U.S. led war games with NATO’s 71st member/partner: Kosovo
“This is an exciting time to be on the U.S. Army Europe and Africa team training with our multinational allies and partners. Combined Resolve XV is an excellent opportunity to build unit readiness and enhance interoperability with our allies and partners. We look forward to improving critical war fighting skills that will enable the team to fight and win. And yes – Winning Matters! In order to win, we must be highly trained, disciplined and fit. Combined Resolve XV will allow commanders to assess unit performance and refine unit training plans in preparation for Defender 21.”
The quote is from Colonel Monte Rone, commander of 1st Cavalry Division (Forward), regarding the recently completed exercise he mentioned, Combined Resolve XV, which was conducted at the U.S. Army’s training areas at Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels in Germany. (Rone was evidently 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division before assuming his current position.)
The press release from which the opening quote was gleaned, one issued by United States Army Europe and Africa (USAREUR-AF) on February 1, announced that the war games, which were completed on February 5, included the participation of approximately 4,700 troops from ten “ally and partner nations.” They were Bosnia, Georgia, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the U. S. The U.S., Italy, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania and Slovenia are NATO members, hence NATO allies. Bosnia and Georgia are members of more than one NATO partnership program, therefore partners. Kosovo has not before now been referred to as a NATO partner. In part because it has not been able to win complete international recognition after its secession from Serbia and is not a member of the United Nations.
However, no sooner had the three-headed Cerberus of the U.S., European Union and NATO wrested Kosovo from Serbia in 2008 than NATO defense ministers authorized NATO to train its fledgling army, comprised of the fragments of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, with which and on whose behalf NATO waged a 78-day war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999.
Kosovo was, in the words of Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica in 2008, the world’s first NATO state.
The U.S.-NATO military exercise in Germany that Kosovo participated in is by no means its first. This month’s was “designed to evaluate and assess the readiness of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Calvary Division to fight and win during their regionally allocated forces rotation in support of Atlantic Resolve,” and also focused “on strengthening interoperability with multinational partners.”
Operation Atlantic Resolve was initiated by the Pentagon in 2014 after what NATO calls the Russian invasion of Ukraine in that year. If in fact Russia had invaded a sovereign European nation, and a NATO partner at that, it’s impossible to believe that the bloc would not consider itself at war with Russia. But in many ways, as with conducting military exercises like Combined Resolve XV, it is acting as though war with Russia is exactly what it’s training for; a war in which winning matters; where winning is all that matters.
And now Kosovo has graduated from being a NATO colony to a NATO partner.
As the following will demonstrate, it has joined an almost inconceivably vast and growing global military network.
When NATO was formed in 1949, ostensibly to defend Western and Southern Europe from a Soviet threat, the military alliance had twelve members. When the Soviet Union dissolved and fragmented into fifteen nations and several disputed territories in 1991 NATO had sixteen members. Thirty years after the disappearance of the Soviet Union NATO has thirty full members, only twelve of which are on or near the North Atlantic Ocean.
In 1991 NATO had no partners. It now has at least forty.
The following forty nations are listed by NATO as military partners under their respective partnership headings:
Partnership for Peace
Bosnia and Herzegovina
With NATO membership and the Partnership for Peace every European nation except for Cyprus (which is being groomed for the Partnership for Peace transitional program) is a NATO member or partner except for micro-states Andorra, Monaco, Lichtenstein, San Marino and the Vatican. There are now 45 European nations (including in the Caucasus) in total – 46 with Kosovo – in NATO’s military network.
Istanbul Cooperation Initiative
United Arab Emirates
Partners Across the Globe
In addition to the above seventy nations, NATO has also established partnerships with several others nations. These include countries not listed so far that contributed troops for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and served under NATO command there. (In all, military personnel from 55 nations served under NATO in the Afghanistan-Kyrgyzstan-Pakistan-Tajikistan-Uzbekistan war theater. NATO had stationed troops, armor and warplanes in those five nations.)
Along with the four Persian Gulf nations that are members of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative already mentioned, NATO has a long-standing relationship with the remaining two members of the Gulf Cooperation Council:
NATO has conducted naval visits and exercises with the pair and three years ago reports surfaced of the two being invited again to join the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.
NATO also has had a partnership with and a naval presence in the Puntland State of Somalia.
The global military bloc has had an alliance with the 55-member African Union since 2005. NATO describes the connection with such words as relation, cooperation, operational and training support and structural assistance to the African Standby Force.
NATO has a liaison office at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It has airlifted African Union troops to Somalia and Sudan in the past and is upgrading its military integration with the African Union.
In addition to the five African nations in the Mediterranean Dialogue and Somalia, that means that the bloc de facto has another 49 partners in Africa.
Members of the NATO Senior Military Liaison Office with members of the African Union
And now there’s Kosovo.
By the above computation the North Atlantic Treaty Organization can count as members and partners 130 of the 193 members of the United Nations (of which Kosovo is not yet a member) or 67% percent of that body’s members. Twenty-eight of those members not affiliated with NATO have populations less than half a million, so the percentage of countries that are among those with populations above that number that are affiliated with NATO is even higher.
NATO, at 72 years of age, is the oldest military bloc in the world; the longest of any scope in history. By its own acknowledgement it is also the world’s only permanent military alliance.
It is the world’s and history’s largest military bloc, with 70 formal members and partners and over 60 other partners not currently formally designated as such.
It is the world’s only nuclear alliance, with three of the world’s first five nuclear powers as founding members.
It has waged three unprovoked wars, all outside its proclaimed area of responsibility and on three continents.