Protocols to the North Atlantic Treaty

By Fried, Daniel | DISAM Journal, December 2008 | Go to article overview

Protocols to the North Atlantic Treaty


Fried, Daniel, DISAM Journal


[The following are excerpts from testimony as delivered before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Washington, DC, September 10, 2008.]

I will discuss NATO's [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] purposes in the Cold War and today; the role that NATO enlargement has played in advancing security and stability in Europe since 1989; the current proposed round of enlargement to include Albania and Croatia; and NATO's future relations with Georgia and Ukraine, whom NATO's leaders at the Bucharest Summit declared will become members of the Alliance. In addition, Russia's recent attack on Georgia and ongoing military activity in that country forms a backdrop to our discussion today.

NATO's Purpose

NATO, the world's most successful military alliance, has been and remains the principal security instrument of the transatlantic community of democracies. It is both a defensive alliance and an alliance of values. While it was created in the context of Soviet threats to European security, it is in fact not an alliance directed against any nation. Article 5--NATO's collective defense commitment--mentions neither the Soviet Union nor any adversary. One of NATO's purposes was and remains to defend its members from attack. But another purpose was to provide a security umbrella under which rivalries among West European nations--France and Germany in particular--could be reconciled and general peace in Europe could prevail after the 20th century's two world wars. A third purpose was to institutionalize the transatlantic link. NATO's first Secretary General Lord Ismay described NATO's role in an acerbic but telling aphorism, saying that the Alliance's purposes were "to keep the Soviets out, the Germans down, and the Americans in." In the Cold War, NATO succeeded: under its umbrella, Western Europe remained free and united peacefully in the European Union.

Article 5 remains the core of the Alliance. Throughout most of the Alliance's history, we had expected that if Article 5 were ever invoked, it would have been in response to a Soviet armored assault on Germany. We never expected that Article 5 would be invoked in response to an attack on the United States originating in Afghanistan. But that is what occurred. NATO's response was swift and decisive. The United States was attacked on September 11, 2001; and on September 12, NATO invoked Article 5 for the first time in its history. In fact, while NATO's purpose of collective defense has remained constant, new threats have arisen. NATO thus has been required to carry out its core mandate in new ways, developing an expeditionary capability and comprehensive, civil-military skills. NATO is now "out of area" but very much in business--fielding major missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo and a training mission on the ground in Iraq. NATO is doing more now than at any time during the Cold War. While this is not the subject of our discussion today, NATO is still digesting the implications of these new requirements even as it continues fielding forces in Afghanistan.

NATO Enlargement

NATO enlargement was foreseen in principle from the beginning of NATO's existence with Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty. NATO brought in new members even during the Cold War: Turkey and Greece in 1952, West Germany in 1955, and Spain in 1982.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain and end of the Soviet Union, the purpose of defense against attack by Moscow seemed to recede. But NATO enlargement took on a more profound strategic aspect: for the then-raw and apprehensive new democracies that emerged from the wreckage of the Soviet Bloc after the fall of Communism, NATO, ahead of the EU [European Union], became the institutional expression of their desire to join with Europe and the transatlantic world. For the United States and other NATO members, NATO enlargement, along with EU enlargement, became the means by which the vision of a "Europe whole, free, and at peace" started becoming reality. …

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