The North Atlantic Alliance (NATO)
Since Albania and Croatia became members in April 2009, the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) has had 28 members. The end of the East-West confrontation in 1990 fundamentally changed the political landscape. In Eastern, Central Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, a groundbreaking political and economic reform process was initiated, driven not least by the prospect of the integration of these regions into Euro-Atlantic structures. Through the process of European integration and NATO enlargement, it has been possible to extend the European area of stability.
On 4 April 1949, twelve states from Europe and North America signed the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, DC. Today, the following states are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (also known as the North Atlantic Alliance or NATO): Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Adapting NATO to meet new challenges
The NATO Council, as the central institution in the Euro-Atlantic security policy debate, works intensively on the further development of the Alliance. Through this continuous process, NATO prepares itself to face new security challenges and is able to fulfil its duty to protect the citizens of its member countries.
Minister Westerwelle with French President Hollande (left) and Chancellor Merkel in Chicago
One key issue discussed during the last NATO Summit, held in Chicago on 20 and 21 May 2012, was the Alliance’s engagement in Afghanistan. NATO and its partners want to withdraw their combat troops from the country by the end of 2014. After that, a new mission is to continue providing support for Afghan security forces through training, advisory services and funding. Moreover, NATO partners declared an Interim Capability for joint missile defence in Europe at the Summit. An invitation for Russia to take part in the project remains open. Finally, in future the NATO partners want to cooperate even more closely on the development of joint military capabilities so that expensive military projects can be jointly financed in future.
At their summit in Lisbon in November 2010, the NATO Heads of State and Government adopted a new Strategic Concept with the aim of preparing the Alliance for the new challenges and threats of the 21st century. This new Strategic Concept underscores the importance of the mutual defence obligation under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty as the Alliance’s core function.
NATO continues to be a defence alliance but is increasingly also a security alliance with crisis management and cooperative security as core tasks. NATO thus sent clear messages with regard to the global disarmament and arms control efforts. This is reinforced by the commitment to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and the establishment of a committee to provide advice on WMD control and disarmament. The Deterrence and Defence Posture Review mandated in Lisbon in 2010 was adopted in Chicago. It expressly points to the key role of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation in the Alliance’s security.
Partnerships and Cooperation
NATO partnerships are an important element of cooperative security. In view of the changed security environment and new challenges, the network of countries and international organizations with which NATO is conducting a political dialogue is to be broadened, and concrete cooperation with Alliance partners intensified.
In order to lay down concrete guidelines in this sphere for NATO’s new Strategic Concept, the NATO Foreign Ministers adopted a new partnership policy at their meeting in Berlin on 15 April 2011. This is intended to make cooperation with other states and organizations more efficient, pragmatic and flexible. At present, NATO has partnerships with more than 40 states and international organizations:
The partnership with Russia is of special significance to security. This was highlighted back in 2002 when the NATO-Russia Council was established. This Council has proven its worth as a forum for concrete cooperation and comprehensive political dialogue – regardless of critical phases such as during the war in Georgia in 2008.
In November 2010, the Heads of State and Government of NATO states and Russia renewed their strategic partnership in Lisbon. They created a basis for further practical cooperation with the conclusion of a joint review of security challenges in Afghanistan, in the field of piracy and in the fight against terrorism, as well as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Today, Russia supports the Alliance by allowing ISAF transit to and from Afghanistan and has cooperated with NATO to set up a counter-narcotics project, as well as a Helicopter Maintenance Trust Fund in support of Afghanistan’s helicopter fleet. Furthermore, NATO and Russia have begun drawing up a joint cooperation framework in the sphere of territorial missile defence.
The further development and strengthening of NATO’s partnership with Ukraine, which is based on the 1997 NATO-Ukraine Charter on a Distinctive Partnership, is an essential element of European security. The central dialogue forum of this partnership is the NATO-Ukraine Commission, which monitors the reform process in Ukraine and the cooperation between NATO and Ukraine on the basis of Annual National Programmes. Today Ukraine participates broadly in NATO-led operations, although it is no longer seeking to join NATO following the change of government in 2010.
The NATO-Georgia Commission was established in September 2008. It is the central body in the pre-accession process between Georgia and NATO. Georgia, too, has developed an Annual National Programme to this end in which, among other things, the aims of the domestic reform process are set out and will be subsequently evaluated. The country participates in the NATO-led Operation ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) in Afghanistan.
The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) currently has 50 members: 22 partner countries (Eastern European countries, including Russia and Ukraine, countries in the Southern Caucasus, Central Asia and in the Balkans, and neutral Western European countries such as Austria, Finland, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland) as well as the 28 NATO member countries.
The Partnership for Peace (PfP) initiative, which was established by the Alliance in 1994 in response to the sea change occurring in the states of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and Central Asia, comprises a broad range of military and civilian cooperation options, as well as security policy consultations. The most important goals include transferring experience and stability and aligning partner countries’ armed forces with the Alliance (interoperability). Successful practical cooperation within the framework of the Partnership for Peace programme (through joint military exercises, participation in NATO-led peacekeeping missions, training, explosive ordnance disposal and the exchange of liaison officers) is supplemented by regular consultations on Euro-Atlantic security policy issues in the EAPC.
Since 1994, NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue has helped build confidence and enhance cooperation between the Alliance and the seven dialogue states (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia). The aim of the Mediterranean Dialogue is to create transparency, build confidence, conduct a political dialogue on issues of joint interest and intensify practical cooperation, for example in the fight against international terrorism. The Mediterranean Dialogue complements and strengthens other Mediterranean initiatives, such as those of the EU and the OSCE.
At the Istanbul Summit NATO also declared its willingness to forge a partnership with the Broader Middle East. The NATO members launched the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) for this purpose. This initiative, open to interested countries in the region, seeks to establish mutually beneficial relationships aimed at fostering security and stability. It complements other international initiatives (in particular those of the G8 and the EU). Within the ICI, NATO cooperates with Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Moreover, NATO has developed independent cooperation programmes for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
Also outside of these institutional formats, using flexible formats, the Alliance is able to maintain an exchange with other countries which contribute to Alliance operations and missions politically, militarily or logistically, or which express an interest in consultation meetings with NATO.
The most visible sign of NATO’s activity is its operations. The Alliance is currently carrying out the following operations:
- ISAF in Afghanistan led by NATO since August 2003. At present 48 countries (including all NATO members) are taking part, with a total of around 35.000 troops. With approximately 4.300 troops Germany is the third-largest troop contributor (as of January 2013).
- Kosovo Force (KFOR) in Kosovo since 1999. At present 30 countries (including all NATO members apart from Belgium, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovania and Spain) take part, with a total of around 5.400 troops. With approximately 750 troops, Germany is the largest troop contributor (as of January 2013) and also provides the KFOR Commander, Major-General Halbauer.
- Operation Active Endeavour to combat terrorism in the Mediterranean since October 2001. Rapidly changing participation by various NATO member states and partner countries (due, first and foremost, to the temporary assignment of ships in transit through the Mediterranean). Germany’s regular contribution includes ships which cross the Mediterranean to or from the counter-piracy mission ATALANTA or UNIFIL, ships for the Standing NATO Maritime Groups (SNMGs) as well as ORION maritime patrol aircraft and crews for NATO AWACS.
- Operation Ocean Shield: NATO accompanies trading ships and, when necessary, rescues captured ships. Operation Ocean Shield is working to develop local abilities to combat piracy within the framework of UN-coordinated cooperation and in close coordination with all other actors in the region, especially the EU ATALANTA mission.
Last updated 23.05.2012