After the horrors of World War II, Soviet aggression reached its peak across Europe. European countries felt the urgency to unite to enhance their regional power. On the basis of which NATO was formed in 1949.
Although 12 countries on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean have formed a security alliance, a total of 28 countries are currently members of the alliance. The main purpose of the military alliance is that if any of the countries in the alliance is attacked, the rest of the countries will provide the necessary assistance. The company has been conducting various missions since its inception. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, their relations with Russia have fluctuated at various times.
After the groundbreaking changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the 1990s, the very existence of NATO was called into question. As a result of the establishment of democracies in the countries of Eastern Europe, NATO’s cooperation with them also began to increase. The troop numbers of NATO countries were also gradually reduced & NATO’s role became much more political.
September 11, 2001 re defines NATO’s security
For the first time in its history, Charter 5 was enacted after an organization like Al Qaeda, not the state, attacked NATO’s most powerful country. There was no need to worry about the Soviet Union’s behavior as an enemy during the Cold War. Both sides have been working on the basis of some arguments But organizations like Al Qaeda had no country or clear structure, nor army. So, a new definition called ‘non-state actor’ has been introduced & the military operation in Afghanistan began to fight against such an opponent.
NATO currently conducts several missions across Asia and Africa. Security assistance in Afghanistan, peacekeeping missions in Kosovo, maritime security patrols in the Mediterranean, support for African Union forces in Somalia, air surveillance in Eastern Europe, and training for security forces in Iraq.
Conflict with Russia & China:
The enmity of NATO with Russia has been noticeable since its inception. Several initiatives were taken to cut the enmity. In 1997, a negotiating agreement was signed between the two sides. Despite repeated discussions, the relationship did not move forward simply because of a lack of mutual trust.
After the NATO summit in Bucharest in the spring of 2008, the distance between the two sides widened. After Trump came to power, he took an initiative to resolve Russia’s ongoing enmity with NATO. But the non-cooperation attitude towards Russia became clear from within the Trump administration. Russia has another conflict with NATO. Across Europe, the Kremlin sees NATO’s ballistic missile defense system as a threat. Although NATO claims that this defense system is designed to target Iran & its capacity is of medium quality. The Kremlin believes that the development of this defense system could pose a threat to Russia.
The animosity between Russia and NATO is lessening now than at any time since the end of the Cold War. However, many security experts believe that NATO lags far behind Russia in terms of capabilities. Moreover, NATO is having a bad time due to misunderstandings among themselves. In particular, Russia’s recent arms deal with Turkey has not been well received by many in the alliance. Many countries have called for a re-examination of Turkey’s relations with NATO. Even then, forgetting all differences, NATO wants to quietly launch a defense revolution across Europe, an attempt to make Russia enclosed in Europe. But Russia is not one to give up. It is also quietly plotting to break the net from all sides. As a result, the current silence between the two sides is like stopping the wind before a big storm.
Meanwhile, China the emerging superpower in the world, poses a threat for NATO. Biden called on the West to be vigilant against China’s growing influence. The alliance has taken a number of steps to prevent China from attending the just-concluded G-7 summit in Cornwall, UK. One of these is the initiative to implement another platform ‘Build Better World’, an alternative to the China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
NATO countries are quite generous in terms of military spending! According to a survey conducted in 2016, the combined military expenditure of the allied countries is about one trillion dollars! Where the United States alone has 60 percent of the cost. Which is almost double the duration of the cold war. Of course, NATO has nothing to do with this expenditure. Because these expenditures are made for the defense of the countries themselves. Under an agreement, NATO allies plan to spend 2 percent of their GDP on military work. However, as of 2019, only six member states have been able to implement the plan. The United States is one of them.
Such laziness of Europeans towards budget implementation has become a headache for the Trump administration. As a result, they want European countries to meet the terms of the agreement. Otherwise, everyone must support the defense of the Americans. Which is not pleasant for any party.
The former US President Donald Trump has sharply criticised of NATO’s weaknesses. He also complained about the distribution of troops and military power. Trump was in favor of reducing the US share in the NATO budget, which created distance in Washington’s alliance with this military alliance of 30 countries. However, the Biden administration is adopting its own policy by reversing many decisions of the Trump era. After coming to power, US President Joe Biden promised to maintain US financial support by attending the NATO summit for the first time.
NATO has been going through various crises since the end of the Cold War in the last century. It should be noted that in the past, there have been repeated tensions over differences between NATO member states in terms of NATO spending.
What is the future of the US-led military alliance NATO? The answer to this question has to be found in the face of the 72th anniversary of NATO. NATO was effective in the capitalist world during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.
What will be the role of NATO in the new world system, its acceptability and effectiveness are being discussed. For so long this talk has been confined to researchers and experts. But recently this issue has spread among the top NATO countries. In an interview with The Economist, French President Emmanuel Macho said NATO had suffered a “brain death.” Makho sees no hope for NATO. Earlier, differences arose between France, Germany and the United States over NATO spending. However, Europe has always been warned by NATO about Russia’s rise and aggression. But France and Germany could try to strike a balance with Russia from a strategic position. Because Europe is dependent on Russia for natural gas.
In the context of NATO, the division between the European countries is now clear. While Western European countries, including France and Germany, disagree on a number of issues, Eastern European countries still have confidence in NATO. Slovakia’s foreign minister said NATO members were still adamant about Article 5. This is where Makhon raises the question. He said many of the member states were not following Article 5 to address the threat collectively. He gives the example of Turkey as it bought S-400 missiles from Russia for its own security despite being a member of NATO. Erdogan’s feud with Russia is eye-popping too. Turkey is believed to have reached an unwritten agreement with Russia over the operation in northern Syria.
The political and economic realities are pushing the NATO countries in different directions. The reality of the Cold War is no more. So many NATO nations are reluctant to bear the cost when it comes to combined security. Although the issue of collective security has been strongly felt since 9/11, the recent economic downturn, rising unemployment & living costs, and the rise of populism have been among the main political parties in Europe. It remains to be seen how much European countries will be able to bear NATO’s costs in the name of security. Regional alliances are also playing a role in NATO’s split. There are divisions among NATO members on a number of issues, including the expansion of trade relations with China, Iran, Russia and Syria.
NATO is facing problems both inside and outside the house. A kind of instability, discomfort is working inside NATO. NATO failed in Ukraine. It has also conceded a kind of defeat to the Taliban. China’s influence in the South China Sea is growing. So the question is, is NATO losing its strong position? Will the gradual departure of Europe, the rise of Russia and China turn NATO into a futile alliance? We have to look into future to get the answer.
The writer is an independent analyst on international affairs