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By Zbigniew Brzezinski

Zbigniew Brzezinski was national security advisor to U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

-- Tens of millions of Europeans, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, are about to become members of the Atlantic community. The promise of the Atlantic Charter -- a vision of the future formulated in the darkest days of World War II -- is finally becoming a reality.

Yet, the international context is changing dramatically. And as NATO changes with it, what should be its role and scope?

Despite current anxiety, the international scene looks better than two or three decades ago. While terrorism is a very serious menace, it is nonetheless still not as grave a threat as a U.S.-Soviet war would have been, with its 180 million estimated fatalities in the first 24 hours.

The ''grave and gathering'' threat of terrorism can be overcome if we devise a comprehensive military as well as political response that focuses on where the terrorists come from and on their political impulses. Unity of America and Europe is essential in this, with NATO as the critical bond. Otherwise the response might be usurped by those states that are self-servingly keen on prompting the emergence of an anti-Islamic coalition, making the ''clash of civilizations'' a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If that happened, the so-called war on terror will not be won but perpetuated, while the Atlantic alliance could even become one of its casualties. That is why the recent vote of the U.N. Security Council -- by reducing the likelihood of a divisive American-European cleavage while providing for joint action on Iraq -- is so decisively a constructive act.

During the Cold War, NATO was the central military and political alliance that saved freedom and created the preconditions for the liberation of the East Europeans. A much larger NATO is now the most important political and military alliance binding together a no-longer divided Europe with America.

As such the alliance does require new military capabilities, though not primarily for defense -- given the faded threat from the East -- but for the enhancement of security in strategically important areas peripheral to Europe. Thus NATO's continued but changing role remains central to the ongoing redefinition of what is the scope of Europe and thus also of the Atlantic alliance.

In my view, an Agenda for a Vital NATO -- an alliance that reflects the common interests and shared values of a globally engaged America and of a unifying Europe -- should include the following six imperatives.

NATO must:

1. Insist that for new NATO members obligations assumed become obligations fulfilled -- that means the U.S. Senate must focus on this issue during ratification.

2. Transform itself from an immobile defense alliance in the heart of Europe into a more flexible and rapidly reactive force capable of prompt intervention in areas peripheral to Europe but strategically important to it -- in short, a NATO Response Force.

3. Be ready to participate in the collective enforcement of U.N. resolutions regarding a potential threat from weapons of mass destruction in any such area, for example, Iraq.

4. Be willing also to participate, if needed, in reinforcing peace arrangements in any such areas, for example, the Middle East.
5. Actively prepare for and promote the next redefinition of the Atlantic community's geopolitical scope, eventually embracing within it Ukraine as well as Georgia and Azerbaijan. Let us note that several years ago the idea of including the Baltic states was unthinkable.

6. Encourage Russia's evolution into a state sharing democratic values by enhancing further NATO-Russia cooperation while simultaneously not sweeping under the rug our revulsion at Russia's atrocities in Chechnya, which discredit Russia's aspiration to be seen as a democratic European state and which are not compatible with NATO norms of military conduct.

In brief, NATO has a future agenda that matches in importance its successful past. It safeguarded the western half of Europe; it then ended the division of Europe. Prague now opens the next vital geostrategic chapter in NATO's historically dynamic mission.

(c) 2002, European Viewpoint. Distributed by Tribune Media Services International.
For immediate release (Distributed 11/19/02)

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