Garmisch, Germany; 16 December 1998 (RFE/RL) -- NATO has since the fall of communism in Europe been trying to build a system of cooperation and assistance with the armed forces of Russia, Ukraine and Central and East Europe.
The best known of NATO initiatives is the Partnership for Peace (PfP), a program to bring military forces of 27 eastern states up to NATO standards. Several others involve eastern officers and parliamentarians in discussions on the role of the military in a democracy.
One of these is the U.S.-sponsored European Center for Security Studies in the German alpine village of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It focuses on welding concern for military security with the principles of democracy. The Center's director, Robert Kennedy, says that the emphasis is on the civilian control over military institutions. More than 3,800 officers, government officials and parliamentarians from the eastern countries have attended the courses, which may last a few days or several weeks. Next year the center will conduct seminars in Moscow, Kyiv, Riga, Vilnius, Bucharest and Bratislava.
Another institution is the NATO School in the German village of Oberammergau, where senior officers from Russia, Ukraine, East and Central Europe and the Baltics take courses in organizing peacekeeping operations. They also learn how to monitor arms-control agreements and manage crises.
Its commandant, Colonel Lloyd Buchanan, told RFE/RL in a recent interview that the school teaches how "to run operations in which the military is providing assistance in the cause of democracy, such as peacekeeping operations."
Buchanan went on to say that "We don't teach our students how to throw a grenade. We teach them how to keep the flow of medical supplies coming into a zone where civilians are taking casualties or how to organize a field hospital for the civilian wounded....we train them to be weapons inspectors....how to monitor international arms control agreements, such as the CFE Treaty which limits the number of artillery, tanks and battle helicopters an individual country is allowed to possess." Buchanan added that "We also run courses on subjects such as the management of multi-national units."
The NATO School opened in 1953 at the height of the Cold War, when it was known as the U.S. Army School. At that time it had courses on nuclear operations, including measures for the security of nuclear weapons. In 1975 it became the NATO School and since 1991 it has opened its doors also to students from the 27 members of the Partnership for Peace and the 54 active members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Officers up to the rank of general attend more than 40 different courses it offers each year. About 20 of the courses are open to non-NATO European countries. North African and Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, are admitted to six courses. Most courses last up to three weeks.
Buchanan said that in its first year as an open institution it had 89 students from former communist countries. This year their number was 1,050 and plans are that by the year 2002 it will rise to around 2,000.
The NATO School insists that participating governments are kept aware of its activities. In July this year the Ambassadors of about 30 countries spent a week at the School. In January 1999 several defense ministers and chiefs of the defense staff will visit.
Apart from the concrete value of what it teaches in terms of crisis, Buchanan said that the courses may have other benefits. "These officers get to understand NATO," he said, adding "they learn that it is not an aggressive organization but one intended to protect the peace. They take that message home with them and hopefully spread it around."