We've all heard about NATO, but what actions does it take today around the world? Is it merely a Cold War instrument or has it evolved beyond that?
This week PMP brings you a very well-known name: NATO. Everybody knows it, most people understand its goals as an organisations, but are we really aware of its functions and mechanisms? Arguing, for example, that today’s NATO is a tool only serving the West at the expense of the rest of the world, clearly shows nothing more than pure ignorance. Throughout the past few decades, NATO has evolved into something more than a military force through its increased membership in mainland and Eastern Europe, furthering its geostrategic importance. It is more than just a bunch of boys with guns; it’s about politics too.
Last April, the 28 NATO member-states marked a 66-year anniversary. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was formally set up at the end of WWII in the early stages of the Cold War. Originally, it represented the interests of the West against those of the East, in an initiative led by the United States in collaboration with European states against the sphere of Soviet influence. Today, in combination with the European Union’s institutions, the Alliance guaranteed both military and political momentum. Article 5 of the Treaty’s Charter guarantees that any attack on any member-state is an attack against all, thus all member-states are forced to respond to the aggressor. This was first invoked with the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
NATO operates with a strict obligation towards the Charter. All nations send their delegations in Brussels, Belgium to attend the North Atlantic Council together with other permanent member-states. The Council is the organisation’s principal decision-making body and meets at least once a week, under the auspices of the Secretary-General of NATO. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly sets broad strategic goals and interacts with the member-states’ national governments’ legislature. Additionally, NATO has military structures chaired by the Chairman of the Military Committee.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO and Russia have attempted to collaborate through the NATO-Russian Council. In a 2003 interview with Frost, Vladimir Putin initially stated the following: “We want to be partners with the United States and with any other country. Partnership implies recognising each other’s interests but not being subservient to those interests.” However, tensions rose later on numerous occasions, one recent example being the conflict in Ukraine with regards to the Crimean region. In fact, Russia believes that NATO is still a “Cold War relic” which tries to undermine the former’s influence by disrespecting it. Putin’s recent speech underlines the way Russians feel towards the reaction of their “Western partners” in the case of Crimea: “The issue is not Crimea, the issue is that we are protecting our sovereignty and our right to exist”.
Lately, however, both the “West” and the “East” have set aside their differences and agreed to tackle extremism in all of its forms, with special reference to the self-styled caliphate of the “Islamic State” (IS). In June 2015, the Russian President called President Obama to discuss the situation in Ukraine and the “Islamic State”. With more than 1000 Russians fighting for IS and with the US evaluating the dangers the jihadists pose to the world, the two leaders have both agreed that they must tackle this issue in joint operations. NATO has recently begun using Turkey’s bases and has “vowed solidarity” with Turkey’s actions against the “caliphate”.
NATO is not necessarily a Western-employed tool anymore. Although NATO-Russian relations have not been the best during the past decade, both the West and the East have united against the threat of the self-proclaimed “Islamic State”. This proves how NATO’s involvement is crucial in dealing with the war against extremist elements. However, even though NATO itself is comprised of many member states, the Alliance would find it difficult to restrict the jihadists’ growing influence without Russia’s cooperation.