You are on page 1of 6

August 1, 2016

Christopher Chappell,
University of Illinois
Oli Cotton,
University of Leeds
Jack Heidecker,
Westflische Wilhelms-Universitt
Sandra Houzvickova,
University of Pavia


Redefining Relationships
Inside and Outside the Alliance

Anna Jordanova,
Masaryk University
Chenoa Sly,
University of Alberta
Connor Smart,
University of Plymouth

NATO has made mistakes that have jeopardized its future as a collective defense
alliance. The North Atlantic Treaty was signed with the intention of ensuring the
security of its members. That should remain the focus.
NATO-Russian relations have failed to advance beyond the Cold War mentality,
wherein each was the others principle enemy. The Alliance should seek to mitigate
tensions with Russia rather than pursuing policies that will further entrench the
Alliance's original goal of countering the Soviet sphere of influence. NATO missions
since the Cold War taken on for reasons other than the collective defense of its
members have subjected the Alliance to much criticism and have not contributed to
ensuring the security of its members.
NATO members' uneven commitment to defense spending has affected the stability
of the Alliance and has created distrust on both sides of the Atlantic.
This memo points out NATOs biggest mistakes of the last 25 years and offers
policy recommendations to remedy them.

Andrew Snell,
Virginia Tech
Jolana Veneny,
University of Oxford

Policy Workshop Competition

Shaping our NATO: Young Voices
on the Warsaw Summit
Category B:
NATO's Biggest Mistake and
Lesson Learned is the
Open Think Tank on Foreign Policy
with more than 9000 members
Editor-in-Chief: Jrg Wolf

Atlantische Initiative e.V.


1. External mistakes
1.1 NATO has failed to foster a cooperative relationship with Russia.
By pursuing policies of enlargement and intervention, NATO failed to establish a
cooperative relationship with Russia, making it more difficult to deal with present
cases of Russian aggression. Accession talks with Ukraine and Georgia have been
followed by a direct conflict with Russia, placing the security of member and nonmember eastern European states in jeopardy.
While NATO worked with Russia by creating the North Atlantic Cooperation Council
(Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council) in 1991 and the Partnership for Peace program
in 1994, by deciding to admit eastern European states as new members, the
Alliance sent the message to Russia that it was still perceived as the enemy. This
prevented Russia from being able to contribute to, rather than to threaten European
security. NATOs intervening in Kosovo, despite Moscows objection, exemplified
NATO's unwillingness to cooperate with Russia on matters of European security.

Forststr. 51
14163 Berlin
Tel: +49.30.206 337 88
Fax: +49.30.246 303 633

Dr. Johannes Bohnen
Jan-Friedrich Kallmorgen

1.2 NATO over-stepped its responsibilities as a collective defense organization.

Over the past two decades, NATO has expanded its role. The Alliance has taken on
humanitarian missions in reaction to the conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Libya, has
enforced international maritime law in the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden, and has responded
to a natural disaster in Pakistan. When NATO intervened in Kosovo in 1999, its stated
purpose was to mitigate the impending humanitarian catastrophe that would result
from inaction. The NATO member countries spoke the language of human rights and
pursued a ceasefire with that goal in mind. When NATO intervened in Libya in 2011,
regime change appeared to be a primary goal. Rather than "illegal, yet legitimate," as
the Kosovo intervention was hailed, observers of the Libyan mission asked if this
mission, although legal, was illegitimate for exceeding its mandate. NATO interventions in internal conflicts in Kosovo and Libya have been expensive, have earned
NATO international criticism, and have not resulted in either increased stability for
citizens of the intervened upon state after exit, nor in the increase of security for
Alliance members.
NATO has been accused of breaking international law by targeting civilian infrastructure and of intensifying the violence in Kosovo, and of exceeding its mandate and
forcing regime change in Libya. NATO has received criticism from Russia, members of
the non-aligned movement, and others for acting as a global policeman.
Interventions into Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Libya, resulting in regime change have
contributed to the creation of failed states. Kosovo has become an artificial state in
which NATO has committed to a long term mission. Upon NATO's exit, Libya has
become a completely failed state. Afghanistan and Libya have both experienced an
increase in violent extremism in the absence of a unified state. The Islamic State
whose militants have perpetrated attacks on members such as Turkey, France,
Germany and Belgium has established a firm foothold in Libya. NATO's desire to
avoid another long term mission should be balanced by the threat that a premature
exit can have on the security of its members.

2. Internal mistakes
2.1 European members failed to enforce consistency on defense spending.
NATO member countries have pledged to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense, but
have failed to specify any consequences for non-compliance. Since 1991, European
governments have slashed defense budgets, decreasing military readiness. Lower
levels of financial commitment and capability of European members have impacted
their ability to work alongside the US. Recent training exercises have shown that
European troops are not capable of the long term deployments that their US counterparts are. The intervention in Libya showed the inability of European members to
conduct such a mission on their own; US forces had to provide the backbone of a
supposedly European-led mission.
This transatlantic imbalance in military spending contributes to the European perception that NATO is synonymous with the United States and the US perception that
European states are free riding on US power. The gap between US and European
defense spending causes distrust on each side of the Atlantic, evidenced by recent
rhetoric in the US presidential election.
2.2 NATO has not reacted sufficiently to trends of authoritarianism.
NATO defines itself as a political and military organization of sovereign states,
founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law. The
unwillingness of some member countries to respect these fundamental principles has
affected the internal cohesion of the Alliance and the willingness of member countries
to cooperate in other areas and within other organizations. Such conflicts jeopardize
the ability to reach consensus and thus inhibit NATO's ability to act quickly.


1. Learning from external mistakes
1.1 Redefine relations with Russia and clarify policies on enlargement.
NATO cannot ignore Ukraine's and Georgia's pleas for security and should make clear
its position regarding their membership aspirations. As sovereign states, Ukraine and
Georgia have a right to apply for NATO membership, but so long as Ukraine's and
Georgia's reason for pursuing NATO membership is to seek protection from Russia,
their membership would only serve to depict NATO as Russia's ultimate enemy. It
would limit the level of potential cooperation and negotiations on matters of security in
Europe and in the Middle East. If NATO were to offer membership to Ukraine and
Georgia, they could be instigating an aggressive response from Russia. Additionally,
admittance to the Alliance would contribute to the Russian narrative of NATO encirclement and isolation.
NATO has two options: NATO could seek to establish a non-aggression agreement
with Russia under which NATO agrees not to admit Ukraine and Georgia as members.
In return, Moscow must respect these countries national sovereignty and territorial
Alternatively, NATO could admit Georgia and Ukraine as members as soon as
possible, sending a message to Moscow that if a country wants to join the Alliance, its
application will be considered without reference to Russia's interests. Both Georgia
and Ukraine have taken significant legal and political steps towards NATO membership; abandoning those membership negotiations puts NATO's credibility at risk.
NATO should also make clear that applications by like-minded states will always be
welcomed, including Russia.
Offering Russia a membership perspective serves to counter Moscow's narrative of
isolation and defuse the NATO-Russian enmity. While there are strong tensions
between Russia and NATO at the moment, these could be overcome and resolved.
France and Germany used to be eternal enemies, but membership in institutions like
NATO eased tensions. Past Russian-NATO conflict should not disqualify Russia from
Whichever path is chosen, NATO should send a clear message that Russia could
become a valuable and fundamental contributor and NATO's partner to European and
global security in the future.
At this time, Russia does not meet basic eligibility requirements and has not been
receptive to any suggestion of joining the Alliance. Despite the seeming implausibility
of Russia meeting the criteria for NATO membership or accepting an offer of it, the act
of offering Russia the possibility of a place in NATO sets out a long-term goal NATO
would like to achieve: a positive and cooperative relationship with Russia and an end
to any existing Cold War tensions.
1.2 Return to the mandate.
The North Atlantic Treaty establishes, first and foremost, a collective defense organization. Humanitarian endeavors in non-member countries are not within the scope of
the treaty. Members should work under the auspices of the United Nations if pursuing
"humanitarian" interventions. While NATO resources can be made available to a UN
mission, full control of the mission should not be adopted by NATO.
The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle defines sovereignty as conditional on the
ability of a sovereign to protect the human rights of his population. It also defines the
international communitys right to intervene in cases of abuse. This gives license only
to the UN Security Council; it is a right and not a responsibility to do so. The members
of NATO should remain conscious of the similarities of R2P to older standards of
civilization theses. They should be hesitant to attach their endorsement to a principle

that has the potential to be used for the self-interest of the intervening state. Members
should advocate for the protection of minority rights abroad and should address any
human rights concerns at home. NATO should not unilaterally take on human rights
interventions and should disavow the R2P doctrine.

2. Learning from internal mistakes

2.1 Enforce increased defense spending and incentivize force integration.
NATO should enforce compliance with the two percent promise from its members.
Sanctions for noncompliance should follow a three step procedure within a clearly
defined period.
1. Open letter to state authorities detailing non-compliance.
2. Development of a spending improvement plan for the individual member.
3. If the state does not comply with the 2% rule within five years, it loses its vote in the
North Atlantic Council.
NATO currently creates a detailed ranking of each member states military spending,
broken down by category: salaries, pensions, weapons, transport vehicles, housing,
bases, infrastructure, and Research and Development. NATO should encourage
programs that foster interoperability and a stronger European side of the Alliance. The
proposal to combine the Dutch, German, and Czech air forces in an effort to eliminate
redundancies shows ingenuity. Further collaboration between two or three members in
these islands of collaboration can maximize benefits while lowering costs.
NATO should encourage this integration by allowing members that cooperate to
receive a discount on the 2% guideline. NATO should encourage joint exercises
among neighboring states to increase effectiveness in response to attacks. Strategies
to increase the impact of defense spending through collaboration could increase
military preparedness among NATO members in Europe and make them better able to
match US capabilities.
2.2 Reaffirm commitment to fundamental principles.
In case a member does not comply adequately, NATO should be prepared to utilize
punitive measures. A suspension of voting rights for government actions that violate
the basic principles of the Alliance, or a suspension of membership in exceptional
circumstances, should be incorporated into the North Atlantic Treaty.

A quarter of a century has passed since the fall of the Soviet Union and the disappearance of NATOs original adversary. Since then, simultaneously with many
rewarding activities, NATO has also made mistakes and wasted resources, manpower, and political capital muddling through mired conflicts in searching for a new
NATO ought to strengthen its commitment to the goal of collective defense, rather
than engaging in activities outside of the original mandate. The Alliance should strive
to create a cooperative relationship with Russia, using the conditional offer of future
membership to open a fruitful dialogue needed to resolve the conflicts in Ukraine and
Georgia. These conflicts can be tackled either through a non-aggression pact or
immediate admittance of these vulnerable East European countries to the Alliance.
Out of the current muddled approach, the Alliance must pursue a clear path forward in
either direction.

To remain a credible, stable organization, NATO has to improve its inner coherency,
including the issues of spending and military collaboration, and of inconsistent
adherence to fundamental principles. Balancing these issues can improve the military
readiness of European members, and also improve relations between Europe and the
Christopher Chappell is a student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He
studies Political Science with emphasis in International Relations and Transnational
Oli Cotton is a student of international relations at the University of Leeds, UK. His
focus is on American foreign policy, the global balance of power and the realismliberalism debate.
Jack Heidecker studied German and Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh
and will be studying European Governance at the Westflische Wilhelms-Universitt
Mnster. He is interested in national security collaboration between the EU and the
Sandra Houzvickova is a student of the Master Program in World Politics at the
University of Pavia. She is working as an intern in the Permanent Representation of
the Czech Republic to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
Anna Jordanova studies media, journalism and history at the Masaryk University in
Brno, the Czech Republic. She focuses on the issues of historical memory and its
influence in the contemporary societies of the post-Soviet area.
Chenoa Sly is a Master of Arts student at the University of Alberta in Edmonton,
Canada. Her work focuses on humanitarian interventions, and the tension between
human rights and territorial sovereignty.
Connor Smart studied international relations at the University of Plymouth. He has his
own current affairs blog and is planning to work in London with an International
education charity.
Andrew Snell is a senior at Virginia Tech studying political science. He focuses on US
national security, specifically terrorism and Russia.
Jolana Veneny is currently an MPhil candidate in Russian and East European Studies
at St Antonys College, University of Oxford. She focuses on Central Europe, its
politics, and its relations with the Russian Federation.

The authors wish to thank all online commenters for their valuable input.

The authors have written this Memo after qualifying with individual submissions, which
provide more detailed information on the aforementioned policy recommendations for
those interested:
Christopher Chappell: NATO's Biggest Mistake? Public Relations

Oli Cotton: Why NATO Must Revert to Basics and Adapt to Russian Aggression

Jack Heidecker: Moving Beyond the 2 Percent Promise

Sandra Houzvickova: NATO is Synonymous with the US. Europe Must Be Included

Anna Jordanova: Turkey: An Inconvenient Tie Between NATO and the EU

Chenoa Sly: The Post-Cold War NATO: Decoupling Regime Change and Human
Rights Promotion

Connor Smart: NATO's Greatest Mistake was Libya: the Alliance Should Have Nothing
to do with R2P

Andrew Snell: The Moscow Integration That Never Happened

Jolana Veneny: Russia: The Threat NATO Created Itself

The articles have been written for category B NATO's Biggest Mistake and Lesson
Learned of the Shaping our NATO competition and respond to the questions: What
do you consider to be NATO's biggest mistake in the last 25 years? What lessons
should be drawn and how to prevent similar mistakes in the future?
The competition has been made possible by generous contributions from the NATO
Public Diplomacy Division, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Foundation for
Polish-German Cooperation. maintains editorial independence and this Memo reflects the

opinions of the authors, not those of the sponsors.