Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence

Memorandum from Dr David Galbreath



  1.  Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a continual question of who should be the keeper of peace and defender of states in Europe. In 1990, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was the most prominent security and defence alliance. Other initiatives had failed (European Defence Community), remained marginal (Western European Union), or were simply not in a position to replace NATO (Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, now OSCE). Yet, in 1998, even the UK government began to put more emphasis on the EU vis-á-vis NATO in terms of security and defence. Similarly, European defence ministers at the 1999 Cologne European Council initiated the incorporation of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) into the office of the High Commissioner of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). However, following the 2004 and 2007 EU enlargements, NATO still remains the dominant insurer of regional peace and stability. In other words, despite considerable changes in European security, NATO remains the dominant security organization for the United Kingdom (UK) and Europe.

  2.  This paper examines how EU and NATO enlargements have shaped the relationship between NATO and the ESDP. The discussion engages several questions. First, what role did security and defence play in the accession process? How did the relationship between the EU and NATO change in this time? Second, what is the contemporary relationship between NATO and the countries of "New Europe"? Attention will be focused on those countries in Central and Eastern Europe, as opposed to Malta or Cyprus since the latter states are not members of NATO. Finally, is there a solution to accommodating both NATO and the EU? Can there be a system of burden-sharing that makes for effective and efficient peace-making, peace-keeping and peace-building? Throughout, the discussion involves the impact on and implications for the UK.


  3.  The argument for EU and NATO enlargement was constantly tied to regional security, stability and peace. From both organizations' perspectives, enlargement could lock-in democratizing regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, ending the legacy of the post-war settlement in Europe. The basic assumption is that of the "Democratic Peace": democracies do not fight one another. At the same time, member-state governments who resisted the enlargements of the EU and NATO thought that bringing in potentially unstable states would bring instability to the union and alliance. In 1995, NATO produced the "NATO enlargement study". The study had four conclusions. Firstly, enlargement was an end within itself. In other words, the alliance had a political and moral responsibility to include these states. Secondly, enlargement was seen as part of a wider process of restructuring within NATO. The alliance had been predicated on defending against a Soviet land invasion. With the Soviets and the threat of a land invasion gone, NATO required restructuring to cope with the post-Cold War challenges of security in the Euro-Atlantic region. Thirdly, enlargement would reinforce common security amongst "us", by connecting states to the institutional structures of defence and security provided by NATO. Finally, the study determined that the Russian Federation's views would be taken into consideration over enlargement. In the end, Russia's views seemed to be ignored, especially in the case of extending membership to the three former Soviet states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania at the Prague North Atlantic Council in 2002.

  4.  EU enlargement in 2004 and 2007 and NATO enlargement in 1999 and 2004, overlapped significantly. The EU enlarged to Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus in 2004 and Romania and Bulgaria in 2007. Similarly, NATO enlarged to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in 1999 and Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria in 2004. Thus, this overlap lies within Central and Eastern Europe. In part, gaining access to one organization, helped gain access to another. Similarly, the member-states of both organizations that were most reluctant to accept enlargement also overlap. The UK, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, were keen to see enlargement in both the union and the alliance. Likewise, France, Portugal, Spain and Italy were reluctant to see dual enlargement to these countries. There were also some special cases such as Sweden and Finland providing military assistance to the Baltic States despite not being members of NATO. Rather, Sweden and Finland work within the framework of the "Partnership for Peace" programme (1994).

  5.  With the strong overlap between enlargements, it is unsurprising that EU and NATO cooperation became more formalised in the accession phase. At the Berlin Ministerial Council in 1996, the member-states of NATO and the Western European Union (later to be incorporated into the second EU pillar (CFSP)) agreed to the establishment of the European Security and Defence Initiative (ESDI) within NATO. The purpose of the ESDI was to establish a European peace-keeping force bound to the "Petersburg Tasks". These are humanitarian and rescue tasks as well as peacekeeping and combat-force in crisis management, including peacemaking. As discussed earlier, the ESDI was eventually brought under the wing of the High Commissioner of the CFSP. Closer partnership between NATO and the EU has allowed for an easier position for Central and East European states, as it has for the UK.


  6.  Central and East European member-states have been strong supporters of NATO as the primary security organization in Europe. Much of the support for NATO comes from two sources: a historical fear of Russia, the successor state to the Soviet Union, and a Cold War vision of the US as a saviour. Both of these perceptions have elements of truth and fiction. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have the most difficult historical relationship with Russia. The Baltic States were occupied from 1941, first by Soviets, then by Germans, then by Soviets again. As Soviet Republics, they were heavily repressed through political and class murders, forced mass migration were few survived, and agricultural collectivization which starved to death many. Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia have their own difficult history with Russia, while not within the Soviet Union themselves, experienced the oppression that came with being in the Soviet sphere of influence. For these states and others, the post-war settlement did not come until after 1990.

  7.  The relationship between these states and the US became strong after the end of the Cold War. Partly through strategic partnership, partly through globalization and Americanization, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe came to look upon the US as the key ally, in much the same way the UK has done since the Second World War. Evident when speaking to political officials at the EU in Brussels or the OSCE in Vienna, the author has heard a great deal of distrust from the Central and East European States towards many West European states. If one looks across the security strategies of the Central and East European states, one will find that Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria have all said in post-enlargement security strategies that NATO is the core of the European security infrastructure and wish to maintain NATO's position in the region. The Baltic States have argued against any development of the ESDP that would be "detrimental to NATO". Hungary has argued for a long-term preservation of NATO's "central role" in the region. Poland has argued that the relationship with the US and NATO is the "most important guarantee" of security. The Czech strategy sets out NATO as the "pillar of collective defence". Slovakia has consistently argued a "NATO first" policy. Romania argues that NATO holds the "essential role" in European security. Bulgaria insists that the ESDP is "not an alternative NATO". Overall, there is overwhelming support among these ten EU and NATO member-states for the continuation of NATO as the key collective security and defence organization in Europe.


  8.  The EU and NATO relationship has become increasingly close as memberships have overlapped, the lack of support for duplication between the two organizations persists, and events in Afghanistan have developed. As the previous section illustrates, existing reluctance to see the US withdraw from Europe and greater EU involvement in security and defence made the traditional position of the UK, one also of "NATO first", more tenable. NATO has remained much more a regional security organization than has the EU. The alliance has limited its involvement to the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. On the other hand, the EU currently has a global presence including ESDP missions in the Palestinian Territories, Iraq, the Congo, Sudan and Georgia in addition to the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.

  9.  There has been a much greater emphasis put on complementarity between the EU and NATO. While all of the Central and East European member-states have pressed for the continual strength of NATO, all have also supported the EU's development of complimentary security and defence policies. Complementarity should be what is expected from two organizations that overlap strongly in terms of membership. EU and NATO enlargement has brought both organizations to the step of post-Cold War conflicts. We see that in terms of EU and NATO operations in the former Yugoslavia, particularly in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia, both organizations have a role to play in peace-making, peace-keeping and peace-building. The UK plays a bridging part in this collaboration between the EU and NATO. As a prominent actor in NATO, the UK can maintain a successful ground and air campaign, in combination with likely counterparts like the US, Dutch, Danish and Norwegians. In other words, NATO is an effective peace-maker as can be seen with SFOR and KFOR operations. Tied to the Petersburg Tasks, the EU can play a greater role in follow-up operations that support peace-keep and peace-building. Together with other organizations like the United Nations and the OSCE, extensive burden-sharing makes for a strong European security infrastructure.


  10.  Dual enlargement has brought greater support in Europe for the continued presence of NATO as the primary security organization as well as the Trans-Atlantic relationship. Eight of the ten new Central and East European member-states have taken active part in the coalition in Iraq (Slovenia and Hungary participated in NATO training missions with Iceland and Turkey), while all ten have taken part in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Both Iraq and Afghanistan highlight that many of the threats to Europe's security will come from outside the region. The focus on "out of area" operations was reaffirmed at the Prague North Atlantic Council in 2002. Through NATO's niche capabilities framework, Central and East European states have much to offer NATO operations, as can be seen in Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia. Furthermore, these states have much to offer EU operations as can be seen in their active participation in eleven current operations around the world. Europe's ability to preserve regional peace and stability as well as Europe's obligations to maintain security in other parts of the world require that complementary security and defence organizations remain a characteristic of the European security infrastructure.

Lecturer, Department of Politics and International Relations,

University of Aberdeen

 29 November 2007

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