NATO’S ’Open Door’ Faces North, Too

Par Leo MICHEL, le 26 novembre 2010  Imprimer l'article  lecture optimisée  Télécharger l'article au format PDF

Distinguished Research Fellow, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University, Washington, DC

SINCE 1999, 12 nations from the Baltics to the Balkans have graduated from partnership with NATO to membership [1]. Hence, it was no surprise when NATO’s new Strategic Concept, unveiled at the Lisbon Summit on Nov. 19-20, affirmed that "the door to NATO membership remains fully open to all European democracies which share the values of our Alliance, which are willing and able to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership, and whose inclusion can contribute to common security and stability."

Le publie également un livre de Catherine Durandin, "Otan, histoire et fin ?"

L’histoire de l’OTAN est en voie de s’achever. Hypothèse provocatrice ? Sans doute pas. Le sommet de l’OTAN à Lisbonne en 2010, avait débouché sur une vision globale, très ambitieuse des missions de l’OTAN, sur un concept flou. Le dernier sommet de l’OTAN à Chicago, en mai 2012, s’appuyant sur les directives de Lisbonne a décliné, en une déclaration de 65 points, une multiplicité vertigineuse des tâches. Avec toutefois, un aveu concernant la pénurie des moyens affectés aux tâches, un appel, dans un contexte de défis de sécurité complexes et de difficultés financières, à une politique de restructuration et d’économies. Ce sommet a également sonné le glas de l’intervention en Afghanistan, pour évoquer, afin de masquer la défaite d’une guerre anti terroriste confiée à l’outil militaire, un soutien solide, à long terme.

La lutte contre le terrorisme, la défense des Droits de l’Homme en Lybie et au Mali n’ont pas impliqué l’OTAN, mais de grands Alliés tels que les Etats-Unis et la Grande-Bretagne qui ont apporté leur soutien aux engagements militaires français et les ont rendu possibles. L’OTAN se transforme en Sainte Alliance de puissances réunies au coup par coup d’opérations avalisées ou non par l’ONU.

L’OTAN a su intégrer les ex-membres du Pacte de Varsovie et nouer un dialogue, parfois difficile, avec la Russie. Ce fut, au temps des années 1990 de la post-guerre froide, la manifestation de la victoire occidentale. Mais aujourd’hui, face au chaos et à l’anarchie, face à l’absence de vision, l’OTAN élargie n’offre pas de réponse à la déstabilisation et à l’éclatement du monde contemporain.

Vous trouverez ici l’introduction, puis le sommaire, enfin une précieuse chronologie de l’OTAN.

Le livre complet au format pdf. 2,2 Mo

NATO'S 'Open Door' Faces North, Too
C. Durandin. L’OTAN, histoire et fin ?
Le livre complet au format pdf. 2013. Tous droits réservés.

However, further enlargement toward eastern aspirants - Georgia, Macedonia and Montenegro - has stalled for various reasons, and Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych has shelved his country’s application. Hence, NATO’s next enlargement might go in a different direction : north.

Since joining the Partnership for Peace in 1994, Finland and Sweden have developed close ties with NATO, where many regard them as “virtual Allies.” Both were early force providers to NATO operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo and, more recently, in Afghanistan, where both have suffered casualties.

As Partners, they join in multiple NATO programs that have helped to transform their militaries from outdated, unsustainable Cold War structures to smaller, more capable and deployable forces able to plan, train, and operate together with Allies in complex missions. This directly benefits their regional defense cooperation (alongside Nordic Allies Norway, Denmark, and Iceland), defense-related efforts within the European Union (which both countries joined in 1995), and bilateral military and defense industrial links with the United States.
The new Strategic Concept reaffirms that the “greatest responsibility of the Alliance is to protect and defend (its) territory and populations against attack” as set out in Article V—the collective defense provision—of the 1949 Washington Treaty. And to do so, NATO has pledged, inter alia, to maintain an “appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional forces” and “carry out the necessary training, exercises, contingency planning and information exchange” necessary to ensure its defense. But the new Strategic Concept also advocates :

. expanding NATO’s dialogue and pragmatic cooperation with Russia ;

. intensifying its “comprehensive” civil-military approach to crisis prevention and response ;

. building much closer relations with the EU and other key international actors ; and

. enhancing Allied cooperation in the “global commons,” including the protection of cyberspace and maritime security.

From NATO’s perspective, Finnish and/or Swedish accession would bring new capabilities and expertise into its civilian and military structures. In the aforementioned and other areas—such as combating international terrorism and preventing weapons proliferation—Finland and Sweden share many common interests and approaches with the Allies. But as Partners, their ability to inform, shape, and implement NATO policies at every stage are constrained by many organizational and political factors. Allies rightfully will not extend unfettered access to their inner councils to nations who are not similarly bound to NATO Treaty’s obligations, including participation—if necessary—in collective defense.

For their part, Finnish and Swedish officials now acknowledge publicly what most had long understood : neither country can pursue a “go it alone” security strategy. Moreover, despite their support for military cooperation under EU auspices, few Finnish or Swedish experts really believe that the EU could replace NATO if their countries or region faced a serious threat.

Hence, policymakers in Helsinki and Stockholm should be asking two questions :

. First, since NATO’s policies and actions will profoundly affect their security environment for the indefinite future, are their national interests better served by having a seat at the table inside Alliance structures where those policies and actions are formulated and executed ?

.Second, given the trend toward increased cooperation between NATO and the EU, are Finland and Sweden at a disadvantage in shaping that cooperation compared to their 21 fellow EU member states (representing over 90 percent of the EU’s population) that also belong to NATO ?

French leaders asked similar questions before deciding, in 2009, to return to full participation in NATO’s military structures after a 43-year absence. Their answer : ultimately, a “one foot in, one foot out” approach doesn’t work in NATO or necessarily serve French interests in the EU.

Some Finnish and Swedish officials and parliamentarians are drawing similar conclusions. However, the widely-held assumption that their governments will eventually answer “yes” to both questions and then find a way to manage their NATO accessions in tandem probably underestimates differences in their respective strategic cultures.

Nuanced public declarations notwithstanding—in an April 2010 speech, Defense Minister Hakamies dismissed “any actual military threat against Finland”— many Finnish strategists worry about Russia. This is understandable, given their country’s two bloody wars with the USSR during 1939-44 and lingering resentments of security, political, and economic pressures exerted by Moscow over the next 45 years. Yet, while keeping a watchful eye on Russian military and political developments, Finland actively pursues a positive agenda on trade, energy, environmental and other cooperation with its eastern neighbor.

Moscow detests the idea of further enlargement, but its long-term response to an eventual Finnish application to NATO will depend greatly on the broader international context at the time. Uncertainty among the Finnish public over how this would play out is one among several explanations for the lukewarm support for membership—28 percent in favor versus 62 percent opposed, according to a 2009 opinion poll.

Still, Finland’s simmering debate on whether to join NATO has had a positive effect. Since 2004, several published reports by government ministries, parliamentary commissions, and respected think-tanks have methodically weighed the costs and effects of possible Finnish membership. The political elite is increasingly well-informed about how NATO works, making it more difficult for membership opponents (on both ends of the political spectrum) to argue their case based on commonplace myths—for example, that NATO could force an Ally to abandon military conscription (which remains popular with the Finnish public) or participate in operations against its will. Experienced Finnish observers believe that if their political leaders were to reach a consensus to join NATO—and this would depend on center-right victories in parliamentary elections next April and the presidential contest in early 2012—public opinion would rally behind the decision.

The picture changes when viewed from Stockholm. Sweden has been at peace for nearly 200 years ; hence, Russia figures less prominently in its security policy calculations, although Moscow’s heavy-handed intervention in Georgia worried defense and foreign ministry officials. Moreover, Sweden’s moralistic brand of neutralism and anti-nuclear fervor during the latter stages of the Cold War can still color its security policy debates. And while the public’s view of U.S. policies has improved since 2008, an undercurrent of suspicion remains : a respected Swedish polling institute found in 2009 that the United States ranked close behind Russia and China as “a problem for peace and security globally.”

However, Swedish views are evolving. In recent years, the governing Alliance coalition (of four center-right parties) has formally adopted, with bipartisan parliamentary backing, a “solidarity declaration” that declares, in part : “Sweden will not remain passive if a disaster or an attack would strike another EU member state or Nordic country…(Accordingly), Sweden will have the ability both to receive and provide military support.” Obviously, this is not the traditional view of Swedish “military non-alignment.” True, Swedish security officials and think-tanks often give pride of place to their country’s role within the UN or EU and play down relations with NATO. Nevertheless, according to one respected survey, support for NATO membership “as soon as possible” or “eventually” jumped from 17 percent in 2005 to 35 percent in 2009, while those favoring “staying out” declined from 67 to 38 percent over the same period.

Yet, Swedish politicians seem less prepared than their Finnish counterparts to tackle the NATO membership question. The Alliance coalition, which formed a minority government following the September 19 elections, is reportedly divided on the issue. Some of its leaders insist on a “gentleman’s agreement” with the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, before launching a comprehensive study à la finlandaise of the effects of possible NATO membership. But even “moderate” Social Democrats dismiss the study idea, arguing in essence that NATO is a Cold War relic. They also worry about splitting with their Left Party allies, who are even more ideological rigid on the issue. This impasse could last until the next elections cycle in 2015.

What, then, should NATO do ? Simply put, be patient. Enlargement never was, and should not be, an end in itself. If the Alliance stays on the course laid out in its new Strategic Concept, implements necessary reforms to its military and civilian structures, and—above all—demonstrates solidarity and effectiveness in the face of 21st century threats, it will remain the beacon of Euro-Atlantic stability and security that has attracted Finland and Sweden ever closer to its ranks. NATO must make clear that their contributions, ideas, and sacrifices are valued, even if one or both opt to remain Partners. And if one or both eventually seek membership, their citizens must accept their fair share of responsibility toward the Alliance that will be better prepared, in return, to protect them.

Copyright 22 novembre 2010-Michel

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[1These are the author’s personal views and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Defense. Abridged versions of this commentary were published by DEFENSE NEWS (November 8, 2010) and, in Finnish, by HELSINGIN SANOMAT (November 18, 2010.) INSS will publish a detailed report on this subject in early 2011.


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