NATO has come a long way since the end of the Cold War. Already with the Rome Declaration of 1991 NATO positioned itself with a new strategy, no longer focused at defending the NATO territory from an attack. An attack from the the East was no longer likely, instead NATO formulated as “news threats” the consequences of economic, social and political difficulties in central and eastern Europe, for which NATO had to be prepared.
Based on this new definition the “defence alliance” became very active with a range of military interventions outside of its old area of operations. From July 1992 on NATO warships began to verify the UN arms embargo against Serbia and Montenegro in the Adriatic Sea, and later also enforced it. This was the beginning of a development that led to the NATO military interventions first in Bosnia and later to the illegal bombardment of Yugoslavia and the NATO military intervention in Kosovo.
Today, NATO is active militarily in a variety of places: in Afghanistan since 2003 with about 60,000 soldiers, in Kosovo since 1999 with today about 16,000 soldiers, in the Mediterranean sea since October 2001 with up to 2,000 soldiers as part of Operation Active Endeavour, and in Iraq since August 2004 with a training mission with 140 soldiers. With this operation NATO in fact support and legitimises the fact created by the US and UK occupation of Iraq, and the Iraqi government created by the occupiers. The ”Anti-Pirate-operation” in front of the coast of Somalia was handed over to the European Union on 12 December 2008 and is now named ATALANTA.
From these military operations the one in Afghanistan is central for NATO. And NATO's actions in Afghanistan are more and more aggressive and reckless. The outcomes of this occupation are more and more obvious: a brutalisation of society, more misery and more bomb deaths. From January 2006 to July 2008 more than 1,000 Afghan civilians were directly victims of NATO and US military operations.
Via civil-military cooperation as it is practised in Afghanistan, even development aid is being integrated into the NATO war efforts. Caritas International criticised NATO in June 2008, saying that "the distribution of aid money is not linked to the real need for aid, but oriented towards the need of counter-insurgency". At the NATO summit in Bucharest it was decided to make civil-military counter-insurgency generally the focus of present and future NATO missions.
Part of the present NATO strategy is the so-called nuclear sharing – the involvement of non nuclear weapon states in NATO's nuclear weapons. The strategy paper of 1999 stresses the requirement of “widespread participation by European Allies ... in nuclear roles, in peacetime basing of nuclear forces on their territory and in command, control and consultation arrangements.” It concludes that “[t]he Alliance will therefore maintain adequate nuclear forces in Europe”.
Because of this, US nuclear weapons are based in Germany at Büchel, in Belgium at Kleine Brogel, in the Netherlands at Volkel, in Italy at Aviano and at Ghedi-Torre, and at Incirlik in Turkey. “Nuclear sharing” allows that in times of war pilots from a non-nuclear weapon state, which is a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, can use nuclear weapons, which would be a violation of the treaty.
A new NATO strategy: more military interventions
The NATO summit in Strasbourg and Baden Baden is not just about celebrating NATO's 60th birthday. The main discussion will be to continue the development of NATO into an aggressive alliance for interventions, as it was started with the Rome Declaration from 1991. The summit will therefore begin a discussion on a new NATO strategy which will replace the strategy of 1999, which has been agreed during the Kosovo war, in 2010 – if everything goes well.
Important elements of such a new strategy have been proposed in a paper called “Towards a grand strategy” of five former high ranking NATO officers at the end of 2007. In this paper, the threats are even more global. Future threats are especially religious and political fundamentalism, the “dark” side of globalisation (international terrorism, organised crime and the spread of weapons of mass destruction), as well as climate change and securing access to energy resources (control of resources and conflicts as a result of climate change and climate change induced migration). To be prepared for these challenges, NATO needs to stick with the option of first use of nuclear weapons, so the authors of the paper.
The authors also make proposals for changes to NATO's structure, so that NATO will be “better” able to act. They propose for NATO to abolish the principle of consensus for decisions within NATO, and propose to introduce majority decisions, which means faster actions through abolishing the veto right of member states. Especially important is the proposal to abolish national caveats in NATO operations of the kind that “plague” the Afghan campaign. In the future, NATO members that are not part of a NATO operation should not have any say about the operation. International law will be weakened even more though the use of military force also without the authorisation of the Security Council of the United Nations, if “immediate action is needed to protect large numbers of human beings”.
Although at present these proposal are not official proposals, it can be assumed that they will be an important part of the discussions. While the US are already trying to build a missile defence with bases in Polen and the Czech Republic, NATO too will develop its own missile defence. This will also be one of the topics of the NATO summit in April 2009 in Strasbourg and Baden Baden.
The further expansion of NATO, especially towards the east, will be part of the development of NATO. At the summit in Strasbourg and Baden the new NATO members Albania and Croatia will probably finally be accepted as members. NATO also attempts in include Ukraine, Georgia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Hercegovina, and with all these countries exist bilateral partnership agreements with the long term objective of NATO membership.