To What Extent Is Nato A Thing


To What Extent Is Nato A Thing Of The Past? Essay, Research Paper

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, or NATO was set up in 1946 and, until 1990,

primarily concentrated on European defence against the Warsaw Pact countries.

However, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO has lost its principle

protagonist. So it must be asked, can there really be, as the US Secretary of State,

Madeleine Albright said, a new NATO for a new century . Indeed, she said, at the

Brookings Institution, that since the end of the Cold War Alliance leaders [have been]

confronted [with] a new set of questions. How would the Alliance hold together, now

that the adversary that had brought it together was gone? If it remained united, what

would it do? How should it change? How might the new NATO relate to the new

Europe? And what role would Russia play? 1. These are all valid questions when

attempting to evaluate the extent to which NATO is a thing of the past. Nato s

traditional role was that of containment of the Warsaw Pact countries and Western

European security. It was Ernst Bevin, the British foreign secretary who came up with

the idea of NATO (which has always principally been a military alliance), who said

that NATO would be the answer to the Communist threat by organising and

consolidating the ethical and spiritual forces of Western civilisation . If this is the case,

since the collapse of Communism, many would argue that NATO is no longer

necessary. It has achieved its purpose and its usefulness has been outlived. Indeed,

Kenneth Waltz, a prominent international relations scholar, said in 1990 that, NATO

is a disappearing thing. It is a question of how long it is going to remain as a

significant institution even though its name may linger on. 2. However since 1990,

NATO has expanded in size to include Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic,

adapted to pursue peace-keeping roles in Central and Eastern Europe and, most

recently, launched one of the largest aerial campaigns ever seen. Is this really the way

such an international organisation would die a somewhat quiet death ?3

Since 1990, NATO has attempted to transform its Defence Posture through a new

strategic concept which includes a number of measures, including the establishment

of the North Atlantic Control Council (NACC), which has since been replaced by the

Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) and establishing the Partnership for Peace

(PfP) initiative, all of which are based on a broad approach to security in which

co-operation and dialogue with non-member countries would play a prominent part 4

The EAPC has expanded from 20 members in 1991 to 40 members in 1997 by opening

a dialogue with the Central and Eastern European countries, as well as the newly

emerging European states of the old Soviet Union. New structures and procedures

designed to advance the internal adaptation of NATO have also been introduced. The

European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI) has been developed within NATO as

part of this process, as has the implementation of a concept known as Combined Joint

Task Forces (CJTFs), are also being pursued. The CJTF concept is designed to

ensure that the composition and multinational character of military forces can be

varied to suit whatever kind of crisis management or peacekeeping task needs to be

undertaken. In other ways, too, the Alliance has undergone fundamental change,

developing its relations with other organisations and reforming its military command

structure. NATO states that preparations for defence against a full-scale military

attack are no longer the focus of Alliance planning and that risks to NATO are more

likely to arise from instability, including ethnic rivalry or territorial disputes . This

means that the Alliance can move away from forward defence and flexible response

strategies and concentrate on maintaining adequate but much reduced defence

capability, a well-developed crisis-management capability, an enhanced dialogue with

other nations and a co-operative approach to security, including arms control.5 This is

shown in the official figures provided by NATO, that illustrate a decrease in NATO s

availible land forces by 35% between 1990 and 1995 and a cut in defence expenditures

by 22%.

The Alliance, which has always been principally a military alliance, a stance that was

enshrined by Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. However, since the end of the

Cold War, NATO has not only concentrated on transforming its Defence Posture, but

also begun to expand into new areas as diverse as environmental protection, air traffic

control over Europe, environmental protection, industrial and energy policy and

highway planning. In addition, NATO has also served as a forum for consultation

among member states on European and non-European political and security issues. An

example of the Alliances environmental projects can be that of a pilot study being

carried out in Norway studying Cross-border Environmental Problems Emanating

from Defence-related Installations and Activities . The project focuses on some of the

most urgent problems associated with radioactive pollution, in particular that caused

by the dismantling of nuclear military vessels.

So NATO has not stood still. Over the years since its creation it has always had to

adapt to new circumstances and new tasks. From its early years with the addition of

Greece, Turkey and then Germany, then later Spain and more recently, the Czech

Republic, Hungary and Poland also acceded to the Treaty. During its fifty years of life,

NATO has adapted its political and military strategy in the light of new political

circumstances and technological developments; responded to crises in East-West

relations; and introduced major initiatives in fields such as arms control and measures

to limit the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. However, it is the last

decade that has seen the most sweeping change in International Relations since the end

of World War II and the effect of these changes has been unprecedented. NATO has

responded by initiating an intensive programme of internal and external adaptation

which has included the revision of its strategy; the reduction of its military forces; the

transformation of the structure of its military commands; the introduction of measures

to promote co-operation and partnership with non-member countries throughout

Europe (all of which are discussed above); and the opening of its doors to new

members. Nato s expansion into Central and Eastern Europe has been one of the most

politically sensitive transformations NATO has made to evolve into a new NATO for

a new century . There are many that argue that involving old Eastern Block countries

may antagonise Russia and by doing so, rather than making the area stable,

membership could further destabilise Eastern Europe. At the time of the

announcement of the future membership of the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary

to NATO, George Kennan, the father of containment said in the New York Times


[Expansionism] will inflame nationalistic, anti-Western, and militaristic tendencies in

Russian opinion, adversely affect the development of Russian democracy, restore the

atmosphere of the Cold War to East-West relations, and impel Russian foreign policy

in directions decidedly not to our liking. 6

Indeed, many argue that expansionism means that the alliance could find itself

entangled in border disputes and internal nationalistic conflicts, such as those in the

former Yugoslavia. Furthermore, would the general public protest if, for example,

soldiers were sent to defend Poland s border against Russia? However, others argue

by these countries become members of the Alliance, NATO is bringing stability, not

unstability to the region. Jackson suggests that NATO needs a new slogan . This new

definition of the alliance should meet the security needs of the former Soviet bloc

countries yet adds no additional risks and burdens for the old members 7.

This decade, NATO has seen its military capabilities, and moreover its new policies of

peace keeping put to the test for the first time. In 1995, a NATO led multinational

Implementation Force (IFOR), under a United Nations mandate, went into Bosnia to

implement the military aspects of the Bosnian Peace Agreement. This brought the

conflict to an end and enabled work to begin on laying the foundations for a lasting

peace in Bosnia. When IFOR had fulfilled its mandate, NATO led a Stabilisation Force

(SFOR) took over the task of building on IFOR’s achievements. Most recently, NATO

was involved in its first ever military conflict not under a UN mandate. The events of

Kosovo during 1999 prove that NATO has successfully adapted from a military

alliance designed primarily for European defence against Communist aggression to an

alliance that can capably pursue the maintenance of stability in Central and Eastern

Europe and the pursuit of humanitarian causes, such as the prevention of genocide,

refugee aid etc. Indeed, as the Balkans begin to become increasingly nationalistic, and

the Soviet Union is no longer in a position to keep them in check NATO has become

more and more useful as an organisation to maintain stability in the Balkans. Without

NATO, the Balkans is the tinder box that may spark European instability.

As it prepares itself for further adaptation as an expanded framework for continuing

partnership, both within the Alliance and with the countries of the Euro-Atlantic

Partnership Council, there can be little doubt that NATO will continue to evolve in

order to address future challenges. Despite the fact that the Cold War ended over a

decade ago, a military presence is still required in Europe, as proved by the events in

Kosovo. The scope of NATO evolution over the last ten years proves is so large that t

is safe to say that the NATO of 1989, as it operated and how it was seen, is a thing of

the past. However, now NATO is an essential organisation – a new NATO for a new

century .


Powaski, Ronal E. Joining the March of Folly , Time Magazine, January 1998

Vol. 54, No. 1

Jackson, James O. When the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation began building up

its , Time Magazine, October 1994, pp. 30

The official NATO web-page,

US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, speaking at a National Issues Forum Q&A

Session at the Brookings Institution, A New NATO for a New Century , April 6 l999

McCalla, Robert B. Today’s NATO Can Take on New, Far-Reaching Roles,

Capital Times (Madison, WI), (1996): March 26, pp. 7A

Hyde-Price, Adrian, European Security beyond the Cold War Sage Publications


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