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The New NATO and the Evolution of Peacekeeping:

Implications for Canada


Chapter III: The New NATO

In Chapter II we looked at NATO from its inception in 1949 to the end of the Cold War. Now we consider the transformation of NATO’s purpose and operational approach that followed the upheavals in post-Cold War Europe and that is still going on. In essence, what happened was that the old mission of NATO – collective defence against attack by the Warsaw Pact – became largely irrelevant and a whole new set of objectives was needed if the Alliance were to retain a meaningful role.

Among the developments to be discussed in this chapter is the new Strategic Concept announced in 1999, the issue of out-of-area operations and the question of enlarging membership. We will touch briefly on the matter of the European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI) but leave the main discussion of that matter to Chapter VII. Finally, we will address here the basic question of Canada’s future role in NATO. Chapter IV offers a more detailed look at certain key legal issues, while Chapter V examines the NATO role in Kosovo, a pivotal experience for the new Alliance.

 

The End of the Cold War

The end of the Cold War brought the so-called "peace dividend." Many argued that NATO should be dismantled: the Alliance was no longer needed, it was said, because the common threat to Western Europe and North America had disappeared under an umbrella of global security. Such "peace problems" as ethnic conflicts, separatism, international crime, drug trafficking and the like were seen as essentially internal matters. To the extent that they needed international action, they could and should be dealt with by Europeans working through a European organization, such as the European Community itself, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), or an effective Western European Union (WEU).(31) In addition, there were at that time concerns that both popular and governmental support for NATO in the United States and Canada would dwindle.

If the Alliance was to continue, it needed to engage in a fundamental review of its objectives. A number of ideas involving radical change emerged in public discussions early on, including the elimination of the Alliance and the assumption of its military responsibilities by a European security organization such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Such arguments were presented chiefly by academics, NGOs and other outside commentators. Within the Alliance, the focus of discussion was more restricted, with the central issue being how best to match the existing and potential capabilities of NATO to the evolving security requirements of Europe. There was debate between those who preferred adherence to NATO’s traditional role as a collective defence organization, and those who sought an expanded role involving pan-European security. This naturally raised questions about membership enlargement and other mechanisms for enhancing NATO relationships with former Warsaw Pact countries.(32)

Instead of withering away, however, NATO proceeded to reinvent itself by setting new and relevant objectives. In so doing, it relieved the European Community – later the European Union – of the task of developing a common foreign and defence policy, allowing the EU to focus on its drive for closer economic integration. The renewal of NATO also helped give Russia a sense of security that it would not be confronted by irresponsible hostile actions along its western borders. At the same time, fears in both western Europe and Russia about a reunited Germany were quieted, while the continuation of NATO as an Alliance contributed to both security and hope in central and eastern Europe.

While the witnesses before the Committee agreed that it would be premature to speak of the final outcome of this process, they acknowledged that NATO has ceased to be what it once was: an organization essentially focused on the collective defence of members in the event of military attack.(33) NATO has effectively become a European security organization with an expanding range of functions and responsibilities, and a growing involvement in the proactive maintenance of security, through both "out-of-area" military operations and non-military activities. Although traditional responsibilities have not been renounced, they have been subsumed within a broadened set of functions, expressed most recently in the new Strategic Concept, issued in Washington on NATO’s fiftieth anniversary, April 24,1999.

 

Reshaping NATO

When the disintegration of Yugoslavia began – with declarations of independence by Slovenia and Croatia on June 25, 1991 – it soon became clear that the Europeans were far from ready, either by means of a temporary alliance or through a cooperative organization such as the Western European Union (WEU), to deal with such crises. At the same time it was understood that the realization of an effective European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI) would require years of hard work.(34)

As a result, NATO moved to fill the gap. As early as 1991 the NATO members states began to redefine the Alliance’s role, to reshape its command structure and to expand its membership. No longer was the organization to focus its attention narrowly on the defence of the countries in its "area" – meaning the countries bound to common defence by Article 5 of the 1949 Treaty. Rather, it was to concern itself with maintaining peace within the sovereign states on the borders of the NATO area; this meant trying to deal with the ethnic, economic and political causes of strife within those states. In other words, NATO defined for itself a new peacekeeping – or peacemaking – role.

At their Rome meeting in 1991, the NATO heads of state and government agreed that:

Risks to Allied security are less likely to result from calculated aggression against the territory of the Allies, but rather from the adverse consequences of instabilities that may arise from the serious economic, social and political difficulties, including ethnic rivalries and territorial disputes, which are faced by many countries in central and eastern Europe. The tensions which may result, as long as they remain limited, should not directly threaten the security and territorial integrity of members of the Alliance. They could, however, lead to crises inimical to European stability and even to armed conflicts, which could involve outside powers or spill over into NATO countries, having a direct effect on the security of the Alliance.(35)

Over the next eight years NATO’s character changed. The Alliance continued its old function of providing collective defence for its members but its main concern became to provide general security for both its members and their neighbours. It placed a heavy emphasis on the conditions prevailing in "near-abroad," that is, non-member states along its borders. One way this security could be enhanced was by developing friendly relations with the "out-of-area" countries on its eastern boundaries. Accordingly, in 1994 the Partnership for Peace was established. To promote mutual respect and understanding with Russia, the NATO-Russia Cooperation Council was created. In addition, it was decided to enlarge the NATO area by admitting certain eastern European countries; as a result, on March 12, 1999, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic became members.

The NATO states had, and continue to have, a deep concern with the eastern "near-abroad." The first reason for this concern is that conflict in near-abroad countries, whether caused by racial, ethnic or religious hostilities, by obsolete economic systems, or simply by bad government, is seen as liable to explode and spread, with serious results for Western Europe and even for Canada and the U.S.A. Second, given the intensity of animosities in those countries, and the tendency for their politicians to exploit those animosities, conflicts are likely to result in serious offences against human rights.(36)

 

A New and Broader Role for NATO

At the Fiftieth Anniversary meeting in Washington, on April 23 and 24, 1999, the NATO heads of state and government reaffirmed their commitment to a role that goes far beyond military defence. Recognizing that originally the organization had been intended not simply as a coalition held together by a common enemy but as an alliance intent upon advancing peace and stability within the Euro-Atlantic area, the leaders stated:

NATO’s essential and enduring purpose, set out in the Washington Treaty [of 1949], is to safeguard the freedom and security of all its members by political and military means. Based on common values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the Alliance has striven since its inception to secure a just and lasting peaceful order in Europe. It will continue to do so. The achievement of this aim can be put at risk by crisis and conflict affecting the security of the Euro-Atlantic area. The Alliance therefore not only ensures the defence of its members but contributes to peace and stability in this region.(37)

In analyzing NATO’s role, the leaders stressed the organization’s determination to foster the security of its members by means far beyond Cold War thinking: "The Alliance has been at the heart of efforts to establish new patterns of cooperation and mutual understanding across the Euro-Atlantic region and has committed itself to essential new activities in the interest of wider stability."(38)

 

NATO and Humanitarian Interventions

The Washington Declaration also consolidated the NATO position on humanitarian objectives, pointing to its efforts in the former Yugoslavia as an example: "[The organization] has shown the depth of that commitment in its efforts to put an end to the immense human suffering created by conflict in the Balkans."(39)

The leaders did not see this work as easy or as likely to end soon. They recognized both the complexity of the new peacekeeping, and the difficulty of preventing local conflicts from becoming epidemics, spreading far beyond their points of origin.

The security of the Alliance remains subject to a wide variety of military and non-military risks which are multi-directional and often difficult to predict. These risks include uncertainty and instability in and around the Euro-Atlantic area and the possibility of regional crises at the periphery of the Alliance, which could evolve rapidly. Some countries in and around the Euro-Atlantic area face serious economic, social and political difficulties. Ethnic and religious rivalries, territorial disputes, inadequate or failed attempts at reform, the abuse of human rights, and the dissolution of states can lead to local and even regional instability. The resulting tensions could lead to crises affecting Euro-Atlantic stability, to human suffering, and to armed conflicts. Such conflicts could affect the security of the Alliance by spilling over into neighbouring countries, including NATO countries, or in other ways, and could also affect the security of other states."(40)

Undoubtedly it is true that different members of the Alliance see the implications of its new role differently; yet they did hold together to cooperate in the Yugoslavia-Kosovo operation, the mission they now cite as an example of NATO in its new-style peacekeeping role.

 

The New Strategic Concept

The new Strategic Concept formally recasts the Alliance’s Cold War-era mission from collective defence to one that, in the words of then NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, will guarantee European security and uphold democratic values "within and beyond our borders." While the new strategy, especially with regard to nuclear weapons policy, departs little from the Strategic Concept approved in 1991 when the Soviet Union still existed, the new language officially sanctions NATO out-of-area action. The Alliance also reaffirmed its "open door" policy for new members, but chose not to name any at the time.(41)

The new Strategic Concept identifies the United Nations Security Council as having primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, but does not tie Alliance action to Security Council endorsement. Reflecting the broadening of the Alliance mandate to include security actions that are not purely defensive (in the sense of responding to an attack),(42) the new Strategic Concept dropped the 1991 statement that NATO is "purely defensive in purpose: none of its weapons will ever be used except in self-defence." Needless to say, a call for increased out-of-area activity would have stood in stark contrast to such an assertion.(43)

Despite the efforts of some countries, notably Germany and Britain, participation in the new forms of NATO security action remains discretionary for individual member states (as it is for participation in UN peacekeeping missions). This contrasts with the requirement under Article 5 of the Washington Charter to assist members which come under attack.

 

Sanctions for Out-of-Area Action

NATO members are also called upon to "safeguard common security interests" and to be prepared to act in conflict management and crisis response operations, including those beyond Alliance territory.(44) On this point, at least, some observers saw the U.S. as giving in to some of its allies. Prior to the summit, the United States was hoping that NATO would extend its role to include tackling a "wide range of threats to shared values and interests," without specifying any geographic limitations on Alliance operations. In the end, the language in the Strategic Concept more closely reflects the views of most of NATO’s European members, specifying a sphere of interest in the "Euro-Atlantic area" and making reference to the possibility of regional crises "at the periphery of the Alliance." (45)

But what exactly is the Euro-Atlantic area? It is important to recognize that there is no clear consensus in this issue. Most members consider the Balkans to be included, but only France counts North Africa as part of the area, and the Germans are very much inclined to include the countries on the Eastern flank. Generally speaking, however, the Europeans see the areas in question as being close to their borders – or at least to their interests.

While the statement in the new Strategic Concept is far from the mandate originally sought by Washington, which would have preferred language that gave it greater support for operations outside Europe (such as those in Iraq), it will not be seen as overly restrictive by the United States when its national interests are at stake. Immediately after the publication of the new Strategic Concept, the position of Washington was to insist that the question of where NATO could act outside its borders was not a geographical issue.(46)

Indeed, in the aftermath of the air campaign against Yugoslavia, President Clinton again indicated that the U.S. sees a role for NATO well beyond its current borders. Speaking during a visit to Kosovo on June 22, 1999, he said that NATO could intervene elsewhere, in Africa or Central Europe, to fight repression.(47) This should come as no surprise. The United States, as a global power, has interests and responsibilities that are not restricted by concepts such as "out of area." For that country, at least, the Euro-Atlantic area is a concept of global proportion.

 

Nuclear Weapons Policy

In the new Strategic Concept, the Alliance reiterates that nuclear weapons provide a "unique contribution in rendering the risks of aggression against the alliance incalculable and unacceptable." The circumstances for contemplating the use of nuclear weapons are described as "extremely remote" and NATO nuclear and conventional forces will be kept at a "minimum sufficient level." Also, while large-scale conventional aggression against NATO is assessed as "highly unlikely," the Strategic Concept still argues that "the possibility of such a threat emerging over the long term [still] exists."(48)

Subsequently, Canadian and German calls to review NATO nuclear policy were accepted by NATO, which tasked its Senior Political Committee to carry out the work and report to Ministers by December 2000.

 

NATO and the European Union

The Washington Summit also sought to anticipate the development of a European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI). While the Strategic Concept reiterated NATO conventional wisdom on the subject, the Summit Communiqué went much further. The former simply noted that NATO would help the European Allies to act by themselves, by making NATO assets available to the Western European Union (WEU) on a case-by-case basis and by consensus of NATO members.(49)

The text of the Communiqué, however, acknowledged the resolve of the EU to achieve the capacity for "autonomous action" and agreed to "further development of the concept of using separable but not separate NATO assets for WEU-led operations." The Communiqué went on to call for NATO support in four main areas: planning, heavy lift, command and control, and intelligence.

The European Council at its Cologne Summit of June 3, 1999 reaffirmed its intention to proceed with the ESDI. The Council agreed that the European Union "must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and a readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises without prejudice to actions by NATO." However, while there is agreement on the foregoing, many of the specifics of a European security and defence policy still need to be decided. One of the more vexing questions is that of how to involve non-allied EU members and non-EU NATO members on a satisfactory basis.(50)

 

NATO Enlargement

Finally, the issues of Alliance enlargement and the relationship with Russia continued to be issues for Summit consideration. The nature of the threat has changed substantially. The concerns about aggression by the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries that was the focus of NATO for its first forty years have been replaced in large part by worries about instability within the same countries. Thus enlargement of the Alliance and other linkages may be seen as a means to enhance stability by providing a backdoor route to the economic involvement of Eastern Europe(51). The United States has been a strong proponent of NATO expansion, even where there is no apparent military threat.

In 1999, Alliance leaders chose "not to extend membership to any of the nine aspiring states (Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) but stated that the three newest members will not be the last."(52)

At the same time, the Alliance reiterated the need to keep Russia engaged. The Communiqué noted that "close relations between NATO and Russia are of great importance to stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic area."(53) It is not clear to all, however, that enough is being done to involve Russia.

 

The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council

Good relations between NATO and former Warsaw Pact members are advanced through the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC). The Council was created in 1997 as a broadened pan-European successor to the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC), a group of NATO and former Warsaw Pact countries which had engaged in defence planning and security related discussions since 1991. The Partnership for Peace (PfP) initiative, launched in 1994, brings the armed forces of 27 countries together for joint exercises, training and security consultations. The Committee was told that the EAPC tangibly contributes to mutual understanding among the armed forces of participating countries and to the ability of NATO countries, and others, to coordinate efforts for a variety of roles, including peacekeeping(54). As well, in 1997, the NATO-Russia Founding Act was signed. This agreement establishes the architecture for a NATO-Russia strategic partnership, enabling Russia to work with NATO on issues of common interest such as nuclear safety and joint action in peacekeeping. The venue for consultations is the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council (PJC).

The new Strategic Concept was to act as a guide for strategy and force structure for years to come. However, like its predecessor, the 1991 Strategic Concept, which was soon overtaken by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the current version is already coming into question as a result of the Kosovo intervention. Both the Alliance and individual governments are currently reviewing the outcome of Kosovo and assessing the implications for future defence and procurement strategy.

 

Future Considerations for Canada and NATO

Given the foregoing, the obvious question confronting us is: "What should be Canada’s role in the new NATO?" Implied therein are other questions, specifically, whether we should in fact remain in the Alliance and, if we do so, what should be the nature and level of our commitment.

What makes these questions difficult to answer is the evolving nature of NATO that we have already described and the uncertainty about future developments. Will the European Security and Defence Identity become a de facto European Union defence arrangement? Theories abound as to what shape the ESDI will take, but it seems certain that NATO will continue to change, and that its changes cannot help but have an important effect on Canada’s role. Thus the Committee is not saying that Canada should leave NATO: rather, the fact is that the European part of NATO may evolve away from Canada.

Canada, the United States and Europe share values and a common heritage(55). Although it is true that Canada has no long-standing enemies, we do have historical friends and allies. For the most part, these have been our fellow NATO members. It is difficult to conceive of a scenario (outside of a traditional UN peacekeeping mission) in which Canada would deploy forces overseas independently of these allies(56). Given this close association with our Euro-American friends, it would make little sense at this time to contemplate abandoning an alliance that provides a forum for discussion and planning with them. The world is changing as are Canadian security interests, and the situation may look quite different in a few years time; other regional alliances may emerge in areas such as Asia-Pacific, but for the foreseeable future NATO will remain a main bulwark of our defence.

The challenge for the Government is to ensure that Canada’s voice is heard in Alliance decision-making. If Canadians cannot see that their investment in military security, and in Alliance operations such as Kosovo, is reflected in influence on the broader directions of Alliance policy, then they will begin to question our commitment, seeing it as an outdated expression of outdated policy.

 

Conclusions and Recommendations

NATO has ceased to be what it once was – an organization focused on the collective defence of its members in the event of military attack. NATO has now become an essentially European security organization with an extensive range of functions and responsibilities, and a growing involvement in the proactive maintenance of security, through both "out-of-area" military operations and non-military activities. The new NATO is still evolving and its future shape is difficult to foresee.

Meanwhile, Canada’s role in NATO has diminished over the years. This is obviously in part a result of the growth of the European Union and the recent expansion of the Alliance. Experience in the Kosovo intervention reminds us that Canada does not enjoy the level of influence in NATO decision-making that Canadians might expect. Canada’s military contribution to NATO has been declining for many years, and no matter how skilled are our personnel, the size of our defence budget has meant that we are perceived by many outsiders as not "pulling our weight" within the Alliance. Such claims can be infuriating, in that Canada’s near-century-long commitment to the security of Western Europe has neither been recognized militarily nor reflected in the closer economic ties that were anticipated when Article 2 of the Charter was drafted.

NATO’s recent and potential future expansion is troubling; the Committee heard mixed testimony about its wisdom. But it seems clear that, whatever the merits of expansion, insufficient consideration has thus far been given to what it means for Canada. The addition of three new member states – three new allies – was accomplished with virtually no debate in Canada’s Senate or House of Commons and little public discussion.(57)

At a minimum, continued expansion will present challenges in terms of NATO decision-making and internal administration. With further expansion likely in the future, Canadians need to be more aware of the implications and more involved in any new decisions; this can best be achieved through adequate debate in both Houses of Parliament.

In the end, the Committee concluded that NATO still matters to Canada. Notwithstanding the uncertainty associated with the new NATO and the implications of the emerging European Security and Defence Identity (see Chapter VII), Canada’s continuing engagement in European security within the NATO context represents a necessary complement to our relationship with the U.S. on matters of North American security and defence. Our investment in the Alliance and our contributions to NATO operations ought to allow Canada’s voice, and our values, to influence Western decision-making, even where our interests are not directly at stake. This is a legitimate goal of our foreign policy and a worthwhile investment of our resources.

Canada’s security interests cannot be left to rest on concepts that date from 1949. We have a stake in European security that must be expressed in terms that make sense both to Canada and to Europe today. Our contribution to collective security – clearly the only sensible course for a country such as ours – must be seen as relevant and useful, by our partners in the Alliance and by Canadians.

 

Recommendations

  1. That the Government of Canada ensure that all Alliance members, including Canada, are fully and properly consulted before NATO forces are deployed "out-of-area" and that if the Government of Canada is not satisfied that full discussion has taken place, it seriously reconsider any role in the operation.
  2. That any such Canadian role in NATO operations be supported by a clear and substantial voice for Canada in Alliance decision-making.

Chapter IV: The New NATO – Legal Issues

Over the past several years, but particularly in the wake of Kosovo, three key areas of debate have emerged regarding the new NATO. First, there has been discussion as to whether, and to what extent, NATO should involve itself in operations outside the territory of member states. Second, questions have been raised repeatedly as to the legal basis for operations, such as peacekeeping and crisis response, that are not based on the mutual defence obligations set out in Article 5 of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty. Third, the possibility of unilateral action by NATO – i.e., action not sanctioned by the United Nations – has become a major issue as a result of the Kosovo campaign. This last question raises the problem of how the Alliance is to respond where action is blocked by a veto of one or more of the Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council.

There is a range of opinion on these issues among (and within) NATO member states. The United States and, to some extent, the United Kingdom, tend to advocate a robust and wide-ranging Alliance, one which, in addition to its core function as a mutual defence organization, can also intervene militarily virtually anywhere in the world where its interests are seen to be threatened. Moreover, the U.S. has sometimes suggested that prior UN authorization is not a legal prerequisite for such operations. Other Alliance members, such as France, appear to prefer that the Alliance stick closer to home and that non-Article 5 operations be undertaken only with authorization from the Security Council, but these views are by no means universal.

With respect to the issues of area of operation, the Alliance’s new Strategic Concept, adopted at the April 1999 Summit, clearly indicates that NATO’s central focus of concern is the Euro-Atlantic area. Yet the document can be interpreted as providing a foundation for Alliance operations beyond that area, provided they would contribute to Euro-Atlantic peace and stability.

While the new Strategic Concept seems to envision UN Security Council authorization, or at least a mandate from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), NATO’s recent "Operation Allied Force" against Yugoslavia shows that the Alliance is prepared in some instances to take military action without any such authorization.

As a founding member of the North Atlantic Alliance, Canada has shown a strong commitment to European peace and security. But Canada is also a founding member and staunch supporter of the UN, as well as a leading advocate of the pursuit of peace and human rights through international law. These goals have long been pillars of Canadian foreign policy. It follows that Canada has much at stake in the relationship between NATO and the United Nations.

 

Legality of "Out-of-Area" Operations

International law is less concerned with where states or groups of states act than with what they do. Likewise, neither NATO’s founding treaty nor the UN Charter precludes the Alliance’s undertaking out-of-area action.

 

The Washington Treaty

While Article 10 of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty (the Washington Treaty) limits new NATO membership to European states, the Treaty places no express geographic limits on Alliance operations. From an operational perspective, the Washington Treaty really deals only with collective defence against external aggression. Implicit in such an operational role would be the conduct of military operations in the territory of member states, or other allied or cooperating states, as well as in enemy territory or territory held by an enemy.

 

The UN Charter

The other main source of relevant international law is the Charter of the United Nations. Chapter VIII of the Charter deals with "regional arrangements," such as NATO.

Nothing in the Charter precludes regional military organizations from operating outside their region. At most, it would appear that the Charter gives the Security Council the discretion to exclude a regional organization from participating in a UN enforcement action.

 

Legality of Non-Article 5 Operations

More fundamental in a legal sense than the question of NATO’s geographical area of action is whether the Alliance is confined to actions of collective defence, or whether it can undertake operations in support of security more broadly. In particular, can NATO legally intervene in the affairs of non-member states, and if so, under what circumstances? Such actions would be outside the scope of Article 5.

 

The Washington Treaty

As noted earlier, the essence of the NATO alliance is Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which reads as follows:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all, and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them . . . will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith . . . such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Over the past decade, NATO has assumed additional military purposes. NATO’s April 1999 Strategic Concept identifies crisis management and crisis response operations relating to security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area as among the five "fundamental security tasks" of the Alliance.(58) These operations may consist of peacekeeping or other operations under the authority of the UN Security Council or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Strictly speaking, the Washington Treaty authorizes no military operations other than collective self-defence under Article 5.(59) However, the fact that NATO might conduct operations outside the scope of its founding treaty means not that such operations are illegal but that a member state has no legal obligation to participate in them.

This view is effectively acknowledged in the new NATO Strategic Concept itself, which stipulates that such operations are to be undertaken by the Alliance on the basis of consensus in each case and that participation in such operations remains "subject to decisions of member states in accordance with national constitutions." In other words, unlike the Article 5 obligation to help defend a fellow NATO ally against an attack, a pledge to participate in non-Article 5 operations is not implicit in a member state’s ratification of the Washington Treaty.

Already the Alliance has been involved in a number of these "non-Article 5" operations in respect of international peace efforts in the former Yugoslavia(60). With the notable exception of the NATO action against Serbia over Kosovo, however, all such operations were authorized by the UN Security Council.

 

The UN Charter

 

NATO and the Charter

The United Nations Charter is a special document in international law. Not only does it set out rules of membership and institutional procedures for an international organization, but also it declares substantive norms of international law of universal application. All NATO member states are also members of the UN and are therefore explicitly subject to the provisions of the Charter.

For NATO operations to be valid under international law, they must be consistent with the UN Charter. Indeed, Article 7 of the Washington Treaty affirms that Alliance obligations of member states are subject to those set forth in the Charter and to the primary authority of the Security Council in matters of international peace and security. Acceptance of the authority of the UN Charter and the Security Council is reaffirmed in the new NATO Strategic Concept.

 

The UN Charter and the Use of Force

Among the norms of international law reflected in the Charter, clear priority is given to issues of international peace and security, and, in particular, to the goal of stopping wars of aggression by strictly controlling the use of force between states.

The basic rule on the use of force between states is set out in Article 2 of the Charter:

2(3) All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

2(4) All Members shall refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

The Charter admits of only two explicit exceptions to this general prohibition on the use of force between states: the inherent right of states to engage in individual or collective self-defence against an armed attack; and enforcement actions to remove a threat to international peace and security.

Self-defence against an armed attack is a fairly straightforward concept, and, as an "inherent right" of states, can, under Article 51, be undertaken without UN authorization. Any such action must, nevertheless, be reported to the Security Council.

Enforcement actions are the domain of the Security Council. Article 24(1) gives the Security Council the "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security . . . ." Where there is a threat to international peace and security, the Charter gives the Council various powers to deal with the situation, including the use of military force. These powers are set forth in Chapter VII (Articles 39-51) of the Charter. Article 39 states that the Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, and, where the Security Council makes such a determination, it shall either recommend or decide the remedial measures to be taken under Articles 41 and 42. Article 41 provides for the application of enforcement measures not involving the use of force, e.g., economic sanctions or embargoes. Where the Security Council considers that non-military measures are inadequate, Article 42 permits the Council to take all necessary military action to maintain or restore international peace and security. Article 25 obliges all members of the UN to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council.

Article 52 of the Charter expressly acknowledges the legitimacy of regional security organizations such as NATO. Such regional arrangements are also implicitly contemplated by Article 51, which affirms the inherent right of states to engage in individual or collective self-defence. However, while Article 53 obliges the Security Council to try to make use of regional organizations in enforcement actions under Chapter VII, the Charter does not give such organizations any special authority. Indeed, Article 53(1) expressly forbids enforcement action by regional organizations without Security Council authorization.

Thus, the UN Charter clearly permits, and indeed encourages, the participation of regional organizations such as NATO in enforcement actions under the UN Charter – provided there is a mandate from the Security Council. Moreover, since the Charter only regulates military action between states, it poses no obstacles for NATO involvement in traditional peacekeeping operations(61), or in other consensual military deployments. Such operations do not even need UN authorization, although the UN does frequently authorize them under Chapter VI of the Charter ("Pacific Settlement of Disputes"). (62)

Accordingly, there is no problem under the UN Charter with NATO undertaking non-Article 5 operations per se. Difficulties arise only when NATO proposes military operations of a non-defensive nature. Under the Charter, these can be authorized only by the Security Council. In fact, as a result of the vetoes held by all permanent members of the Council, the requirement for such approval can be an insurmountable obstacle.

State Sovereignty and Human Rights: the Principle of Non-Interference

The principle of non-interference and respect for state sovereignty is a fundamental aspect of the UN Charter. Article 2(7) reads:

Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Member to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII.

It is often suggested that the principle of non-interference and respect for state sovereignty enshrined in Article 2(7) has been a major obstacle to effective international action to deal with conflicts and serious human rights violations within states. In reality, however, this provision has not in itself proved to be a serious restriction on action by the United Nations.

To begin with, the world’s understanding of what is "essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of [a] state" has narrowed since World War II. Starting in 1945, international law began immediately to concern itself with the plight of persons who had been victimized by internal strife and persecuted at the hands of their own governments. The concept of "crimes against humanity" established at Nuremberg held individuals at all levels, including heads of government, accountable for inhumanities, even where these were committed within the jurisdiction of the state. The UN quickly endorsed these principles and eventually went on to apply them in war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and for the former Yugoslavia.

These new principles of international law recognized at the Nuremberg trials were subsequently endorsed by the United Nations.(63) Moreover, the Nuremberg model of international criminal liability of high state officials for serious human rights violations was replicated in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, as well as in the statutes for the UN war crimes tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, established in 1993 and 1994 respectively, and for the new permanent International Criminal Court which is currently in the process of being ratified by states. In addition the 1948 Genocide Convention gives state parties the right to "call upon competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide(64)," which suggests a role for the UN in responding to cases of genocide.

Also in 1948, the UN General Assembly, without a dissenting vote, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which constitutes an important code of norms for the treatment of people by their governments. Moreover, the Universal Declaration was followed up in 1966 with an international treaty on human rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which imposes legal obligations on states to respect their populations’ human rights.(65)

In 1949, certain basic rights and obligations of the laws of war (now called international humanitarian law) were, for the first time, extended to internal conflicts in Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions. Further protections were extended for victims of internal conflicts in Protocol II of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions.

Moreover, Article 2(7) of the Charter expressly recognizes enforcement actions under Chapter VII as exceptions to the principle of non-interference. The precondition to such action is a determination that there is a threat to international peace and security, and the Security Council has shown an increasing willingness to make this finding in respect of internal situations. In part, this reflects the fact that internal acts of repression can have external consequences such as refugee flows and the provocation of armed intervention by other states.(66)

Thus the international community and international law have, since World War Two, been relatively restrictive in what they are prepared to concede as being matters of essentially domestic concern. Since in recent decades human rights violations have occurred mainly as a result of intra-state conflict – civil war rather than interstate war – this is an important change.

It can therefore be said that the UN and international law long ago faced the need to adjust the notion of state sovereignty in the face of large-scale human rights violations. As Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, wrote in September 1999: "Nothing in the UN Charter precludes a recognition that there are rights beyond borders. What the Charter does say is that ‘armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest.’" (67)

It is fair to say that any reluctance on the part of the UN to intervene forcefully to protect human rights has been more a product of the national interests of its members than of restrictions imposed by the UN Charter or international law generally.

 

Legality of Unilateral Action – and Alternatives

The difficulty with a unilateral (that is, non-UN-sanctioned) approach to humanitarian intervention is not with the formulation of sufficiently altruistic criteria for military intervention. Rather, it is with establishing an appropriate means of international control to avoid abuse and to preserve a level of stability in international relations. As Kofi Annan recently wrote:

. . . it is essential that the international community reach consensus – not only on the principle that massive and systematic violations of human rights must be checked, wherever they take place, but also on ways of deciding what action is necessary, and when, and by whom (emphasis added).(68)

 

Direct Action by the General Assembly

The best alternative to an express mandate from the Security Council would be a resolution of the General Assembly. This would confer substantial legitimacy on a military action and would get around the problem of the veto. In fact, this was the international community’s original response to the frustration of the UN system of collective security caused by the use of the veto in the Security Council.

Recourse to the General Assembly to sanction collective action for the maintenance of international peace and security was formalized in the "Uniting for Peace" Resolution, which was adopted in 1950 with Canada as one of the seven co-sponsors. The key provision reads as follows:

The General Assembly . . . [r]esolves that if the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in any case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations to Members for collective measures, including in the case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression the use of armed force when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security . . . [emphasis supplied].(69)

The Resolution goes on to provide for the convening of the General Assembly within 24 hours, if it is not already in session, at the request of any seven members of the Security Council or a majority of the Members of the United Nations. Pursuant to Article 18(2) of the Charter, a two-thirds majority is required for any recommendation by the General Assembly on matters involving international peace and security.

The "Uniting for Peace" resolution has been used on a number of occasions(70). While there have been challenges to its legality, it has not been found inconsistent with the Charter by the International Court of Justice; nor has it been repudiated by the Security Council. Moreover, in terms of reflecting global perspectives and values, this mechanism provides the greatest legitimacy for authorizing the use of force and is therefore highly relevant to the NATO questions addressed here.

 

Emergency Situations

It may well be, however, that situations will arise so quickly, and the potential consequences of inaction will be so terrible, that states or alliances will feel bound to act, at least initially, without the approval of any UN organ. In such circumstances, the states involved will still need to justify their actions to the Security Council and to submit the operation to UN authority once the UN has become seized of the matter. Even where the purposes of such action are broadly endorsed, action by a coalition such as NATO is not a long-term substitute for the legitimacy which only a truly global organization can impart.

 

Overall Implications

What do these considerations suggest with respect to NATO’s scope of action? Certainly they show that there are no substantive norms of international law that preclude NATO’s undertaking non-Article 5 operations in general, or so-called "humanitarian intervention" operations in particular. The only constraint that the UN Charter imposes on non-Article 5 operations is that any non-defensive use of force must be authorized by the Security Council.

In cases of stalemate at the Security Council, approval by the General Assembly may offer a viable alternative for an organization such as NATO which is seeking to intervene in a situation of evident threats to human security. Some members of the Committee believe that this mechanism may thus be a way to acquire the legitimacy that only United Nations support can provide.

Where the urgency of a situation, and the gravity of its potential consequences, appear to call for immediate and forceful action by NATO, it may not be possible to obtain any form of prior UN approval. In such cases, Alliance members may feel constrained to consider action without formal UN sanction. Clearly, however, they should act without UN authorization only in the most urgent and compelling circumstances, keeping the UN fully informed at every stage and taking all possible steps to seek its formal support at the earliest opportunity. Indeed, many would argue that the Alliance should not act at all in such circumstances, but should always obtain UN authorization before using force in any non-defensive action.(71)

Finally, it is important to note that in the case of non-Article 5 operations, the Washington Treaty does not impose on NATO member states the same obligation to participate in collective action as it does in the case of threats to mutual security. Hence Canada’s involvement in such actions is a matter of choice.

 

Conclusions and Recommendations

One of the questions posed at the beginning of this report concerned the authority under which Canada might intervene in a situation where her own security or that of a NATO member was not directly threatened. As we have seen in this chapter, there are important distinctions in international law, and in the NATO Strategic Concept, between collective defence actions under Article 5 and "out-of-area" interventions in support of human security within a sovereign state.

 

Up to a point, the answer was clear to the Committee – NATO should always seek a United Nations Security Council authorization for any non-defensive out-of-area military operation. Where such authorization is blocked by veto, support should be sought in the form of a resolution of the General Assembly. Canada should refuse to participate in any operation where NATO did not seek such authorization.

Where there was a divergence of view on the Committee was over Canada’s actions in the absence of a UN sanction. For some members, the answer was clear: Canada should not participate in any non-defensive out-of-area security operation without UN approval. Other members, however, could envisage circumstances where the threat to human security was so urgent and highly compelling that we should be prepared to act in concert with other NATO members, even without explicit UN support, and felt that the Kosovo situation had met this test.

As discussed in Chapter VIII, members of the Committee agreed that Parliament should be consulted whenever Canadian troops are being committed to action. They considered such consultation to be particularly important in cases where there was any question about the authorization of the operation by the United Nations. In this respect at least, the basis for Canada’s participation in the Kosovo operation was seen by the Committee as inadequate.

 

Recommendations

3- That the Government continue to press for reform of the UN Security Council approach to peacekeeping and for measures to ensure adequate operational command and support.

4- That the Government seek to ensure that any military operations involving Canada which go beyond the defence of NATO territory or of Canada’s vital national interests are authorized by the UN Security Council.

5- That where Security Council authorization is not feasible due to threatened or actual use of the veto, the Government seek support for the operation through a resolution of the UN General Assembly pursuant to the "Uniting for Peace" Resolution.

6- That where no form of UN authorization can be obtained in time, Canada be prepared to act only in the most urgent and compelling circumstances and, wherever practicable, to allow Parliamentary debate of the issue before, or as soon as possible after, the decision.

As noted, some Committee members did not support this last recommendation, taking the position that Canada should participate in non-defensive security operations only with a clear United Nations sanction.


 Chapter V: Kosovo

In 1943, the English novelist Rebecca West characterized the situation in the Balkans in terms that still ring true:

[People] of humanitarian and reformist disposition constantly went out to the Balkan Peninsula to see who was in fact ill-treating whom, and, being by the very nature of their perfectionist faith unable to accept the horrid hypothesis that everybody was ill-treating everybody else, all came back with a pet Balkan people established in their hearts as suffering and innocent, eternally the massacree and never the massacrer. (72)

While the origins of the Kosovo conflict go back centuries, specific events in the 1990s can be seen as leading to the recent crisis. The rising power of Milosevic, the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the war between Serbs and Croats and the failure of European nations, the UN and NATO to achieve a stable peace in Bosnia all represented seriously destabilizing influences for Kosovo. Our concern here, however, is whether NATO’s recent intervention in Kosovo was appropriate in the circumstances and what lesson can be drawn from it for Canada’s future participation in NATO operations.

Alliance action in Kosovo was presented by the allied governments, in large part, as an exercise in humanitarian assistance, intended to help a people oppressed and brutalized by Serbia. There were concerns, particularly in the West, that the disintegration of Yugoslavia was leading to increasing instability and human rights violation. There were also concerns that massive refugee movements would develop and put pressure on Western European nations. Much emphasis was placed on the need to stop a process of ethnic cleansing that was apparently taking place on a massive scale. Yet in the end, while the atrocities were quite real, they now appear to have been much less widespread than was earlier believed.

As the conflict unfolded, it was also suggested by some commentators that Kosovo demonstrated the possibility of waging a quick and conclusive air war with few casualties, particularly on the allied side. Its success in this regard is still being assessed, for it took longer than expected to achieve results, and we now know that other factors may have been decisive in bringing about the eventual Yugoslavian withdrawal from Kosovo. Moreover, while there were no direct casualties among allied air forces, the situation of the Kosovars deteriorated drastically during the air campaign.

Finally, and though it is too soon to try to reach a conclusive judgment, it is clear that NATO intervention has not yet brought about stability and lasting peace in the region.

The purpose in this chapter is to review the Kosovo experience in search of insights that can help define our view of NATO’s new strategies and of Canada’s role in supporting them.

 

Background to the Conflict

Precursors

The immediate precursor to the Kosovo conflict was the effort of the Milosevic regime to suppress the autonomy of the Albanian (i.e., Muslim) Kosovars. At the time of the NATO bombing campaign, Albanian Kosovars made up 90% of the population of the province. For some years, they had enjoyed a high degree of autonomy. In 1963 Kosovo had been made an "autonomous province," while in 1974 the Yugoslavian constitution granted separate federal representation; at that point Kosovo remained only "formally" linked to Serbia.

During this period of enhanced autonomy, ethnic Albanians exercised almost complete control over Kosovo’s provincial administration. The Serb minority, in contrast, complained of pervasive discrimination in employment and housing, and of the unwillingness of the local authorities to protect them from anti-Serb violence. Whatever the cause, many Serbs left Kosovo during the 1980s.

In 1989, Slobodan Milosevic was elected President of Serbia with 65% of the vote and Belgrade proceeded to downgrade Kosovo’s autonomy to its pre-1974 level. Once the autonomous status of Kosovo had been reduced, Serbia imposed emergency measures and summarily dismissed thousands of Albanians from state-sector jobs. As well, the teaching of Albanian history, literature and language was reduced to a minimum.

The Kosovar Albanians strenuously opposed the restrictions to their autonomy, initially using peaceful means. Significant armed opposition groups were not formed until 1997. By 1998, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) emerged as an important factor, at which point the simmering conflict intensified. Fighting between the KLA and Kosovar Albanian forces on the one side, and Serbian military and police forces on the other, resulted in the deaths of large numbers of Kosovar Albanians and forced many others from their homes(73). It was at this point that the international community became concerned about the potential consequences of the escalating conflict, especially the risk of its spreading to neighbouring countries.

 

The Crisis

Little effort was made by Milosevic to arrive at a diplomatic resolution. Given Serbia’s "non-interest" and the increasingly violent confrontations between Albanian Kosovar and Serbian forces, the North Atlantic Council met at Foreign Minister level on May 28, 1998, and agreed on two major objectives for NATO:

 

NATO Involvement

On June 12, 1998, NATO Defence Ministers requested an assessment of possible measures that NATO might take with regard to the Kosovo crisis. A number of military options were considered by SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe). With the further deterioration of the situation, the NATO Council on October 13, 1998 authorized Activation Orders for air strikes. The latter action was designed to support diplomatic efforts aimed at getting the Milosevic regime to withdraw its forces from Kosovo in order to put an end to the violence and allow refugees to return to their homes. At this time, the UN Security Council also passed a resolution which expressed "deep concern about the excessive use of force by Serbian security forces and the Yugoslav army," and called for a cease-fire by both parties to the conflict.(74)

The immediate threat of air strikes was called off once further diplomatic efforts brought agreement that limits would be set on the numbers of Serbian forces in Kosovo and on the scope of their operations. Verification of compliance was to be provided by a Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), established by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). While the KVM provided for verification on the ground, NATO provided aerial surveillance. (75)

 

Negotiations Fail

Despite these initiatives, the situation in Kosovo intensified further. Both sides carried out provocative acts and, although some incidents were diffused through the mediation efforts of the OSCE verification group, a mid-January Serb offensive against Kosovar Albanians simply led to further deterioration. As a result, the six-nation Contact Group, established by the 1992 London Conference on the former Yugoslavia,(76) met on January 29, 1999 and agreed to "convene urgent negotiations between the parties to the conflict under international mediation." NATO also supported the Contact Group’s effort by agreeing to the use of air strikes if required. These initiatives culminated in initial negotiations in Rambouillet, France from February 6 to 23, followed by a second round in Paris from March 15 to 18. The Kosovar Albanian delegation signed the proposed peace agreement after the second round, but the Serbian delegation did not.(77)

Following the failed negotiations, Serbian military and police forces stepped up the intensity of their operations against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The Serbs moved new troops and modern tanks into the region, forcing tens of thousands of Albanian Kosovars to flee their homes. Facing increasing Serbian obstruction, the OSCE Verification Mission was withdrawn on March 20. Thereafter, U.S. Ambassador Holbrook flew to Belgrade in a final attempt to persuade President Milosevic to stop the Serbian attacks on the Kosovar Albanians, informing him that failure to do so would result in NATO air strikes. Holbrooke’s efforts failed to produce either an agreement or delays in the growing Serbian assault on the Albanian Kosovars.

 

NATO’s Response: Operation Allied Force

The Campaign

The NATO air and missile campaign began on March 24, 1999, employing aircraft from 14 countries.(78) Aircraft operated together "under common command in fully integrated packages." U.S. and European early-warning aircraft provided protection, and their endurance was enhanced by air-to-air refuelling, thereby enabling NATO attacks to fly deep into Serbia and Kosovo.

Many Allied leaders expected Milosevic to capitulate within two or three days. As a result of such expectations, an inadequate number of aircraft were deployed initially and their target list was soon exhausted. Thus, as the campaign progressed, the number of both aircraft and missions increased steeply.

The campaign itself lasted 78 days, with bombing being suspended on June 10 and formally halted on June 20, 1999. Throughout, NATO suffered no direct combat casualties and lost only two aircraft over Kosovo. Of all the bombs and missiles used in the course of the campaign, roughly 35 percent were precision guided. Because of weather conditions, heavy emphasis was placed on weapons guided by the Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system.

Canadian pilots flew 10 percent of all NATO strike missions, averaging between 8 and 12 sorties per day during the initial phase, and were chosen to lead in 50 percent of the engagements in which they were involved. Canada’s initial commitment of 12 CF-18 fighter-bombers was increased to 18 on day 35 of the operation. Toward the end of the campaign, Canadians were averaging 16 sorties per day, with a maximum of 20, reached on May 11(79). Availability of Canadian aircraft during the campaign was regularly in excess of 90 percent – attesting to the capabilities of our ground maintenance crews. In all, our contribution in terms of strike missions was only slightly behind that of Britain.

Overall, however, it was the U.S. that shouldered most of the burden. American pilots flew over 60 percent of all sorties, 80 percent of the strike attack sorties and 90 percent of the electronic warfare missions. In addition, the United States launched a total of 329 cruise missiles on Serbian targets, only three fewer than in the Gulf War.

 

Serbian Withdrawal

The Serbian withdrawal from Kosovo was in accordance with a Military Technical Agreement concluded between NATO and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on June 9. On June 10, the UN Security Council passed a resolution (UNSCR 1244) welcoming the acceptance by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia of the principles for a political solution to the Kosovo crisis, including an immediate end to violence and a rapid withdrawal of its military, police and paramilitary forces. The Resolution, adopted by a vote of 14-0, with one abstention (China), announced the Security Council’s decision to deploy international civil and security presences in Kosovo, under United Nations auspices.

Acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council also decided that the political solution to the crisis would be based on the general principles adopted on May 6 by the Foreign Ministers of the Group of Eight and those contained in the paper presented in Belgrade by the President of Finland and the Special Representative of the Russian Federation, which had been accepted by the Yugoslavian government on June 3. These principles included:

The first elements of the international security force – KFOR – entered Kosovo on June 12. By June 20 the Serb withdrawal had been completed and KFOR was well established.

 

The Aftermath

The initial euphoria over the apparent success of the Kosovo campaign was soon subject to "sober second thought" as the actual results proved to be less clear than anticipated. At first glance, NATO’s operation had been seen by many as a highly positive harbinger of things to come – a "war" with no Allied combat casualties and the loss over Kosovo of only two aircraft.(80) Initial claims of enemy materiel, troops and infrastructure destroyed were impressive. For the first time, it seemed, an adversary had been defeated through the overwhelming use of air power; at no time did NATO ground troops engage the Yugoslav armed forces.

The campaign also appeared to have demonstrated the overwhelming superiority of U.S. precision-guidance systems (and the deficiency of the armament of most other NATO members in this regard). NATO governments were also relieved by the absence of the confusion and casualties that normally accompany a ground war.

The actual impact on Serbian forces was less clear, however. At the end of the conflict, NATO claimed that its aircraft had disabled 449 Serb artillery pieces, 210 armoured fighting vehicles, 150 tanks and more than 100 aircraft, as well as inflicting 5,000 to 10,000 military casualties. But Yugoslav authorities claimed that NATO aircraft had killed 476 soldiers and hit only 13 of the 300 or so tanks deployed in Kosovo. They further claimed that Alliance aircrew and bomb damage assessors had been duped by elaborate but traditional deception techniques, including the use of dummy vehicles made of wood and canvas.

Yugoslav claims gained credibility when hundreds of intact Yugoslav military vehicles were seen leaving the province after the surrender in June. As well, journalists in the province reported finding only scattered examples of destroyed equipment. Moreover, it is clear that a good deal of the damage was inflicted not by NATO aircraft but by the ground forces of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

The extent of the damage inflicted by the air campaign on the Yugoslav ground forces in Kosovo is still not certain; some observers have suggested that Yugoslavia could have continued fighting for a considerable time. Moreover, the damage inflicted did not prevent Yugoslav forces from continuing a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing against Kosovar Albanians throughout the campaign.

What we do know is the effect the bombing had on Yugoslavia’s infrastructure. The air strikes closed down all of Yugoslavia’s oil refining capacity and destroyed or seriously damaged 14 power stations, 63 bridges, half of the military fuel reserves, 25 percent of fuel stocks and a host of key industrial sites. This economic damage was certainly a key factor in bringing Milosevic to accept NATO terms.

Perhaps more importantly, we also know that air power cannot be used to achieve the post-war goal of ethnic peace in Kosovo. This will require the presence of United Nations peacekeeping forces for an indefinite period. We have also learned how weak are UN forces apart from those provided by NATO; the problems encountered by UN peacekeepers in Kosovo since the end of the bombing show that better coordination between the UN and NATO and greater use of NATO troops should have been part of the plan.

 

Reflections and Considerations

The Effectiveness of the Air Campaign

Although the air campaign was obviously important, in the end, it alone could not bring Milosevic to surrender. In testimony before the Committee, Gwynne Dyer argued that there were three factors, in addition to the air campaign, that brought Milosevic to the table. If not for these, the air campaign could have gone on for months without causing him to flinch.

Nor did the air campaign put an end to ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Serb forces appear to have finally abandoned their campaign of ethnic cleansing because the government in Belgrade ordered them to do so, not because NATO had made it physically impossible for them to continue. Indeed, in the absence of a ground invasion the air campaign only encouraged the Serbs in their efforts. "Firepower destroys, infantry occupies" remains a fundamental military principle, one which the outcome of the Kosovo war has not altered.

In the end, it appears that Serbia conceded because of:

 

War Without Casualties?

The fact that no Allied lives were lost during the Kosovo war was certainly a matter of good fortune for NATO. However, there remains something disquieting about the fact that we now speak of "wars without casualties" – or at least of those with none on our side.

One problem is that if this notion of intervening only in cases where there are expected to be few casualties becomes a mainstay of Alliance policy in the future, then it is easy to imagine that NATO may not intervene in just – but difficult – causes. Another is that it devalues the lives of soldiers against whom NATO operations are directed, many of them conscripts, to say nothing of the consequences for civilians in the line of fire.

Another unwelcome consequence is the message such a policy sends to those whom we expect to defend us when called upon, whether at home or abroad. Gwynne Dyer told the Committee that "whatever the justice of the cause, the business of the military is killing and destruction, and there is no honour in that, just squalor and horror. What gives the soldier moral stature is not his proficiency at killing, but his willingness, if need be, to sacrifice his own life." Good soldiers will always try to keep casualties down, primarily on their own side, but also on the other if that is compatible with victory. "But to ban casualties, to build strategy around a policy of no casualties at all, is to reduce soldiers to the level of mere technicians of killing. They deserve better than that," he said.(85)

Certainly not all endorse this new concept of "casualty-free" conflict, and as we have already seen, NATO had begun to make preparations for a ground invasion against the possibility that Milosevic might not concede. But too-strict adherence to the principle of avoiding casualties among our own forces may have had dire consequences for those we were claiming to help.

As far as is now known, before the bombing campaign began, approximately 2,500 people had died in Kosovo’s civil war. During the 11 weeks of bombardment, an estimated 10,000 people died violently in the province, most of them Albanian civilians murdered by Serbs. As for displaced persons, at the outset of the bombing 230,000 were estimated to have left their homes. By the end of the bombing campaign 1.4 million were displaced. Of these, 860,000 were outside Kosovo, most in hastily constructed camps in Macedonia and Albania. (86,87)

 

Achieving Stability?

One of NATO’s avowed goals for going to war was "to protect the precarious political stability of the countries of the Balkans." The result was precisely the opposite:

The foregoing consequences were unfortunate in themselves, but NATO’s intervention also left the Alliance facing a profound failure in policy. In the end, the question of the proper principle for determining sovereignty remained unsettled. The Kosovar Albanians had sought independence, while the Serbs had wanted to keep Kosovo part of Yugoslavia – citing the inviolability of existing borders as justification. NATO, for its part, insisted that Kosovo be granted autonomy but that it remain part of Yugoslavia. "The alliance had therefore intervened in a civil war and defeated one side, but embraced the position of the party it had defeated on the issue over which the war had been fought."(88)

 

Humanitarian Intervention?

The bombing campaign did not prevent human suffering – one of its ostensible goals – nor, as noted above, were the Albanian Kosovars given the independence they sought. Had the war been fought for "national interest," and had the eviction of Serb forces from Kosovo been an important interest of NATO’s member countries, then the war might well have been deemed a success; albeit a costly one. But, we have been told that the war was fought on behalf of certain values; that is, on behalf of human rights and the well-being of the Kosovar Albanians.(89)

With the Yugoslav war, NATO sought to establish a new basis for military operations in the post-Cold War era. Referred to as "humanitarian intervention," the doctrine consists of two basic precepts:

The fact that their own national interests were not directly at stake may have led Alliance leaders to assume that public support for the campaign would be limited and to decide that the war would need to be conducted "without risk." This decision had a profound impact on the campaign, confining military operations to high altitude bombardment. As a consequence, some have argued, NATO never really attempted to fulfil the ostensible purpose of having gone to war in the first place – the protection of the Kosovar Albanians.(91)

Furthermore, the Allies were not consistent in the reasons they gave for intervention. The Government of Canada throughout the action, and others from time to time, emphasized that the purpose of the intervention was to stop the atrocities – in other words, to save the lives of the Albanian Kosovars and prevent their displacement. However, European NATO nations such as Germany explained that the intervention was based on Article 5 of the Washington Charter in that it was undertaken, at least in part, to prevent massive refugee movements that could endanger the security of NATO nations. A third reason sometimes given was to maintain NATO solidarity in the face of destabilizing events in the "near abroad." These purposes are not necessarily contradictory, but they were never adequately reconciled by NATO or its individual members.

Hence, in Kosovo, Canada found itself involved in an operation that had neither United Nations approval nor a consistent rationale within the Alliance. The Committee was concerned, moreover, that the situation provided no adequate basis for assessing Canada’s foreign policy interests, let alone for committing our Armed Forces to a potentially highly dangerous role, and that no adequate public discussion of Canada’s involvement took place.

 

National Interests and Interventions

The lack of UN authorization also set an unfortunate precedent. NATO’s action in Kosovo could be seen as implying that it can disregard international law when it so chooses. Or, it might lead some to conclude more generally that both individual states and regional organizations may act unilaterally when it serves their purpose. In any event, one result of Kosovo has been the reluctance of NATO to take a clear position on Chechnya.

Joseph Nye has argued that "a democratic definition of the national interest does not accept the distinction between a morality-based and an interest-based foreign policy." At the same time, "foreign policy involves trying to accomplish various objectives in a complex and recalcitrant world." This entails tradeoffs and, as a consequence, a human rights policy cannot itself be a foreign policy; it can only be a part of a foreign policy.(92)

Democratic publics are generally more inclined to understand and promote the importance of human rights with respect to foreign policy than are other populations. But they are not likely to accept casualties in cases where their "only foreign policy goals are unreciprocated humanitarian interests." For example, the American public soon lost its enthusiasm for helping starving Somalis once they witnessed the televised images of dead U.S. soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. Yet, "Americans went to the Gulf War expecting and willing to accept some ten thousand casualties."(93)

In the Gulf War, the U.S. "was concerned not only with aggression against Kuwait, but also with energy supplies and regional allies."(94) This was not the case with Somalia. In the former case, human rights objectives were buttressed by clearly identifiable national interests; in the latter case no such link existed.

The importance of a sense of national interest was also argued by Professor Dale Herspring, of Kansas State University, when appearing before the Committee. As he noted: "What we must start doing that we have not done is to try to decide which battles we should be fighting. We cannot spend our life as world policemen, correcting every wrong . . . . We must decide when the situation warrants it, when it is in our interest to become involved . . . ."(95) And, when we do intervene, he suggested, we should do so only if we are confident that there is a high probability of good consequences.

The Committee is not here suggesting that in future Canada should return to a realpolitik that upholds the inviolability of state borders. What we are suggesting, however, is that the principle of state sovereignty can be made more "permeable" without our assuming that we can right other people’s wrongs or bring them to our preferred way of thinking. Sometimes matters need to be allowed to run their course before a successful peacekeeping intervention can have effect. Otherwise, one may simply end up providing respite for opposing sides, only to have them resume their conflict at a later date.

This view does not mean that Canada should turn a blind eye. But it does imply that simply citing humanitarian intervention, or human security, as justification for action is not in itself a sufficient basis for foreign policy(96). Much as massive and systematic human rights violations may demand our intervention, there inevitably will be instances when we simply cannot help.

George Kennan’s observations on the enthusiasm for humanitarian intervention summarize the argument from one end of the spectrum: "It would take a lasting commitment on the part of people and government to make even a beginning at this task, and for this I can see no reason or possibility. We had, as a rule, nothing to do with the origins of the ways in which regimes in other continents oppress elements in their own populations; and I see no reason why we should be held responsible for these unpleasant customs and see ourselves as guilty if they continue to be observed."(97)

 

The Reasons for NATO Intervention

In reflecting on the lessons of Kosovo, we are left with two basic questions to which no definitive answers have been provided by either NATO or Canadian authorities.

First, what was the basic reason for the intervention by NATO? Was it the fear that the situation in Kosovo would prove infectious, causing troubles both within and between Balkan states? Or was ethnic cleansing the real reason for starting the bombing?(98) Did the emphasis on atrocities have the effect of mobilizing popular support for a mission undertaken to maintain stability in the Balkans, a mission which, while seen as important by some governments, might have been questioned by members of the public, and perhaps by politicians, in some European countries, in the U.S.A. and perhaps in Canada?

Former NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana has written: "For the first time, a defensive alliance launched a military campaign to avoid a humanitarian tragedy outside its own borders." Yet, in the same article, Solana also says: "Apart from causing countless humanitarian tragedies, they [the struggles in the former Yugoslavia] constantly threatened to escalate beyond their point of origin and destabilize wider regions."(99) It appears that several motives underlay the NATO intervention.

Second, were humanitarian considerations – the obvious atrocities and violations of human rights – emphasized publicly mainly to help justify NATO’s decision to intervene in Yugoslavia without authorization by the Security Council? The Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Arthur Eggleton, on October 4,1999 commented that "Gridlock in the UN will not be allowed to thwart the determination of the international community to avert humanitarian tragedies." Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, commenting on the fact that NATO intervened in Yugoslavia without UN authorization, characterized NATO’s mission as humanitarian. He said that the Kosovo incident "has cast in stark relief the dilemma of what has been called humanitarian intervention on one side, the question of the legitimacy of action taken by a regional organization without a United Nations mandate; on the other, the universally recognized imperative of effectively halting gross and systematic violations of human rights with grave humanitarian consequences."(100)

 

Conclusions

The Committee’s review of the conflict in Kosovo revealed the risks, and the costs to civilian populations, of armed intervention by the Alliance in a situation where NATO’s objectives were neither clear nor even necessarily consistent.

The rationale for NATO’s intervention varied from the motivations of humanitarian intervention under the new Strategic Concept to self-defence (against possible waves of refugees) under Article 5. Initial claims of hundreds of thousands killed through Serbian action appear now to have been gross exaggerations, while the damage to civilian targets that resulted from NATO bombing is undeniable. The eventual peace has been marked by a continuation of animosity and violence between ethnic groups.

At a minimum, the Kosovo experience demonstrates that the outcomes of peacekeeping or peacemaking missions based on ostensible goals of human security can be highly unpredictable. More broadly, it showed that more discussion is needed within NATO – and within Canada – of the application of the new Strategic Concept to such situations.

It seemed to the Committee that Canada’s military contribution to the Alliance effort in Kosovo, though substantial and effective, was not fully appreciated by our Allies nor reflected in a sufficient place for Canada in Alliance decision-making on military strategy or political issues, either before or after the conflict.

There can be no doubt that influence at the tables where decisions are made on matters of military intervention is determined to a large degree by military capability and the readiness of a government to use that capability(101). Whatever one may say in hindsight about the success of the air campaign in Kosovo and Serbia, the fact remains that Canadian Forces played a major role in that campaign, because the government of Canada was prepared to commit those forces, and because they were superbly trained and well-equipped with modern aircraft and precision-guided weapons. (102)

The lesson for Canada is clear – if we are not prepared to commit our troops when it matters, or if they do not have the equipment to make a difference, then our influence in allied councils of peace and war will continue to diminish. Yet making an effective military contribution, as we certainly did in Kosovo, does not guarantee that our voice will be heard.

Finally, as discussed elsewhere in this report, the Kosovo experience raises fundamental questions for NATO and for Canada regarding the circumstances where operations should be considered in the absence of an explicit United Nations authorization.


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