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#30 - JRL 2007-5 - JRL Home
From: Ira Straus (IRASTRAUS@aol.com)
Date: Sun, 7 Jan 2007
Subject: Re: 2007-#4-JRL - Lozansky on NATO and IATO

Ed Lozansky, in his proposal for a IATO (International Anti-Terrorist Organization) as a way of engaging Russia as an ally, combines good sense with some highly familiar nonsense. The sense rt needs to get disentangled from the nonsense. Consider this passage -- the decisive one in the article:

"As everyone knows, NATO was originally devised to counter the military threat presented by the USSR and world Communism. It certainly accomplished its mission with flying colors, and many people expected it to be disbanded after the Warsaw Pact was. When it became obvious that that was not going to be the case, there was talk of Russia joining NATO. However, that accession never materialized either, for various reasons, and will hardly occur in the future. Over the last 15 years we have lived in a paradoxical situation where a mighty military structure with a vast budget had no clear-cut goals or tasks and, moreover, no specific adversary. At the same time NATO continued expanding inexorably, and it was not till the latest conference in Riga that the adversary ? international terrorism ? was finally discovered.

"Considering that successful struggle against terrorism is hardly possible without Russia actively taking part, it seems logical to suggest the following scenario: NATO announces its self-disbandment and simultaneous entry into another structure tentatively to be named the International Anti-Terrorist Organization (IATO) that would comprise countries recognizing its charter, goals and tasks and prepared to take part in large-scale global battle against terrorism."

Now, the assertions about NATO in that passage probably sound right to most people. What could be wrong with them? Well, just about everything.

1. "What everyone knows" about NATO's origin is false, and the worse for being repeated in practically every article on the subject. What NATO was originally devised for was by no means just the Cold War. It was originally devised by middle aged and old men in the 1940s. Their younger, formative years were spent in the two World Wars and the interwar era. That was when they developed their views on the need for a permanent institutionalized treaty structure for the Atlantic alliance (an alliance that already existed during the World Wars). The Cold War came late in the day for them; it was the good excuse they seized on to establish NATO, not the underlying cause or mission of it. The reasons for a permanent Atlantic alliance didn't disappear after 1991, for the solid, indeed tautological, reason that they're permanent.

2. NATO "discovered" its anti-terror goals some years ago, not just at Riga. And it agreed some years ago on a broad Article IV mandate of promoting its members' shared interests globally ("out of area"), complementing its basic Article V commitment to defend members' home territory ("in area"). This conforms to the ideas and long-term plans not just of NATO's Founders but of their predecessors a couple generations earlier, such as Theodore Roosevelt and Alfred Mahan, who pioneered the goal of a joint global role of the Atlantic democracies.

3. Much ink has been spilt on saying that NATO has no purpose any longer. It has been a big waste of ink, and of mental space that could be put to better use.

4. Russia will almost certainly join NATO someday; the NATO 1994 decisions on expansion explicitly included Russia among the potential members. Since this has been messed up on both sides, in ways Lozansky describes quite well, it probably won't happen for another dozen years. The Russian dream of joining NATO is merely on ice, however; by contrast, the Soviet dream of killing NATO alongside the Warsaw Pact is dead, no matter how often some writers might try to revive it. The Warsaw Pact is long dead, none of its members except the USSR wanted it to survive after 1989; by contrast, none of NATO's members wanted their own alliance to die. NATO has a massive margin of support among both member publics and elites -- more solid than it did in Cold War times. NATO is clearly going to continue, even if many people feel baffled as to how this can be so in face of "what everyone knows". Maybe pundits, after repeating the prediction of NATO's demise for fifteen years and proving wrong every time, should finally get around to figuring out what is wrong with what everyone knows.

5. IATO could turn out to be a fruitful idea of Lozansky's, potentially an important one -- an "International Anti-Terrorist Organization (IATO) that would comprise countries recognizing its charter, goals and tasks and prepared to take part in large-scale global battle against terrorism." He is apparently thinking of including the NATO countries, Russia, India, Japan, and a few others. In practice, however, it would surely exist, not instead of NATO, but alongside it. NATO has a depth that won't be replicated anytime soon or easily by a new organization. IATO would need at times to draw on NATO's capabilities. Everyone from China to Pakistan to Zimbabwe would claim they should be in IATO, making NATO all the more indispensable as a cohesive core. Some IATO members, among them probably Japan and Russia, would meanwhile gradually be moving into NATO. IATO would provide a value added, not a substitute for NATO, whose strengths are an outgrowth of a century of Atlantic development.

A word of friendly if unsolicited advice: If people want a IATO to come into being, they would do well not to direct it against NATO; they would just get themselves into a losing battle that way. We've been down that path before. CSCE/OSCE was often proposed as a security institution instead of NATO. It is why CSCE/OSCE never got anywhere as a security structure.

Yours faithfully,
Ira Straus
U.S. coordinator, Committee on Eastern Europe and Russia in NATO.