NATO and EU were effective in strengthening the position of the European States “by consolidating democracy and ensuring stability from the Baltics to the Black Sea, they redrew the map of Europe” (Asmus, 2008).
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) was formed in the year 1975 having 55 member nations from European States, United States, and Canada. The organization plays a primary role in detecting security threats, conflict resolution, prevention, and management in the region. At the end of the Cold War, this organization played an active role in helping the European States to adopt democracy through its various regulatory bodies like the Secretariat in Vienna, Conflict Prevention Centre in Vienna, and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in Warsaw. The OSCE is more like a open forum where members can voice their concerns and opinions influencing policy decisions taken by the member countries since it does not have a legal binding on its members to abide by its resolution.
Changing relationships and roles between the alliances
The NATO, EU, and OSCE together have met the security challenges facing European States at the end of the Cold War. These alliances played a significant role in strengthening the position of both United States and Europe leveraging them as superpowers in the global landscape. However, changing markets and political developments in the past few years have triggered massive changes in the strategic alliances between the member countries. The United States and Europe used these alliances to strengthen their position on the global map and create power centres that would help in colonizing the third world countries. Differences have cropped up between the United States and its NATO and EU allies on grounds of security responsibilities of the two institutions. These differences are mostly centred on the risk assessment and defence capabilities.
Post September 11 attacks the United States has shifted its focus from Europe and Soviet Union to Middle Eastern countries. The United States disregarded the NATO alliance while devising their military strategies against the Middle East. The European States are now shifting focus to adding more alliances and enlarging the NATO alliance.
NATO had distinctive advantages over any other alliances primarily due to the fact that it relied heavily on the participation of the United States. Yet this was also seen as a drawback by many European States that did not want to rely heavily on the United States for any military action or peacekeeping strategy in Europe. The Report on Europe’s role in nation building by Rand observes, “NATO offered a potential instrument for post conflict stabilization and reconstruction only if and when the United States was willing to participate and was given the lead.”
The European Union too has led many initiatives to develop common foreign policy and defence policies to increase the capabilities of the member states to manage any kind of security crisis. The Maastricht Treaty incorporated some of the core objectives of the EU and allowed the member states to voice their concerns on armed conflicts, human rights and any other breach of security on a global platform. The Union has a Conflict Prevention and Crisis Management Unit that is responsible for strengthening and fostering mutual co-operation and assistance in resolving conflicts and managing crisis.
The NATO and the EU have been working together to meet the challenges posed to the European security. But this co-operation is bound by many conditions and pre-conditions that have led to conflicts between the associated member states and allies. A recent move by the EU was the creation of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) that was backed strongly by the United States with the pre-condition that this policy be tied to the NATO. The EU member states feel that both NATO and EU should work closely but support the ESDP since it provides the European member states to operate more autonomously in case of any crisis or conflicts without waiting for intervention or participation of the United States.
The past few years have witnessed a lot of conflicts between the United States and some European countries like France. International conflicts and clashing interests between various member states have resulted in souring relationships and this has led to several countries seeking a more autonomous body to look into the security issues of Europe without involving the United States.
The strategic alliances formed with the objective of building stronger US-Europe ties and maintain an elevated position in global issues was crumbling due to clashing interests and rising conflicts between the member states. The NATO and the EU sought to work closely to resolve conflicts, manage crisis, meet security challenges and extend democratic regime met with great success at the initial stages but the growing disparity between the member states on account of individual foreign policies created a rift. The EU member states feel that a strong NATO led by the United States can work to their benefit but disputes with United States on grounds of UN intervention in crisis management has led to strained relationships. “There are also disagreements over the weight given to political versus military instruments in resolving these crises. These disputes have fuelled European desires to develop a more independent ESDP” (Archick et al., 2004).
The Western Balkans territory comprises of five states – Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia and Montenegro. These countries have been identified by the European Union as potential candidates for membership to include in its process of stabilisation. Among these three countries of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia are also potential candidates for NATO membership. One of the most challenging issues facing EU and NATO today is to stabilize the countries of Eurasia covering the Balkans from the Black Sea region to the countries of Turkey, Ukraine, Georgia, and Armenia. The political and military action in the adjoining Middle East countries and the hostile attitude of Russia in the North has created an unstable political, economic, and social condition in these areas. These countries are seeking European Union’s intervention in resolving their conflicts and crisis situation. Risks of civil wars and increasing threat to the government institutions have created panic situation in the country leading to civil wars, corruption and crime.
The United Nations intervened in the Balkans in the first half of 1990s to restore stability but efforts were wasted when they could not contain the civil wars in Bosnia. The European member states actively contributed towards these efforts in the form of monetary aid and military personnel. This failure resulted in distancing of the European member states from the United Nations activities. The NATO intervened and efforts were made once again to restore peace in Bosnia. The EU finally undertook these efforts in the year 2003 and it was successful in restoring peace and stability in the region. Bosnia came under the EU command at the end of the year 2004.
Albania too was embroiled in civil wars and political chaos and instability created severe instability in the country in the year 1997. Since the NATO and United States were engaged in Bosnia, the European Union along with the United Nations commanded operations to restore peace and order in this country. The incompetent and corrupt government being the root cause of all troubles in Albania, the EU was successful in curbing the political unrest and chaos prevailing. Italy was the major power instrumental in running the operations successfully. This not only boosted the confidence of the European Union member states but also made them realize the necessity to increase their military capacity and security mechanisms to manage such kind of crisis in future. Moreover, the European states also realised the reluctance of United States to get involved in minor conflicts in Balkan unless they had their interests at stake.
Macedonia was engaged in infighting caused due to ethnic tension within the country in the year 2001. The European Crisis Management institutions chose to intervene with EU heading the operations. The NATO was not involved in these operations due to their pre-occupation in Bosnia and Kosovo. Moreover, the United States had made it clear that they did not want to get too involved in the Balkans. The EU was successful in restoring peace in the country and subsequent operations were focused on peacekeeping.
A study of the unrest and chaos prevailing in the Balkans reveal that the most challenging task facing the crisis management institutions was security threats from civil wars that was a direct result of political unrest and economic instability. Poor economy and social discontent were largely responsible for triggering unlawful behaviour and anti-government protests leading to increased incidents of gang wars and looting. The hostility that sprung from corrupt government officials and unfair practices were the root cause behind the political and social conflict. Under such circumstances the law and order of the country collapses and insurgents take over the situation venting their anger against the government officials and helpless public. These insurgents form revolutionary groups with the goal of increasing violence within the country.
Crisis Management Outfits and their Strategies
The European Union’s intervention in Albania crisis helped to curb the violence and the chaotic situation prevailing in the country. The successful operations paved the way for peace and stability in the country leading to reinstating of peaceful elections and a stable government at the centre. A significant result of this operation was that the timely intervention prevented the violence from spreading to Kosovo and Macedonia. Another important lesson learned from the operations was that a small outfit like the European Union could tackle crisis of this level without the assistance of NATO or the intervention of United States. A well-planned move and organised efforts could work wonders in meeting security challenges of this nature. As RAND (2008) report observes,
“Operation Alba was successful in large part because its mandate was well-defined and limited. The operations was confined to providing security and protecting the delivery of humanitarian assistance. It did not try to disarm the rebels. Alba also succeeded because the participating countries established a record of impartiality and did not try to take sides in internal Albanian political disputes. The force confined itself to restoring order and laying the groundwork for new elections, which would pave the way for a broader political reconciliation among the feuding Albania political forces.”
This kind of defence strategy involving well-planned and organized operations can be extremely useful in combating security threats to any country. Another vital lesson learnt from the Balkans was that early warning of crisis is vital to enable corrective action at the right time and prevent the crisis from becoming a threat. John Kriendler, a professor of NATO and European Security Issues states, “Early warning of impending crises is vital. Early action – and the right action – is invaluable. But knowing how and when best to become involved in an emerging crisis is extremely difficult. It requires rapidly obtaining as clear a picture of the situation as possible and adopting a course of action designed to achieve the best outcome.” Most of the international and European outfits are seeking ways to improve their capabilities to detect early warning systems. The European Union has a separate structure in the form of Conflict Prevention Network to meet this challenge.
Professor Kriendler emphasises the importance and benefits of early warning systems as it provides “more time to prepare, analyse, and plan a response and, in the event of intervention, enhances its likelihood of success.” This not only assists in defining the crucial elements that need to be focused but also establish clear cut goals of the mission, carve a well-thought action plan and risk strategies.
It is also seen that NATO has better crisis management capabilities than any other global institutions. It has better warning systems of impeding crisis that could turn into potential threat and units to plan and organize the management of such crisis. The European Union played a significant role in curbing the crisis and handling some difficult situations in the region without the assistance of NATO. The Albania example is proof to this fact. However, the efforts of European outfits like EU and OSCE lack extensive military capabilities as opposed to NATO or United Nations. This is one of the drawbacks facing the European operations without the backing of NATO or United States. Operations involving both these alliances are able to generate greater number of military troops.
The key issues involved in meeting security challenges are military capacity, duration of operations, economic reconstruction, democratisation, and humanitarian assistance. The global organizations planning to intervene and restore peace and order in any threatened economy need to look deeply into these issues. Any operation involving risk to security and threat to the common public requires adequate military personnel to combat the law and order situation. The amount of troops required, supplies of food and ammunition is largely dependent on the estimated duration of operations. Once the law and order has been restored the next step should be economic reconstruction that involves facilitating financial aid to restore the shattered economy and pave the way for economic growth in the country. The democratisation of the country is vital since the political system needs to be restored keeping in the mind the freedom of choice and flexibility in the hands of the people living in the area. The institutions should give prominence to the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the common people who have faced loss and have been ravaged by the chaotic situation that prevailed in their country.
Post cold war era in Europe presented many challenges to the security of the European states that caused NATO to re-design its warning strategy. During this period the risk of conflicts arising between European states had reduced but there was increasing risk of conflicts arising within the states. Keeping this in mind NATO undertook various measures to implement the early warning system for any impending crisis. “Firstly the range of potential risks addressed has been extended well beyond the threat of direct aggression to Alliance territory to encompass non-military risks and even unconventional threats such as terrorism. Secondly, increased interaction with members of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) further contributes to early warning. And thirdly, NATO has developed a new Intelligence Warning System” (Kriendler, 2007). However, an effective early warning signal is not just enough to predict a successful military operation. It, no doubt, gives enough time and scope to plan and organize the entire operations but the success lies in subsequent handling of the situation. Military intervention needs adequate resources and proper planning and implementation strategies to be successful.
Current trends and challenges
The European states face new challenges and opportunities today and changing international relations require a re-thinking of the political strategy and military strategies adopted by the institutions. Ronald Asmus, the Executive Director of the Transatlantic Centre states three reasons behind the need for this strategy revision. First and foremost, he feels is the changing interests and priority of United States post September 11 attacks. The US has shifted their focus away from Europe towards the Middle East. “The reservoir of transatlantic goodwill and political capital accumulated during the 1990s has evaporated into the sands of Iraq. In Europe, the enlargement fatigue has set in thanks to stumbling institutional reforms and the mounting expense of integrating new EU members” (Asmus, 2008). The strained relations and the changing priorities are eroding the core ideals and principles that formed the base of such alliances like NATO, EU, and OSCE.
The second stumbling block is the new challenges facing the European states from the Balkans. This region is economically weak and politically unstable facing threats to the law and order of the countries. These countries form the new boundaries of the Euro-Atlantic community lying between unstable Middle East and hostile Russia.
The third factor that indicates rapidly changing international relations and trends is the new and emerging face of Russia. This country has emerged as a “more powerful, nationalist, and less democratic” entity challenging the Western powers. “Moscow sees itself as an independent Eurasian power, offering its own authoritarian capitalist model of development as an alternative to democratic liberalism” (Asmus, 2008). The European states feel a disadvantage in handling this emerging power.
Asmus also feels that “NATO and EU need to articulate a new strategic rationale for expanding the democratic West and devise a new approach to dealing with Russia. There is another opportunity today to advance Western values and security and redraw the map of Europe and Eurasia once more.”
An international conference was held in Rome on 4th December 2006 to assess the relations between the NATO and the EU in context of defence and security issues and to provide them with a deeper insight into the future needs and requirements owing to radical changes in the global relations between nations. The summit highlighted on four concepts that serve as constraints or drawbacks in nurturing a healthy relation between both the NATO and EU to meet changing security demands. One of the primary drawbacks felt by the nations was that both NATO and EU should learn to “manage an internal tension between a strong bureaucracy based on solid multinational expertise and devoted to permanent optimisation; and nations coping with numerous constraints (ie., interests, finances, forces and public opinion) and taking decisions to guide and limit interactions between structures and organizations” (Dufourcq, 2007).
The second concept states that the actual partner of NATO was the ESDP (European Security and Defence Policy) wing of the EU. The roles and objectives of the both the bodies are same, however, the two present a vast difference in their size, resources, obligations and seniority. This presents practical difficulties in meeting new challenges and resolving conflicts.
It was also felt that since both NATO and ESDP have similar interests in meeting the security challenges, the two bodies can together “explore scenarios and concepts, conduct exercises, and pursue standardization, normalization and interoperability.” The two bodies should resolve to cooperate on the operational side rather than concentrate on political and technological aspects for better and effective results.
Flexibility in approach to current international issues is the key to successful operations in crisis management. The editorial section of the NATO Defence College Research Paper, February 2007 issue states, “NATO and the ESDP offer the nations concerned a number of operational possibilities and strategic options to build coalitions and engage their forces in support of common interests and in the name of the international community. Flexibility is a key element for future crisis management in order to address effectively the challenges of the 21st century.”
The various alliances in the form of NATO, EU and OSCE have undergone massive transformation in the past decade to enable better and effective management of threats and risks to European security. The European Defence Agency observes, “Traditionally, war and politics were practiced sequentially – and war involved largely unconstrained violence directed towards destroying opposing conventional forces. Today and tomorrow, force will be intimately interwoven with political (and media) developments – and will typically be applied in opaque circumstances against an obscure enemy under tight rules of engagement and 24/7 media security.” Both EU and NATO are aware of the uncertainty and unpredictability of the impending threats to national security. Both the outfits have realized the significance of quick and immediate response to the hint of any crisis. Defence experts believe that NATO, EU and OSCE should integrate efforts in pooling the military and other relevant resources to combat the emerging threat.
Past experiences of both NATO and the other institutions in dealing with conflicts in Balkans, Serbia and Macedonia have highlighted crucial learning points that will be of much needed assistance in dealing with future challenges. One of the primary lesson learnt is that early detection of security threats are instrumental in designing appropriate operational strategies and leading successful military intervention. Moreover, this helps in preventing the threat from becoming a risk and avoiding worsening situation that might get too hot to handle. Another important lesson learnt was that subsequent follow up of the situation in the area is much beneficial in ensuring that sudden flare up does not re-occur and that peace and stability is restored in the region. The institutions have also realized that limited number of troops can work wonders provided the planning and execution of operations is well defined with little or no loopholes. Another essential ingredient to successful management of such crisis is efficient and effective coordination and cooperation among the global institutions. This is a very effective means of handling any kind of global crisis ruling out any possibility of errors and mismanagement of operations. Last but not the least, flexibility in approach to new situations and new crisis is much needed since each scenario reflects varying conditions and environment in which they emerge.
The role of NATO, EU, OSCE has been very crucial in maintaining transatlantic relations through the cold war period and post cold war era. The alliances may have been formed with the intention of strengthening the position of United States and Europe as global leaders but it served well in meeting the security challenges in Europe. Ronald Asmus states in this context “the decision to open the doors of NATO and the EU to Central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s was a triumph of statesmanship and an example of successful crisis prevention. During a time of peace, and in spite of considerable opposition at home and from Moscow, the United States and its European allies acted to lock in democracy and put an end to the geopolitical competition that had historically bedevilled Central and Eastern Europe.”
Asmus also opines that “if US and European leaders again succeed in linking new democracies to NATO and EU, ten years from now they will look back at a redrawn map of Europe and Eurasia and be thankful that they acted when they did. If they fail, future generations may well pay a high price for their passivity.”
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