Evolution of NATO and the Future of Trans-Atlantic Bargain

Over the decades of NATO’s existent, the alliance has undergone significant reforms and adaptations to deal with the emerging, dynamic challenges facing the North Atlantic region and the world as a whole. NATO is currently involved in tackling newly arising risks requiring dynamic capabilities. In the cold war era, NATO was primarily engrossed in joint defense and deterrence of threats, focused on an evidently perceptible threat from USSR. Concurrently, the alliance was also involved in political intervention measures such as promoting democracy in its member countries and maintaining peaceful co-existent of NATO members and allies (Kaplan, 2004). The end of Cold War and the September 11 terrorist attacks against the US have created a different compilation of pressures, threats and challenges to the alliance members. Currently, NATO resources and forces are involved in diverse tasks and operations on numerous regions including preventing the proliferation and illegitimate acquisition of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and other agents of mass destruction (WMD), the propagation of ballistic missile and missile intercepting equipment, combating terrorism, boosting cyber security and fighting cybercrimes, and strengthening energy security (Kaplan, 2004). Such threats have increasingly become a reality in some of the member countries.

These new roles have challenged the lucidity of the risks fronting member states and created pressing challenges concerning the suitable method to address such challenges (Howorth & Keeler, 2004). For instance, although combating terrorism and propagation of weapons of mass destruction are quoted as the two major risks to the members of the alliance, these problems lack equal urgency and are perceived in different levels among the NATO members (Ivanov, 2011). Similarly, all members lack consensus on the fitting policy responses (Ivanov, 2011).This phenomenon has weakened unity in the organization, resulting to individual actions by various member countries, most outstandingly by United States against Iraq, and the limitations on the capability to act unilaterally.

In spite of such differences, the alliance has succeeded in undertaking noteworthy changes. Resolutions adopted during the Strategic Concept of 1999 and the NATO conferences in Prague and Riga of 2002 and 2006 respectively have helped the alliance address and overcome such disagreements (Ivanov, 2011). They include the Comprehensive Political Guidance resolution that provided the alliance with a tactical stance re-defining its dynamic mission and the approach to implement it. Although the contemporary mission stresses security, consultations among members, preemption and protection, crisis management, and collaboration with other allies and organizations, the most significant feature has turned out to be crisis management (Ivanov, 2011).

Although NATO participated in only a small number of missions in the 1990s, over the last two decades, international operations have become the most perceptible evidence of a considerable shift from NATO’s original mission. In 2007, over 50,000 NATO forces were deployed in three continents. The operations ranged from peacekeeping mission in the Balkans, combating terrorism over the Mediterranean Sea, warfare and pacification in Afghanistan, and transport logistics for the African Union forces in war ravaged Darfur region (Ivanov, 2011). Apart from military operations, NATO has also been involved in humanitarian activities. For instance, as Ivanov (2011) notes, the Alliance delivered humanitarian aid to Pakistan following the earthquake catastrophe in 2005 and to the US following Hurricane Katrina in 2006. In addition, NATO has aided defense and security reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina and has been extensively involved in rebuilding Iraqi armed forces. NATO forces just concluded successfully implementing a UN resolution against the Gaddafi regime in Libya aimed at protecting civilians against the oppression and brutal force meted by his dictatorial administration. This prominence in reacting to crises it faces is echoed in the new capacities the Alliance has established such as a newly formulated authority, the Allied Command Transformation (ACT), and a military unit, the NATO Response Force (NRF), charged with the role of ensuring a rapid capability to deploy troops universally at a short notification (Ivanov, 2011).

Apart from lobbying for the expansion of NATO’s membership and the number of countries in the Trans-Atlantic bargain, the US has been a supporter of global extension of NATO partnerships. In the early post-cold war era, the alliance focused primarily on the establishment of partnerships and collaboration with counties neighboring Europe and former rivals (Reid, 2004). Currently, these collaborations are being expanded to the Middle East, the Gulf region and Asia. The US perspective is that NATO Alliance is increasingly creating a global forum for the various democratic states to come together in collaboration to safeguard common security concerns and welfare. The NATO alliance is no longer merely the 28-member states; it is progressively assuming the helm of an international democratic security organization (Ivanov, 2011).

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