European Contributions to Operation Allied Force: Implications for Transatlantic Cooperation

European Contributions to Operation Allied Force: Implications for Transatlantic Cooperation – Book Reviews

Ryan C. Hendrickson

European Contributions to Operation Allied Force: Implications for Transatlantic Cooperation. By John E. Peters, et al. Arlington, Va.: RAND, 2001. 113 pp. $20.00 (paper). Reviewed by Ryan C. Hendrickson, Assistant Professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University:

As the research on Operation Allied Force continues to be published at a rapid pace, five analysts from RAND have released an important study on how the European allies contributed to NATO’s most sustained military operation in its history. Peters et al. place their emphasis on how Europe assisted militarily in the effort to punish Slobodan Milosevic for his ethnic-cleansing activities in Kosovo. In doing so, the authors provide a very useful study on NATO and, more broadly, on the European Union’s ability to provide for its proposed Rapid Reaction Force.

The authors measure “contributions” in terms of the level of air support given to NATO. In strict numerical measurements, France was the largest European contributor to Allied Force, followed by the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany. These contributions are subdivided into the types of air operations each allied state participated in. For example, among the allies, France was by far the largest contributor to “battlefield air interdiction” operations, while the Netherlands flew the most “combat air patrol” missions. The Germans participated primarily in “suppression of enemy air defense” operations. No other book on Allied Force provides such a detailed assessment of such contributions.

The larger lesson from this research, however, regards the serious limitations of NATO’s European allies. The United States dominated every military aspect of the operation. This finding has been reported in the press and by other analysts, and thus comes as no surprise among students of NATO. Yet the raw numbers provided in this book demonstrate how truly limited Europe is in the types of operations it is able to conduct. Among the more troubling findings is the lack of secure communications between the allies, which created serious limitations in the ability to share intelligence and sensitive targeting information. Most of the allies also do not have the capability to strike effectively in inclement weather or at night.

The book also gives some attention to the political roles played by the allies in the target selection process. France most frequently exercised a veto power in NATO as the alliance requested strikes deeper into Yugoslavia and around Belgrade. In short, the book demonstrates the difficulty of conducting warfare in a multilateral setting, where numerous countries were granted input on how the alliance should proceed. It also illustrates many of the political problems faced by General Wesley Clark, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, in maintaining alliance cohesion during the operation.

Besides offering this useful assessment of Allied Force, the authors provide a short history of the events that led to the conflict in Kosovo. In the book’s last two chapters, the analysts address broader questions of European capabilities by examining defense spending trends. Although the diplomatic interest in Europe for a Rapid Reaction Force appears genuine, coupled with profound disappointment (if not embarrassment) about their limited military capabilities vis-a-vis the United States, it is still difficult to see how the European Union can play the larger security roles it seeks given the decreased defense expenditures over the last decade. The authors suggest that the United States will maintain a leadership role in Europe given the latter’s low defense spending levels, but also call for the United States to encourage the European allies to work toward building interoperable weapons and communication systems.

One limitation of the book is both a strength and weakness–that is, the book does an excellent job regarding the larger contributors to the alliance, but gives no virtually attention to the “smaller allies” within NATO. The authors mention that 13 NATO allies participated in the military operations, yet only the “big five” are treated. A more comprehensive assessment would have examined, for example, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Spain, and the others in terms of their contributions, and why others refused to contribute. The authors also measure contributions primarily in terms of air support, but do not address the diplomatic assistance given to the alliance. For instance, Poland did not participate in the air operations, but was one of the most vocal allies in condemning Milosevic and was publicly willing to send ground troops to support the operation.

Despite these limitations, no other book gives such impressive and detailed analysis of the European contributions. The book is especially interesting and well researched regarding NATO ‘s target selection process. It is also well written, and it will be useful to students, military professionals, and policymakers alike.

COPYRIGHT 2002 U.S. Army War College

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group