The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded in 1949, in the early years of the Cold War, as a collective defense institution, as defined in Article 51 of the UN Charter. The essence of the NATO Treaty is found in Article 5, which declares that an attack against any member of the alliance shall be considered an attack against them all, and that they may then decide to take collective action, including the use of force, in their defense against the act of aggression.
Cold war strategy
NATO’s strategy and tactics were geared to the assumption that a European conflict would involve a threat, or actual military attack, by the Soviet bloc upon one or more members of the alliance.
Post Cold War changes
With the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, NATO remained the only significant multilateral military organization in Europe. Since then, NATO has reconfigured itself to meet the demands of the new security situation in Europe.
NATO’s major transformation has been visible in the following areas:
- Partnership-for-peace (PfP)
- Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC)
- Peacekeeping and peace enforcement
- Expansion to 28 members, including former Warsaw Pact members
- NATO – Russia Council
NATO has used PfP and the EAPC to assist transformations in the former communist states, and has included contingents from them alongside NATO forces in peacekeeping and enforcement roles in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Overlap with OSCE
With the entry of Albania and Croatia into NATO in 2009, NATO has 28 member states, all of which are participating states in the OSCE. Therefore, half of the OSCE participating States are NATO members. Macedonia has also been invited to join NATO after a solution is found to a dispute with Greece over its name. Moreover, 49 countries, all OSCE participating states, participate in NATO’s North Atlantic Partnership Council, embracing a wide range of cooperative activities between NATO’s full members and other states in the region.
NATO’s major functions do not overlap with the OSCE’s. NATO is a defensive organization with significant military capability. The OSCE has no military forces of its own except those that can be made available by participating states or military organizations to which they belong, such as NATO and to a far lesser degree, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
When OSCE endeavors go beyond preventive diplomacy, peaceful resolution of disputes, and cooperative security, it is necessary to call for military forces with capability such as those provided by NATO. The fact, however, that NATO is both a military organization and one that excludes certain key states (such as Russia) from its central decision-making institutions means that some efforts to use NATO to advance regional security will prove problematic. At the same time, Russia does have a special consultative relationship with NATO, defined in the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation, and Security. In 2002, in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., this relationship was further institutionalized through creation of the NATO-Russia Council.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
OSCE Missions like the one in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) represent a model for institutional cooperation that may be emulated elsewhere. NATO took the lead in bringing the war to an end in 1995. A UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina was established to focus on law enforcement and police reform, as well as coordination of other UN activities in the country (until it was closed in 2002). The OSCE, along with the High Representative of the international community (effectively of the European Union), assumed the lead role in virtually all political and arms control measures.
A Spanish IFOR soldier provides security as voting materials are moved from the Mostar OSCE office during the elections held in BiH in September 1996. (SFOR)
NATO’s military forces are best used for military missions, and to provide the essential security for others to run elections, promote human rights, assure freedom of the media, and assist in the repatriation of refugees--all of which were eventually undertaken by the OSCE Mission in BiH. The OSCE presence, therefore, served a useful division of labor and contributes to improvement in the political conditions that necessitated IFOR (Intervention Force)/SFOR (Stabilization Force) deployment in the first place. At the same time, given the tensions and insecurity that existed in BiH after the war, it would have been impossible for unarmed OSCE mission officers to fulfill their mandate without the security provided by IFOR/SFOR troops.
The joint missions in BiH illustrate effectively the principle that peace and security can be built best when institutions each specialize in doing what they can do most effectively, dividing the labor among themselves, and cooperating to assure that all essential tasks are fulfilled with a minimum of overlap and duplication of effort.
NATO turned its peacekeeping mission in BiH over to the European Union’s EUFOR in 2004, leading to the withdrawal of virtually all U.S. troops stationed in BiH since 1995. NATO continues to maintain a presence in BiH through a Military Liaison and Advisory Mission (NATO HQ Sarajevo) to assist with defense reform.
NATO Task Force "Essential Harvest" collects weapons from Albanian insurgents in Macedonia, 2001 (NATO)
NATO, supported by the EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the OSCE's Chairman-in-Office, facilitated achievement of a ceasefire between ethnic Albanian insurgents and the Macedonian government, which paved the way for the political settlement achieved in the August 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement. NATO Task Force "Essential Harvest" then deployed to Macedonia to collect insurgent weapons. The Force continued in a monitoring role through March 2003, when the EU took on its mission.
NATO's Kosovo Force (KFOR) entered Kosovo in June 1999 following the NATO air campaign to end the humanitarian catastrophe there. NATO's mandate derived from UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and the Military-Technical Agreement between NATO and the Governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia.
On 30 June 2011, KFOR and the EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) conducted the latest version of the regular joint exercise “Balkan Hawk." However, unlike previous years, units of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) also participated in the exercise, within their legally defined competencies, for the first time. The exercise was conducted simultaneously in two separate areas – Djakovica Airfield, in the west of Kosovo, and Camp Vrello, near Pristina Airport. (KFOR)
NATO's initial mandate was to deter renewed hostility; establish a secure environment and ensure public safety and order; demilitarize the Kosovo Liberation Army; support the international humanitarian effort; and coordinate with and support the international civil presence. Since then, KFOR has performed a wide variety of tasks, including assistance in the return of refugees and displaced persons, border security and prevention of cross-border weapons smuggling, protection of cultural and religious sites, security and public order, and the protection of ethnic minorities.
Although NATO's Secretary General announced in 2010 that KFOR would be reduced from 10,000 to 2,000 troops, tensions in Kosovo have kept troop levels at about 5,100 as of March 2013.