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Keeping NATO Relevant

21 pages, pdf
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Keeping NATO Relevant

Publisher: Jamie Shea

Volume: 21 pages, pdf


NATO used to be a relatively straightforward concept. For forty years, its single task was to defend a given stretch of territory against a given adversary with more or less the same strategy and set of military capabilities. The Alliance did not need to select its mission or choose from a range of contingencies to address. They were imposed on it from the outside and only became redundant when its adversaries— the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union—collapsed from within. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, NATO has faced an entirely different landscape. Defending territory has been less important than projecting stability and upholding allies’ security interests in the wider world. Today, the Alliance is potentially better known for what it does outside than inside Europe. As its post–Cold War missions in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and more recently Libya reveal, NATO has identified its own security with the well-being of distant countries, the great majority of which will never be NATO members. Rather than wait for threats to arrive at its borders, the Alliance has chosen to confront them at a strategic distance and via the stabilization of whole nations and societies. In short, NATO has evolved from a defense into a security organization. Instead of one overriding mission, it now offers its members and partners a range of security services—from immediate protection to forging long-term cooperation. The positive side of this shift is that NATO no longer exposes itself to nuclear attack or existential danger in carrying out its security mission. The more negative aspect is that delivering security is much harder than delivering territorial defense. Instead of one strategy and one set of military responses, there are a myriad of options to choose from and a multitude of capabilities— military and civilian—that must be brought to bear.