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Mediterranean Quarterly 14.2 (2003) 1-14

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NATO after Prague and Copenhagen

W. Bruce Weinrod

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is truly at a historic crossroads. Instrumental in the triumph of the Western democracies over the Soviet empire, and then subsequently having transformed itself significantly in the first post-Cold War decade, NATO now faces a new international situation that will challenge its ability to adapt creatively and flexibly to new circumstances.

The post-Cold War era ended on 11 September 2001. The events of that day and their aftermath have forever changed the international environment in which NATO and the broader transatlantic relationship exist. International terrorism and related security challenges, such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery, have raised new challenges for NATO.

The challenges are even greater because NATO must also contend with the expanding role of the European Union in the foreign policy and security areas. The EU has begun the process of establishing its own military capabilities. If not handled wisely, the EU's development of a military capability could undermine NATO's military effectiveness.

NATO must also adapt within the context of notable differences in views on a variety of geopolitical, security, and even domestic issues. Many Europeans and their governments do not share U.S. perspectives on a variety of international issues. At the same time, the expansion of both NATO and the EU adds additional crosscurrents to the transatlantic relationship. In general, the newer members of both organizations are inclined to emphasize [End Page 1] more than some of the older members the importance of the U.S. security role in Europe.

Two meetings important to NATO's future occurred in the late months of 2002. The first was the 21-22 November NATO summit at Prague, in the Czech Republic. The second was the 13-14 December EU summit held in Copenhagen, Denmark. At Prague, NATO approved important decisions that, if fully implemented, would give it military capabilities necessary to address twenty-first-century security threats. At Copenhagen, the EU moved in the direction of finding ways to work in a complementary way with NATO. Thus, the outcomes of both meetings provide at least initial indications that NATO might continue to be relevant to the security challenges of the twenty-first century.

NATO faces three basic challenges to its continued relevance. First, global security threats have intensified in recent years, especially with respect to terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, and Iraqi defiance of UN-mandated requirements.Second,there remains unfinished business within Europe's borders. Third, there are growing transatlantic differences in a variety of areas. The meetings at Prague and Copenhagen, as discussed below, addressed at least in principle key issues in all of these areas.

International Terrorism

The single most important post-Cold War international security development has been the emergence of a global terrorist threat targeted primarily at the United States but also aimed at key European nations. For NATO to be a meaningful institution, it must be an active participant in combating terrorism. Initial signs were not overly encouraging, but more recently an active NATO involvement in this struggle appears to be emerging.

On 12 September 2001, NATO nations agreed for the first time to invoke Article Five of the NATO Treaty. Article Five calls upon NATO nations to assist in defending a member that has been attacked. This action not only symbolized the European reaction to the 11 September attack but also established the important principle that responding to a terrorist attack on a [End Page 2] member state, even by a nonstate entity, was within the parameters of NATO's mission. 1

Although the United States accepted the deployment of NATO AWACS air surveillance aircraft over its territory, it initially did not take up NATO's implicit willingness to provide military support for the projected military actions in Afghanistan. This was because the U.S. military did not wish to be involved with the time-consuming coordination and planning required for NATO involvement and...


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