Center for Strategic Decision Research

Paris '07 Workshop

How the U.N., ESDP, and NATO Could Work Better Together

Vice Admiral Ferdinando Sanfelice di Monteforte, Italian Military Representative to NATO (left), with General James Jones

Vice Admiral Ferdinando Sanfelice di Monteforte
Italian Military Representative to the
NATO Military Committee

Vice Admiral Ferdinando Sanfelice di Monteforte (left) speaking with former SACEUR Gen James Jones (right). In background: Gen Franciszek Gagor (left), Polish Chief of Defense, with Amb Benoit d'Aboville of the French Cour des Comptes.

"NATO, a survivor of the Cold War success, is in fact bogged down in a war of attrition in Afghanistan. 
Reconstruction efforts are only now being coordinated, after too many years, while stabilization
and counter-insurgency operations are being carried out in the same battle space.
Thus, the two efforts are hindering each other."

This is an historic moment. The U.N. is making its second attempt to launch and direct on its own a complex operation, aptly labelled the “second generation of peacekeeping." While the U.N. has been encouraged by its apparent success, NATO and ESDP are in apparent disarray. Unfortunately, their troubles are taking place while the world is experiencing significantly increasing tension.


NATO, a survivor of the Cold War success, is in fact bogged down in a war of attrition in Afghanistan. Reconstruction efforts are only now being coordinated, after too many years, while stabilization and counter-insurgency operations are being carried out in the same battle space. Thus, the two efforts are hindering each other.

But this is not the only internal clash the Alliance is experiencing. A serious divide exists:

- There are the nations that are willing to accelerate the pace toward a global NATO, clearly at the expense of collective defense, which in the face of growing asymmetric threats has assumed a completely different form—now it deals with air policing, energy security, cyber defence, maritime security operations, and ballistic missile defense,

- There are other nations that are convinced that Article 5 is the only real and durable glue, as well as a shield whose importance is growing apace with the increasing world tension.

The consequence of this clash is an endless series of mutually contradicting projects. The chain of command wants to re-structure itself, in order to have more deployable HQs. At the same time, it is willing to forsake the key expeditionary capabilities of response forces. At NATO headquarters, the same committees also discuss how to deploy HQs on one day and for the rest of the week deal with the new forms of Article 5 operations.

The EU, which resembles an elderly couple unable to understand the needs of their newborn child—ESDP—is working hard to allow the latter to implement the still experimental concept of multi-disciplinary operations, which means that ESDP, like any construction yard in which a skyscraper is being built, is quite messy. Like two people experiencing difficulties in their relationship therefore EU and NATO, while intent on resolving their internal difficulties, are at present unable to cooperate.

If I could summarize this situation in a snapshot, I would use a photograph of a trench in Gallipoli, with plenty of barbed wire, machine gun posts, and minefields just in front of it. The trouble is that NATO appears to me to be on the ANZAC (the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) side, with its back to the sea, as its international credibility and raison d’être are presently based only on its military effectiveness—unless and until it understands the importance of Article 5 for its longevity—while the EU has plenty of leeway available.

ESDP is building, slowly but steadily, a more coherent military instrument, through both a rather effective force planning process and the capability development mechanism. Its excessive willingness to mount as many operations as possible, wherever an opportunity arises—something that may be seen more as an attempt to vindicate the failures of the past 50 years than a desire to gain relevance—appears to be a minor sin, tempered by the prudence of member-states already stretched too thin by their multiple commitments of overseas forces.

It is ironic, therefore, that now NATO is less able to cooperate with ESDP than vice versa. The key reason is NATO's inability to do anything beyond the so-called agreed framework, also known as Berlin Plus, which was designed to foster purely military-military cooperation, and is thus unable to provide a clear reference for  ESDP civilian operations.

It is true, however, that ESDP could be more active in convincing some of its member-states to do their homework in order to remove some of the existing stumbling blocks and that the EU could be more imaginative in finding specialized sectors of partnership with some non-EU NATO members, just as the Alliance did with Russia. It is also true, however, that, in NATO, some countries see ESDP as a powerful and dangerous competitor to be kept at bay.


Only the U.N., at present, can bring both organizations together, because it is in its primary interest to do so. NATO can provide what the U.N. lacks, namely, an experienced command structure and powerful response forces, while the EU has an outline framework for collaboration that has withstood, rather successfully, its first live test in D.R.C.

Is there enough time to have this happen? I doubt it. Time is running against the western countries. Apart from the growing risk of asymmetric attacks, the magnitude of the crises is now far greater than it was 15 years ago. At that time our nations operated in relatively small territories, such as Bosnia, Kosovo, and East Timor. Now the areas of crisis involve Afghanistan and Darfur—both larger than France—as well as Somalia, an ulcer many international organizations have vainly attempted to pacify during the last decades.

It is mediation by the U.N. that would eventually provide the final seal to a structure for keeping peace in the world that was envisaged 60 years ago but is still to be fully implemented—a U.N. that interfaces with all regional organizations.

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