Alexandra Gheciu. NATO in the "New Europe": The Politics of International Socialization after the Cold War. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005. x + 357 pp. $60.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8047-5161-2.
Stanley R. Sloan. NATO, the European Union, and the Atlantic Community: The Transatlantic Bargain Challenged. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005. x + 331 pp. $79.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7425-3572-5.
Reviewed by Benjamin Zyla (Department of War Studies, Royal Military College of Canada)
Published on H-German (December, 2006)
NATO does have a Future: Basta!
After the end of the Cold War the question posed by scholars of international relations about the future of the NATO alliance seems to be answered once and for all: NATO does have a future, at least in the eyes of these authors. Today, more than fifteen years after the historical unification of Germany, the debate about the future of NATO is couched in a larger discussion about its most recent enlargement process and its values and norms. Alexandra Gheciu and Stanley Sloan follow this tendency and concentrate their analyses on NATO's normative dimensions of enlargement.
Both books begin their discussions in a traditional way, with a summary of NATO's history since its inauguration in 1949. After setting the stage for the analysis with theoretical discussions of methodology, Gheciu summarizes the arguments of the main schools of international relations and how they explain (or do not explain) the alliance's future after 1989. Early on in the book, she makes an epistemological choice and determines the constructivist school as the theoretical focus for approaching her research question.
Gheciu's central argument is that since the birth of NATO, the defense alliance had an internal as well as an external dimension. The internal dimension of NATO was overshadowed and pushed aside by external influences during the bipolar conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. At the time, threats of nuclear annihilation and conventional warfare in Europe determined the high politics of international affairs and marked the prominent external dimension of an alliance that glued nation-states together as they struggled for national survival.
This equation of external threats started to change after the end of the Cold War. NATO faced new threats, such as an increasing instability in central and eastern Europe. At the same time, the changing security environment also reminded the alliance that the fathers of NATO had included an economic dimension in the Washington Treaty of 1949. This dimension was interpreted by some countries, such as Canada, as a community of states. This idea was manifested in Article 2 of the treaty and later became known as the "Canadian article," because the Canadian government pushed for its inclusion in early negotiations.
Gheciu's work debunks the myth that following Francis Fukuyama's "end of history," central and eastern European countries "naturally" adopted western, liberal values, norms and institutions such as democracy, liberal human rights, the rule of law, multilateralism and so on, when in fact, NATO engaged in a long process of nation-building and spent a lot of energy and resources convincing political elites in central and eastern Europe of the significance of western principles. She writes: "That image ... overlooks the complexity of the process of (re)building post Communist polities, and marginalizes ... the role played by international institutions in that process" (p. 1). NATO went beyond trying to convince elites and shaped legal and institutional regimes in the former communist bloc. NATO officials participated in the drafting of liberal defense legislation, defined the mandates and scopes of security institutions and transformed the relationship between civil and military authorities as well as the structure of the armed forces. Thus, in the early 1990s, the defense alliance became heavily engaged in the domestic politics of sovereign states and actively shaped their transition processes.
Gheciu uses the Czech Republic and Romania as case studies to test her hypothesis. Her argument is that NATO systematically socialized these two countries. She analyzes in great detail the processes by which these socialization and identity-making processes took place and the impact they left. She suggests that "NATO played an important role in post-Communist efforts in Central and Eastern Europe to (re)draw boundaries between reasonable/unacceptable definitions of national identity and interests" (p. 3).
The fact that NATO is not only a defense community but indeed a community of values and norms is not necessarily a new argument. Karl Kaiser and other students of the transatlantic relationship have consistently made it. Nonetheless, Gheciu's work uses a fresh and unique approach to combine social psychological and sociological approaches to traditional security studies. Hence, Gheciu's work contributes to and expands on the theoretical work of the young constructivist school of international relations. Her contribution is important, however, because it suggests that central and eastern European elites accepted NATO as an authoritative and trustworthy source of expertise. Gheciu also demonstrates eloquently that NATO officials did not always succeed in institutionalizing liberal democratic values and, from time to time, ran into opposition from key decision-makers. Bureaucratic struggles, party politics and personalities have complicated the process. In subsequent chapters Gheciu analyzes how NATO socialized the Czech Republic and Romania. She demonstrates that the alliance used three socialization practices to achieve its democratic ends: teaching, persuasion and role playing.
Only a few minor weaknesses are apparent in this otherwise superb and enjoyable book. One is the author's failure to clarify in the introductory chapter, where she sets the stage for the later examination of the research question, that she is in fact looking at two different case studies to test her hypothesis. Little convincing explanation is offered as to the choice of these two case studies in particular. Why are the Czech Republic and Romania better suited to test her theoretical model than other countries, such as Poland or Hungary? Gheciu's explanations and references are a shortcoming at this point. Furthermore, from a logical point of view, it appears awkward that a discussion of NATO from different international relations and theoretical perspectives takes place rather late in the book. Instead of examining these theoretical deliberations almost at its end, it would have been clearer to conduct that discussion earlier in the volume and follow it with an explanation as to why she chose to focus on constructivism specifically. Why are the other two main schools of thought, liberalism and realism (and their sub-theories), less suited to approach the research question? Finally, Gheciu's book makes no reference to the methodology used to measure NATO's socialization practices in central and eastern Europe. She mentions in the introductory chapter that she will employ discourse analysis to approach her research questions. However, no detailed account explains how she applies the discourse analysis in the book itself.
Stanley Sloan's book reveals important similarities to Gheciu's work, but also considerable differences. Like Gheciu, Sloan uses the categories of NATO's external determinants (Soviet threat, terrorism, rogue states) and internal determinants (collective security, national interests, values) to trace a historical picture of NATO. Based on this discussion, Sloan argues for the reconsideration of the transatlantic alliance. This book provides a blueprint for a new Atlantic Community Treaty, which he explains in greater detail in his very last chapter.
In spite of NATO's most recent difficulties--post-Cold War military missions, nuclear strategy and outreach and enlargement--this call for a renewed community is no surprise. One of the most obvious problematic issues for the defense alliance after the end of the Cold War was the search for a suitable arrangement between NATO and an evolving European Union acting as a global security actor. Sloan's working assumption is that NATO has a future because such an alliance lies in the national interests of its member states. It represents the institutionalization of values and norms that need defense in an age of terrorism and rogue states. Secondly, Sloan appears to assume that although it is necessary, NATO is no longer appropriately structured or equipped to cope with the post-Cold War security environment. Nonetheless, despite all the critique, he vehemently refuses a division of labor in which Europe is the world's peacekeeper while the United States is its gun shooter, a division of roles that drew prominent terrorist attacks in 2001.
In light of these assumptions, Sloan argues for a supranational organization that encompasses the new aims and objectives of NATO and the European Union. This new "Atlantic Treaty" would be built on the norms and values that all NATO members have subscribed to. It would place special emphasis on Article 4 of the current Washington Treaty, which states that all states "will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened." Furthermore, this new transatlantic agreement would include an Article 5 that ensures the collective defense of its members.
Nonetheless, despite Sloan's enthusiasm for a new "transatlantic bargain," some obvious shortfalls appear in his analysis. First, answers to the question of why it would be in the national interest of all NATO member states to subscribe to a new treaty are not well explained. Furthermore, Sloan fails to examine domestic pressures and lobbyism, especially in United States. It appears to be highly unlikely that the currently sitting Congress would be interested in ratifying such a new treaty. Thirdly, one wonders how this transatlantic bargain might be sold in countries that became members of NATO in the last enlargement round, given that they just signed the previous treaty. And finally, readers are left with the question of whether the values and norms of the central and eastern European countries Sloan discusses are congruent with those of the "West." Despite these problems, however, this book is an insightful analysis of NATO's Cold War and post-Cold War history written by an experienced practitioner of transatlantic relations who uses a tone of policy advice and subscription.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-german.
Benjamin Zyla. Review of Gheciu, Alexandra, NATO in the "New Europe": The Politics of International Socialization after the Cold War and
Sloan, Stanley R., NATO, the European Union, and the Atlantic Community: The Transatlantic Bargain Challenged.
H-German, H-Net Reviews.
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