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NATO, Kosovo and Crisis Management

559 pages7 hours


This study examines the changes implemented in the course of NATO’s self-imposed process of transformation during the 1990s in order to determine whether they improved NATO’s ability to respond to the types of crises the Allies expected to face in the post-Cold War security environment. Years of intramural analysis and debate resulted in four distinct trends in institutional adaptation: transforming the Alliance’s operational forces and command structures to improve their ability to respond to international security crises; integrating former Soviet satellites into the European security architecture; engaging Russia in a mutually beneficial dialogue; and maintaining NATO’s political unity and cohesiveness in the face of new challenges. The efficacy of this process of transformation was tested when, during the Kosovo Crisis of 1998-99, NATO went to war for the first time in its fifty-year history.

In the course of this book I examine political-strategic decision making in the North Atlantic Alliance in terms of Barnard’s theory of organization, and in the context of the four transformation trends outlined above. The argument presented herein concludes that while NATO’s actions in Kosovo were effective in that the Allies’ stated aims were accomplished, they were inefficient in that the cost in internal discord and damage to NATO’s external relationships and credibility significantly degraded NATO’s ability to manage future crises. This study suggests that while consensus-based decision making at the political-strategic level is the cornerstone of NATO’s political unity, it is also its Achilles heel because it not only impedes efforts to take effective, efficient action in response to time-sensitive crises, but also prevents NATO from modifying its key internal decision making mechanism – the consensus principle itself.

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