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A Structural Explanation for NATO’s

Transformation and the Implications for

Europe’s Pursuit of an Ethical Foreign Policy

European Foreign Policy Conference

London School of Economics, July 1st-2nd, 2005

Dr Aidan Hehir: F1-155, Foundation Building, University of Limerick,

Ireland. aidan.hehir@ul.ie
A Structural Explanation for NATO’s Transformation and the

Implications for Europe’s Pursuit of an Ethical Foreign Policy

Introduction

The end of the Cold War led to the questioning of NATO’s relevance. Given that the

organisation was established to provide military security in the face of the Soviet

threat NATO appeared to have fulfilled its mandate and lost its raison d’etre with the

implosion of communism. 1 The increasingly vocal calls made in the early 1990s from

within certain states in Western Europe for a European defence force divorced from

US control and the tentative moves towards a common EU foreign policy further

contributed to an emerging belief in NATO’s obsolesce. NATO did not whither away,

however, and in fact the 1990s witnessed a resurgence in NATO’s role culminating by

the end of the decade in an expanded mandate, the organisation’s first full scale

military operation (in Kosovo), the accession of three new members and plans for a

further major enlargement. The narrow mandate established for NATO in 1949 did

prove obsolete, but NATO proved capable of reinventing itself and establishing a new

raison d’etre.

The end of the Cold War was said, however, to have ushered a new era of uni-polarity

whereby the US occupied an unrivalled position of primacy within the international

system. 2 In both political and military terms the US’s dominance was considered

absolute and its foreign policy duly unencumbered by constraints. It is, therefore,

1
As noted by Duffield, ‘Much of international relations theory teaches that states form military
alliances in response to common external threats. Conversely, alliances should disintegrate
when the threats that occasioned their formation disappear’. John Duffied (1994) ‘NATO’s
functions After the Cold War’, Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 109/5, p. 764
2
See, Ethan Kapstein and Michael Mastanduno (eds.) (1999) Unipolar Politics: Realism and
State Strategies After the Cold War, New York: Columbia University Press
worth analysing why the US has maintained an interest in sustaining NATO and

facilitating its reinvigoration given the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the desire

articulated within Europe for an exclusively European defence force and, more

importantly, the asserted ability of the US to act unilaterally in the context of the new

uni-polar environment. Conventional explanations have stressed the US’s desire to

maintain a direct involvement in European affairs, to counter the emergence of a

potential military rival and to ensure a stable Europe. This article will argue that these

explanations, though essentially accurate, do not fully explain the US’s desire to

maintain NATO. It will be argued that, contrary to the prevailing discourse, the

current system is not one of uni-polarity, but is more accurately classified as a uni-

multipolar system. This systemic configuration means that the US, though the

unrivalled global hegemon, cannot act without support, especially support from key

allies. A transformed NATO provides a means by which US interests can be realised

via an ostensibly multi-lateral coalition. The US’s impetus for maintaining NATO

contrasts with European perspectives as to the organisation’s functions and this strain,

manifested most obviously during the invasion of Iraq, will continue to undermine the

cohesiveness of NATO and impact on its future trajectory.

NATO’s Changing Role

In March 1999 NATO launched Operation Allied Force (OAF) against Yugoslavia.

This constituted NATO’s first full scale military operation and the intervention was

initiated on the basis of a ‘moral imperative’ 3 rather than collective defence as

sanctioned by Articles 5 and 6 of the North Atlantic Treaty. This intervention in itself

3
Justifying NATO’s intervention in Kosovo President Clinton stated, ‘Ending this war [in
Kosovo] is a moral imperative.’ Quoted in Foreign Desk (1999) ‘Conflict in the Balkans’, The
New York Times, March 25, Section A, p. 15. Additionally Javier Solano, then NATO
Secretary General, stated that the organisation had a ‘moral duty’ to intervene. NATO Press
Release (1999) 041, 24 March 1999.
signalled a new direction for NATO and this was cemented by subsequent summits.

At NATO’s fiftieth anniversary celebration at Washington in April 1999 President

Clinton stated, ‘For five years now, we have been working to build a new NATO

prepared to deal with the security challenges of the new century.’ 4 At this summit

NATO committed itself to out-of-area operations. At the ceremony President Clinton

noted that NATO members had, ‘…reaffirmed our readiness . . . to address regional

and ethnic conflicts beyond the territory of NATO members.’ 5 The ‘Strategic

Concept’ adopted at the summit noted, ‘Regional and, in particular, geo-strategic

considerations within the Alliance will have to be taken into account, as instabilities

on NATO’s periphery could lead to crises or conflicts requiring an Alliance military

response’ and discusses, ‘Mounting and sustaining operations outside the Allies’

territory, where there may be little or no host-nation support.’ 6 At the Anniversary

summit NATO also announced, ‘Even though all NATO member states undoubtedly

would prefer to act with such mandates [from the Security Council] they must not

limit themselves to acting only when such a mandate can be agreed.’ 7

The November 2002 NATO summit in Prague witnessed the creation of the new

NATO Response Force constituting ‘…a body of around 20,000 troops available at

short notice for deployment around the world across the full spectrum of military

4
Quoted in William Drozdiak and Thomas W. Lippman, ‘NATO Widens Security Map;
Commanders Get New Authority To Pick Yugoslav Bombing Targets’, p. A01
5
Ibid
6
NATO (1999) ‘The Alliance’s Strategic Concept’, NATO Press Release NAC-S(99)65, 24th
April.
7
Quoted in Richard Caplan (2000) ‘Humanitarian Intervention: Which Way Forward?’, Ethics
and International Affairs, Vol. 14, p. 31 Strobe Talbott similarly stated, ‘[NATO] will try to act in
concert with other organisations, and with respect for their principles and purposes. But the
Alliance must reserve the right and freedom to act when its members, by consensus, deem it
necessary.’ Quoted in David Chandler (2000) ‘International Justice’, New Left Review,
Nov/Dec, No. 6, p. 60
operations.’ 8 NATO’s deployment in Afghanistan in August 2003 is testament to the

realisation of NATO’s expanding influence. Cornish noted that by 2004, ‘The

Alliance has also discussed the broadening of its functional remit to include counter-

terrorism, counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and expeditionary

combat operations. There have even been suggestions that NATO should branch out

into “soft power” activities such as post-conflict nation building.’ 9 In 2004 seven

former communist states joined NATO and since its establishment in 1994 the

Partnership for Peace programme has grown to incorporate twenty states including

traditional rivals Russia, neutrals like Austria and Switzerland and countries in the

Caucasus region.

The period since OAF has been marked by great transformation for NATO and it has

rapidly moved beyond the previously narrow remit adhered to a position of increased

primacy in international security and even peacekeeping. Cornish notes,

‘NATO and its supporting governments have sensed a moment of great

opportunity, for which they have been hoping for several years…to

structure the trans-Atlantic security debate in NATO’s favour, to show

that a transformed NATO can meet the challenges of twenty-first century

security, and to prove NATO to be both militarily and politically

indispensable.’ 10

8
Paul Cornish (2004) ‘NATO: The Practice and Politics of Transformation’, International
Affairs, Vol. 80/1, p. 65
9
Ibid, p. 64
10
Ibid, p. 65
Traditional Explanations

NATO has often been charged with obsolesce and, as noted by Drew, the organisation

has in many respects been in perpetual crisis as to its role.11 Dominant explanations as

to the US’s rationale for preserving NATO in the post-Cold War era, though not

necessarily incorrect, do not sufficiently explain the US’s drive to reinvent the

organisation.

At the 1991 Rome Summit President Bush outlined the US’s ongoing commitment to

NATO in the post-Cold War era. He described NATO as ‘…the guarantor of security

and stability in Europe’ and stated that NATO ‘…could not be replaced in the long

term’. 12 NATO, therefore, still had a role following the implosion of the Soviet Union

as it constituted more than merely a defensive organisation. It protected Europe from

external threats, but also served to foster internal unity and prevent inter-state

violence within Europe. It is certainly fair to say that NATO contributed to peace in

Europe throughout the Cold War but its contribution to European stability and unity

was surely less than that of the EU and its previous organisational manifestations. US

perspectives on the need for the US to play a guiding role in Europe lest the continent

revert back to the violence that characterised the first half of the twentieth century, as

evidenced by Holbrooke and others 13 , downplays Europe’s indigenous ability to

overcome interstate warfare in favour of a somewhat paternal conception of Europe’s

predilection for internal animosity. Economic integration, more so than unity derived

from NATO’s principle of common defence, encouraged European solidarity and

11
S. Nelson Drew (1995) ‘American Leadership in NATO’, in Ted Galen Carpenter (ed.) The
Future of NATO, London: Frank Cass, p. 6
12
Quoted in Ted Galen Carpenter (ed.) (1995) The Future of NATO, London: Frank Cass, p.
114
13
In his article, Holbrooke outlines the historical role played by the US in Europe arguing that
World War II would not have occurred had the US maintained a role in European affairs. See,
Richard Holbrooke (1995) ‘America, A European Power’, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 74/2, pp. 38-51
made war between European states both economically and politically irrational, as

architects of European integration, such as Jean Monnet, argued it would. By 1991

Europe’s own economic organisation arguably guaranteed peace and stability in

Europe without the aid of the US acting through NATO.

In his analysis of the rationale behind NATO’s maintenance Duffield asserts that

NATO affords the US a key role in European affairs and a means by which European

policies can be moulded to suit US interests. He suggests, ‘NATO remains the

principle institutional vehicle through which the US can exert influence on West

European policies’ noting that NATO, ‘…imbues the US with considerable political

leverage [within Europe]’. 14 Similarly, Sloan notes, ‘Washington’s leading position in

NATO was the foundation for the US claim to leadership of the Western world’. 15

While, as Sloan acknowledges, the US has not exercised dominance over European

foreign policy and has periodically met with opposition from within Europe regarding

certain foreign policy endeavours, the US has nonetheless used NATO as means by

which it can directly influence European foreign policy.

While this perspective is unproblematic it is debateable whether, following the

collapse of communism, the US needed NATO to maintain a foothold in Europe. The

US has many organisational links with Europe through the UN Security Council, the

G-7, and international financial bodies such as the IMF and the World Bank as well as

extensive trade links. The US exerts influence in many regions globally, such as East

Asia and the Middle East, without an organisational or formal institutional expression

14
John Duffield (1995) ‘Why NATO Persists’, in Ted Galen Carpenter (ed.) The Future of
NATO, London: Frank Cass, p. 111
15
Stanley Sloan (1995) ‘NATO and the US’, in S. Victor Papacosma and Mary Ann Heiss
(eds.) NATO in the Post-Cold War Era, New York: St Martins Press, p. 155
of this influence. Orchestrating the wholesale reinvention of NATO for the sole

purpose of maintaining a means of influencing European foreign policy does not seem

wholly plausible given the myriad other means by which influence could be exerted.

A third explanation for the US’s desire to maintain NATO is that dissolving it could

prompt the emergence of a European security organisation that may in time rival the

US and challenge its global dominance. As with the other explanations this

perspective is not without merit. The inability of Europe to act independently of the

US in the Balkans in the 1990s certainly slowed progress towards an exclusively

European defence force as Europe’s military capabilities were shown to be so

obviously insufficient. Had NATO not been extant and able to provide a means by

which Europe could act to ultimately intervene in Yugoslavia, the crisis in the region

may well have forced the EU to adopt a more coherent and robust common foreign

and security policy. Had the EU been able to resolve the crisis without US support

then potentially the new European security organ may have developed into a rival

military organisation. This is, however, inherently speculative. The capacity of a

European security force, if one was to have been created, to challenge the military

dominance of the US was, and remains, minimal. It is questionable whether the US

would have anything to fear from a European defence force given first, the enormous

gap between European and US military capabilities, and second, the unlikelihood that

a European defence force would threaten the US given the shared ideological

convictions and the historically cordial relationship between the two entities.

The above analysis therefore suggests that NATO’s expanded remit and the US’s

support for this transformation cannot be sufficiently understood through traditional


explanations. As stated by Sloan, ‘“Why NATO” is an old question in search of a new

answer’. 16 The following section proffers a structural explanation that compliments

the explanations here articulated to provide a more holistic explanation for NATO’s

transformation.

Uni-Multipolarity and the Need for NATO

Following the events of 1989-1992 a consensus emerged, which, as Layne wrote, held

that, ‘…the Soviet Union’s collapse transformed the international system from

bipolarity to unipolarity.’ 17 While the post-Cold War international system is

fundamentally asymmetrical the term unipolarity is not wholly accurate. The nature of

the present system is not one of unipolar dominance but rather of uni-multi-polarity.

As Huntington explains, ‘There is now only one superpower. But that does not mean

that the world is unipolar. A unipolar system would have one superpower, no

significant major powers, and many minor powers. As a result the superpower could

effectively resolve important international issues on its own.’ 18 The US is at the

zenith of the international system but this position of primacy is derived from its

status as leader of the dominant group of states loosely called ‘the West.’ For the US

to preserve its eminence within the uni-multi-polar system it must have support at

least within its primary catchment area. According to Sarkesian et al, ‘The global

view of US national security…acknowledges the emergence of a variety of states

whose power and security postures preclude, or considerably reduce, the major

16
Stanley Sloan (1995) ‘NATO and the US’, in S. Victor Papacosma and Mary Ann Heiss
(eds.) NATO in the Post-Cold War Era, New York: St Martins Press, p.
17
Christopher Layne (1993) ‘The Unipolar Illusion’, International Security, Vol. 17, no. 4, p. 5
18
Samuel Huntington (1999) ‘The Lonely Superpower’, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 78/3, p. 35. Heller
has also defined the current system as uni-multipolar. See Mark Heller (2003) ‘The
International System After the War in Iraq’ in Shai Feldman (ed.) After the War in Iraq, Sussex
Academy Press: Sussex p. 13
powers’ control and influence’. 19 This need for support explains the US’s assertion of

universality in its foreign affairs and its determination to act in unison with a wider

community of states even in the post-Cold War era.

Whenever any US administration has undertaken a military action in the post-Cold

War era they have asserted both the legality of the intervention and the existence of a

broad international consensus in favour of action. This can be evidenced in

interventions as seemingly different as Operation Allied Force in Kosovo in 1999 and

Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. While international reaction to both interventions

contrasted sharply, in both instances the US portrayed their actions as legal and

multilateral. If, as is regularly asserted, the present international system is unipolar

with the US exercising unrivalled power, then this consistent desire to be seen to act

within the law and as part of a coalition of the willing appears unnecessary. Certainly

domestic support for an intervention would potentially increase if the intervention

were portrayed as legal and multi-lateral. However, as noted by Wheeler 20 and others,

the assertion of humanitarian motives is sufficiently effective to generate domestic

support while a supposed threat to US interests and citizens, in the case of Iraq the

WMDs, substantially increases domestic support particularly in the wake of

September 11th. An examination of the intervention in Iraq, the alleged greatest

manifestation of the US flexing its muscle in a unipolar world, points to the flaws in

the unipolar thesis.

19
Sam Sarkesian, John Williams, Stephen Cimbala (2002) US National Security:
Policymakers, Processes and Politics, London: Lynne Rienner, p. 266
20
See Nicholas Wheeler (2003) ‘Humanitarian Intervention After September 11th’, in Anthony
Lang (ed) Just Intervention, Washington: George Washington Press
As a basis for intervention the US articulated the imminent threat posed by the Iraqi

weapons of mass destruction, Hussein’s sponsorship of terrorist organisations

targeting the US, and the human rights abuses prevalent in Iraq. These in themselves,

if believed, would be sufficiently emotive to generate domestic support for the

intervention. The articulation of the legal basis for action and the multi-lateral nature

of the action, therefore, appear to be aimed at the international audience. Yet, if

currently there exists a uni-polar system the US would have no need to seek support

from the international community. Therefore, the assertions of legality and multi-

lateralism prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom point to a realisation within the Bush

Administration of the limits of its own power and the need for international support.

As such, the US’s unrivalled strength is tempered by the realisation that to act without

support would risk fomenting resentment among lesser, but still major powers,

particularly within the US’s immediate sphere of influence. This, therefore,

undermines the unipolar thesis and points to a different international configuration.

While the intervention in Iraq conformed to the systemic constraints prevailing upon

the US in the post-Cold War era it did nonetheless differ significantly from the

intervention in Kosovo with respects to the manner in which multi-lateralism was

expressed. NATO was sidelined during the lead up to the intervention in Iraq yet it

constituted the cornerstone of the operation in Kosovo. The need for unanimity within

NATO before any action can occur was evidently seen as too much of a constraint for

the Bush administration and a ‘coalition of the willing’ was assembled. The

convening of a European security ‘mini-summit’ involving France, Germany,

Belgium and Luxembourg in April 2003 following the invasion of Iraq suggests that
the rationale behind the US acting in concert with its powerful allies in Europe, lest

they develop independent security organisations, was correct. 21

The fallout from the Iraq invasion has, however, witnessed an attempt by the US to

revert to the inclusive approach to intervention characteristic of OAF and as noted by

Hunter, ‘…the value of the experiment [of acting without NATO support in Iraq] if it

had a value, was that it showed the limits of such an approach’.22 The UN was

encouraged to participate in the post-conflict rebuilding process and NATO, which

according to Cornish ‘…came close to collapse’ 23 over Iraq, was given a minor role in

the maintenance of security. The experience in Iraq, therefore, suggests that the US

has learned that it must work with its major NATO allies to insure both success and to

counter the emergence of a rival security organisation. The ‘Coalition of the Willing’

assembled for the invasion of Iraq proved unstable and unreliable as many of the

countries involved have lost enthusiasm for the operation and either reduced their

commitment or, as in the case of Spain, pulled out all together.

A 1992 draft of the Pentagons Defense Planning Guidance on post-Cold War Strategy

recommended maintaining the US’s position of primacy in international relations by

discouraging the advanced industrialised nations, ‘…from challenging our leadership’

and further noted, ‘We must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential

21
Watson and Bennet wrote of the summit, ‘…it is not an exaggeration to talk about the death
of NATO. What we are watching is a slow death, but the plan put forward by France,
Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg is a heavy blow.’ Rory Watson and Rosemary Bennet
(2003) ‘EU Gang of Four Agree to Form New Defence Force’, The Times, April 30, p. 4
22
Robert Hunter (2004) ‘A Forward-Looking Partnership’, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 83/5, p. 14
23
Paul Cornish (2004) ‘NATO: The Practice and Politics of Transformation’, International
Affairs, Vol. 80/1, p. 63
competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.’ 24 The Pentagon’s

Defense Planning Guidance Report for 1994-1999 similarly read,

‘While the US supports the goal of European integration we must seek to

prevent the emergence of European only security arrangements which

would undermine NATO…therefore it is of fundamental importance to

preserve NATO as the primary instrument of Western defence and

security as well as the channel for US influence and participation in

European security.’ 25

There is, therefore, clear evidence that throughout the 1990s the US administration

believed that NATO constituted the best way to maintain its pre-eminence in

international affairs. The need to maintain NATO’s primacy derives from the US’s

acceptance of the need to work, to the greatest extent possible, in accord with its

regional allies, but in a manner conducive to the dominance of the US. As

Mastanduno explains, ‘Multilateral decision-making processes help the United States

to exercise its dominant power with legitimacy. They are key instruments of states

craft – indeed of realpolitik – for a dominant state that is seeking…to convince other

states to cooperate with it rather than to balance against it.’ 26 NATO constitutes a

ready-made coalition of powerful European democracies that has traditionally been

led by the US. According to Duffield ‘[The US’s] preponderance within the Alliance

allows [it] to exercise such leadership as setting the agenda, defining options and

determining the pace of NATO action’. In these respects, therefore, NATO

24
Report quoted in Marjorie Cohen (2003) ‘The Myth of Humanitarian Intervention In Kosovo’,
in Alexsandar Jokic (ed.) Lessons of Kosovo: The Dangers of Humanitarian Intervention,
Toronto: Broadview Press, p. 123
25
Quoted in Seth Ackerman (1999) ‘Forgotten Coverage of Rambouillet Negotiations’, in
FAIR, May 14th, available at http://www.fair.org/press-releases/kosovo-solution.html
[Accessed September 2004]
26
Michael Mastanduno (1999) ‘Preserving the Unipolar Moment’, in Ethan Kapstein and
Michael Mastanduno (eds.) Unipolar Politics: Realism and State Strategies After the Cold
War, New York: Columbia University Press, p. 157
constitutes a stable alliance whose members are socialised to accept the leadership,

with certain limitations, of the US.

Threats to the US-Europe Alliance

While the expansion of NATO, both literally and in terms of its operational remit,

progressed rapidly in the pos-Cold War world the US and European conceptions of

the organisation’s purpose nonetheless differed and came to a head over the invasion

of Iraq. While as noted above the US sees NATO as a means by which its hegemony

can be exercised in a multilateral manner, in Europe the trend has been towards the

internationalisation of human rights law and an increased focus on non-traditional

goals in international relations.

While Operation Allied Force appeared to unite NATO, the differing emphasis and

rationale articulated for this intervention illuminated the contrasting conceptions of

NATO’s role. While within Europe Blair, Havel and others stressed the humanitarian

imperative of intervention, US officials focused on a narrower, more self-interested

rationale. US General Wesley Clark, then NATO Supreme Allied Commander in

Europe declared, ‘…this wasn’t a conflict strictly about Kosovo. It wasn’t even a

conflict ultimately about ethnic cleansing. It was a battle about the future of NATO,

about the credibility of the United States as a force in world affairs’.27 In his speech to

the nation when the campaign began President Clinton stated, ‘Imagine what would

happen if we and our allies instead decided just to look the other way as these people

were massacred on NATO’s doorstep. That would discredit NATO, the cornerstone

27
CBS News Interview with General Wesley Clark by David Morris, 15 May 2000,
http://cbsnews.com/htdocs/pdf/clark.pdf [accessed June 2005]
on which our security has rested for 50 years now.’ 28 The unity that surrounded the

intervention was therefore illusory and as noted by Rodman, ‘Operation Allied Force

helped [the allies] paper over [their] numerous differences over NATO’s mission and

procedures in a new era’. 29

The European Security Strategy (ESS) adopted by the EU in 2003 outlines the EU’s

foreign policy goals. As noted by Quille the ESS seeks to combat threats by

‘…supporting the UN system, strengthening national responses through EU synergies

and by addressing root causes such as poverty and weak governance through

instruments of regional dialogue’. 30 This desire contrasts with the US’s National

Security Strategy of 2002 with its emphasis on pre-emptive strikes and unilateralism.

The rhetoric of the Bush administration has increasingly accentuated the gap between

Europe and the US over issues such as the ICC and Kyoto while the foreign policy

emphasis, though not constituting a rejection of multi-lateral action, has been

domineering and committed to working outside NATO if needs be. 31 Europe, though

not committed to opposing the US has sought to serve, as Strobbe Talbott notes, as

‘…a coalition of the willing, not a coalition of the obedient’. 32

The European Constitution drafted in 2004 is seen by some American commentators

as a threat to US-European relations as it constitutes a move away from NATO

towards increased European military competencies. According to Cimbalo the

28
Quoted in Foreign Desk (1999) ‘Conflict in the Balkans’, The New York Times, March 25th,
Section A, p. 15
29
Peter Rodman (1999) ‘The Fallout from Kosovo’, Foreign Affairs, 78/4, p. 45
30
Gerrard Quille (2004) ‘The European Security Strategy’, International Affairs, Vol. 11/3, p.
422
31
According to Talbott the Bush administration’s actions have meant that, ‘…the US has
rarely been so at odds with so many of its traditional friends on so many issues’. Strobe
Talbott (2002) ‘From Prague to Baghdad: NATO at Risk’, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 81/6, p. 46
32
Ibid, p. 55
Constitution ‘…would have profound and troubling implications for the transatlantic

alliance…the new Europe would focus on aggrandising EU power at the expense of

NATO…it would seek to balance rather than complement US power’. 33 There is

therefore increasing evidence that US-European relations are in decline on the basis

of differing conceptions of both the role of NATO and the organisation of

international relations generally. As stated by Quille, ‘Key differences in approach

will lead to competitive or confrontational behaviour and disputes over the legitimacy

of the use of force to achieve security objectives’. 34

Conclusion

The above analysis suggests an explanation for NATO transformation in the post-

Cold War era. The US has, in the context of the uni-multipolar world, sought to

maintain NATO as it offers it a means by which it can execute its foreign policy in a

multi-lateral manner thereby reducing internal and international opposition and

increasing the chances of success in its international endeavours. NATO more so then

the UN, constrained as it is by the Security Council veto, or ad hoc coalitions of the

willing, which are inherently unstable and transitory, offers the US the most attractive

means by which it can operate within the current systemic conditions as it constitutes

a ‘…reliable instrument for multilateral military cooperation’. 35

This US rationale for the maintenance of NATO differs from emerging European

perspectives, which see NATO as more than merely a ready-made supporting organ

of US foreign policy. As noted by Talbott, ‘…the exercise of American power has

33
Jeffrey Cimbalo (2004) ‘Saving NATO from Europe’, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 83/6, p. 111
34
Gerrard Quille (2004) ‘The European Security Strategy’, International Affairs, Vol. 11/3, p.
423
35
Celeste Wallander (2002) ‘NATO’s Price’, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 81/6, p
become less a source of protection and more a cause of resentment and a problem to

be managed’. 36 The brewing incompatibility between US and European foreign

policy objectives will impact on NATO’s role. The US’s invasion of Iraq in the face

of European objections, ‘[created] the impression on both sides of the Atlantic that

NATO was a wasting asset’. 37 The ESS, and to a lesser extent the Constitutional

treaty, signal Europe’s direction in international relations and this contrasts sharply

with the US view. The intervention in Kosovo and, to a greater extent, the invasion of

Iraq illuminated the US and Europe’s rival foreign policy outlooks and suggest that

the future direction of NATO and US-Europe relations is in some doubt.

36
Strobe Talbott (2002) ‘From Prague to Baghdad: NATO at Risk’, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 81/6,
p. 46
37
Ibid, p. 51