- NATO Divided, NATO United: The Evolution of an Alliance
This is a timely and insightful book, written by the dean of NATO studies. Larry Kaplan, University Professor Emeritus of History at Kent State and Emeritus Director of its NATO-EU Center, has written about the alliance since 1954. This is his tenth book on the topic, and the focus here is on West-West tensions. The thesis is that "old fissures" are reemerging among alliance members, particularly between the U.S. and its European partners. Internal troubles are more apparent today, in the absence of the traditional [End Page 280] threat emanating from the U.S.S.R. and with the U.S. as the lone superpower, but Kaplan successfully shows that differences have existed since NATO's inception and tensions among members have always been present, though often muted. Intractable quarrels have been frequent and bitter, typically centering on the "transatlantic gulf" between U.S. and European nations over matters of military resources and differing worldviews.
The book succinctly and chronologically presents key events in alliance history, with roughly decade-long periodization, from NATO's 1949 founding through its 2004 expansion to twenty-six nations. Crises (such as Suez and Bosnia) and issues (such as Ostpolitik and détente) are given short, separate analyses of about three pages apiece. Throughout, the author returns to several major themes: repeated attempts by France to assert its position, expand its influence, and counter perceived U.S. hegemony; concerns among European nations over Germany (rearmament, NATO integration, unification); continual frustration among U.S. leaders over financial and military burden sharing; and repeated European attempts to build a separate military capability independent of NATO. The author consistently examines why U.S. strategic views often differ from other members, and why American leaders have routinely acquiesced to concerns from their junior partners. Kaplan continually explores and praises the tremendous NATO capacity for change, as time and again the Alliance struggles, then reinvents itself to confront new challenges. It is refreshing to read this broad historical perspective that stresses the cyclical nature of NATO internal crises.
A few minor errors detract. There are some transcription flaws with dates (pp. 72, 91, and 115), and occasionally the author does not distinguish between the timing of a NATO political decision and its bureaucratic manifestation (pp. 63 and 143-45). The term "out of area" is initially used to describe any world event outside NATO boundaries, even without formal alliance participation (preface, pp. 12 and 70). Under NATO parlance, as described at the 2002 Reykjavik Summit, the term more properly refers to formal, unified alliance military action in territories beyond those listed in Article 6 of the Atlantic Charter. The book also discusses the implications of several other NATO articles, and could benefit from an appendix listing the complete texts.
Overall, though, this book is exceptional for its clarity, purpose, and scope. It is highly recommended to international scholars, diplomats, and military professionals. The title is well chosen, for Kaplan uses his extensive knowledge to provide a long view, and he ends on an optimistic note: "Tensions and frictions were built into NATO by virtue of a free association of its component parts . . . [but] there is a mutual dependence that has kept the alliance together in the past and should continue to do so in the future" (pp. 148-49). Contentious issues persist, but, as one of his previous titles proclaims, NATO remains "the enduring alliance."