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Volume 3 - Issue 9 September 2013

Crisis Management in Turkey and the Problem of Escalation The Allied Mobile Force From 1961-2003 and the Future of NATO’s South-Eastern Flank

With increasing tension and instability along NATO’s southern borders, no member is more exposed to the fallout from the ongoing civil war in Syria than Turkey. Having always represented the focal point of NATO’s response to any upheaval in the Middle East, Turkey and NATO have maintained a response capability to ensure that the security of Turkey and NATO’s south-eastern flank is maintained. Having created the Allied Mobile Force in 1960 to respond to Soviet aggression,

Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Necdet Ozel (right) during a tour along the border with Syria in Hatay, Turkey (Photo: Associated Press)

NATO maintained and transformed this


elite unit into the NATO Response Force

Crisis Management in Turkey and the Problem of Escalation:

in order to ensure a rapid response capability to the emerging threats of the 21st century. This edition takes an in depth look at the history of NATO’s response capabilities along its south-eastern flank to determine how NATO can defend its members and manage the crises sweeping the Middle East. By: Jason Wiseman Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 9

The Allied Mobile Force From 1970-1991 and the Future of NATO’s South-Eastern Flank Dr. Bernd Lemke explores the history surrounding NATO’s Allied Mobile Force and the importance of its role today. By analyzing the history of NATO’s crisis management on its south-eastern flank, Dr. Lemke explains the importance of NATO’s response capabilities and how they have been utilized in the past to protect the Republic of Turkey and other NATO members by maintaining deterrence against potential military threats. Through a detailed historical analysis, Dr. Lemke demonstrates the importance of NATO’s deterrence and response capabilities today and how these must be maintained in order to protect the Alliance from ongoing regional upheaval and emerging threats in the 21st century.


Crisis Management in Turkey and the Problem of Escalation The Allied Mobile Force From 1961-2003 and the Future of NATO’s South-Eastern Flank


n the evening of 11 September 2001, the

radical changes in the basic parameters of NATO’s strategy.

North Atlantic Council issued a communiqué

The turnaround of 1989/90 more or less did away with the

that included an unmistakable comment on the

strategy of the Cold War (Flexible Response), which had

events of that day: “At this critical moment, the United States

been in force for more than 20 years. Today, the Alliance has

can rely on its 18 Allies in North America and Europe for

to act in a global environment with specific military and polit-

assistance and support. NATO solidarity remains the essence

ical requirements. The defence of the Alliance territory is no

of our Alliance.” These sentences

longer the sole purpose of NATO.

addressed a core principle which was

Major confrontations, e.g.

and still is essential for the existence

the threat by the Warsaw Pact

of the Alliance and which also signifi-

against Central Europe has disap-

cantly contributed to the end of the

peared and gave way to new dis-

Cold War: the common standing of

turbing problems. Geographically,

all the allies for the purposes of de-

the crisis areas have moved south.

terrence and defense against manifest

The Southern / South Eastern Flank

dangers and threats. This referred not only to joint operations by their

Press briefing by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Photo: NATO)

armed forces, but especially to joint action and the show of strength in matters of policy, military policy, planning and organization in the broadest sense. The importance of Alliance solidarity as a means of defense – and not only military defense – is as old as NATO itself. From the very beginning, NATO’s means and ends were never merely confined to military build-up, preparations and planning for emergencies. Cohesion between all the partners was the essential basis for deterrence, the decisive instrument of the Alliance for preventing a war and containing Communist aggression in Europe and ultimately around

of NATO – always a troubled region – is the only region of the Alli-

ance that is confronted with actual “hot” military dangers. Other than, e.g. in the case of Afghanistan, which is far away from actual NATO-territory, old tasks merge with new possibilities and scenarios. Iraq, Syria, and in a wider perspective, Israel and the Arab world remain unstable factors for NATO’s South Eastern European members. These situations are further complicated by the crisis in the EU / Euro area and the still simmering conflict between Greece and Turkey. NATO Today: Defence in a Global Environment

the world. Alliance solidarity and Alliance coherence were

The general military situation consists of old patterns

the outstanding, if not indeed the most important prerequi-

and completely new aspects. The frontiers and actors on

sites for the success of NATO in almost all fields of strategy

NATO’s side have, more or less, stayed the same. So do – at

and policy. This still holds true today and is most important

least in formal categories – the states beyond. But there are

for the future of the Alliance.

new important features. Despite the fact that Russia assists

No one would, however, deny that there have been

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 9

some actors (e.g. Assad) no one can speak today of a bipolar


world order as in the Cold War. The fringes of NATO in the

beginning of the Cold War. In the north, this was especially

South East are no longer potential powder kegs for global nuclear

true for Norway and Denmark, which on the one hand were

war and annihilation of mankind but one of many frontiers of se-

only able to raise a limited number of forces and on the other

curity for the Alliance. From a general global point of view, ten-

did not want to be bound too much by NATO militarily.

sions along the border between China and India, the sea border

The two countries had even considered alternative solu-

between Japan and China, North Korea, or maybe even the US-

tions for a time, one being the establishment of a neutral Scan-

Mexico border, are also very prominent and cannot be denied.

dinavian military alliance together with Sweden right after the

Despite all the differences between these different frontiers,

Second World War. The most dangerous areas here were

NATO and its Allies are affected by them, although, not the least

Northern Norway (Finmark) and Zealand in the BALTAP-area.

because of the actual events, the South-Eastern Region is the most

The situation in the south or south-

important at the moment. In the Cold War the tasks of NATO were purely defensive, i.e. every effort had to be taken to avoid crises or

Never was the enemy to be allowed to gain control over the Bosporus and Istanbul.

defuse them. The Alliance provided a huge

east was even more threatening since the two main allies in this region, Turkey and Greece, were not only relatively weak in military terms, but also in perpetual conflict with each other. The strategic trouble

range of instruments for crisis management. In war - that gladly

spots in this region were the northern border in Thrace, Tur-

did not happen – NATO had to wage defensive action. Today

key’s southern border and Eastern Anatolia. Never was the

border defence is still a prominent aspect, but now the question

enemy to be allowed to gain control over the Bosporus and

of active engagement – e.g. intervention beyond the borders –

Istanbul. Finally, there were concerns regarding the northeast-

constitutes a real option. One of the instruments that could be

ern border of Italy (near Istria), which would have been under

employed are highly mobile and versatile units consisting of spe-

threat if a conflict had arisen over Yugoslavia.

cial or elite troops that are equipped with a range of special weapons and equipment that could be used for defensive as well as offensive action. NATO’s Flanks in the Cold War There is a long history of comparable NATO-troops that

NATO headquarters did not merely see the direct military aspects as the main danger, but rather the risk of a weakening of Alliance solidarity, which had not always been stable due to the continued conflicts of political and military interests in general. The deterrence of the enemy and the Alliance’s

reaches back to the sixties. At the beginning of that decade the

efforts to strengthen itself were two sides of the same coin.

Alliance decided to constitute a small force for crisis manage-

The Allied Mobile Force as a Tool for Deterrence and

ment: The Allied Mobile Force (AMF).

Crisis Management

The AMF was designed and set up in response to the gen-

As the major tool for defence, the NATO Military

eral strategic development in the late 1950s. NAC and the Mili-

Committee considered influencing the enemy rationally and

tary Committee realized that the Alliance could not respond to

psychologically by an effective and calculated crisis manage-

local provocations or attempts by the Eastern Bloc to cause disin-

ment in an emergency. It was to be made clear to the Warsaw

tegration with purely nuclear means as there was always the dan-

Pact that the risks of aggression of any kind would far outweigh

ger of nuclear escalation as the Russians caught up with the US in

the benefits they might yield.

the nuclear arms race.

The AMF was considered one of the most important

As an almost logical consequence, NATO focused increas-

tools for precisely this purpose. Its main mission was to act as a

ingly on conventional defense and, subsequently, the situation on

front-line deterrence, i.e. the units assigned to the AMF, most-

the flanks became increasingly important. The situation there had

ly elite units, had to be able to move to their position on one of

been precarious for political and military reasons right from the

the regions of the flank quickly, to act ostentatious and com-

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 9


municate in a dynamic way with the public. It was espe-

ensuring transport and logistical support proved to be so im-

cially important that the whole world realized that the

mense that the sophisticated flight plans had to be re-

force was multinational and made up of units from power-

coordinated again and again. In the event of an emergency,

ful non-flank-allies (in particular the USA, the UK and the

large volumes of equipment would have needed to be deliv-

Federal Republic of Germany). Their core mission was, so

ered to the force. Planners had projected a dynamic and pre-

to say, “showing the flag”.

cise schedule of continuous slots of different nations via dif-

Not only was the military element crucial for the whole issue, but also the political one. Albeit in peacetime, the AMF was loudly and clearly conveyed to the public as a flexible elite force. It was made clear to the

ferent multiple air routes. Organizing and executing the whole enterprise proved to be very expensive and extremely complicated. It provides a good blueprint for the global operations of today.

Eastern bloc that if the AMF was deployed, it was in its

In order to prevent a crisis scenario from getting out

capacity as a multilateral task force, and so any such de-

of hand in an emergency, NATO established a range of deter-

ployment was to be seen as an expression of the will of all

rence and stabilization tools. Crisis management procedures

the allies.

were to be applied to calm down the situation and minimize

The AMF was to a certain degree the most distinct military manifestation of Article 5 of the North Atlantic

tension. For this purpose, NATO developed special Rules of Engagement so that appropriate action could be taken in each situation.

Treaty. A direct military attack on one of its

The AMF was an

battalions would have

extremely important tool



for lower escalation sce-

attack against NATO

narios. Its deployment in

and each of its mem-

trouble spots - northern

bers. This would have

Norway, Denmark, Istria,



northern Greece or the

resulted in an Article 5

southern and eastern bor-


ders of Turkey - was


meant to be a clear warn-

The AMF con-

ing. The focus remained

sisted of a total of six

on preserving the territo-

battalions, which were

rial integrity and political

assigned and equipped

and military coherence of

according to the basic military and political perspectives and, above

NATO in Europe even Map of AMF contingency plans in case of Soviet aggression (Photo: Bernd Nogli, Copyright: MGFA 06406-02)

under extreme pressure.

all, the willingness of the member states. The headquar-

Although it was clear that NATO’s main purpose was

ters of the Allied Mobile Force Land [AMF (L)] were lo-

to directly defend the territory of its member states, some

cated initially in Seckenheim/Palatinate and later collocat-

partners and staffs realized that there was a much wider per-

ed with the headquarters of the 7th US Army in Heidel-

spective to be followed. In the beginning of the 1970s, the

berg. The air support forces consisted of 6 squadrons of

Americans took an intense look into the Arab states and espe-

fighter bombers. Three battalions and three squadrons

cially the Gulf region that, because of its oil production, was

were assigned to each flank (north or south).

one of the most strategically important regions in the world.

Nevertheless, the amount of effort involved in Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 9

Planners were increasingly alarmed by wars, insurrection, 4

political quarrels and the growing presence of the Soviet Navy

The main practical business of the AMF was the field exercis-

in global waters.

es, especially the so-called Express series. Until 1990 about 100 Exercises in all contingency areas were held.

New Threats: NATO and Arabia This development made itself felt in NATO’s most prominent exercise, WINTEX. During the very first Wintex

In these decades Asia continued to influence NATO. This led to unforeseen and somewhat grave events. HILEX 9 in 1980 became, and this is not yet

exercise, previous concentration on European scenarios were expanded in a south-eastern direction. Pri-

really appreciated today, a water-

There were considerable fears within NATO that the Soviet Union might be provoked.

marily on the initiative of the

based on an aggravation of the situation in Europe, but on a crisis in the Middle East.

of NATO and the history of its exercises. The exercise coincided

American planners, the decisive trigger for simulated confrontation in Wintex 71 was not

shed in the strategic development

almost exactly with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and was therefore cancelled as a precautionary step to avoid escalation. There were considerable fears within NATO that the Soviet Union might be provoked if it became known to the

Political radicalization after the Six-Day War formed the background of the exercise. One of the consequences was

public that the Alliance was holding a high-level war and crisis exercise while Soviet units were invading Afghanistan.

that the Soviet Union saw this as an opportunity to start massive political and military commitment. At the same time, the Americans recognized the weakness of NATO’s whole southern flank. A conflict, e.g. between the Arab states and Israel, would have caused destabilization in the region, threatening Turkey and Greece and thus NATO as a whole. Syria and Iraq were considered to be the likely aggressors.

The major background here was that the United States was increasingly drawn into the conflicts in this region. The US saw the events at the Hindu Kush and the events in the US embassy in Tehran at the end of 1979 as massive threats to its interests in the Gulf and beyond. In accordance with the Carter doctrine, which demanded unconditional resistance against any aggression by the Eastern bloc in the Gulf, the

Despite all these American fears, NATO partners in the Central Region did not fully appreciate this idea of a crisis scenario. What followed, were hard discussions. Not least, German planners believed that possible aggressions on the part of the Warsaw Pact in Europe were already enough to deal with, and that the focus should be on them. They were not able to assert their views at the time, for the NATO Military Committee approved the Middle East scenario in June 1969. But the discussions went on.

Americans insisted that this region was also included in NATO’s plans. The main document for NATO was the “South West Asia Impact Study” which in its final version was published to all NATO partners on 26 June 1980. Albeit at that point, the strategic perspectives of the Alliance had expanded once and for all – despite criticism from the Central Europeans. All of this was fully implemented in HILEX 10 of 1982. The exercise concept was almost identical with HILEX

This tendency continued in NATO’s second series of

9, but at the crucial points included a new key element; the

major exercises – HILEX which started in 1968. The top

deployment of the Rapid Defense Force (RDF), which later

priority of the HILEX series was to exercise crisis manage-

became the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF),

ment tools, ie. the employment of the AMF. The practical

the predecessor of today’s US Central Command.

procedures for crisis management were exercised in the 1970s. In the respective scenarios the AMF came into play as a crucial element, thereby ultimately highlighting its raison d’être.

The Americans immediately faced fresh criticism when the plans for the RDF found their way into NATO exercise plans. The fact that the deployment of the RDF demanded a considerable share of the US airlift capacities, it therefore

On this basis, the planning and the exercises went on. Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 9

endangered the reinforcement plan for the European theatre. 5

This last question proved to be a fundamentally and particular-

Only After the Cold War: The First Live Mission of

ly serious issue. Furthermore, the RDF units comprised high-

the AMF

ly mobile and highly specialized elite units (marines, mechanized and airborne units).

There are some general historical examples for NATO missions in the region, and the AMF is at the core. The only

The question of the major RDF units and the problems

first “live” operation of the AMF took place in 1991, already

of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East continued to be con-

after the end of the East-West conflict. When the situation in

troversial and hence remained the focus of consideration.

the Gulf region got increasingly difficult after the forcible

Fortunately, despite the War between Iran and Iraq until

occupation of Kuwait, Turkey felt threatened by Iraq and

1988, the situation remained

called for Alliance solidarity.

more or less stable, prevent-

The decision to carry out

ing the NATO plans from

an operation and the way it was

being put to the test. This

conducted is a very good example

basic strategic situation didn’t

for the conditions under which

alter until the end of the Cold

multilateral task forces, in particu-


lar those of NATO, had and still Even during the great

changes of 1989/90, there

have to operate, and the problems that have to be overcome.

were still considerable ten- The NATO Response Force in training to improve their operational In December 1990, Turkey capabilities and response time in new terrain (Photo: NATO) sions regarding these two submitted an urgent request via the elements: the Eurocentric perspective and the expanded outNATO chain of command, i.e. via AFSOUTH. As planned, look of the Americans with a view to the Middle East and

the supreme decision-making body, the Defence Planning

even global scenarios. The issue got a new thrust by the 2nd

Committee, had to discuss and decide on the request.

Gulf War, which almost coincided with German reunification.

In this case, the position of Germany in particular was at the center of the controversy. Turkey had hoped to imme-

All of this points to possible theatres of military en-

diately receive a positive response, and maybe even invoke

gagement for the Alliance today. It is certainly possible that a

the mutual defense clause, Article 5 of the North Atlantic

mission that started as a defensive exercise to guard the Alli-

Treaty. To the disappointment of the Turks, the Germans

ance’s frontiers expands to an intervention beyond NATO’s

strictly refused to make final decisions without further con-

borders. Especially the southern border of Turkey, which is

sultations. Especially the Americans and the British - who

an area where the dividing line between Art. 5 and non Art. 5

were already deploying huge numbers of troops to the Gulf

missions might be blurred. Of course, other contingencies are

region - wanted to have all the NATO partners on board at

possible, e.g. individual action by partner nations with or

least nominally. Subsequent debates focused on the specific

without the NATO framework without being attacked

mission that would be assigned to the AMF.

(question of reacting to the employment of poison gas against civilians in Syria). All of these are pressing topics as the warnings by high ranking military officials in Washington have publicly cautioned against any military engagement in Syria.

It was clear from the very beginning that only the air component of the AMF would be deployed. The three ground force battalions remained at their home bases. Bonn also insisted on the wording for the rules of engagement of the air component being clear and limited. The squadrons that were to be deployed were assigned a purely demonstra-

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 9


tive mission and explicitly not included in the air defense of the

For a time, the reactions at the international level were

responsible 6 ATAF. Training flights were only allowed to be

tangible. In other countries, above all in the UK, conservative

conducted north of a 40 km zone along the Turkish-Iraqi bor-

forces appeared in public and accused the Germans of collective

der. This area was defined according to a similar zone estab-

cowardice. What had already been heard within NATO – criti-

lished along the inner-German border during the Cold War:

cism of an alleged lack of solidarity and commitment to the Alli-

The Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Combat aircrafts

ance – was now repeated in public. The foreign policy of Hans-

were not allowed to use it as a training area in peacetime in

Dietrich Genscher exacerbated this criticism even more.


order to avoid incidents. Furthermore,

Genscher had refused to provide forces

the AMF units were fundamentally giv-

or at least military equipment to the Is-

en permission to fire only in selfdefense. The Germans acted primarily for

This policy, which has gone down in history as “check book diplomacy”, came under special fire.

Germany until 1994. A real taste of danger was supplied on 13th January 1991 when the Russian Army attacked civilian

in history as “check book diplomacy”, claimed that the Germans had become a

had only just been achieved and the concerns of the Eastern Army, with over three hundred thousand soldiers, was still in

stead. This policy, which has gone down came under special fire. Various camps

political reasons. German reunification European states had to be taken into consideration. The Soviet

raelis, offering financial resources in-

nation of shop-keepers who were only interested in profit, and in an emergency, would let others do the real dangerous jobs. Of course, these and other accusations were purposely aggressive and did not do justice to the complexity of the situation.

protesters in Lithuania with Infantry and even tanks. The result

After the Defence Planning Committee finally had

of this Bloody Sunday in Vilnius was hundreds of injured and

achieved the necessary compromises in the wording and com-

dead, raising tensions throughout the Euro-Atlantic.

pleted the preparations, SACEUR issued the activation order

Furthermore, the historical burdens (historical significance of the Second World War) were still too much at the fore. Considerable political consequences for the German government were to be expected in case of any direct participation of German units in a war. In case of high losses the situa-

and the deployment began. Since the British and Americans had already stationed their respective units in the Gulf region, other allies did their duty. The following units were deployed: 1 Alpha Jet squadron (Germany) 1 F-104 squadron (Italy)

tion would have become even graver. 1 Mirage 5 squadron (Belgium) In fact, internal turmoil was not far off. As the Gulf War drew nearer, the number of conscientious objections soared, and there were even some in the task forces earmarked in southern Turkey. More than 50 members of Surface to Air Missile Wing 36, among them temporary-career volunteers in

The German squadron arrived at Erhac on 8 January 1991, where it began deterrence operations. The mission was successful, although substantial discussions and differences of opinion about the character of the mission continued.

addition to conscripts, refused to do military service under the

The squadrons quickly began to carry out extensive train-

German conscription law. The AMF Air was less affected by

ing missions. Attention was paid not only to the demonstrative

this, but was still automatically in the focus.

effect of the flights, but also to ensure adequate training. It in-

Pilots of the German AMF contingent spoke very pen-

cluded ground attacks.

sively about the operation in public. Der Spiegel magazine

Meanwhile, considerable practical difficulties arose. The

wrote repeatedly and with relish that “fear” was the prevalent

weather was so adverse at times that sorties had to be cancelled.

feeling among the German personnel - and in German living

Furthermore, “Showing the Flag”, for some reason, proved to be


difficult. Here, the very limited performance of the Iraqi Air

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 9


Defense played a major role. NATO’s aircraft could hardly be

units were soon defeated by the coalition forces in the Gulf.

detected as they operated out of the 40 km air defense identi-

The AMF started to withdraw in March.

fication zone. When the NATO aircraft only slightly turned further to the north, they disappeared from the Iraqi screens. This issue was one of the basic problems of the AMF

It could be said that in the end, the first “live” operation of German combat units was a successful, albeit rather rugged premiere.

since its creation. On the one hand, politicians and diplomats

From the Allied Mobile Force (AMF) to the NATO

feared that the situation would escalate and that the conse-

Response Force (NRF)

quences were unforeseeable – dangers which continue to exist to this day, albeit in a different form. On the other hand, you cannot deter if you do not make your presence felt.

After these events, NATO’s strategy and the image of war began to change considerably.

Therefore the operation remained a balancing act between

At first, the AMF wasn’t too affected by new perspec-

deterring the enemy and being afraid of what reaction might

tives. On the contrary, it was initially upgraded, and plans were made to extend it to Division size.


As a result, exercises continued to be

The specific condi-

held, such as “Arctic Express” in 1994.

tions under which the soldiers had to execute their

In the mid-1990s, however, the

mission were rather difficult

final stage of its history began. The gen-

at first. The logistical struc-

eral setting was the development of

tures had to be set up step-by

NATO’s strategy after 1990 in connec-

-step; the considerable dis-

tion with the fundamental changes in the

tances that had to be covered

Alliance’s command structure. The

Four U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons line up at Aviano Air pro- Base, before taking off on NATO Operation Allied Force missions strategy papers of 1991, 1999 and 2006, on May 21, 1999. (Photo: US DoD) as well as the deployment of NATO gress. It was noted that the



forces complained about a lack of support from the Host Na-

forces in Operation “Allied Force” against Yugoslavia, are

tion. Much had to be provided via the long transportation

distinct milestones on the road to a considerable extension of

routes from Germany. The commander of the German forc-

both the mission and theatres of operations. The decisive

es, a lieutenant colonel, also had a full time job with receiving

change came about between the papers of 1991 and 1999.

members of the public and politicians. In addition to Turkish

The East-West conflict, which had left distinct traces in the

President Özal, the force was visited by the SACEUR, Gen-

strategic concept of 1991, lost more and more of its im-

eral Galvin, the German Minister of Defense, Gerhard Stol-

portance and was replaced by a more global perspective.

tenberg, the German Parliamentary Commissioner for the

In the late 1990s, however, the AMF had become

Armed Forces, Alfred Biehle, and many other dignitaries.

obsolete in its specific structure at that time. This was in part

The press did not remain idle either and caused a number of

due to an increasing lack of tactical capabilities and in part to

considerable problems. A TV team from the Saarländischer

the considerable innovations in the field of information tech-

Rundfunk broadcasting station entered the quarters without


permission and conducted interviews. The team was only allowed to continue after a formal declaration to cease and desist had been issued. The general duty and leisure conditions vastly improved after a few weeks. No further necessities arose. The crisis was short-lived since the Iraqi combat Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 9

Regardless of all the innovations that had been made since 1990, the equipment and the manning of the AMF had basically retained its old Cold War character that was characterized by its relatively limited mission profile, i.e. Defense of static choke points on the NATO Flanks. And then there were the old problems of multilateralism. In the Cold War, 8

the AMF only had a minimal permanent headquarters for the

rectly next to the front door of NATO. In which direction

land component and no command element at all for the air

NATO will go is still to be seen and has to be discussed.

component. For exercises, command organization posts often

Without any doubt the region around the Eastern

had to be manned with reserve personnel who did not always

Mediterranean and the Gulf will be major theatres for years,

have adequate capabilities, even as far as language skills were

maybe for decades. It could well be that NATO as an alliance

concerned. Even more problematic, most of the communica-

will operate just the defensive part, leaving possible offensive

tion equipment and reporting channels of the AMF were ob-

steps to individual Western countries, e.g. the US, the UK or

solete as the new millennium grew nearer. One of the main

France, not excluding assistance by smaller states. The last

goals – more dynamic, efficient and flexible structures – fell

twenty years provided some examples for coordinated action

out of reach.

(e.g. “Coalition of the Willing” or engagement of individual nations in Operation Unified

NATO therefore decided in favor of making a completely fresh start. It proved to be considerably less expensive

Without any doubt the region around the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf will be major theatres for years, maybe for decades.

Protector against Libya in 2011). There is also a history

to establish an entirely new

behind these options. Despite

force, which was fully inte-

the major confrontation of the

grated into the new overall concept of NATO from the out-

two blocs especially along the German border and the con-

set. On 12 August 2002, the Defense Planning Committee

centration of huge forces in this area, there were elements of

adopted a formal decision to disband the AMF as a stand alone

strategic mobility in the Cold War. Almost all major NATO

unit and replace it with the NATO Response Force (NRF). It

partners have flexible intervention forces to be employed out

had become apparent that the rigid structures of the Cold

-of-area. These include:

War were finally a thing of the past despite all the dynamization they had begun to show since the 1970s. Nevertheless, the AMF is an important historical fore-

US: Rapid Defence Joint Task Force (Gulf) UK: UK Mobile Force (Center and Flanks in NATO) France: Force d’Intervention Rapide – FAR

runner of a flexible and deployable task force such as the

(In and out of NATO)

NRF. During the Cold War, there were even proposals to

Italy: Forza di Intervento Rapido – FIR (i.e. out-of-area)

build the AMF on world-wide lines like the NRF. As early as

(Standing military e.g. US Marines, not included)

in the 1960s, General Cadorna from Italy called for the AMF to be topped up to the size of a division and made globally deployable. Furthermore, he suggested that civilian and disaster relief missions be added to the mission spectrum alongside combat missions. Actual Threats and Options What about the south-eastern flank of NATO today? The former contingency areas of the AMF, especially in the South-Eastern Region, are still hot spots of global conflict. Europe and Asia Minor are still the main defense platforms apart from North America, for everything NATO is doing. But, unlike the Cold War, the basis is not any longer solely a defensive fortress, but - maybe - a springboard for global missions. One of the most urgent crisis areas is situated diAtlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 9

NATO always has been very flexible in dealing with delicate questions such as out-of-area missions. Its special decision making instruments enable it to find a common plan of action while simultaneously tolerating dissenters without marginalizing them. Unlike in the EU, for example, where every important decision has to be confirmed through the expressly positive confirmation of all the individual states, within NATO the possibility exists for partners to remain discretely in the background. This is ensured through a quasi ex-negativo decision machinery (“Silence Procedure”). The representatives of the individual members are not explicitly asked to vote in favor of a decision, but are given merely the option to exercise a veto. In other words, each nation of the Alliance has the possibility, in case it has serious doubts about 9

any type of mission, to individually weigh in the seriousness of

the border area. They are vulnerable targets for everyone

its grievance. If the conditions are such that they cannot be toler-

who wants to destabilize the region further and give a blow to

ated, a formal letter expressly stating opposition can be submit-

Turkey’s prestige as a regional power. And with Turkey

ted (“Breaking the Silence”). The matter then has to be renegoti-

NATO would be in the focus as well. It would probably suf-

ated. Where less serious concerns

fice to occupy some square miles of

are involved, however, the nation

Turkish territory to undermine the

can also refrain from any opposition,

credibility of NATO defense. This

abstain from any expression and thus

is a further aspect that hasn’t

pave the way for a decision. It is

changed since 1990. NATO, and

then still at liberty to decide in what

the West in general, has to avoid

way it wishes to commit itself in

the impression of powerlessness,

practical terms later. It is then a

otherwise it would lose prestige and

national task to suitably propagate

strategic acceptance.

this balancing act both at home and abroad.

US Patriot battery under NATO Command overlooking the city of Gaziantep (Turkey) (Photo: NATO)

In a direct confrontation, no matter on what scale, every effort

In practical terms, NATO’s military hardware is run by

must be taken to clear the situation. The question of whether

the individual nations under the roof of a common military head-

or not NATO would be drawn into the conflict would be on

quarters and chains of command. So it was possible to execute

the agenda immediately. If the Turks asked for NATO assis-

strike missions in Libya even if some members of the Alliance

tance, it could be necessary to deploy a rapid reaction force

refused to play an active role.

with highly capable troops such as the AMF or the NRF.

But history also shows that too much flexible pragmatism can lead to erosion. All members, therefore, must take a cautious and critical look on all actions at any time.

The Domestic Dimension The position of Turkey is not an easy one. While Ankara is involved in the Arabian Peninsula, it is constantly

As already mentioned, NATO has, at least internally, not

afraid of destabilization. This is one of the main reasons why

only been dealing with the security of the Arabian peninsula

Ankara asked for the deployment of Patriot Air-Defense mis-

since 1991, but rather since 1970. Both then and now, the states

siles at the beginning of 2013 for its southern border. The

of continental Europe are concerned and uneasy about commit-

situation in Syria had considerably deteriorated. After NATO

ting themselves in this region despite the changes in the strategic

had resolved to send rocket units to Turkey, Germany decid-


ed to contribute. As in the Cold War, the Alliance demon-

There are reasons for this. One is that the whole region is a tinderbox that can easily explode. Each step can be one too many. On the other hand, doing nothing provides no guarantee

strated solidarity by deployment of military units. However, given recent events and the escalation of conflict in Syria, nobody knows what might happen next.

that the situation will remain stable. The Alliance needs flexible

In the region, the domestic situation plays a considera-

Crisis Management that integrates all possible means, ranging

ble role as well. This has not changed to this day and still af-

from diplomatic communication and demonstrative action to the

fects specific actions such as Turkey’s announcement of the

employment of military power.

deployment of German units in 2012/2013 before the perti-

Surely, it is not really to be expected that Syria will attack NATO at the Southern border of Turkey on a large scale. But there are a lot of elements in the area that can’t really be judged: the different opposition groups in Syria, radical Islamists, Kurdish militant groups etc. Huge masses of refugees live in Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 9

nent decision had even been made. Resulting from the domestic controversy over this issue not only in Turkey, but in all NATO member countries, Ankara relies heavily on NATO and maneuvers between submitting requests, exerting pressure and emphasizing its function as a geostrategic bridge. 10

This situation, as discomforting as it is, contrasts in some way

for that very reason that NATO still has its mission. The co-

with the domestic landscape in the member states further west.

herence of NATO remains a key aspect of our security, espe-

The setting in Germany towards global engagement has not real-

cially at this present time. At the moment, it is a regional

ly changed since the end of the Cold War. As in 1991, the

Alliance with global problems. Maybe, in some distant future,

2012/2013 mission has broad parliamentary backing despite the

it will be a global Alliance with regional problems. But no-

criticism from the Left. The public thinks somewhat differently.

body knows if this will happen.

The general feeling is usually circumscribed with the term “friendly indifference” towards the role of the Bundeswehr in global missions in general and skepticism against individual missions. According to a survey by Infratest/Dimap 2011, 66 percent of those polled are against the prolongation of the mission in Afghanistan. This again is nothing new. For more than 60 years, NATO has experienced the discrepancy between Alliance solidarity and domestic sensibilities, and the situation will likely

About the author Dr. Bernd Lemke served his country with distinction in the German Air Force from 1984-1985. He holds a PhD in military history and specializes in German and British history. Since 2001, Dr. Lemke has been an accomplished researcher at the Bundeswehr Center for Military History and Social Sciences in Germany. This Article is based on the following articles:

remain so. This is a basic feature and one that places extremely high demands on anyone in a position of responsibility. It is part of the life of a democratic alliance. What we can say, is that NATO in its historical depth has provided many examples and models for the present. The Future of NATO One fundamental question about the future of NATO as an alliance was raised after the end of the Cold War, and is still asked today. Has NATO outlived itself? It is a basic feature of Western democracies that success does not automatically translate into a guarantee for continued existence. As early as in the late 1960s, in the midst of the Cold War, some people had praised the increase in security thanks to NATO, but expressed doubts about whether the Alliance was still necessary. Due to its success, it has rendered itself superfluous in the eyes of many. It is clear that the European states in particular would never have been able to defend themselves if they had been isolated elements. In the early 1990s, there was no longer a danger from the East. Scholars wondered whether an alliance is kept together by external threats and falls apart as soon as these threats cease to exist. In 1992, the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama published his book “The End of History”. In it, he noted that Western democracy had gained a universal victory and concluded that extensive defense efforts would in fact become superfluous. Unfortunately, this utopia did not materialize, and it is Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 9

1. Bernd Lemke, „Abschreckung, Provokation oder Nonvaleur?“ Die Allied Mobile Force (AMF) in den Wintexund Hilex-Übungen 1970 – 1985, in Wege zur Wiedervereinigung, Die beiden deutschen Staaten in ihren Bündnissen, ed Oliver Bange und Bernd Lemke (Munich: Oldenbourg 2013), 311 – 334. (Deterrence, provocation of bluff? The Allied Mobile Force in the WINTEX- and HILEX-exercise 1970 -1985). 2. Bernd Lemke, Die deutsche Luftwaffe und die Allied Mobile Force 1961 - 1991, in: Gneisenau Blätter 11(2012), "Sicherheitspolitik und Luftwaffe seit 1956", S. 49 - 56, download unter: downloads/gneisenau_band_11.pdf. (The German Air Force and the Allied Mobile Force 1961 – 1991). 3. Sean Maloney, “Fire Brigade or Tocsin?” NATO’s ACE Mobile Force, Flexible Response and the Cold War, in: The Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol.27, No.4, December 2004, 585 – 613, download, URL: http:// 4. Götz Steinle, Allied Mobile Force, in: Truppenpraxis 2/1991, S. 121 – 125. 5. Bernd Lemke, „Abschreckung oder Provokation? Die Allied Mobile Force (AMF) und ihre Übungen 1960 – 1989“, in Military Power Revue der Schweizer Armee, Nr. 2/2010, S. 49 – 63. (Deterrence or provocation? The Allied Mobile Force and its exercises 1960 – 1989). 6. Bernd Lemke, „Globale Probleme einer regionalen Allianz: die NATO und die Frage militärischen Engagements außerhalb der Bündnisgrenzen bis 1989“ in Sicherheit und Frieden (S+F), 27.Jg. 2009, H.1, S. 24 – 30. (Global problem of a regional alliance: NATO and the question of military engagement out of area until 1989). 7. Copyright for the map: “Zentrum für Militärgeschichte und Sozialwissenschaft (ZMSBw) / Bundeswehr Center for Military History and Social Sciences (CMHSOSC), former Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt (MGFA). Map was designed by Bernd Nogli.” (Copyright: MGFA 06406-02). 11

ATA Programs From 6-7 September, the Latvian Transatlantic Organization (LATO) will be hosting the Young Diplomacy Professionals

Atlantic Voices is the monthly publication of the Atlantic Treaty Association. It aims to inform the debate on key issues that affect the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, its goals and its future. The work published in Atlantic Voices is written by young professionals and researchers.

Forum (YDPF) alongside its annual Riga Conference. This years

The Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) is an international non-

forum will feature 60 participants from over 35 countries that will

governmental organization based in Brussels working to facilitate global

engage in a series of intensive workshops and debates to enhance

networks and the sharing of knowledge on transatlantic cooperation and

their overall skills in political engagement.

security. By convening political, diplomatic and military leaders with academics, media representatives and young professionals, the ATA promotes

From 19-22 Sep-

the values set forth in the North Atlantic Treaty: Democracy, Freedom,

tember, the Czech Euro-

Liberty, Peace, Security and Rule of Law. The ATA membership extends to 37

Atlantic Council will host

countries from North America to the Caucasus throughout Europe. In 1996,

its annual flagship event,

the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association (YATA) was created to specifially

NATO Days, in Ostrava,

include to the successor generation in our work.

Czech Republic. This event

Since 1954, the ATA has advanced the public’s knowledge and

will host a series of demonstrations featuring some of the latest in

understanding of the importance of joint efforts to transatlantic security

cutting edge military technology.

through its international programs, such as the Central and South Eastern European Security Forum, the Ukraine Dialogue and its Educational Platform.

On 24 October, the Bundeswehr Center for Military History and

In 2011, the ATA adopted a new set of strategic goals that reflects the

Social Sciences will host a workshop on NATO-flanks open to the

constantly evolving dynamics of international cooperation. These goals include:

public. If you are interested in participating please write an email


security issues.

Atlantic Voices is always seeking new material. If you are a young researcher, subject expert or professional and feel you have a valuable contribution to make to the debate, then please get in touch. We are looking for papers, essays, and book reviews on issues of importance to the NATO Alliance. For details of how to submit your work please see our website. Further enquiries can also be directed to the ATA Secretariat at the address listed below. Editor: Jason Wiseman Images should not be reproduced without permission from sources listed, and remain the sole property of those sources. Unless otherwise stated, all images are the property of NATO.

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activism and greater emphasis on joint research initiatives. These programs will also aid in the establishment of a network of international policy experts and professionals engaged in a dialogue with NATO.

The views expressed in this article are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Atlantic Treaty Association, its members, affiliates or staff.

This publication is co co--sponsored by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Atlantic Voices Vol 3, No. 9 (September 2013)  

Dr. Bernd Lemke explores the history surrounding NATO's Allied Mobile Force and the importance of its role today. By analyzing the history...

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