Some thoughts for an address to the meeting in Sofia, April 4th, 2006
NATO is not, and never was, a community based solely on the unity of values. It was produced as a result of highly pragmatic move of the Western nations, which were in need to counter a visible challenge, and even a clear danger, associated in the late 40s with the Soviet Union, and later with the Warsaw Pact. It was that natural unity of values and interests that presupposed NATO"s tremendous success and ce-mented this political and military alliance for the first four decades of its existence.
But during the last fifteen years that situation began to change.
Firstly, NATO was founded as a defense alliance, and the need to defend themselves united its member-states. One knows, that many unions and alliances, based solely on the grounds of "common values", didn"t last long. This is why the events of 1989, when the signs of communism going bust became clearly visible, posed a huge chal-lenge for alliance"s future. They heralded if not the "end of history", then the end of NATO"s mission as it was announced in 1949. Even today, when some neoconservati-ves in the U.S. tend to speculate about the "Third" and even "Fourth" World War go-ing ahead, no one would believe that the terrorist threat may be compared with that that was created by Faschism or Communism. It was very symptomatic, that when the famous Article 5 of NATO Statute was "put into force" shortly after the attacks of 9/11, nobody to-ok this serious enough, and a transatlantic rift over Iraq followed just one-and-a-half years later. Nowadays, NATO - as its most powerful member, the United States - desperately needs an enemy, the "other", who may pose a significant threat to stability inside alliance"s sphere of influence, and I consider this to be the greatest challenge NATO faces today.
Secondly, NATO lost its leader, its center - which previously resided in the United States. It can be proved in different ways; I will mention only few signs. Today U.S. ef-forts are quite often not backed by other members of the alliance. American military presence in Europe does not longer seem as necessary and desirable as it was twenty or even ten years ago. The European Union today has greatly replaced NATO as a politi-cal bloc membership in which seems to be so attractive. NATO is now reduced to the status of military organization of no (or very little) benefit for its members - espe-cially European ones. For some of them it looks attractive primarily because its mem-bership seems to be a step on the road to an entry into the European Uni-on. The U.S. insists more and more actively on the necessity of merging the NATO and EU mem-bership - first of all arguing that this approach should be applied to Turkish case; but this shows only how big the difference between American and European position is. So, NATO"s political attractiveness diminishes, and I do not see a way around.
Thirdly, NATO was and still remains a kind of a hierarchical intergovernmental structure, built to counter the enemy of the same kind. It is incapable to fight network associations, or to wage "war on terror", as the United Nations is not able to prevent or even stop genocide in its "sovereign" members. And as the divergence between its military might and the real results of its military interventions grows, NATO"s in-flu-ence declines. Today the interests of its members differs greatly from one another, and it seems far from obvious that preserving the U.S. national interests in the Midd-le East goes in line with European interests of getting their close neighbors in this re-gion prosperous and stable.
So to say, today the interests of allies look different. There are only values at the table, but their unity is also far from obvious. In the 21st-century world, as Francis Fukuya-ma insists, even democracy seems not to be "a default solution to which societies wo-uld revert once dictatorship is removed" (Fukuyama, Francis. America at the Cross-roads. Democracy, Power, and Neoconservative Legacy, 2006, p. 31). Among com-mon values mentioned in the agenda of our meeting, one can not find neither the value of so-vereignty, nor religious values, or the sense of nationalism. But in all these sphe-res American and European attitudes do have little in common. While in the U.S. a "chauvinist nationalism may become a permanently dominant feature of the nation" (Lieven, Anatol. America Right or Wr-o-ng: An Anatomy of American Nationalism, 2004, p. 208), Europe witnesses a strong drive towards a postnational political entity. National so-vereignty, which Americans are ready to die for, has lost its value in con-temporary Europe, where newcomers to the EU readily transfer a great share of their sovereign rights to Brussels and Strasbourg. At the same time Americans believe, as George Washington did, that "reason and experience both forbid us to expect that na-tional mo-rality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles" (cit. after: Huntington, Samuel. Who Are We? The Challenges to America"s National Iden-tity, 2004, р. 84). So more than 75% of U.S. citizens define themselves as "strongly religious" compared to less than 20% of Europeans. The attitudes toward use of violent force differ even stronger: 55% of Americans believe that to impose justice by military force is permis-sible, while only 12% of Europeans do (Mandelbaum, Mi-chael. The Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the World"s Government in the Twenty-First Century Century, 2005, р. 210). Under such conditions the values of peace and human rights do not lo-om large for Americans, and those of democratic control over national so-vereignty and free market initiative - for Europeans.
The disengagement over Iraq signifies a profound crisis inside the Western military alliance. It shows that NATO countries can not wage a preemptive war - and, maybe even no war at all, if not a defensive one. But since the probability for Europe or the United States to be attacked by a foreign nation is extremely small, the very effective-ness and capability of NATO is now in question.
At the same time the Iraqi war lamented a different approach of East European nati-ons and core states of the European Union towards the military policy. While siding with the U.S. and supporting its intervention in the Gulf, NATO newcomers made the structure of the Atlantic Alliance even more complicated. Today it may seem that NA-NO isn"t acting as a guarantee of peace in the wider world, but rather tries to reaffirm some military commitments in major continental European countries, which if to use Robert Cooper"s phrase, are living in the realm of post-modern politics.
Of course, NATO will not fall apart due to all these difficulties - this is why President Putin"s at-tempt to capitalize on European-American contradictions in early 2003 and to establish strong ties between Moscow, Berlin, and Paris had no chances to succeed. But if the alliance becomes more and more amorphous, the day it will loose the role played in recent decades, seems to be not far away.
So, what may be the outcome? From my point of view, there are two possible oppor-tunities.
The first option lies in what may be called NATO"s "proper regionalization". In this ca-se the alliance will be reduced to a regional military structure resembling the now not existing EU joint forces. It than preserves both its Northern Atlantic character and its defensive ideology. The United States under such circumstances may act as a guaran-tee of stability in Europe and rely on allies" support in case they are attacked - but not trying to involve Europeans into its overseas "adventures". This strategy resembles a bit a return to the Cold War political agenda, in which the military undertakings of the United States and NATO were clearly divided from one another (the Vietnam War may be an example).
The second option demands the transformation of NATO into a global political and military alliance based on shared values and aiming at preserving and strengthening democratic regimes all over the world. As the U.S. vis-à-vis Europe in the Cold War years, NATO may than become a guarantee for those democratic nations that feel threatened by their neighbors. The system of bilateral treatises between NATO and those countries may emerge as a core element of future system of global governance - but without any nation acting like a world"s government.
But I doubt that any of these options turns into reality. In coming years, I think, NA-TO will play the role it plays now - of a kind of a loose military alliance signifying the belonging of all its members to the Western civilization. It will grow, since Ukraine, some of ex-Yugoslav republics, and even Georgia, may apply for membership. Maybe, the benefits of membership will be offered to some other nations - in exchange for de-mocratization. Because nobody knows for sure, where lie the limits of North Atlantic area. In a world where Kazakhstan or Kirgizia participate in European sport cham-pionships, everything is possible. But even becoming "bigger and better", the new NA-TO will be less influential in the global politics - on the one hand, because the collec-tive economic power of its members will eventually decline compared to the rest of the world"s; on the other hand, because it will not emerge as an effective force to fight new conflicts of the 21st century.
And, to finalize, some remarks on Russia. Today in my country the government is promoting the anti-NATO attitudes even more actively, than it was doing in the So-viet times. The ideology of Russian ruling elite is today even more conservative, than that of American governing class, but its powers are incompatible with those of the latter. NATO leade-rs made a big mistake while not offering to Russia the full mem-bership in the Alliance in the early 90s. Of course, this would be the end of NATO "as we know it" - but at the same time also an accomplishment of NATO"s mission. Now the moment has passed. Russia is heading to a reestablishment of an authoritarian rule, free of any restraints. And the problems this reversal of democratic trend will cause may overweight all the positive consequences of democratizing Iraq or Afgha-nistan, if that happens.