NATO Confusing Development

NATO Confusing Development

For NATO itself, the upheavals were a triumph mixed with confusion. The alliance’s political and military cohesion had passed the test. Its main opponent was collapsing, but had the organization therefore “done its thing” and become ripe for liquidation?

In the summer of 1990, according to Acronymmonster, NATO declared that it no longer considered the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern and Central Europe to be enemies. The Soviet Union, for its part, accepted the reunification of the two German states. In October of the same year, the united Germany became a member of NATO and in November, NATO and the Warsaw Pact agreed on far-reaching disarmament of conventional forces (the CFE agreement, Conventional Armed Forces in Europe).

In 1991, the countries of the Warsaw Pact announced that that alliance would be dissolved. That same year, Gorbachev resigned and the Soviet Union was dissolved. NATO first announced its military strategy, the New Strategic Concept, which portrayed the new security threat as unpredictable, multifaceted and not always purely military.

US President George HW Bush introduced several disarmament initiatives in the early 1990’s and agreed with his Russian counterpart Boris Yeltsin that the countries would further reduce their nuclear arsenals. NATO members also decided on far-reaching cuts to their defense forces.

The war in the former Yugoslavia

As the threat from the East shifted to cooperation, NATO’s interest in peacekeeping operations increased, which could give the Alliance a new raison d’ĂȘtre. During the civil war in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s guarded NATO Flight Bosnian territory, including to protect UN personnel in the peacekeeping force Unprofor (United Nations Protection Force). On behalf of the UN, NATO units participated in the establishment of a protected zone around Sarajevo and other Bosnian cities. Since the escalation of the war in Bosnia in 1994 and 1995, NATO has increasingly carried out air strikes on behalf of the UN, primarily against Bosnian Serb military targets.

Through the peace agreement concluded in 1995, NATO was given the leadership of a larger multinational force, Ifor (Implementation Force), which was to monitor and enforce the political parts of the agreement (read more in the chapter on peace-promoting operations).

NATO’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 1999 were significantly dampened by the fact that the Defense Alliance was in an open military conflict with Serbia over the Serbian province of Kosovo. It was NATO’s first large-scale conflict ever.

To protect Kosovo’s Albanian majority population from Serbian aggression, NATO launched air strikes against Serbia, Montenegro and Serbian targets in Kosovo. The attack was not sanctioned by the UN Security Council. After several rounds of great power diplomacy, an international peace plan was drawn up and a NATO-led peacekeeping force was created, the KFOR (Kosovo Force, see Peacekeeping Operations).

Partnership for peace

In parallel with the peace-building activities in the former Yugoslavia, the focus was on expanding NATO to the east. Since the early 1990’s, several Central and Eastern European countries have applied for NATO membership. They were in a no-man’s country of security policy between Western Europe and Russia and feared what the unstable situation in the whole of the former Soviet Union could lead to.

Russia, for its part, perceived the proliferation of NATO as a threat and a way for the United States to expand its influence and military presence in the region. NATO countries were initially reluctant to admit the Eastern European states. As an attempt to calm the countries that wanted to approach NATO without irritating Russia, following a US initiative, a new form of cooperation in European security policy, Partnership for Peace (PFF), was established at the NATO Summit in January 1994. By joining the PFF, European countries in the European Security and Cooperation Organization (OSCE) that were not members of NATO, such as Sweden, the opportunity to cooperate with the Alliance.

Within the PFF, the countries carried out military joint exercises of the type peacekeeping and peace-building operations, as well as rescue operations and humanitarian operations. By 1997, PFF operations had grown so strongly that NATO and partner countries began to consider changing the forms of cooperation. In May 1997, they decided to form a new organization, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPR). Within the Council, the 28 NATO countries and a number of partner countries could meet for dialogue and consultations and plan in a more structured way for PFF exercises.

The countries within PFF / EAPR are currently 50 in number. Many of these are countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus. They have relatively few common interests with the countries in Europe that are still not NATO members, such as Sweden and Finland. This development has meant that PFF / EAPR has lost significance. Sweden and Finland have had a special partner status since 2014 within the framework of the NATO Enhanced Opportunities Program (EOP) (see below).

NATO Confusing Development