The New NATO Appeases Europe, Russia, And US
Back in 1949, when we were all young, including the cold war, I watched the North Atlantic Treaty Organization being created. Its purpose, pithily summed up by the British Lord Ismay, NATO's first secretary general, was, "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down."
It was not long before the West Germans were in. The Russians, now partners with NATO in peacekeeping in Bosnia, are no longer entirely out. A big problem has become how to bring in some of the former Soviet satellites clamoring for admission without raising too many hackles in Russia. Formulas are being found for that, which may include a promise not to station forces too close to the Russian border.
Less openly talked about is the problem of the terms on which the United States will stay in. For a long time the Europeans, especially the French, have looked for a way of dealing with European military problems without requiring American endorsement. A contributing factor to this was the experience in Bosnia, where the United States, before it sent troops, was perceived as willing to engage in bombings that might lead to retaliation against European troops on the ground.
At a conference on NATO at the National Defense University, defense under-secretary Walter Slocombe was frank to say, "The job for NATO today is to allow all allies to work together and to find a way to manage without the United States."
So, meet the new acronym - CJTF. CJTF stands for Combined Joint Task Force. This is a historic departure from NATO's unanimity rule. It is a device, Mr. Slocombe said, for permitting "distinctively European-led operations" under the authority of the West European Union. That, he said, will result in "a new NATO, geared to meet tomorrow's challenges."
Last week a NATO ministerial meeting in Berlin adopted a 13-page single-spaced communiqu, one of the longest I have ever seen, all about "the new NATO." The ministers came up with another new acronym, ESDI. That is European Security and Defense Identity.
All this is a way of dealing with the reality of increasing European impatience with increasing American reluctance to send troops on regional missions not central to American interests. What will happen the first time the Europeans, using NATO assets, launch a military operation that the United States disapproves of remains to be seen.
If Lord Ismay were alive, he might say that the purpose of the new NATO is to keep the Europeans in, the Americans half-in, and the Russians not grumbling too much.
* Daniel Schorr is senior news analyst for National Public Radio.