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This collection reflects on the significance of the 9/11 terrorist attacks for the transatlantic alliance. Offering an analysis of NATO's evolution since 2001, it examines key topics such as the alliance's wars in Afghanistan, its military operation in Libya, global partnerships, burden-sharing and relations with the US and Russia.



Introduction — A New Paradigm for NATO?

Introduction — A New Paradigm for NATO?

Historians and political scientists tend to yearn for turning points. The history of the Atlantic Alliance has been no exception in this regard and is one ripe with defining moments. Since the signing of the Washington Treaty on 4 April 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been a principal witness to some of the seminal events of the Cold War, from the Korean War that paved the way for the creation of NATO’s integrated military command structure and the integration of West Germany into the alliance in 1955 to the travails of Suez and Vietnam.1 Its members have had to face the perils of the Berlin blockade and the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early 1960s and confront the spectre of nuclear war. A sense of crisis has often accompanied the alliance on its long, and sometimes turbulent, path through its 64 years; on gloomier occasions, such as the French withdrawal in 1966 and the Soviet deployment of SS-20 missiles in 1977, and on more joyful days, as when the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989 and the Soviet Union disintegrated in December 1991, NATO has been no stranger to drama and tension. The end of the Cold War was perhaps the most defining moment of all, creating a sense of significant political discontinuity. In the absence of the Soviet threat that had defined its existence for 40-plus years, NATO’s very being was called into question, and the alliance struggled to articulate a new raison d’être.2
Ellen Hallams, Luca Ratti, Benjamin Zyla

A New Paradigm for NATO?


1. NATO after 9/11: Theoretical Perspectives

If 9/11 is to be regarded as a watershed in global politics then it would be logical to assume that NATO, the globe’s most durable, extensive and powerful alliance, would be bound up in that process of transformation. For NATO, 9/11 accelerated changes already in train (namely, the need to focus out of area) and in so doing made possible a role for the alliance (fighting an expeditionary war in Afghanistan, for instance) that would otherwise have been inconceivable. A decade on, NATO’s major powers have modified significantly their assumptions of what can be achieved in far-flung operations driven, in part, by the demanding experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan, and, in part, by the operational constraints of defence austerity. These processes have shone a light on NATO. Its complex mission in Afghanistan conducted simultaneously with a range of other operations and initiatives (enlargement, missile defence and partnerships) indicates a body that continues to be adaptable and relevant. Yet, at the same time, the multiplication of tasks (some of which have courted the risk of failure) seemingly betoken an alliance that is directionless and stretched to the limit. In that sense, the period since 9/11 has been yet one more chapter of a familiar story of NATO in crisis. What that means and whether it has substance is a question that has policy, empirical and theoretical relevance; this chapter is primarily concerned with the latter.
Mark Webber

2. Reflections on 9/11: A View from NATO

On the evening of 9/11, a few individuals from NATO’s International Staff got together to discuss how NATO should respond to the massive attacks on the United States that had occurred just a few hours earlier. Not yet knowing the full scope of the attacks, let alone their perpetrators, the discussion quickly boiled down to one major question: should the allies invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, NATO’s collective defence commitment, thereby giving the strongest political signal of solidarity that sovereign nations can give each other? Most members of that small group supported such a decision. If this was not a clear case for the ultimate expression of transatlantic solidarity, what else was? NATO could not be seen as dithering, or else it would lose its credibility as a serious defence organization.
Michael Rühle

3. A Sense of Return: NATO’s Libyan Intervention in Perspective

Commenting on NATO’s 2011 intervention on behalf of Libyan rebels fighting to overthrow the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, a Swiss newspaper of international reputation asserted that the Atlantic Alliance was applying ‘the art of the possible’.1 The author declined to add that NATO’s action came at the end of more than a decade of attempting the near-impossible missions of regime change and nation-building in Afghanistan. What was deemed possible in March 2011 involved a considerable retreat from the ambitions of 2001. The alliance’s transformation — its most fundamental paradigm shift — has been under way for the two decades since the end of the Cold War and was not initiated but rather accelerated by its response to the events of 11 September 2001 (9/11). The transformation is as much the accidental product as it is the deliberate work of 22 years; NATO has attempted since 1989 to anticipate future challenges, and in its strategic concepts has articulated those challenges in a coherent fashion, but it has been conditioned by events as thoroughly as it has foreseen and shaped them. As it winds down its mission in Afghanistan, the alliance is at a watershed. It is not about to dissolve or disintegrate. As a coalition of states bound by shared political values, whose members continue to find it useful militarily and diplomatically, it endures.2
Carl Cavanagh Hodge

The Transformation of NATO


4. ‘Déjà vu all over again’?: 11 September 2001 and NATO Military Transformation

Just over a decade after the 11 September 2001 (9/11) terrorist attacks, the heads of state and government of NATO met in Chicago on 20–21 May 2012. The Chicago Summit meeting had three main issues on its agenda: Afghanistan; burden-sharing and global partnerships.2 The primary issue discussed by the heads of state and government of the alliance member states was the policy for NATO’s exit from Afghanistan by 2014. NATO’s engagement in Afghanistan has been an important yet divisive issue for the alliance for most of the past decade, and agreeing a strategy for a workable exit from that country was thus unsurprisingly the main focus of the summit. The military, political and economic commitment the alliance made to Afghanistan was not a direct result of 9/11, but the conflict in Afghanistan was. The second major issue on the summit agenda was the question of burden-sharing. Burden-sharing has been a perennial issue virtually throughout the alliance’s 63-year history, but is an issue that gained increased saliency in the 1990s, after the dissipation of the Cold War. The events in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 cast the issue in a new and harsh light, and since then military transformation has been a central pillar of NATO policy. The third main item on the Chicago Summit’s agenda was strengthening and enlarging the alliance’s global partnerships. All three of these items on the alliance’s summit agenda in Chicago are a legacy of the terrorist attacks in New York and Arlington of a decade earlier.
Terry Terriff

5. ‘Perennial Dilemmas’: NATO’s Post-9/11 Afghanistan ‘Crisis’

When examining the implications of 9/11 for the alliance, it seems intuitively sensible to focus on the intervention in Afghanistan. By the end of 2014 NATO will have been involved, for over a decade, in one of the most complex, multifaceted conflicts it is possible to imagine. It has witnessed the deaths of thousands, including high numbers of troops from NATO states; the expenditure of billions of dollars; contributions, in one form or another, from virtually every NATO member; participation from a significant number of ‘partner’ countries; and deep political controversy within and between alliance members. Surely, it is reasonable to suppose that a detailed study of NATO’s exertions in Afghanistan will allow us to answer fundamental questions about how 9/11 has impacted on the alliance and on the future direction of NATO, and will also teach us compelling lessons regarding theoretical and policy approaches in international research on the alliance.
Tim Bird

6. Just an Internal Exercise? NATO and the ‘New’ Security Challenges

In Chapter 1 of this edited volume, Mark Webber suggests that the past and present character of NATO is a question that is partly functional, partly geographic and partly political. During the Cold War the member states agreed that NATO’s task was to deter the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact from attacking Western Europe and North America, and — if that did not succeed — to defend NATO’s territory; the function was to deter and defend, the geography was the North Atlantic area and the policy was agreed upon.
Magnus Petersson

7. Fine Words, Few Answers: NATO’s ‘Not So New’ New Strategic Concept

Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the Young Atlanticists on 19 November 2010 that NATO’s impending Lisbon Summit was one of the most important in the alliance’s history. It would, he pledged, see the adoption of ‘an ambitious new Strategic Concept that will launch an Alliance that will be more effective, more engaged, and more efficient’.1 This would be NATO’s third such document since the Cold War and the seventh in its history — but the first since the alliance’s post-9/11 transformation — and would provide the blueprint for the organization for the next ten years. In the event the Lisbon Summit went smoothly. Alliance leaders duly adopted to much fanfare a Strategic Concept designed to be the foundation for NATO 3.0, the third phase of the organization’s post-Cold War reinvention. At the same time progress was made on Afghanistan, the NATO-Russia relationship was energized and the alliance’s member states managed to avoid offering public evidence of disharmony.
Steve Marsh, Alan P. Dobson

8. Pooling, Sharing and Specializing — NATO and International Defence Cooperation

Since the financial crisis of 2008 defence and security policy in the transatlantic area has generally been characterized by austerity measures. Economic priorities have thus pushed the transatlantic allies to consider international defence cooperation in a number of areas — from logistics in operations to tasks in national defence. Terms such as ‘pooling and sharing’ and ‘smart defence’ have been used to describe these initiatives, and they have indeed become something like buzzwords in the strategic debate. This is not to say that international defence cooperation is something that is limited to either mature transatlantic democracies, or the period following the financial crisis. So far, cooperation on capabilities in military alliances like NATO has traditionally been limited — for instance, the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) — and connected to a common strategic threat. One of the most interesting aspects of international defence cooperation associated with pooling and sharing and smart defence is that it opens up a whole new dimension and potential for integration and deep dependencies in areas that have traditionally been the responsibility of the sovereign state, even though dependencies might not be the desired end state of the actors involved. If states in the transatlantic setting were to pool and share military hardware on a larger scale, the result might very well be an integration process that would challenge assumptions of individual states as the focal point of analysis in defence studies. International defence cooperation has the potential to introduce a new multilateral dimension for force generation to NATO.
Magnus Christiansson

9. A Model Intervention? Reflections on NATO’s Libya ‘Success’

In their Foreign Affairs article ‘NATO’s Victory in Libya: The Right Way to Run an Intervention’, US Permanent Representative to NATO Ivo H. Daalder and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe Admiral James G. Stavridis hailed the 2011 Libya campaign as a ‘model intervention’.1 That Libya represents a ‘tremendous success story’ for NATO is a view that has remained relatively unquestioned, at least publicly, among many of the alliance’s members, and this narrative dominated the May 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago.2 This chapter seeks to place this ‘success’ narrative in context, and provide a more balanced assessment. It will draw attention to a number of issues raised by supporters as well as critics of the campaign. Even prior to the start of NATO’s involvement in Libya, there were numerous commentators who incorrectly predicted extremely grave consequences for the alliance, even going so far as to speculate that this would be NATO’s last mission, or even the end of NATO itself. They argued that NATO after Libya would cease to be a global actor, and instead would look inwards and wither away into obsolescence.3 In the campaign’s aftermath, such views warrant little merit, and appear somewhat bizarre in retrospect. Yet leaving aside the undue significance these commentators attributed to the Libya operation relative to other fac­tors influencing the alliance’s future, they do make a useful point, namely, that NATO is not infallible, and that the operation could have turned out much worse than it actually did. Indeed, if there is one crucial point that this chapter intends to highlight, it is that there is a crucial discrepancy that exists between the ‘success’ narrative that emerged after Gaddafi’s fall and the more pessimistic attitude that prevailed during the course of the campaign itself.
Jeffrey H. Michaels

Old Issues, Expanding Partnerships, New Networks


10. Between Hope and Realism: The United States, NATO and a Transatlantic Bargain for the 21st Century

When the founders of NATO gathered in Washington in 1949, few could have anticipated that the alliance’s first invocation of its Article 5 guarantee would have been triggered by an attack on US territory. It was thus a hugely symbolic moment when, on 12 September 2001, NATO invoked Article 5 in response to the 11 September (9/11) attacks on New York and Washington, America’s allies coming to the aid of a nation experiencing a sense of shock and vulnerability perhaps only equalled by the attack on Pearl Harbor some 60 years earlier. The events of 9/11 had ramifications that reverberated far and wide, not least because of the way Washington responded to the attacks, launching two major wars in the greater Middle East whose consequences are still playing out today; Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq continue to find themselves plagued by violence, instability and an uncertain future, while the United States and many of its NATO allies are emerging from a decade of conflict economically drained and war-weary. As the introduction to this volume suggests, 9/11 was in many ways a transformative event for NATO. In particular, it brought into sharp focus America’s relationship with the alliance, magnifying existing fault lines and cleavages and casting them in a new and more urgent light.
Ellen Hallams

11. NATO and the EU: A Bipolar Alliance for a Multipolar World

Ever since the creation of the European Union (EU) and its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) by the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, followed by the creation of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and the adoption of the European Security Strategy (ESS), scholars and policymakers have been faced with the question: where does this leave NATO? While the question of relations between NATO and European defence has been one of NATO’s ‘perennial dilemmas’, the alliance’s post-9/11 operations have further highlighted the importance and interconnections of such a vital relationship. This chapter proposes that the EU and NATO are unlikely to ever become competitors, as long as this emerging European strategic actorness is translated into a reconfiguration, not just of the alliance but of the transatlantic relationship with the United States as such. For NATO, an intergovernmental military alliance, cannot be compared with the EU, a comprehensive state-like actor — thus, CSDP-NATO relations have to be framed in terms of EU-US relations. The United States will likely play a less prominent role in NATO, as their strategic focus shifts to the Asia Pacific region. NATO will nonetheless persist as an instrument first and foremost for European crisis management in the broader European periphery. On that ‘Europeanized’ basis, a healthy alliance can continue to bring great added value to the transatlantic relationship and global stability.
Sven Biscop

12. NATO-Russia Relations after 9/11: New Challenges, Old Issues

This chapter provides an analysis of NATO-Russia relations from 9/11 to the alliance’s announcement of its phased withdrawal from Afghanistan. While in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon NATO’s relations with Moscow appeared to experience a qualitative revitalization — which was formalized through the establishment of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) in 2002 — the events of 9/11 did not affect the fundamental dynamics of relations between the alliance and Moscow. NATO-Russia relations continue to be shaped by structural divergences that predated 9/11 and have their roots in the post-Cold War international settlement and Russia’s junior partner status within it; they stretch from missile and conventional defence to NATO enlargement and globalization and energy security. The Obama administration’s announcement of a ‘reset’ in relations with Moscow in 2009, although leading to a resumption of cooperation after the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, failed to usher in a solid and long-term engagement. The chapter proceeds in four sections. It begins with a short summary of NATO-Russia relations since 9/11. It then lays out the main theoretical frameworks which have been used to explain relations between the alliance and Moscow: liberal, social-constructivist, and realist ideas about, and prescriptions for, NATO-Russia relations; the next section applies all sets of perspectives to the record of key post-9/11 NATO-Russia relations; the final section discusses the prospects for NATO-Russia relations after the financial crisis and the alliance’s forthcoming withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Luca Ratti

13. NATO’s Global Partnerships — A Haphazard Strategy?

Haphazardness and strategy are not usually two words that are linked. Yet, in relation to NATO’s so-called ‘global partnerships’1 the two seem highly complementary. Of the many changes brought about by the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, one was a clear demonstration of the global character of security in the 21st century, which prompted NATO to embark on a more ‘global strategy’ by attaching new importance to global security threats and by establishing partnerships that increasingly are linked with the term ‘global’. However, whether the ‘turn to the global’ can be wholly attributed to a paradigm shift following in the wake of 9/11, as is questioned in this volume, would suggest that NATO’s growing number of partners across the globe is the result of strategic planning following directly from the events on that fateful September morning. The chapter will show that this seems an improbable proposition.
Trine Flockhart

14. NATO and Interorganizational Cooperation

Working with other multinational security organizations has become an important aspect of NATO’s vocation. Changes in the international security environment since the end of the Cold War as well as since 9/11, and the operations the Alliance has conducted have been among the core drivers of recent attempts to strengthen links with other organizations. During the Cold War, NATO faced an existential threat in the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact which had territory, actors and intentions that could be analysed and capabilities that could be matched or surpassed. Since the end of this block confrontation, security challenges have increasingly become characterized by their diffuse, less than existential nature, by the multitude of actors involved ranging from state to non-state and by their transnational deterritorialized nature. This trend predates 9/11, but, nonetheless, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the response they provoked are the clearest illustration of the new environment and hence can be considered a catalyst of existing trends. 9/11 was an asymmetric attack on a powerful country, carried out over great distance by non-state actors using an international network of supporters and a safe haven in a failed state. Even though the combination of factors enabling the 9/11 attack to be successful will remain rare, fighting the perpetrators and trying to create conditions to prevent a similar attack has demonstrated beyond doubt the need to bring together all available instruments of security policy, ranging from military and civilian to political, economic and even cultural means. Because it would be unrealistic to expect a single organization to combine all necessary tools, for every actor in this policy arena, including NATO, the need to work with others has increased as a result.
Bastian Giegerich

Conclusion — NATO’s Retrenchment?


Conclusion — 9/11: A Systemic or Paradigm Shift for NATO?

The evolution and transformation of NATO has been a favourite theme within the international relations and history literature since the end of the Cold War.1 The collapse of the Soviet Union, an event that caught many in both the academic and political communities off guard, generated a rich and varied debate on the significance and meaning of such an event for the dynamics of world politics and the place of the transatlantic alliance within it. More specifically, as far as NATO was concerned, the end of the Cold War raised profound questions over its purpose and existence. NATO’s persistence beyond the end of the Cold War proved a powerful source of both intellectual and philosophical enquiry. Through the 1990s an intense debate raged among academics and policymakers alike as to NATO’s future in a world characterized by uncertainty and the emergence of new security risks and challenges. Such debate was situated along a broad spectrum of opinion and theoretical interpretations, from neo-realist predictions of NATO’s demise and decline, to neo-liberal reflections on NATO’s institutional adaptation and more critical, post-structural debates on the role of the alliance.2 Contending discourses asked a set of basic questions that, remarkably in some ways, continue to persist today: what and who is NATO? How do we explain and understand NATO’s ongoing persistence and evolution? What are the causal mechanisms that explain its transformation into a wider, almost collective security institution? What are the sources of discord and forces that are at work in weakening alliance unity and cohesion? What is NATO’s identity in an evolving international system, in which the Euro-Atlantic area seems doomed to lose some of its previous centrality? What is NATO for — and for whom?
Ellen Hallams, Luca Ratti, Benjamin Zyla


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