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Alliance Management and Maintenance: Restructuring NATO for the 21st Century

Alliance Management and Maintenance: Restructuring NATO for the 21st Century by John Deni. Routledge, 2016, 286 pp.

John Deni, political advisor to US military forces in Europe and lecturer at Heidelberg University, examines how the realities of establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) rapid deployment corps (NRDC) furnish insights into the broader theories of alliance management and doctrine development in this compact if pricey monograph. Deni provides a fine overview of political science and international relations literature on the topic; a detailed narrative of how, when, and why NATO established its NRDCs; and an insightful analysis of how intra-alliance bargaining resulted in compromises that generated suboptimum outcomes. Although this conclusion will hardly surprise those who have served within the bowels of NATO or historians who have analyzed alliances at war and peace, the strength of this monograph is its detailed, well-developed insider description of the process of transforming NATO concepts into force structures and doctrine.

The monograph consists of eight chapters, with the introduction and following two chapters setting the theoretical framework of the study. Deni notes that much of the literature on alliances focuses on their formation and dissolution, with much less attention to the dynamics of alliance maintenance. By concentrating on the intra-alliance negotiations and deal making that sustains existing alliances, Alliance Management and Maintenance provides a different theoretical perspective. The heart of the monograph consists of three chapters that examine the development of the NRDCs, the alliance’s response to changing threats, and the impact of political bargaining. Here Deni is at his best, providing specific examples of how national interests resulted in the designation of six corps as “high readiness forces” (HRF) despite force structure reviews that called for only three. The penultimate chapter turns to the alliance’s response to terrorism, providing a brief 15-page overview of NATO initiatives that seems oddly disconnected from the study’s previous chapters on force structure and political bargaining. The monograph’s conclusion summarizes and emphasizes the study’s value at the broader theoretical level, noting that straightforward, threat-based explanations of alliance behavior fail to account for NATO’s organizational change in the twenty-first century.

Thoughtful and well researched, this monograph keeps a tight focus on NATO, making no mention of parallel endeavors such as the European Union’s (EU) rapid reaction force. Yet for most members of NATO, the bargaining and negotiation process that sustains alliances occurs at two levels: both within NATO and within the framework of the EU’s European Security and Defence Policy. By focusing solely on the former, this monograph presents an incomplete picture of the multidimensional complexity of European security. Nevertheless, Alliance Management and Maintenance offers insights and analysis that will appeal to both academics and practitioners of security and statecraft. Academics will find Deni’s analysis of various theoretical propositions of alliance behavior useful, although his acronym-laden discussion of NRDCs, HRF(L)s, and the MTIWG (Military Transitional Issues Working Group) may prove daunting to the uninitiated. For those who have worked at NATO or may do so in the future, Deni’s account of how bargains are struck and how compromises smooth the way for implementation will be most useful. Combining both a clear theoretical framework and a well-researched examination of the realities of alliance management within NATO, this monograph exemplifies political science at its best.

Douglas Peifer, PhD

Air War College

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."

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