The political cohesion of the Alliance is a concept which goes beyond harmonization or concertation of foreign policy attitudes and initiatives. It is basically dependent on the credibility of the deterrence, commitment to the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law which can only be materialized if all Allied countries have democratic system of government, the harmonization of the interests of members, the avoidance of prolonged conflict among partners and a dynamic pursuit of Alliance objectives.
(*)This paper was presented to the Turkish Atlantic Treaty Association Symposium on “NATO After Three Decades” in İstanbul on July 7, 1979
Published in the fpi Quarterly “Foreign Policy” Vol.8, Nos. 1-2
Broadly speaking, the political cohesion of the Alliance is a concept which goes beyond harmonization or concertation of foreign policy attitudes and initiatives. It is basically dependent on the following elements: the credibility of the deterrence (nuclear strategic forces, theater nuclear forces, conventional forces), the commitment to the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rules of law which can only be materialized if all Allied countries have democratic system of government, the harmonization of the interests of members, the avoidance of prolonged conflict among partners and a dynamic pursuit of Alliance objectives.
On the other hand, political strength of the Alliance is based on the fact that at present all its members have democratic regimes, sustained in many of them by strong social structures, efficient and productive economic systems and superior technological performance, that they can display flexibility and adaptability in the face of the profound transformation affecting the world as a whole, instead of being entrapped in misleading slogans and stale ideological approaches, It is only by making full use of these advantages that the Alliance can, not withstanding the difficulties it encounters, achive progress in its quest of ensuring peace and stability, promote appropriate measures of arms control and disarmament and conduct East-West relationship on a mutually beneficial basis.
4.With the beginning of the policy of “peaceful coexistence” which the Soviets have adopted after the death of Stalin with the purpose of pursuing competition with the West with all means short of war, a greater harmony of views between the members of the AtIantice had become essential. It is to cope with this challenge that the NATO Council had set up in 1956 a Committee of Three Foreign Ministers to recommend ways and means of strengthening inter allied non-military cooperation. This report exercised a deep influence on political consultations, underlining that there cannot be unity in defence and disunity in political viewpoints, the Report stressed the importance of making political consultations a habit. The Report pointed out that “the essential thing is that on all occasions and in all circumstances, member governments, before acting or pronouncing, should “keep the interests and the requirements of the Alliance in mind.” It was further said that a member government should not, without adequate advance consultation, adopt firm policies or make major political pronouncements on matters which significantly affect the Alliance or any of its members, unless circumstances make such prior consultations obviously and demonstrably impossible.
With the development of East-West relations and the advent of the era of detente, the need of intensive political consultations among allies was even better understood. Under conditions of detente, the assessment of Soviet policies and the study of possible changes in those policies, the evaluation of the reaction to action by the NATO Alliance are essentia! for the fulfillment of the tasks incumbent upon the Alliance both in the military and political fields. In 1967, the Harmel Report had emphasized the need to deepen and improve the practice of frank and timely consultations.
In discussing the political cohesion of the Alliance, the main question is, therefore, to determine to what extent the present concepts, procedures and practices can contribute to the objective of harmonizing policies and of preventing Allies from taking lines of action working at cross-purposes or from embarking individually on policies not compatible with the justifiable interests of other partners.
Other instances incompatible with the concept of consultations can be mentioned, in particular the contacts which proceeded the normalization of relations between China and the United States, the Nixon-Brezhnev Pact on the avoidance of nuclear war of 1973 and the nuclear alert called by Washington during the 1973 Middle East War.
Against those failures of consultation within the Alliance, one could ofcourse enumerate examples of encouraging results, in particular within the field of direct alliance responsibility, such as NATO defence and relations between Western Europe, the United States and the Soviet Union, on which extensive and in most cases trustful consultations took place. These are the Strategic Arms Limitations talks, the preparation and follow-up of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Mutual Force Reduction negotiations.
SALT 2 has involved only the United States and the Soviet Union. But, SALT 3 will have direct implications for Europe, as it will deal with weapons of the gray area. Disarmament and arms control are subjects which will therefore be discussed in depth and more intensively by the Alliance. It is in those discussions that the close relationship between defense planning and arms control and disarmament will have to be weighed from the point of view of the security of the Alliance. The Council will have to assess whether it would be more advantageous for the Atlantic Alliance to devise defense programs based on the introduction of new technology or to seek arms control agreements imposing restrictions to both NATO and the Warsaw Pact in the field of new weapons systems.
We have now in the Middle East a situation which offers a combination of hopeful and dreadful perspectives. The NATO countries need more than ever a correct assessment of the developments in this area and should be able to prevent individual policies incompatible with each other or directed to achieve opposite objectives.
The shortcomings of the Alliance in the economic and financial field have received a new attention recently because of the economic difficulties experienced by some NATO countries, in particular Turkey and Portugal. In such cases, the Alliance should be able to assess the need of likewise countries for economic assistance in the light of the burden they carry in the field of defense, to bear in mind the consequences which would ensue for the Alliance if economic constraints provoke dangerous political and social explosions and encourage and urge its members to give weight to all those considerations in their bilateral and multilateral economic and financial in their bilateral and multilateral economic and financial policies and actions.
In principle, countries which have united their efforts for collective defense and committed themselves to political cooperation should have no enduring conflict between them. Disputes which might erupt between Allies should be settled rapidly in a way which would not affect the political solidarity and the military effectiveness of the Alliance. But unfortunately, this is not always the case. If, therefore, a dispute occurs between member countries, those which are not involved in it have the great responsibility of maintaining a strict neutrality, while endevouring in a discreet way to encourage the parties to negotiations. Nothing can be more damaging for the alliance if countries depart from this rule and try to bring pressure upon one of the parties by resorting to methods detrimental to the purpose of the alliance,
As far as consultations between members of the EEC are concerned, two considerations should be underlined. Firstly, although there can be no objection to intimate consultations within the framework of EEC to fulfill the purposes of the Rome Treaty, it is significant that these consultations are much more wide ranging and in depth than the consultations taking place in NATO. It can be argued that this is understandable, since the EEC aims eventually at a political union. But even if this is so, one should remember that the political objectives of NATO in a board sense, ecompassing also collective defense and equilibrium, detente and stability in Europe, imply by their very nature the same degree of political interdependence and cohesion as the EEC. The second consideration is that the EEC consultations are distracting from the need to consult between NATO members. What happens very often is that, once the members of the Common Market have discussed an issue among themselves, the United States is consulting with one or some members of the EEC and the NATO process is forgotten. In most international organisations and forums, as well as in various capitals, consultations among representatives of NATO countries have ceased to be practiced. In some forums, consultations among NATO members take place after consultations within the EEC and tend, therefore, to duplicate them in a perfunctory manner.
The strengthening and further development of EEC is certainly in the interest of the North Atlantic Alliance as a whole. No NATO country, non-member of the EEC can therefore oppose the close links between members of the EEC and their desire to harmonize their positions prior to consultations among all NATO countries. But no useful purpose is served if this process is used in a way which erodes the substance of the process of consultations in NATO. In matters which come also under the purview of NATO consultations, it should be equally in the interest of EEC members to acquaint themselves thoroughly with the views of non-EEC NATO countries before reaching joint EEC positions. In such instances, EEC countries can perhaps have some preliminary consultations, but postpone the formulation of joint or coordinated positions until after an exchange of views has taken place in NATO. On the other hand, on questions which are more related to NATO than EEC, the process of consultations can be conducted directly within the NATO Alliance,
In a rapidly changing world, in order to fulfill its mission, the Alliance will need to display more dynamism, more adaptability and a greater political cohesion. The Alliance has so far successfully met several challenges. But under existing conditions and in view of prospective political changes, political cooperation is bound to become increasingly important.