The North Atlantic Treaty Organization

During the short history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,[1] much emphasis has been placed on the question whether the organization is an exercise of the ‘right of individual or collective self-defence’ referred to in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter or a ‘regional arrangement’ within the meaning of Articles 52-54.[2] If a ‘regional arrangement’, N.A.T.O. would have been required to seek the authorization of the Security Council in order to take enforcement action and to keep the Council informed of its activities in the maintenance of international peace. It has generally been asserted that N.A.T.O. was not established to perform functions of this nature, as they are defined in Chapter VIII of the Charter, and that it is essentially a collective defence arrangement under Article 51,[3] a conclusion which would seem to be borne out by the failure of N.A.T.O. to report its activities to the Security Council. It is not necessarily inconsistent, however, to suggest that in so far as N.A.T.O. encourages economic collaboration or attempts to strengthen free institutions in conformity with Article 2 of the North Atlantic Treaty, it may also be assuming some of the attributes of a regional arrangement.[4] In implementation of this Article, the North Atlantic Council has in several of its sessions given consideration to co-operation within N.A.T.O. on economic, social, and cultural matters.[5]

The measures which have been taken by the signatories to the Treaty to integrate their means of defence go beyond the joint military planning which has characterized military alliances in the past. In addition to creating an international military command, its members have established organs of political consultation and of economic planning and co-ordination for war, without which the unification of military command cannot be fully effective. A constitution was wisely not framed for the Organization, and the resulting freedom to create and dissolve agencies through which N.A.T.O. works has permitted their development on a highly pragmatic basis. This modus operandi may form a useful precedent for international organizations in other fields. The North Atlantic Council, the only body created by the Treaty,[6] has taken full advantage of its autonomy, to such an extent indeed that the institutions of N.A.T.O. today differ in marked degree from the scheme of organization which was announced only three years ago.[7] The Council, the principal organ of N.A.T.O., is composed of the ministers for foreign affairs, finance, economics, and defence of the member states. Since the Council itself meets only from time to time as consultations become necessary, a Council of Permanent Representatives, deputies to the representatives serving on the Council, has been established to sit in continuous session.[8] Assisting the Council at its headquarters is an international secretariat and clustered about it functionally are a number of boards such as the Petroleum Planning Committee and the Planning Board for Ocean Shipping,[9] which bear a strong analogy to the combined boards of the Second World War. The chiefs of staff of the member nations and their representatives make up the Military Committee of the Council, which gives guidance on general military policy to the Standing Group and advises the Council on military matters.[10]

The actual command structure of N.A.T.O. begins, however, with the Standing Group, which is responsible for the ‘higher strategic direction’ of N.A.T.O. forces.[11] Like the Combined Chiefs of Staff established by Great Britain and the United States, this body is small and non-representative, comprising three officers who represent the chiefs of staff of the United Kingdom, the United States, and France. In December 1950 a Military Representatives Committee, analogous to the body known as the Military Representatives of the Associated Powers, was created to give representation to the other members of N.A.T.O. in the military planning of the alliance.[12] The two principal field commanders are the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, whose headquarters near Paris is popularly known as S.H. A.P.E., and the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic, with headquarters at Norfolk, Virginia.[13] Although the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, ordinarily receives instructions from the Standing Group, he is also authorized to communicate directly with national chiefs of staff and even, in exceptional circumstances, with national ministers of defence and heads of governments.[14] His staff is international in composition, but the principle of direct national representation is preserved by the presence in his headquarters of national military representatives.[15] The ‘integrated force’ which the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, commands is divided into Allied Forces, Northern Europe, Southern Europe, and Central Europe, the first two of which are headed by a subordinate Commander in Chief and are further broken down into separate air, sea, and land commands.[16] Besides the two principal commands, one for Europe and one for the Atlantic, a number of other agencies, such as the N.A.T.O. Defence College and the Military Agency for Standardization, are responsible to the Standing Group, having much the same relationship to it as certain combined agencies had to the Combined Chiefs of Staff. The whole structure shows a considerable debt to lessons learned from the war-time co-operation of the United Kingdom and the United States.

In the economic and political spheres, N.A.T.O. has had a remarkable history of international co-operation, achieved without any formal surrender of sovereignty by the member states.[17] Voluntary action, stimulated by the efforts of the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and his staff to provide combat-worthy forces in Europe, has been the basis for raising fifty divisions within the original N.A.T.O.

countries and for the extension of military terms of service.[18] It is actually only in the command of troops that the members of the Organization have relinquished any of their sovereignty. In time of peace, the responsibility of the Supreme Commander is primarily for the organization and training of N.A.T.O. forces; in time of war, it must extend to full operational control.

Real internationalization and integration offorces exists only to a limited extent, however. The Organization itself, it is true, operates under an international budget.[19] The Headquarters Protocol, which has not yet come into force, will recognize that each Supreme Headquarters, which is supported by international funds, possesses juridical personality,[20] but this attribute is solely that of the headquarters and not of the troops subordinate to it or of the N.A.T.O. forces as a whole. A system of cost-sharing for the programme of airfields, communications facilities, and headquarters sites, known in the terminology of the Organization as ‘infra-structure’, has been worked out.[21] Certain common activities, such as the N.A.T.O. Defence College, have been established. On the other hand, N.A.T.O. troops are still national troops, raised, supplied, and administered on a national basis and possessing no more legal homogeneity than did similar troops during the Second World War. As long as the members of N.A.T.O. preserve their political and military identity, bilateral or multilateral agreements within N.A.T.O. must be employed to govern the status of troops, facilities, and equipment of one country which are placed in the territory of, or are made available to, another. A Status of Forces Agreement[22] and a Headquarters Protocol[23] adapting its provisions to the particular problems of international military headquarters have been concluded by the original members of N.A.T.O. but have not yet come into force. If forces of one country are to utilize facilities and areas in the territory of another, a military rights agreement, of which a number already exist, must be concluded between them.[24] Procurement activities by one country in another[25] will require co-ordination of logistical planning and agreement concerning the procedures to be followed in such procurement. Tax agreements must be concluded so that the revenue of one state will not be enhanced at the expense of the treasury of the other.[26] The United States has enacted legislation to deal with the furnishing of military assistance to foreign countries, particularly to N.A.T.O. and its members, and the provisions of these acts require the conclusion of agreements with the nations concerned.[27] The resolution of the legal problems which these activities entail is requisite to the successful organization of N.A.T.O. forces in time of peace. They arise from the fact that the N.A.T.O. military structure, like international commands of the past, displays integration of substantial magnitude in its supreme command but is characterized by diversity and the preservation of national identities in the national forces which comprise it.

  • [1] Information concerning the details of the activities of the Organization and of S.H.A.P.E. hasnaturally not been released to the public. The communiques and other important documents of theNorth Atlantic Council during its first nine sessions are reproduced in The N.A.T.O. Handbook andSupplement to the N.A.T.O. Handbook (1952), prepared by the N.A.T.O. Information Service. SeeAtlantic Alliance (1952), a report by a study group of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, for alucid examination of the history and functioning of N. A.T.O.
  • [2] For conflicting views on this subject see Beckett, The North Atlantic Treaty, The Brussels Treaty,and the Charter of the United Nations (1950), pp. 14—18, 33—35, and Kelsen, ‘Is the North AtlanticTreaty a Regional Arrangement?’, in A.J.I.L. 45 (1951), p. 162.
  • [3] During the debate in the House of Commons, Mr. Bevin called the North Atlantic Treaty (T.S.No. 56 (1949); T.I.A.S. 1964) an ‘arrangement between certain states for collective self-defence asforeseen by Article 51 of the Charter’ (Official Report, 12 May 1949, vol. 464, col. 2018). A similarstatement was made by Mr. Acheson, the American Secretary of State, during his testimony before aSenate Committee (Hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, 81stCongress, 1st Session (1949), Part I, p. 31). See Heindel, Kalijarvi, and Wilcox, ‘The North AtlanticTreaty in the United States Senate’, in A.J.I.L. 43 (1949), p. 633, especially at pp. 637—40.
  • [4] This view was advanced by Ambassador Austin in his testimony before the Senate Committee onForeign Relations (Hearings, supra, at p. 94; see Kelsen, Recent Trends in the Law of the United Nations (1951) , pp. 920-5).
  • [5] Communique, Eighth Session, North Atlantic Council, 28 November 1951, in N.A.T.O.Handbook (1952), p. 63; Resolution on Implementation of Article 2 of the North Atlantic Treaty,adopted by the North Atlantic Council on 17 December 1952, in D.S.B. 28 (1953), p. 4.
  • [6] Article 9, North Atlantic Treaty.
  • [7] By the Communiques following the First Session (17 September 1949) and Second Session(18 November 1949) of the North Atlantic Council, in N.A.T.O. Handbook (1952), pp. 39, 46.
  • [8] Press Communique on N.A.T.O. Reorganization, 3 May 1951, in ibid., p. 57, and FinalCommunique, Ninth Session, North Atlantic Council, 25 February 1952, in Supplement to N.A. T. O.Handbook (1952), p. 26.
  • [9] Communique, Fourth Session, North Atlantic Council, 18 May 1950, in N.A.T.O. Handbook (1952) , p. 50.
  • [10] Ibid., p. 27.
  • [11] Communique, Fifth Session, North Atlantic Council, 26 September 1950, in ibid., p. 54.
  • [12] See N.A.T.O. Handbook (1952), p. 27.
  • [13] The North Atlantic Treaty nations requested the appointment of a United States officer, andAdmiral McCormick was designated by the President to fill this post (D.S.B. 26 (1952), p. 248). In thecase of the appointment of the first Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, the North Atlantic Councilrequested General Eisenhower by name (Communique, Sixth Session, North Atlantic Council, 19 December 1950, in N.A.T.O. Handbook (1952), p. 56).
  • [14] Ibid., p. 29.
  • [15] Communique, Sixth Session, North Atlantic Council, 19 December 1950, in ibid., p. 56, andsee ibid., p. 27.
  • [16] Annual Report to the Standing Group, North Atlantic Treaty Organization from General DwightD. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, 2 April 1952, pp. 14—15.
  • [17] Atlantic Alliance (1952), pp. 42—43; Spofford, ‘N.A.T.O.’s Growing Pains’, in Foreign Affairs,31 (1952), p. 96.
  • [18] Annual Report of the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (cited supra), pp. 17, 27, 33.
  • [19] See N.A.T.O. Handbook (1952), p. 23.
  • [20] Article 10, Protocol on the Status of International Military Headquarters Set Up Pursuant to theNorth Atlantic Treaty, 28 August 1952.
  • [21] Communique, Seventh Session, North Atlantic Council, 20 September 1951, in N.A.T.O.Handbook (1952), p. 60. These expenditures do not, however, bulk large when compared with theother defence expenditures of N.A.T.O. nations (Spofford, loc. cit., p. 97).
  • [22] Agreement between the Parties to the North Atlantic Treaty regarding the Status of their Forces,19 June 1951, Misc. No. 5 (1951), U.S. Senate Doc. Executive T, 82d Congress, 2d Session (1952).
  • [23] Protocol on the Status of International Military Headquarters Set Up Pursuant to the NorthAtlantic Treaty, 28 August 1952.
  • [24] See The British Year Book of International Law, Vol. 29 (1952), p. 349.
  • [25] See Ambassador Draper’s remarks concerning the offshore procurement programme, withparticular emphasis on airplanes and ammunition, in his report as United States Special Representativein Europe (Report to the President, 27 August 1952, pp. 8—12).
  • [26] See The British Year Book of International Law, Vol. 29 (1952), p. 351.
  • [27] See p. 98, infra.
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