Academic journal article McNair Papers

U.S. and NATO Force Structure and Military Operations in the Mediterranean

Academic journal article McNair Papers

U.S. and NATO Force Structure and Military Operations in the Mediterranean

Article excerpt

As instruments of national policy, military forces fulfill a wide variety of military and political functions. During the cold war, however, military functions of U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces not associated with the Soviet Union and political functions other than deterrence of the Soviet Union and, for the United States, reassuring our allies, were much overlooked, U.S. and NATO forces in and committed to the Mediterranean region, as elsewhere, were sized and structured for the purpose of defeating Soviet forces. Possessing such a capability was counted on to deter Soviet military aggression and coercion and to prevent NATO states from being intimidated by Soviet military power, U.S. forward deployed forces and reinforcement plans were intended to demonstrate to both the Soviets and our allies the firm U.S. commitment to the defense of Europe, thereby contributing to the deterrence of the former and the reassurance of the latter.

Forward deployment also facilitated crisis management and a rapid transition to hostilities, if necessary, for contingencies involving the Soviet Union or others. Non-Soviet contingencies, however, did not have to command much attention in force planning during the cold war. As "lesser included cases," the force requirements they generated were small and readily satisfied by the forces needed to meet the Soviet threat. Political functions other than deterrence and reassurance also could be safely ignored because they were fulfilled automatically by the forces maintained for Soviet-related purposes.

With the Soviet threat gone and Russia no more than a latent threat in the Mediterranean region, the United States and NATO can no longer take for granted the full range of their forces' political and military functions. The NATO Strategic Concept recognizes this explicitly by pointing out that, henceforth, risks to NATO's security will be "multi-faceted in nature and multi-directional." Nowhere do risks to NATO have more facets and come from more directions than in the Mediterranean region.

For thousands of years, the Mediterranean has been a strategic whole where events in one area inevitably affect the states and peoples elsewhere. Here, East meets West and North meets South, empires have risen and fallen, usually by force of arms, and the three great religions of the West confront each other.

Today, the Mediterranean region is rife with local disputes that are territorial, ethnic, or religious in origin. Territorial disputes exist between the following: Morocco and the Polisario Liberation Front over Western Sahara; Morocco and Spain over Ceuta and Melilla; Spain and the United Kingdom over Gibraltar; Israel and its neighbors and the Palestinians over the occupied territories and Israel's very existence; Syria and Turkey over the Hatay Region; Greece and Turkey and Greek and Turkish Cypriots over Cyprus's future; Kurds and the governments of Turkey and Iraq; various Lebanese groups; and various groups within the former Yugoslavia. Active ethnic disputes include those between Turks and Kurds, Turks and Bulgars, Turks and Greeks, Greeks and Albanians, Albanians and Serbs, Serbs and Croats, Serbs and Bosnians, Croats and Bosnians, and Basques and Spaniards. Religious rivalries exist between Suni and Shi'ite Moslems, moderate and fundamentalist Moslems, Moslems and Jews, orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews, Moslems and Christians, and eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians.

Although many of these disputes do not pose problems directly for the United States and NATO states, others do. Any assault on the territorial integrity of Turkey, for example, would trigger NATO commitments to common defense. Disputes between Greece and Turkey disrupt NATO planning and exercises. Instability or conflict in oil- and gas-producing regions of North Africa could threaten Europe's vital energy supplies. Social disorder and economic deprivation in North Africa and the former Yugoslavia have generated migration to Europe and could produce a flood of refugees. …

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