As the world gropes for a security system responsive to the needs of the post-Cold War era, NATO inexorably comes to the fore. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, arguably the most successful military alliance of all time, was born and bred in the Cold War. Since the collapse of the Soviet empire east of the Elbe, there has been intense debate whether NATO has a mission and a future or whether it should be buried honorably next to its vanquished foe, the Warsaw Pact.
At an extraordinary meeting this week of the 16 foreign ministers of NATO countries and their 19 counterparts from Eastern Europe and the newly independent republics of the old Soviet Union, this question may have been answered. They contemplated civil war in Yugoslavia, ethnic conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the lingering danger of resurgent Russian imperialism. And, with surprising consensus, they turned to NATO as the one organization with credible military capability -- even with intervention capability.
Instead of considering NATO as a rival to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Western Alliance was perceived as its natural partner. CSCE, the product of the 1975 Helsinki Accords which forced human rights on Communist autocrats, is still largely a discussion group with lofty aims but no real organization or muscle. But it has promulgated useful accords to head off conflict and has always been the one all-European council that embraced the United States and Canada.