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The Harmel Report and lessons from NATO’s dual-track policy - Robert Kupiecki

The decade of the 1960s was probably one of the stormiest moments in NATO history.  It was a time characterised by Moscow’s advantage in the field of conventional weapons, and its rapidly growing nuclear potential, and a persistent dispute over a new Allied strategy to escape from the “massive retaliation” trap and stalemate military escalation. It was also a decade  that debated nuclear policy, and one that saw France leave the Alliance in 1967. It was also a time of differences in opinion among the members in regards to the perspective of easing strained relations with the communist bloc. All of these factors appeared to have been leading the organisation to the edge of a crisis[1]. Finally, a solution came by way of a political reflection that resulted in the so-called “Harmel Report” released in December 1967. This document opened the door to an agreement on “flexible response”, bringing a new look into relations with the eastern bloc. The significance of this document laid not only in the fact that it called for a new approach which combined NATO’s might with political dialogue, but also in the method of how it was created via compromise among the Allies. From that time on, the dual-track (power and dialogue) policy was to permanently direct the Alliance’s activities. Another political track was added after 1989 and included the network of partnership-based relations established by NATO with non-member states. Many of the readers will probably ask the question “Is the content of this paper related to 1967 or 2018?” Thus, it is justified to make a disclaimer: While the described facts are true, the parallels with today’s Alliance (for example the disputes on the adequate level of deterrence and defence, hybrid war, Russian games aimed at dividing NATO and relations between super powers) are unintentional, yet justified.


France’s withdrawal from NATO’s military structures, announced by President Charles de Gaulle in 1966, may have weakened the Alliance, however – paradoxically – it also accelerated the debate on its military strategy and mission in the changing international environment. Thus, the proposal to prepare recommendations for the North Atlantic Council put forward at the turn of 1967 by Pierre Harmel, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, was enthusiastically welcomed (despite the fact that an earlier similar proposal by Canada had been ignored)[2]. The working group which was established specifically for that purpose, along with four expert sub-groups, was mandated to "study the future tasks which face the Alliance and its procedures for fulfilling them in order to strengthen the Alliance as a factor for durable peace".”[3].  This Aesopian language hid, however, the task that was aimed at accommodating the different views of the Allies regarding some key political and strategic issues. In a way, it was thus a priori assumed that a democratic and open debate leads to constructive conclusions. The urgency and significance of the task was reinforced by the fact that 1969 was to mark the end of the 20 year period for which the Washington Treaty was signed. The Allies were therefore soon to decide on its future.

Solving problems within the Alliance by examining specific issues in a wider context, embracing in a report the most important aspects of NATO policy and their detailed description, together with proposed solutions, had its precedence over a decade prior. At the dramatic moment of the dispute over solidarity among the Allies, three ministers of foreign affairs representing Canada (Lester B. Pearson), Norway (Halvard Lange) and Italy (Gaetano Martino) were engaged in consultations over the Suez Canal crisis and military co-operation. They were asked to prepare a report on the non-military aspects of co-operation within NATO. In December 1956, the North Atlantic Council approved the “Report of the Committee of Three” or the “Three Wise Men”[4].  In comparison to this document the 1967 Harmel Report was a project of a much larger scale and more complex structure.

As a matter of fact, the Harmel Report that was released together with a secret document – MC 14/3 (a “flexible response” strategy) – was only a brief summary of a longer analytical effort, lasting several months. The final document was thus complemented by four large and detailed reports (prepared by the earlier mentioned expert groups) which focused on the following issues: 1) East-West relations, détente and the situation in Europe; 2) Relations between the Allies; 3) Future security policy; and 4) The impact of events outside the North Atlantic region on NATO’s interests. They were provided to member states as materials expanding the content of the “Report” (which was composed of merely 17 synthetic paragraphs), but not kept outside the general public. Undoubtedly, understanding the essence of the whole project requires a comprehensive reading of all of these texts.


The Harmel Report begins with a definition of NATO which is understood as a community of values and interests. The foundation of the stability of the North Atlantic region was seen to be based on the might (military and economic), solidarity, internal cohesion and consultations between the Allies. Common efforts to improve relations with the Soviet Union and its satellites were, in turn, seen as the balancing factor in the security area. However, the interpretation of a long-term meaning of détente turned out to be a subject of dispute within the team analysing East-West relations. For the British, this process meant fake Soviet concessions to keep the status quo. For the French, détente was an instrument of complementing their own strategic game played in Europe and in transatlantic relations. For the Germans, this process was a phenomenon of limited significance, calculated by Moscow at selective extinguishing of disputable issues, meant to weaken NATO’s cohesion and introduce divisions in transatlantic relations. For the Americans, however, it was a chance to reduce their military efforts in Europe through expanding their strategy with non-military factors.

Consequently, the report included an important appeal stating that the West’s policy towards Moscow could not become a permanent source of divisions within the Alliance. It also called for undertaking dialogue between the two political and military blocs, especially in regards to issues where bilateral relations could support future strategic solutions. In addition to Germany’s reunification, this also included disarmament and arms control (including mutually balanced bilateral military reductions). In this regard the first of the earlier mentioned four secret reports complementing the Harmel Report offered an interesting argumentation. Its authors presented, for internal use, the Allies with “STOP signs” in their contacts with communist states. They were perceived as a road to reducing tensions as long as NATO states were fulfilling the conditions of which they were obliged. These contacts were presented also as a source of threat, should individual interests allow the East to win on these divisions and weaken the Alliance. That is why it was recommended that deeper consultations among member states were a way to minimalize such a risk. It was also recommended not to treat communist states as one uniform bloc fully controlled by the USSR, thereby encouraging a diversification of contacts with individual Eastern European states[5].

It was also agreed that four parallel processes that characterised the international context of the time were determining the future roles of the Alliance:

1) Halting spread of communism in Europe and undermining the unity of the Eastern bloc;

2) Deepening integration of Western European states and lack of balance of power between them and the United States;

3) Decolonisation and changing relations of European states with the rest of the world;

4) Increasing problems in relations between developed and developing states.

Against this background NATO’s two most important roles were presented. The first – which can be called its traditional role – was related to the need of maintaining military power and political solidarity as the primary ground for credible deterrence, discouraging aggression through collective defence, should aggression need to be faced.  In this regard any concessions for the sake of improving relations with communist states were excluded. It was also determined that the unresolved German issue was a factor increasing the risk of war. Thus while calling for solidarity among the Allies it was stated that the future resolution to this problem had to respect the rights of both German states to decide their own future as well as the voice of the four superpowers and justified interests of other states. The second of NATO’s roles formulated in the Harmel Report was related to the instability of East-West relations. As a solution it was proposed to seek – unprecedented in the light of NATO’s earlier practices – “the basis for more stable relations, allowing for solving of current problems” in order to reduce the risk of eruption of a “hot conflict”.  

The strategic novelty of this dual-track approach lied in the limited combination of these two missions, with an emphasis put on dialogue with the Eastern bloc which, nonetheless, was carried out with an aim to secure the West’s defence needs. For the Allies, the weakening of the basis of collective defence could have meant an inability to reach the goals of the second component of NATO’s strategy. Concentrating solely on the first component of the strategy would have enforced hostility between the blocs, without any chance for a beneficial change. A broader justification for this approach was presented in the report prepared by the third expert group (future of NATO security policy)[6]. Its authors suggested an interpretation of NATO strategy through the prism of military- and non-military-based policies, pointing out that there was no contradiction between collective defence and détente. However, this report did not include any plans as how to combine the Alliance’s traditional tasks with the postulate of developing new instruments for diplomacy, security policy and tension reduction between the two blocs (arms control and disarmament). The decisions were thus left to the North Atlantic Council. As Andreas Wegner rightly noted: ”rather than sticking with the bilateral superpower détente based on the terrirorial and nuclear status quo in Europe, the United States sought to strengthen multilateral (military and political) cooperation and consultation within NATO and simultaneously to engage the Soviet Union and the East European states in talks that would lead to a wider European détente and promote gradual change in the Eastern bloc.”[7]. Thereby, détente, as a source of division among the Allies, became subject to control which, at the same time, did not lead to the weakening of transatlantic relations.

During the preparation of the Harmel Report, a special working group focused on the problem of transatlantic relations and the ways to improve them[8]. Its members, even though grateful for NATO’s achievements in halting the expansion of communism in Europe, asked many questions regarding the state of relations between the Allies at the end of the second decade of the Alliance’s operation[9]. The responses stressed a need to enforce cooperation and better coordination of activities as well as to balance the influence of Washington Treaty’s individual signatories on the organisation’s policies. At the same time, they argued that NATO needed to continue to exist in a much wiser way – as a centre of coordination of Western policies and defence. This statement constituted an important voice in the discussions on prolonging the Treaty’s binding period.

In the published version of the Harmel Report, not much emphasis was given to the so-called periphery conflicts and the role they played on the Alliance’s security. It was instead proposed that in the face of such conflicts there should be political consultations and engagement through the United Nations. A deeper reflection into the issues mentioned above was included in the classified report of the group tasked with assessing the development of the situation outside the North Atlantic region[10]. Its authors divided problems there into three categories:

1) Those with a direct influence on NATO’s security (problems near the Alliance’s borders and other problems which could provoke confrontation between superpowers and impede the global nuclear balance, the issue of China, expansion of communism to different parts of the world, regional balance of power in Asia and the Middle East, international control of weapons trade, political tensions which could turn into regional conflicts, national liberation wars in Asia and Africa, revolutions in Latin America, protection of the West’s economic interests in Asia and Africa, consequences of participation of NATO states in UN peace operations).

2) Those which, to a different degree, were engaging individual Allies directly, without impact on the organization’s security (US obligations in Latin America and Asia and obligations of the post-colonial states – without the requirement of permanent consultations).

3) Those of a universal nature and requiring the Alliance’s position (mainly regarding the Third World states, including aid offered to them and support of international agencies). 

Confirming the diversity of interests and commitments of member states towards global problems, it was agreed that there was a shared need for harmonization of allied policies. It was envisioned as a way to improve crisis management in the peripheries to prevent their influence on the security of the North Atlantic region. “It is not possible”, the document states, “to assume a priori whether and how NATO should react to specific crises. We should, however, be prepared to improve the mechanisms which aim at an earlier identification of a situation which brings common threats and ways to counteract them.”

With all the efforts put into justifying the need for consultation, member states kept the right to be excluded from matters that were reserved for their own decisions. It was also determined that there was an undisputable need for NATO’s collective defence and participation in UN peace operations, excluding at the same time the possibility that the Alliance, as a whole, would engage in such missions[11]. Activities of individual states in these regards were considered “forms legitimizing NATO as an impartial, indirect actor of peace operations in the Third World countries.”

The Harmel Report thus did not go beyond confirming the existing differences in approaches and the lack of will to make new obligations that would go beyond the North Atlantic area. Recognising the independent role of the member states working through the UN in fact meant NATO’s resignation from trying to collectively influence what was taking place outside its borders. It was even openly doubted whether the North Atlantic Treaty was the right forum for cooperation outside the Treaty area. This question was reinforced by the statement that the Washington Treaty “did not include any positions regarding NATO’s operational activity in different regions” (although it also did not include a clear ban of such activities). This situation was, however, not as much a result of ambition or bravery, as it was of the awareness of existing differences.

Despite the destructive disputes and the damage that came to NATO’s prestige as a result of France’s decision to leave the Alliance (which would last over 40 years), the overall assesment of the strategic debate in the 1960s should be positive. Thanks to the compromises that were worked out during the debate over the Harmel Report and parallel works over the flexible response strategy, there was not only an improvement in the overall state of NATO’s military forces, but also the relative stability in transatlantic relations, as well as a rational expansion of the Cold War “theatre” where Moscow would be systematically involved in a dialogue that was breaching the Kremlin’s control over its own empire. It was not the last time that the Alliance confirmed the sources of its success in difficult conditions, namely: the power of American leadership and the ability of its members to compromise and act in solidarity. Many of the ideas that emerged during the preparation of the “Harmel Report” were ahead of their time. So here, in addition to the approved Alliance’s dual-track strategy, the experience of this process should be regarded as timeless. It shaped NATO’s political agenda for the decades to come, based on a wide understanding of its role without the fear that the non-military factor will erase the sharpness of the vision of collective defence.


By the time of its publication, the Harmel Report just recorded a compromise, one that reflected its diplomatic definition where all parties “are equally unhappy”. Strengthening the Alliance in many aspects, the document nevertheless generated mixed feelings among its members. Smaller states pondered how to increase their influence in the decision-making process. Berlin, appeased with the issue of security and unification of both German states, wondered about the durability of such a state of affairs. Seemingly, during the preparatory works only the Americans achieved the goals they had set. They cemented NATO’s dual-track strategy, enforcing its political and military foundations. They also modernised the rules of détente policy and the possible use of nuclear weapons as a kind of “prolonging” (and not replacing) the Alliance’s conventional options. The US also expanded NATO’s role by political and consultation tasks in principally new functional and geographic areas of the Alliance’s activity. Paris, not wanting to worsen the problems that the organisation was dealing with, decided not to veto the document, making a significant breach in NATO’s criticism of that time. The implementation of its open and general vision remained a challenge for the future, this also included the question on how to link it with a flexible response strategy.

The following years of NATO activity were clearly in line with the assumptions made in 1967. The organisation began to include consultations into its internal political process, which not only facilitated military policy and the stabilisation of defence expenditures, but also brought some resolution to the deep conflicts between the Allies (such as the Cod Wars between the United Kingdom and Iceland or the Greek-Turkish tensions). In both cases, the conciliatory role of the North Atlantic Treaty prevented an escalation of conflict. An even stronger sign of the post-Harmel dual-track policy implementation was seen in the Alliance’s relations with the USSR. Among NATO’s successes in this regard we can include:

1) The language of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act[12], and especially the introduction of the issue of human rights and civil liberties as well as interpersonal relations and people’s exchange into East-West relations. This document forced communist states to recognise the fact that a state’s internal activity (and more broadly its political, economic and environmental decisions) can be subject to the justified interests of a third party. The way governments treat their own citizens can destabilise the international situation, thereby infringing on the security of other states. This allowed the West to start acting, publically and formally, against communist oppressions and non-democratic practices used in the satellite states of the Soviet Union. Thereby, the Helsinki Final Act became a useful post-Harmel instrument of NATO’s strategy and policy. The USSR, convinced that it had full control over its satellites, and satisfied with the recognition of status quo in the East, practically belittled the meaning of concessions it made in regards to human rights. However, it did not take much time before Moscow was faced with a confrontation in this area. It took place after Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and the introduction of Martial Law in Poland. It was, however, much earlier that the democratic opposition in Poland and Czechoslovakia was making references, in their activities, to the Helsinki Final Act (the OSCE’s founding document). Consequently, the significance of domestic law (for example, constitutions) increased and, even though it was ignored by the communists, created an opportunity for citizens to appeal the rights they were granted – which were also then guaranteed by an international agreement[13].

2) The way of ensuring the European allies of the credibility of US military guarantees. One of the main activities in this area was the annual drill called “Reforger” which was carried out since the late 1960s until the end of the Cold War. These drills were aimed at demonstrating the ability of a quick transfer of troops to Germany in order to strengthen the central front. They provided an outlook for a constantly perfected plan which was to be implemented at the time of threat[14].

3) ­The reaction to the crushing of the 1968 Prague Spring by the Warsaw Pact forces renewed the Allies’ commitment to Article 3 of the Washington Treaty. The condemnation of Soviet aggression was accompanied with a statement on the need to maintain the military efforts of member states at the proper level[15].  By refuting Soviet claims that intervention in Czechoslovakia was an internal problem of the communist bloc and not a sign of a more aggressive policy, the Alliance accomplished two important actions for its functioning. First of all, it maintained interest in continuation of the détente process. It also refuted the logic of a situation in which pressure of preponderant military forces were guaranteeing that the Soviets reach political goals without starting a military conflict with the West[16]. Strengthening the defence dimension meant not only reaching to the essence of the Alliance and getting members’ attention to the need for solidarity while facing the burdens of collective defence, but also improving the bidding position in disarmament negotiations with the East (which was one of the postulates of the Harmel Report).

4) NATO’s 1979 dual-track policy[17]. In the realm of deterrence, it highlighted the lack of realism of an effective Soviet aggression in Europe, based on the assumption of limited conflict (each conflict, could theoretically become full-scale war). This was the basis of the offer for negotiations on reducing the threshold of forces located in Europe and stabilisation of the military situation, including the level of arsenal on both sides. This reaction referred particularly to the Soviet’s deployment of the SS-20 rocket systems throughout Central Europe. It entailed not only an offer of diplomatic solutions but also a hard demonstration of power expressed in the deployment of 108 American Pershing II Weapon System and 464 Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles in Belgium, the Netherlands, the Federal Republic of Germany, Great Britain and Italy. Strengthening NATO’s missile system was to improve the West’s negotiation position in talks with Moscow regarding quota-based arms reductions (following the logic that you first need to arm in a way that is advantageous to you, in order to disarm later). In a situation of their possible halting the new types of weapons were to complement NATO’s capabilities to implement the strategy of flexible response, concerned by the development of the Soviet missile weapons[18].  It was only in December 1987, during perestroika, when the US and the USSR signed the Treaty on Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF), eliminating all nuclear missiles (cruise and ballistic), with ranges of 500–5,500 km, in Europe. 

The 40th anniversary of NATO, which coincided with the end of the Cold War, provided an opportunity to both summarise the achievements of the Treaty in its first 40 years of operation and reflect on the future. In the ceremonial statements made by the heads of states and governments, NATO was called the foundation of the West’s stability and its advantage over the communist system was underscored. Representatives of NATO countries highlighted their readiness to build a “new peaceful order in Europe” based on the dual-track approach proposed in the Harmel Report. They confirmed their will to keep military capabilities adequate to existing threats, as well as expressed their continued interest in seeking ways for constructive cooperation with Eastern neighbours.


The effects of the dual-track policy could have been noticed, in practice, in the fundamentally different post-1989 security world. They touched upon two fundamental issues. First, they allowed NATO states to solve the dilemma whether it was justified to continue cooperation in a world with no traditional enemy. Second, until today there has been no other more effective method found to dissolve disputes than the one that had led to reaching the Harmel compromise. While contemplating the long-lasting lessons from the described above NATO experiences we could risk formulating a “Decalogue”. It could read as follows: 

1. There is a need for initiative in foreign and security policy, especially at times of crisis. The problems do not need to be undertaken directly, but expanding the political context of their solving increases chances for reasonable compromises (although also the risk of getting stuck in details).

2. The success of the proposals of smaller NATO states is possible when boundary  conditions are met: there is adequate time and support for them. As a principle, their passivity does not need to be the standard of the Allies’ behaviour.

3. Political disputes should not overshadow a strategic vision and sober understanding of threats.

4. Transatlantic relations, based on mutuality and a rational approach to obligations, free from transactionality and free riders, should remain NATO’s foundation.

5. NATO is the most effective when its wider missions (in the area of cooperative security and anti-crisis activities) are based on a solid foundation of strength providing cabilities for deterrence and defence.

6. Russia’s policy towards NATO is permanently aimed at introducing internal divisions among the Allies. The instruments of this policy change, yet its aim remains the same.  

7. A dialogue with Russia is possible and needed. Yet, trying to obtain it through concessions means weakening NATO and leads to failure.

8. NATO remains an organisation that is based as much on power as it is on the solidarity of its members. Consultations are the best way for reaching agreement, while giving up the values that are stipulated in the Washington Treaty for short-term political gains leads to loss of credibility.

9. NATO operates in a wider environment which influences the security of its member states. They hold the responsibility for their own activities, while the Alliance’s definition of security cannot not be limited to a geographic area described in Article 6 of the Washington Treaty.

10. NATO’s neighbourhood is not a politically uniform area. Each of the Alliance’s partners has something to offer, should they receive the organisation’s adequate attention.

It is thus not surprising that since the end of the Cold War the postulates for preparing a new “Harmel Report” have been periodically reoccurring in the Allies’ discussions on the challenges related to NATO’s transformation: reaction to communism’s collapse in Europe and relations with former adversaries, evolution of the military posture and strategy, the role of the Alliance at the time of ethnic conflicts and pressure to participate in peace operations, questions about its global mission related to a wide spectrum of asymmetric threats and the war on terror, or Russia’s approach after the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas. Half a century after the publication of the Harmel Report and with a radically changed international context, its authors’ thoughts about a harmonious linking of power and diplomacy in NATO’s strategy remains an inspiration for the next generation of politicians and experts.

[1] See: R. Kupiecki, Siła i solidarność. Strategia NATO 1949-1989, PISM, 2012, pp. 207–262.

[2] P. Harmel, Forty Years of East–West Relations: Hopes, Fears, and Challenges, “The Atlantic Quarterly” 1987, no. 3, pp. 259–269.

[3] The Future Tasks of the Alliance (Harmel Report), in: NATO Handbook: Documentation, NATO Office of Information and Press, 1999, pp. 194–197. About the four reports of the working sub-groups which were working as part of Harmel’s team and the description of the course of work see: Harmel Report: Full Reports by the Rapporteurs on the Future Tasks of the Alliance, www.nato.int. A collection of documents prepared for the “Report” can be found at www.isn.ethz.ch/php/collections/coll_Harmel.htm. Ibidem: A. Wenger, The Multilateralization of Détente: NATO and the Harmel Exercise 1966–1968.

[4] Report of the Committee of Three on Non-Military Co-operation in NATO, in: NATO Handbook…, op. cit., pp. 166–193.

[5] Sub-Group I: East–West Relations, Detente and European Settlement, www.nato.int/archives/harmel/harmel01.htm. This report included a collection of principles that NATO states agreed to obey as a warranty of stability in European relations: maintaining the conditions guaranteeing the implementation of values stipulated in the Washington Treaty; respect towards differences in internal systems of European states, the sovereignty of governance and freedom in the choice of political, economic, social and cultural system, renouncement of use of force and a threat to use it as well as not interfering in internal matters of other states; recognition of the rules of international law in inter-state relations; ensuring the free movement of people and information all over Europe. It is justified to see here the source of future NATO’s position while working on the Helsinki Final Act. This catalogue was not included in “Harmel Report” as it was intended not to connect it with accepting – on Soviet terms – the proposal for calling an all-European conference. Its details were included in the declaration issued after the Bucharest session of the Political Advisory Committee of the States-Parties of the Warsaw Pact of 4-6 July 1966. See: Deklaracja państw-stron Układu Warszawskiego w sprawie umocnienia pokoju i bezpieczeństwa w Europie, ”Trybuna Ludu” of July 9th 1966. The West was unwilling to accept this declaration and included in it motif of USSR’s policy, that is a simultaneous dissolution of NATO and the Warsaw Pact. There was, however, no denial of the need to convene such a meeting.


[6] Sub-Group III: The Future Security Policy of the Alliance, www.nato.int/archives/harmel/harmel03.htm.

[7] A. Wenger, The Multilateralization…, op. cit., p. 17.

[8] Sous-Groupe II: Les relations interallies, www.nato.int/archives/harmel/harmel02.htm. It was the only one of the four reports of the sub-groups working within the whole Harmel project that was prepared in French.

[9] The problem itself was defined as a permanent structural issue in NATO, resulting from the lack of proportion in the military potential of the US and the European allies and the chasm that existed between the Treaty-guaranteed equality of the members and the actual difference in their influence of the organisation’s shared matters.  While this situation was temporarily acceptable in the previous decades after ten years of NATO’s operations the European Allies did not want to agree to such a scale of imbalance. Thus, two possibilities were presented: the first one, unreachable, meant creating a full political, economic and military balance between NATO’s European and North American components. The second one, which was preferred, was meant to reduce the existing differences and increase the influence of Europeans on Alliance’s matters. It was perceived that the path to reach this goal lied in NATO’s “European identity”. This concept was here for the first time officially used by the Alliance, even though it was two decades later, together with the progress of the European integration, that it was accepted for good. The path to creating such a formation, that would ensure a stronger position vis a vis Washington D.C. was meant to lead to increasing the effectiveness of European policies in three areas: economy, defence and politics.

[10] Sub-Group IV: Developments in Regions Outside the NATO Area, www.nato.int/archives/harmel/harmel04.htm.

[11] It was fear that unpredictable events and provocations resulting from the direct contact of soldiers from both military blocs could take place.


[12] The USSR and its satellites were making efforts to convene a pan-European conference since the 1950s, treating it as a way to politically sanction the political status quo in Europe. For many years this was perceived in the West – and not without a reason – as an attempt to deny the rationale for the existence of the North Atlantic Treaty and an effective elimination of American military presence. This was the most obvious as Moscow was insisting on including in the talks the issue of solving both military blocs. Finally, basing the negotiations on broad thematic bases eliminated the one-sidedness of the Soviets’ intentions that were oriented on military security. These bases included: political and military issues, the issue of economic cooperation and human rights. Even if, which was noticed by some Western critics, the statement that NATO cemented Yalta’s division of Europe through the Helsinki Act was based on rational premises (legitimization of communist regimes in Eastern Europe), the OSCE’s long-term effect was to permanently undermine the Soviet rule over the “external empire”. For more see M. Reimaa, Helsinki Catch: European Security Accords 1975, Edita Publishing, 2008; A.D. Rotfeld, Od Helsinek do Madrytu. Dokumenty Konferencji Bezpieczeństwa i Współpracy w Europie 1973–1983, PISM, 1983, pp. 49–83 (with OSCE documents).

[13] See, for example, J.J. Lipski, KOR: Komitet Obrony Robotników – Komitet Samoobrony Społecznej, ”Wokół Nas”, 1988, p. 25.

[14] ”Reforger” is an acronym describing the aim of these drills, that is: REturn of FORces to GERmany. It was carried out from 1967 until early 1990s.

[15] See: The Communique of the North Atlantic Council Meeting. Brussles, December 15-16 1968, in: Texts of Final Communiques Issued by Ministerial Sessions of the North Atlantic Council, the Defence Planning Committee, and the Nuclear Planning Group, Brussels, vol. I (1949–1974), pp. 212–215.

[16] The Alliance intentionally did not earlier issue a position in regards to the events in Czechoslovakia as it remembered what happened in 1956 in Hungary. These events showed how far could Moscow go to maintain its “external empire”. NATO’s self-restrain was also a result of the unwillingness to exacerbate the relations, without certainty of the future of the tensions in Prague. The Alliance also did not want to destroy the chances for a beneficial stabilization of relations between the West and East, hope for progress in détente and especially the possible perspectives of talks on arms control.

[17] NATO’s decision-making process in this regards is well described by D.C. Elliot, Decision at Brussels: The Politics of Nuclear Forces, RAND, 1981.


[18] Implementation of the dual-tracks turned out uneasy. Despite the fact that it was an essence of NATO’s dual-track strategy described in the 1967 “Harmel Report” the deployment of missiles was opposed by the residents of the countries that were to host them on their territories. Protests, led by peace movements, trade unions and left-wing organisations were inspired by the USSR or at least some of their postulates (for example those on the unilateral weapons reduction to be undertaken by NATO) overlapped with the “anti-arming” Soviet propaganda campaign.  The disputes among the Allies in this regards were politically exploited by Moscow. However, in 1983 the Alliance started to deploy euroromissiles in specified bases. The USSR reacted with breaking the Geneva negotiations. It was only the change in power that took place in Moscow in 1985 and the coming to power of Mikhail Gorbachev that brought the renewal, and later a breakthrough, in the negotiations. It meant the acceptance of the so-called dual zero option postulated by NATO, meaning a complete elimination of short, mid, and intermediate-range missiles deployed by both superpowers in Europe. 

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