NATO started in London as the North Atlantic Council agreed upon the Alliance's Strategic Concept

Come join the International Affairs Academy as we review key documents to NATO this week. (Page 21-32) Towards the New Strategic Concept: A Selection of background documents


The Alliance’s Strategic Concept (1991) agreed by the Heads of State and Government participating in the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council At their meeting in London in July 1990, NATO’s Heads of State and Government agreed on the need to transform the Atlantic Alliance to reflect the new, more promising, era in Europe. While reaffirming the basic principles on which the Alliance has rested since its inception, they recognised that the developments taking place in Europe would have a far-reaching impact on the way in which its aims would be met in future. In particular, they set in hand a fundamental strategic review. The resulting new Strategic Concept is set out below. Part I - The Strategic Context The new strategic environment

1. Since 1989, profound political changes have taken place in Central and Eastern Europe which have radically improved the security environment in which the North Atlantic Alliance seeks to achieve its objectives. The USSR’s former satellites have fully recovered their sovereignty. The Soviet Union and its Republics are undergoing radical change. The three Baltic Republics have regained their independence. Soviet forces have left Hungary and Czechoslovakia and are due to complete their withdrawal from Poland and Germany by 1994. All the countries that were formerly adversaries of NATO have dismantled the Warsaw Pact and rejected ideological hostility to the West. They have, in varying degrees, embraced and begun to implement policies aimed at achieving pluralistic democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and a market economy. The political division of Europe that was the source of the military confrontation of the Cold War period has thus been overcome.

2. In the West, there have also been significant changes. Germany has been united and remains a full member of the Alliance and of European institutions. The fact that the countries of the European Community are working towards the goal of political union, including the development of a European security identity, and the enhancement of the role of the WEU are important factors for European security. The strengthening of the security dimension in the process of European integration, and the enhancement of the role and responsibilities of European members of the Alliance are positive and mutually reinforcing. The development of a European security identity and defence role, reflected in the strengthening of the European pillar within the Alliance, will not only serve the interests of the European states but also reinforce the integrity and effectiveness of the Alliance as a whole.

3. Substantial progress in arms control has already enhanced stability and security by lowering arms levels and increasing military transparency and mutual confidence (including through the Stockholm CDE agreement of 1986, the INF Treaty of 1987 and the CSCE agreements and confidence and security-building measures of 1990). Implementation of the 1991 START Treaty will lead to increased stability through substantial and balanced reductions in the field of strategic nuclear arms. Further far- reaching changes and reductions in the nuclear forces of the United States and the Soviet Union will be pursued following President Bush’s September 1991 initiative. Also of great importance is the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), signed at the 1990 Paris Summit; its implementation will remove the Alliance’s numerical inferiority in key conventional weapon systems and provide for effective verification procedures. All these developments will also result in an unprecedented degree of military transparency in Europe, thus increasing predictability and mutual confidence. Such transparency would be further enhanced by the achievement of an Open Skies regime. There are welcome prospects for further advances in arms control in conventional and nuclear forces, and for the achievement of a global ban on chemical weapons, as well as restricting de-stabilising arms exports and the proliferation of certain weapons technologies.

4. The CSCE process, which began in Helsinki in 1975, has already contributed significantly to overcoming the division of Europe. As a result of the Paris Summit, it now includes new institutional arrangements and provides a contractual frame- work for consultation and cooperation that can play a constructive role, complementary to that of NATO and the process of European integration, in preserving peace.

5. The historic changes that have occurred in Europe, which have led to the fulfilment of a number of objectives set out in the Harmel Report, have significantly improved the overall security of the Allies. The monolithic, massive and potentially immediate threat which was the principal concern of the Alliance in its first forty years has disappeared. On the other hand, a great deal of uncertainty about the future and risks to the security of the Alliance remain.

6. The new Strategic Concept looks forward to a security environment in which the positive changes referred to above have come to fruition. In particular, it assumes both the completion of the planned withdrawal of Soviet military forces from Central and Eastern Europe and the full implementation by all parties of the 1990 CFE Treaty. The implementation of the Strategic Concept will thus be kept under review in the light of the evolving security environment and in particular progress in fulfilling these assumptions. Further adaptation will be made to the extent necessary. Security challenges and risks

7. The security challenges and risks which NATO faces are different in nature from what they were in the past. The threat of a simultaneous, full-scale attack on all of NATO’s European fronts has effectively been removed and thus no longer provides the focus for Allied strategy. Particularly in Central Europe, the risk of a surprise attack has been substantially reduced, and minimum Allied warning time has increased accordingly.

8. In contrast with the predominant threat of the past, the risks to Allied security that remain are multi-faceted in nature and multi-directional, which makes them hard to predict and assess. NATO must be capable of responding to such risks if stability in Europe and the security of Alliance members are to be preserved. These risks can arise in various ways.

9. Risks to Allied security are less likely to result from calculated aggression against the territory of the Allies, but rather from the adverse consequences of instabilities that may arise from the serious economic, social and political difficulties, including ethnic rivalries and territorial disputes, which are faced by many countries in central and eastern Europe. The tensions which may result, as long as they remain limited, should not directly threaten the security and territorial integrity of members of the Alliance. They could, however, lead to crises inimical to European stability and even to armed conflicts, which could involve outside powers or spill over into NATO countries, having a direct effect on the security of the Alliance.

10. In the particular case of the Soviet Union, the risks and uncertainties that accompany the process of change cannot be seen in isolation from the fact that its conventional forces are significantly larger than those of any other European State and its large nuclear arsenal comparable only with that of the United States. These capabilities have to be taken into account if stability and security in Europe are to be preserved.

11. The Allies also wish to maintain peaceful and non- adversarial relations with the countries in the Southern Mediterranean and Middle East. The stability and peace of the countries on the southern periphery of Europe are important for the security of the Alliance, as the 1991 Gulf war has shown. This is all the more so because of the build-up of military power and the proliferation of weapons technologies in the area, including weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles capable of reaching the territory of some member states of the Alliance.

12. Any armed attack on the territory of the Allies, from whatever direction, would be covered by Articles 5 and 6 of the Washington Treaty. However, Alliance security must also take account of the global context. Alliance security interests can be affected by other risks of a wider nature, including proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, disruption of the flow of vital resources and actions of terrorism and sabotage. Arrangements exist within the Alliance for consultation among the Allies under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty and, where appropriate, coordination of their efforts including their responses to such risks.

13. From the point of view of Alliance strategy, these different risks have to be seen in different ways. Even in a non-adversarial and cooperative relationship, Soviet military capability and build-up potential, including its nuclear dimension, still constitute the most significant factor of which the Alliance has to take account in maintaining the strategic balance in Europe. The end of East-West confrontation has, however, greatly reduced the risk of major conflict in Europe. On the other hand, there is a greater risk of different crises arising, which could develop quickly and would require a rapid response, but they are likely to be of a lesser magnitude.

14. Two conclusions can be drawn from this analysis of the strategic context. The first is that the new environment does not change the purpose or the security functions of the Alliance, but rather underlines their enduring validity. The second, on the other hand, is that the changed environment offers new opportunities for the Alliance to frame its strategy within a broad approach to security. Part II - Alliance Objectives And Security Functions The purpose of the Alliance

15. NATO’s essential purpose, set out in the Washington Treaty and reiterated in the London Declaration, is to safeguard the freedom and security of all its members by political and military means in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. Based on common values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the Alliance has worked since its inception for the establishment of a just and lasting peaceful order in Europe. This Alliance objective remains unchanged. The nature of the Alliance

16. NATO embodies the transatlantic link by which the security of North America is permanently tied to the security of Europe. It is the practical expression of effective collective effort among its members in support of their common interests.

17. The fundamental operating principle of the Alliance is that of common commitment and mutual co-operation among sovereign states in support of the indivisibility of security for all of its members. Solidarity within the Alliance, given substance and effect by NATO’s daily work in both the political and military spheres, ensures that no single Ally is forced to rely upon its own national efforts alone in dealing with basic security challenges. Without depriving member states of their right and duty to assume their sovereign responsibilities in the field of defence, the Alliance enables them through collective effort to enhance their ability to realise their essential national security objectives.

18. The resulting sense of equal security amongst the members of the Alliance, regardless of differences in their circumstances or in their national military capabilities relative to each other, contributes to overall stability within Europe and thus to the creation of conditions conducive to increased co-operation both among Alliance members and with others. It is on this basis that members of the Alliance, together with other nations, are able to pursue the development of co-operative structures of security for a Europe whole and free. The fundamental tasks of the Alliance

19. The means by which the Alliance pursues its security policy to preserve the peace will continue to include the maintenance of a military capability sufficient to prevent war and to provide for effective defence; an overall capability to manage successfully crises affecting the security of its members; and the pursuit of political efforts favouring dialogue with other nations and the active search for a co-operative approach to European security, including in the field of arms control and disarmament.

20. To achieve its essential purpose, the Alliance performs the following fundamental security tasks:

I. To provide one of the indispensable foundations for a stable security environment in Europe, based on the growth of democratic institutions and commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes, in which no country would be able to intimidate or coerce any European nation or to impose hegemony through the threat or use of force.

II. To serve, as provided for in Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, as a transatlantic forum for Allied consultations on any issues that affect their vital interests, including possible developments posing risks for members’ security, and for appropriate co-ordination of their efforts in fields of common concern.

III. To deter and defend against any threat of aggression against the territory of any NATO member state. IV. To preserve the strategic balance within Europe.

21. Other European institutions such as the EC, WEU and CSCE also have roles to play, in accordance with their respective responsibilities and purposes, in these fields. The creation of a European identity in security and defence will underline the preparedness of the Europeans to take a greater share of responsibility for their security and will help to reinforce transatlantic solidarity. However the extent of its membership and of its capabilities gives NATO a particular position in that it can perform all four core security functions. NATO is the essential forum for consultation among the Allies and the forum for agreement on policies bearing on the security and defence commitments of its members under the Washington Treaty.

22. In defining the core functions of the Alliance in the terms set out above, member states confirm that the scope of the Alliance as well as their rights and obligations as provided for in the Washington Treaty remain unchanged. Part III - A Broad Approach To Security Protecting peace in a new Europe

23. The Alliance has always sought to achieve its objectives of safeguarding the security and territorial integrity of its members, and establishing a just and lasting peaceful order in Europe, through both political and military means. This comprehensive approach remains the basis of the Alliance’s security policy.

24. But what is new is that, with the radical changes in the security situation, the opportunities for achieving Alliance objectives through political means are greater than ever before. It is now possible to draw all the consequences from the fact that security and stability have political, economic, social, and environmental elements as well as the indispensable defence dimension. Managing the diversity of challenges facing the Alliance requires a broad approach to security. This is reflected in three mutually reinforcing elements of Allied security policy; dialogue, co-operation, and the maintenance of a collective defence capability.

25. The Alliance’s active pursuit of dialogue and co-operation, underpinned by its commitment to an effective collective defence capability, seeks to reduce the risks of conflict arising out of misunderstanding or design; to build increased mutual understanding and confidence among all European states; to help manage crises affecting the security of the Allies; and to expand the opportunities for a genuine partnership among all European countries in dealing with common security problems.