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NATO's Niche

How will a military alliance continue to function if many of its members are opposed to armed interventions and if modern security threats have moved beyond concerns over territorial integrity?

Answer: Turn the military alliance into something completely different.

That at least seems to be the conclusion of the group of experts tasked with creating a draft of NATO's new strategic concept. Their findings, released this week, envision a NATO defined by a host of new responsibilities from multilateral weapons procurement to cyber defenses to expeditionary actions. In her presentation as the group's chairperson, Madeleine Albright said "NATO is more than a military alliance; it is also a political community."

I would agree with Albright's perspective on NATO. Since NATO's efforts in the 1990s to encourage democratization in Eastern Europe, the alliance has assumed greater responsibilities in political, economic, and security fields. NATO's scope has certainly expanded beyond preserving the territorial integrity of its members, though this remains a central aspect of the organization's DNA. In this sense, the group of experts are merely highlighting what is already the case: NATO is no longer simply a defensive alliance.

But what is NATO exactly? If not a military alliance, then what? Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that NATO should become the "the forum for consultation on global security." Secretary Albright sees the alliance developing "partnerships" with key countries, with Russia on the top of that list. And some EU leaders simply hope that NATO can act to help member states streamline military expenditures and reduce redundancies. I believe NATO must be careful to not try to be everything to everyone. It must seek to focus only on those areas where it can provide real added value to its members states and the international community.

What do you think? What is NATO's niche in the international community? How should the forthcoming strategic concept envision the future of NATO?

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Andrew Zvirzdin on :

Here is FP's take on the report: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/05/21/will_nato_ever_fight_again

John in Michigan, US on :

NATO has already proven useful in the 90's as a vehicle for action in former Yugoslavia when the UN wouldn't act. Looking at the long-term picture, to me it is clear that the UN must eventually meet the same fate as the League of Nations, which ended when it became clear it was ineffective. Perhaps NATO could form the template for whatever replaces the UN. Certainly, UN peacekeeping and relief operations might be more effective, if there were common standards, common training, regular, joint exercises, etc. as a requirement for participation in peacekeeping. The UN is also massively corrupt; even when it manages to follow its own accounting rules, which is rare, it too often acts as a money laundering service to transfer Western aid to the bank accounts of elites in the developing world. I don't know if the League of Nations was corrupt...I think it had too small a budget so it wasn't worth corrupting. In NATO there might be some corruption, for example in the area of procurement. NATO sets standards for members. If a vendor can influence the standards, he can gain an advantage when it comes time for members to make purchases. My impression is, the corruption in NATO is much less pervasive. Another example: I googled "[url=http://www.google.com/search?q=NATO+sex+scandal]NATO sex scandal[/url]" and came up with basically nothing (except for some nonsense from infowars.com who are generally unreliable). Anyway, these are just thoughts.

Kevin Sampson on :

But why didn't the EU handle Yugoslavia itself? Why did it need to invoke NATO for what was purely an internal matter, and which didn't meet the criteria of Article 6 anyway?

John in Michigan, US on :

Hi Kevin, If I recall, the EU didn't have the military and logistical capacity to handle former Yugoslavia without US help. Since then, the EU has tried to develop that capacity, although it is not clear to me if they've succeeded.

Kevin Sampson on :

Europe most assuredly did have the military and logistical capability to handle Yugoslavia (it bordered Austria, the Germans could have driven there in a day, two at the most!). What was lacking was the political will to commit forces to combat and accept the resulting casualties (low as they certainly would have been); and admit, even tacitly, that the treasured idea of European ‘soft power’ was just wishful thinking.

Pat Patterson on :

Even supposing that the EU did not have the technical logistics to act they could have done so an ad hoc basis using the command net of NATO. Or at least using that vaunted combined German/French brigade as its communication hub. The US would not have complained as long as they did not invoke the NATO Charter. There were no technical or logistics problem that the respective militaries could not have solved except perhaps putting a spine in its civilian leadership.

Joe Noory on :

Killing people and breaking things. If NATO is no longer willing and able to do that in a timely and meaningful fashion, the backbone or armature to do anything and everything else that people want to hang on it cannot really take place. Not for long, in any event. There is, after all, no such thing as a "post-defense" defense alliance unless some other, functioning structure can take its' place - and I don't see the EU doing anything substantive at all to cover that need. And no, trying to [url=http://euobserver.com/9/30481]get two more votes at the UN[/url] will not accomplish anything in the area of security. No number of campaigns to redefine security to actually mean "climate change" will change that.

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