285. The Impact of the Emerging Role of East Europe in Iraq on NATO
Joshua B. Spero is Assistant Professor of Political Science in the Department of Social Sciences at Fitchburg State College. Meeting Report 285.
The antagonistic division between ‘old' and ‘new' Europe, as coined by Donald Rumsfeld, underscores the uncertainty of the transatlantic relationship as well as the ambiguous roles of NATO, its new members and Partnership for Peace (PFP) partners. This antagonism became exacerbated by the war in Iraq and, even as the ‘major hostilities' ended in Iraq and the guerrilla counter-insurgency against US-led coalition forces accelerated, significant security rifts persist between ‘old' Europe and the US, with ‘new' Europe caught in the middle and forced to take sides.
Transatlantic divisiveness largely detracts from the strategy America wants its allies to perform in the world. If transatlantic discord increases, we can expect greater security challenges in the fragile Balkans, consistently unstable Afghanistan and extremely uncertain Iraq, not to mention the perennially battling Israelis and Palestinians. It is likely that, as these geostrategetic fault lines grow, the core political, economic and military institutions built after World War II will be in peril. As debate begins over further extending NATO's boundaries beyond the current PFP or Mediterranean Dialogue countries to Iraq, bridging the geostrategic fault lines becomes even more pressing. Here, I will present a strategy for repairing and reviving the European-American relationship, involving the new NATO members and PFP nations.
One of the key strategies to bridge the gap between the US and Europe focuses on whether NATO devolves into a toolbox for America or regains its role as the ‘go-to' institution of choice for the US and other NATO members. If the ‘toolbox' approach continues, it is likely to lead to the disintegration of NATO's new integrated political-military command structure and concomitant planning procedures, which were reformed in the 1990s. The US and NATO members need to utilize NATO's evolved and integrated political-military command structure so that NATO's common transatlantic planning principles, procedures and processes provide the US, new members and even—as appropriate—non-NATO partners, the benefits of security and stability. NATO must focus on how to project an image of legitimacy on the world stage—particularly if it deploys a force to Iraq. First, I will explore the initial effects on NATO of deploying new Eastern European NATO members to Iraq. Second, I will address what NATO could actually do in Iraq if deployment occurs. Finally, I will discuss what needs to be done to strengthen the transatlantic relationship and ensure that US strategic goals are realized.
Lessons for new NATO member deployments
The Polish command of the Multinational Division (MND) in Iraq exemplifies the ‘new' European impact on NATO, even without the deployment of a NATO force. The remarkable evolution of Poland and the other new and future NATO members and long-term PFP nations working in the MND demonstrates the rapid progress in Poland's leadership role in NATO and globally. For NATO, it illustrates how the Alliance's planning, training and implementation abilities are still relevant, despite the transatlantic rift.
In early June 2003, NATO's North Atlantic Council approved giving military support to Poland and its sector by "providing intelligence, logistics expertise, movement co-ordination, force generation and secure communications support." ("Poland Assumes Command in Iraq with NATO Support," http://www.paginedidifesa.it/2003/nato_030904.html.) More specifically, this support includes: Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) coordinating the forces from individual nations that will work independently of NATO in Iraq, but will use NATO planning procedures; specialized training for the MND staff in Szczecin, Poland via the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany; sending Allied Forces Southern Command Headquarters staff experts to Warsaw to advise the Poles on logistical planning; establishing a secure satellite communications link from the Polish-led MND to a ground station in Europe in order to share intelligence and manage information. This support—in addition to troop contingents provided by Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine—shows that new NATO members and PFP partners are making sizable contributions to post-war Iraq. These multinational deployments have an impact on shaping NATO's future, particularly in terms of Poland's abilities to take command and the lessons learned about transferring knowledge from ‘old' to ‘new' Europe.
It remains to be seen whether NATO will ever deploy troops to Iraq, as it did in Afghanistan and the Balkans. It may serve in a reinforcement role after the American, British and Polish MNDs complete their indeterminate missions—although given the violence and challenge of maintaining order and security there, those tours appear protracted. Shortening these tours is not helped by the continuing controversy between the US and the international community over political control of Iraq and refusal by some allies to provide additional personnel and resources to the US mission there.
Geostrategy to bridge transatlantic differences
During the 1990s, most of the historical antecedents that led to World War II had been removed by the strategic partnership between the US and Europe, particularly in Central-East Europe. Although it seemed unlikely when the current Bush Administration initially took office, its grand strategy now risks returning Europe to something akin to the Inter-war period, since European security institutions seem to be becoming irrelevant, allowing worrisome geopolitical trends to emerge unconstrained. At the same time, critical European political and economic power shifts already presage a growing tectonic shift away from the US's geostrategic goals to counter global terrorism and expand democracy. Evidence of this schism is mounting: Polish-German rancor over Germany's refusal to send troops from its German-Polish-Danish Corps to the Polish-led MND in Iraq; Polish-French tensions over Poland's special US relationship; perceptions of US splintering the EU; discord over rapid reaction force structures in NATO and the EU; residual US-German hostility as US troops re-deploy from Germany to Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, while virtually ignoring Germany's command role in Afghanistan; and America's hollowing-out of NATO institutionally, using it to serve US interests. These trends jeopardize already worsening inter-European regional relationships. One repercussion concerns Germany struggling once again to find its most comfortable zone of strategic engagement with its neighbors, putting undue pressure on the disunited European side of the transatlantic relationship.
America could reinforce long-term European stability by promoting the EU as a partner or even as ‘healthy competition,' instead of trying to divide Europe by unduly elevating individual countries (such as Poland) while holding Germany and France at arms-length. More equitable responsibility sharing between America and Europe would strengthen ties between NATO and the EU, while reinvigorating the transatlantic relationship. The further weakening of this relationship will only enable exploitation by antagonistic states and hostile global non-state actors to de-couple America from its long-standing European allies. America and Europe must instead revive allied bonds by making the dominant European security institutions relevant in the fight against global terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
‘Old' and ‘new' Europe must join Washington in investing in key security institutions so that they remain relevant by demonstrating how they can evolve productively and cooperatively. Specifically, one strategy for grappling with the global war on terrorism is to create a joint NATO-EU counter-terrorism planning initiative for civilian police and military operations. In this way, transatlantic allies would better anticipate, coordinate and synchronize how to re-establish basic government functions before the tremendous tasks of post-war infrastructure construction. Rebuilding police capability in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq requires international cooperation to oversee public security, complement military forces and organize and train a new indigenous police force. In Iraq, public security must provide the groundwork for successful military operations and transition to a more orderly society. Unfortunately, public security remains one of the most neglected aspects of crisis management and regional security, especially if peace support or peacekeeping operations cannot effectively transition to national and regional stability. EU countries have exemplary national police forces trained in a wide spectrum of law-enforcement activities, particularly cross-border coordination. Therefore, cooperating with the EU offers a key option for solving the security vacuum in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Another asset of the EU is its goal of creating a civilian-military crisis response force, one that requires synchronization with NATO's emerging rapid reaction forces. The new NATO and PFP nations also provide crucial support for this potential NATO-EU relationship, and America must reinforce—not destroy—the geo-strategic bridges in East Central Europe that have seemingly overcome centuries of animosity.
By harmonizing American and European responses to terrorist threats and nation building, NATO can be revived as the premier European security institution and American military forces can decrease their woefully-overextended global deployment. Further, by cooperating in Afghanistan and Iraq, NATO forces would benefit from the lessons learned while in the field. Non-NATO countries that have allied with the US in Iraq could ultimately widen NATO's sphere of influence, including Russia and beyond. The US and its NATO allies should seriously consider devising better NATO-Russia contingency planning to implement more effective rapid response operations. Based in several locations, including Russia and inclusive of NATO, EU, PFP and NATO Mediterranean Dialogue nations, a larger NATO-Russia contingency planning cell could compliment NATO-EU planning.
To avoid increasing transatlantic tensions, ‘new' Europe needs to reach a balanced and productive set of transatlantic and European preferences. America's vital interests need to uphold a stable and integrated Europe in which ‘new' European allies feel welcome and NATO enlargement contributes to European security. Promoting a division between Poland and Germany (whether unwittingly or purposefully) goes against everyone's long-term security interests, only serving America's desire to cherry-pick coalitions for America's global policies. To a key nation like Poland, success as a bridge-builder must also be measured in terms of how it helps Washington to better understand the need for multilateralism, spurring Europe and America to invest in multilateral security cooperation. Ironically, post-9/11 US deployments in Central Asia and the Caucasus forced Russia to reassess its force projection strategy, while many European NATO or EU nations did not. If Europeans want to play a significant role in international coalitions, they must seriously restructure their forces for global missions, undergird US-led operations or lead them. Lessons from Africa, Afghanistan and NATO-led Balkan operations demonstrate the necessity for both ‘old' and ‘new' European militaries to modernize, reform rapid collective defense commitments and determine how to build less expensive NATO Rapid Reaction/Response Forces. Given NATO-EU tensions over competitive rapid reaction frameworks and doubt over their deployment to Iraq, America, NATO allies, PFP partners and EU nations must prioritize NATO-EU relations together. Otherwise, ‘new' Europe will continue to buckle under the pressure to prioritize national missile defense over rapid response capabilities and divest from more critical NATO peace support operations and EU civil-military police stabilizing missions. As a result, NATO will not be able to evolve, let alone survive.
The restructuring strategies described above will not be initiated if American rhetoric about uniting Europe continues while it pursues a divisive grand strategy. Washington can find reassurance in an effective, supportive relationship with its greatest allies and still lead in tackling global turbulence. In turn, the EU can emerge behind the assurance of genuine American support and NATO reinforcement in its role as a new regional power, assuming increased responsibilities for rapid crisis-response missions, or even very selective crisis prevention operations. Failure to revitalize the transatlantic relationship will leave Europe with less direction and more divisiveness. The serious consequences of failing to resolve immediate course corrections for the core institutions which new NATO members and PFP members have fought so hard to join entail consigning those institutions to irrelevance in the absence of true American leadership.