chapter  7
24 Pages

NATO’s transformation: The transatlantic alliance renewed

NATO’s initial marginalisation after 9/11 led many to question not only the US commitment to NATO, but the alliance’s very future. However, the US preference for working with ad hoc coalitions in Afghanistan and Iraq was not the final nail in the alliance’s coffin that some had predicted. Indeed, that decision actually worked in the alliance’s favour in two principal ways. First, as demonstrated in Chapters 5 and 6, the problems the US experienced in Afghanistan and Iraq only served to reinforce the advantages inherent in institutionalised alliances such as NATO. Second, the US decision to bypass NATO after 9/11 galvanised the alliance into a much needed process of reform and transformation. Although transformation had been on NATO’s agenda since the end of the Cold War, NATO’s missions in Bosnia and Kosovo demonstrated that the problems the alliance experienced in areas such as capabilities and interoperability required a new and more robust transformational framework. This recognition sparked an intense dialogue within the alliance about just what form such transformation should take, leading ultimately to the 1999 New Strategic Concept. 9/11 reignited the debate over transformation and provided the catalyst for the 2002 Prague Capabilities Commitment, a set of reforms designed to facilitate NATO’s adaptation to a new, and infinitely more dangerous, international security environment. The US was the engine driving this transformation process, demonstrating a renewed American commitment to the alliance. The common perception that the Bush years were irrevocably damaging to NATO is thus unfounded, and much overstated.