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          • Year: 2005
          • NATO Summit in Istanbul and the Balkans

          • 29. january 2005. Dr. Branislav Milinković, Ambassador to the SCG MFA, Special Envoy for Relations with NATO

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          Fifteen years after the end of the Cold War and disintegration of bipolar structures, a new security milieu is slowly being established characterized by the following parameters: a changed type of security threats; strategic dominance of the US and aspirations of the EU to impose itself as an independent factor by developing its own foreign and security policies. International, Euro-Atlantic and European security, and even security in the Balkans, to a great degree predetermine the interaction of these parameters, although other actors, especially the Russian Federation, must be taken into consideration. NATO has imposed itself as a pre-eminent, basic institutional frame of issues of international security - especially those that involve the use of force (hard security), but even more so, strengthening overall security by establishing relevant institutions (soft security). Since almost all key subjects of the international security system are members or in partnerships with the Alliance, events in and around NATO accurately reflect security issues of the world today.

          In between the last two NATO summits (Prague, November 2002 - Istanbul, June 2004) relations of the transatlantic allies were in considerable turmoil. This was mostly caused by the enforcement of the USA’s rather controversial military strategy of a preventive offensive in order to defend its national interests. The intervention in Afghanistan and, especially the war in Iraq, put the solidity of relations within the Alliance to the test. These complex international crises indicated that there were differences in the approach to international security between the US on the one hand and the EU (with certain differences between individual member states, first of all referring to Great Britain) on the other. Moreover, although after the 11 September 2001 common assessments were made on the dangers of international terrorism, there still aren’t common perceptions on the real causes, roots and moving forces of this evil phenomenon. Therefore, there is no unified approach to multilateral security systems represented in the United Nations organization, which, according to the UN Charter, should present the basic/fundamental guarantee of international peace and security. This has resulted in differences in views on the American concept of a "preventive war" that does not have a valid/legitimate foundation in international law. Lastly, discrepancies in regard to military expenses have once again come to the forefront - the Pentagon’s budget is at least two times the amount of the total military budgets of the other NATO member states, and the USA invests six or seven times more in military research than its European allies.

          These differences prompted many explicit misunderstandings. Anti-Americanism swept through Europe - opposing the war in Iraq helped the German Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder win a new mandate in office, the French President Jacques Chirac threatened to veto this American action in the Security Council, and even America’s ally throughout this crisis, the Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, stated that Europeans would be happier to get a "little more Powell" from the US and "a little less Rumsfield". On the other side of the Atlantic, suspicions grew on the honesty of its European partner, support of the process of European integration was weak and meager, and the Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfield, who in this "war on terror" became more visible than the State Secretary Powell, divided Europe into "old" and "new" depending on its support of American policies.

          Although burdened by these differences, the NATO Summit in Istanbul in June 2004 served as a valuable and good moment for relieving tensions that signified a new stage in adjusting the alliance to a changed security environment. Heads of State or government of NATO countries welcomed seven new members confirming its support of further enlargement of the Alliance ("open door policy"); international terrorism and proliferation of arms of mass destruction were identified as basic challenges to global security; they continued to develop the multi-dimensional concept of NATO partnership that, aside from the Partnership for Peace program, also includes continual communication with Russia, Ukraine, Mediterranean countries, and recently, countries of the middle East. Designated as central regions of NATO operations were Afghanistan (where operation ISAF has been intensified in order to establish democratic institutions), Iraq (where NATO will assist training of security forces) and the Balkans.

          In the final documents of the Istanbul Summit1, the Balkans was defined as a "strategically important region", whose security was "stable but still fragile". In regard to the strategic position of the Balkans, there are two schools of thought - one that overemphasizes its role while the other looks down on it. According to the first, it is referred to as "a barrel of gunpowder" which in the past 200 years of European history has been known to spread war like a flame throughout the entire continent and beyond. Founders of geopolitics evaluated this region in a similar way considering that it almost represents the key to controlling the entire world because it is located directly in the centre of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The opposing school of thought asserts that from the perspective of key global power centres, the Balkans appear small and insignificant. Because of the high potential for ethnic conflict, it does, from time to time, attract the attention of the most influential actors who, out of their own interests, become involved in resolving crisis zones, but more often it is left to deal with its dismal destiny of trotting behind more fortunate and more developed regions.

          It is most likely close to the truth to say that the strategic position of this region rarely represents an unalterable constant and should always be evaluated within concrete historical circumstances. From the perspective of the most powerful military alliance today, the current strategic position of the Balkans evidently is not insignificant, despite the fact that the "war on terrorism" has redirected the focus of military-security engagements and media attention. Hence, NATO conducted its first military operation, and waged its first war, in the Balkans. NATO established its first peacekeeping mission in BiH after the Dayton Agreement was signed in December 1995 where the number of soldiers reached 60,000. Presently, NATO’s largest ground operation is KFOR, which has from June 1999 to the present reduced the number of soldiers from 50,000 to 17,500.

          Statistical data on the deployment of NATO forces show that its engagement in the Balkans represents an important link in a chain of regional issues that the Alliance is dealing with at present. The Balkans is also an important transit link connecting Western Europe and present and future NATO bases with present or future areas of NATO operation. Keeping in mind the previously mentioned tensions between Allies on both sides of the Atlantic, it is worth emphasizing that the Balkans absolutely does not represent a site for strategically important conflicts between the EU and USA. If there were dissonant tones and moves in the first phases of the Yugoslav crisis, in the last three to fours years a coordinated action has dominated. It can be said that through the development of the Balkan crisis, the Atlantic allies have learned to coordinate their policies and joint actions, which could be a useful experience in resolving current and future differences. Moreover, the operative partnership of NATO and the EU actually gave its first concrete results in the Balkans. On the basis of the agreement "Berlin plus", according to which the EU is permitted to use NATO’s capacities for its own military operations, during 2003, two operations were set into motion in order to establish a security environment in Macedonia (Concordia and Proxima), while at the end of 2004, the EU is expected to take over the SFOR mission in BiH. According to this mechanism, NATO will free military effectives for other regions, and the EU can start practicing its foreign and security policies. That is why many believe that the Balkans is currently the most favourable range for mutual coordination of security concepts of NATO and the EU.

          The Istanbul Summit sent a message to the Balkans that NATO "continues to adhere to territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries in the region" until peace and stability is firmly established and until "progressive integration of all Balkan countries into the Euro-Atlantic structure" is ensured (provision 7 Communiqué). It has been assessed that the robust presence of KFOR continues to be of essential importance for strengthening security and progression of political processes in Kosovo. The March violence was severely criticized; requests were made for intensified renewal and establishing conditions for return and it was clearly stated that no obstruction of political processes would be tolerated.

          Three countries in the region that submitted their candidacy for full membership into NATO (Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia) were strongly encouraged to continue this process by diligently fulfilling a special Membership Action Plan (MAP) and chances appear to be greater that the three will be included in the next wave of enlargement of the Alliance. In this process, they will mutually cooperate within the so called Adriatic Charter. In this way, they can support other countries in the region, SCG and BiH, which still have not become members of the Partnership for Peace. SCG and BiH must fulfil the rest of the conditions, which are mainly associated with cooperation with The Hague Tribunal. Both countries, according to the Istanbul document, have been given important opportunities to take part in selected activities of the Partnership even before full membership.

          The NATO meeting in Istanbul had historical importance for Serbia and Montenegro because, for the first time, it was invited to attend the summit as an observer. The invitation represents solid support of SCG’s readiness to participate in Euro-Atlantic integrations, but also support of the obligation to persevere on this path, above all in fulfilling the rest of the conditions for membership into PfP and continuing reform of the Army. NATO had a good experience in cooperation with our authorities in resolving the crisis in southern Serbia. Belgrade was given credit many times for its constructive stance on sensitive issues regarding Kosovo and Metohija. Communication between military structures of NATO and SCG is efficient and mutually constructive. SCG is justifiably dissatisfied with the way that KFOR has carried out its mandate, though credit can be given to KFOR, after the initial loss of control, for consolidating its response to the March violence caused by Albanian extremists.

          From June 2003 to June 2004, a special program of cooperation with SCG was implemented within which several seminars and expert meetings were held where partners from SCG (many from the Defence Ministry, but also parliamentarians, journalists, diplomats, scientists, representatives of local government and others) were acquainted with the Alliance and possible fields of cooperation were considered. After the NATO summit in June and the visit of the NATO General Secretary Jaap de Hop Scheffer in July, a new, in depth and focused program on cooperation began to be prepared. At meetings held in September attended by SCG representatives and a NATO expert team headed by George Katsirdakis, the following domains were pointed out: defence reform, reform of the security sector, planning of emergency situations, conversion of military bases, resolving social issues of the redundant military personnel, organization of language courses… The Alliance emphasizes that the program has a broad mandate, that it can include almost all program activities of the PfP and that the partners themselves from SCG can propose new areas of possible cooperation. Aside from fulfilling the remaining conditions for entry into PfP, our active engagement in the new program of cooperation with NATO could profile the State Union positively and improve its position in the international community.

          Entry into Euro-Atlantic integrations has great significance for the Balkan states and region on the whole. Participation in the same security arrangement would, for the first time in history, create conditions for the Balkans to become a security union in which security is achieved through cooperation and not conflict and in which strengthening one’s security does not resort to weakening the security of neighbours, but a joint response to common threats and challenges. On the other hand, success in the Balkans is very important for the Alliance. A stable region is evidence of its success and its credibility. Only a Balkan that resembles this could represent a model for every future engagement in other regions. Relations with Belgrade are a special challenge. Transforming a country that was once a target of the Alliance into an active and engaged partner can be considered a unique confirmation of the vitality of the Partnership for Peace program, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. It is of common/mutual interest that the approach to this project is taken very seriously and responsibly.

           

           

          1 As opposed to the EU, which introduced the term Southeastern Europe, NATO was consistent in using the traditional term. 

        • Tags: nato, international organisations, global security challenges, europe, international relations, Security
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