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NATO: Past, Present, Future

The NATO has been here for over 50 years. NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It’s history starts short after the second world war. This war has left the European continent a wasteland. Over 50 million displaced people, and waste material damage. The mood was one of despair and demoralization rather than the rebirth of spirit that the end of war might have been expected to produce. Communist parties in western Europe hoped use this desperation to try to take power. This threatened to extend westward the “iron curtain” the communists were bringing down over eastern and central Europe. To counter this expansion, the western European states had turned to the United States. Only America, they felt could provide the means to contain the Communism and assure the peaceful development of a unified Europe. In March 1948, France, Great Britain, Luxembourg and the Netherlands had signed the Brussels treaty, a 50 year defensive alliance. This was meant to show the US that Europe was serious about their security and able to organize itself. But the isolationist tradition of the US seemed too strong to break. Then, in June 1984, the Soviet Union blocked allied access to the divided and occupied city of Berlin. This act focused American attention on a security pact that had been outlined by the British. The president of the united states at that time was Harry Truman. After tough negotiations, the Europeans were finally able to secure agreement to an alliance with the United States and Canada. This required the enlargement of the original group to include Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway and Portugal. This allowed the US to call this alliance Atlantic rather than European. The pact added Turkey and Greece to the alliance in 1952. The agreement basically stated: “Each member country would treat an attack on another member country as an attack on themselves. The NATO countries believed that the Soviet Union would not attack Western Europe if such an attack would trigger war with the United States. So in general, NATO was a protective act, sort of a counter treaty to the Eastern Warsaw pact. It’s main goal was to discourage an attack. But a Soviet-supported North Korea invasion of South Korea in June 1950 quickly dispelled any illusions and energized the alliance on every level.

Fearing that the Korean war was a prelude to a Soviet attack against West Germany, NATO leaders reshaped the alliance into a military organization with an integrates command structure and established supreme allied commands for Europe and the Atlantic
NATO has two command branches. Civilian and Military branch. The civilian branch includes the North Atlantic Council, the highest authority in NATO. The council consists of the heads of the governments of the members or their representatives. A secretary-general heads the council. This post has always been held by a European. The Military Branch includes Allied Command Europe which is traditionally functioned as the heart of NATO. It’s head has always been a US general. The military committee consists of the military chiefs of staff or their representatives of the NATO nations. US influence over the alliance reached its height in the 1950s. But in 1957, when the Russians launched Sputnik, first earth orbiting satellite, doubts rose in Europe about the US commitment to its defense, because it implied that the United States itself would be vulnerable for an intercontinental ballistic missile attack in the event of a conflict. The Soviet achievement was exacerbated by Nikita Khrushchev provocative 1958 challenge to western access to Berlin. A unified stance by the allies forced Khrushchev to back down on his occasion. But three years later, in the summer of 1961, the crisis was repeated. August 13, East German troops installed the barbed wire and roadblocks that would become The Berlin wall. Next year’s ensuing of soviet-American tank confrontation and deployment of missiles in Cuba were two events that came close to sparkling a global conflict. However, the year 1962 was the begining of a new era now called the Cold war. During the Cold war, NATO helped maintain peace in Europe through its policy of deterrence. But it also experienced disagreements among its members. The most trouble some involved nuclear weapons. United states officials generally insisted that NATO rely on nuclear weapons to deter a Soviet Attack. But some people in Nato countries opposed the use of these weapons. Also, European countries sometimes doubted that the United states would use such weapons to defend Europe, because the Soviets also had a powerful nuclear force. For this reason, Belgium and France built their own nuclear weapons. In 1966, France withdrew from the military command structure. Paris was NATO’s central office. In 1967, NATO moved its headquarters to Brussels, Belgium. In conclusion, the NATO was created to protect the member countries from the USSR attack. USA played a key role in the forming process.

The key role of the United States was to stop the countries of Warsaw pact from attacking the Western Europe. The alliance provided the member countries with protection, political and economical growth. For the United States, the membership was also profitable. Thanks to NATO, Americans were able to set military bases in Europeans countries, which later on were used to settle down military conflicts around Europe, mainly on the Balkan. But not even NATO was prepared for the events that came in the late 1980s. From the free elections in Poland, opening borders in Hungary, massive demonstrations in former Czechoslovakia to the dismantling of the Berlin wall in 1989. And with the fall of the Berlin wall, the cold war was over and the communists were no longer a threat. NATO present

I would like to date the present era of NATO from the fall of Communism. The impact of these radical political changes in the Eastern world on NATO was immense. A whole new political and strategical structure had to be formed. In July 1990, Alliance leaders called for new avenues of co operations with countries of the East, even they were forced to articulate realistic new goals for NATO and to develop new ways to manage its work. The fall of Communism allowed the allies to envisage a new European order. But it also opened the way for new regional and ethnic conflicts in former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia. It also elicited provocative questions whether NATO should even continue to exist. In 1991, in Rome, NATO adopted a new strategic concept providing for new missions for the alliance in conflict resolution and regional security. Necessary for this plan was the integration of former Warsaw pact countries into the alliance. NATO became the main stabilization force on the “old continent”. NATO’s transformation met an immediate challenge in the devastating conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since 1991, the countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia were in military tension because of cultural and religion differences. This tensions led to several armed conflicts and then to an open war. In order to maintain peace in the region and to prevent casualties among the innocents, NATO started negotiating with UN. After the negotiations, NATO created its own peace Implementation force (IFOR) in 1995 followed by a Stabilization force (SFOR) to enforce the peace and help for the civilian reconstruction activities. IFOR/SFOR mission proved the ground for cooperation with non-NATO countries such as Bulgaria, Romania and even Russia.

Although the NATO and the Russians leaders did not always see eye to eye, on the ground, their forces achieved a remarkable level of cooperation which continues to this day. The France rejoined the alliance in the year 1995 which also had a strong effect on the future of NATO.
But even a bigger mission awaited NATO in the years to come. The ethnically and ideologically diverse Balkan, was far from being in order. The next conflict took place in the Yugoslav region of Kosovo. The Serbs led by their fanatical leader Slobodan Milosevic, often compared to Saddam Hussein, started a genocide in this region in order to “clean it” from ethnic Albanians. After the conflict grew into big proportions, NATO encouraged by its success in its last Balkan mission decided to do something to stop Milosevic. US President W. Clinton showed initiative for negotiations and shortly, the US and NATO were bombing strategical and military targets around Yugoslavia. He said that “Both world wars began in Europe and both began in the same way as the conflict in Balkan so its important to stop the conflict in its roots, before it grows into a third world war”. The attacks took more time than the officials thought. The peace was finally established and Slobodan Milosevic was sent to international war crimes court in Hag. Some critics say that “NATO won an empty victory” (Bruce Clark pg. 1). He suggested that NATO should have intervened earlier, when Serbia decided for a military solution to the Kosovo conflict. But the NATO officials and the member countries were satisfied with the result of their mission. Also after the end of the Cold war, the countries of former Warsaw pact showed interest in joining the alliance. Countries such as Poland and Czech Republic were the fastest economically growing countries in the world. Some of the member countries were opposed to integration of new members into the alliance. Their arguments were that the pact would become more diverse and unstable. The discussions whether NATO should grow further took long and both sides showed strong arguments. But in the end, NATO agreed on accepting new member countries into its structures. Even Russia showed interest in joining. But the world has changed after the terrorist attack on the World Trade center in September 2001. The problem was that there was no specific country to blame. The aggressor was an independent terrorist group. The United States didn’t require all member countries to fight in Afghanistan. They only made selective use of their forces. This was another sign that the NATO is losing its need in the modern world.

The summit of 2002 in Prague deled with further progress of the alliance. The United States urged the member countries that one of NATO’s primary objectives should be prevention and fight on terrorism.
The most recent events in Iraq gave the alliance a new question. The United States declared war on Iraq. But other NATO member countries declared that “ USA is not NATO” and that they prefer a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Turkey, as a NATO member was put under US pressure to provide its ground and air space for US troops as a launching point. If this Turkey agrees, it risks an attack from the Iraqi side. NATO agreed to begin planning defense measures to aid Turkey in the US-led war on Iraq. At first, France, Belgium and Germany held objections to this resolution. Recently, when France didn’t show any signs of backing down in its opposition to US plans to force Iraq to disarm, France was shut out of talks. Germany and Belgium then dropped objections. In summary, the role of NATO in this decade was important, and the alliance was ironically more busy than ever. Several new goals for NATO were created. To preserve peace, to fight and prevent terrorism, and to enlarge its boundaries.

NATO future

NATO, as a treaty organization has now over 50 years. It was created to prevent an attack of the Soviet Union. But after the fall of the Berlin wall, there was no more use for it, some say. But there is still a risk at a lower level. There will always be instabilities of ethnic strife, ultra nationalism and fanaticism of one kind and another that lead to terrorism. So there is still a worry about the stability in Europe and other areas that may affect the stability of Europe. I would like to argue that NATO has still something to offer. It is something unique. It has multinational integrated military forces, a political-military command structure and the infrastructure bases, airfields, warehouses and long-range communication that provide a backbone of mobility and the possibility of action. It’s true that there’s no need for that kind of strength and numbers as before. I think that the US presence in Europe is seen as a stabilizing element. Also the United States feels that with commitment to Europe, it gains something that it missed in the first half of the century. The ability to have influence in shaping events rather than being drawn into them. The question is if the commitment is big or small enough. There is also a possibility that Europe will create its own defense structure.

This is not acceptable for the Americans because they would lose all their influence on events in Europe. In the Cold war times, NATO was aimed at an unified and immediate response to a short-term attack by a very powerful force. NATO of the future will not be that kind of organization. It’s going to be a mix of capabilities. Many nations capable of responses in a lot of different ways. Or NATO could send forces from a variety of member countries like it was done in the Balkan, and not to evolve the whole nation in the conflict. Every couple of years, a summit is held in one of the member countries to discuss current events, future approach and past achievements of the alliance. One of these was held last year in November in Prague, Czech republic. It was the most important summit in this decade. It was there where the future of NATO was decided. Representatives of all the member countries met to discuss this issue. This summit resolved that “NATO is not less important to our security today, NATO is more important”. As well, they agreed to add seven Eastern European states to the alliance in the future, bringing the total membership to 26. They also decided to transform the traditional defensive strategy to create a NATO response force of 21,000 troops armed with high-tech weapons and capable of quick deployment anywhere in the world as part of the war against terrorism. The leaders of the expanded alliance endorsed a plan for a new specialized division of labor in which members will commit themselves to concentrating their resources on developing capabilities in one or more areas, such as defense against weapons of mass destruction and long range transport of troops and equipment. When implemented, these commitments will go a long way toward satisfying some of the U.S. complaints about the poor military capabilities of the European allies. Another indicator that NATO is still wanted is the amount of countries that want to join. If it didn’t see need in it, why would they like to join? These are mostly eastern European countries that seek protection against not yet seen enemy. Some critics warn that dividing Europe to NATO and non-NATO would resemble the cold war. There is a big polemic about Russia. Now democratic Russia wants to join the alliance. This would be against all that NATO was created for. There is a possibility that Russia will enter the North Atlantic structure but it won’t happen anytime in the near future. All new members must meet strict criteria to enter. One of them is pure democracy.

In Russia, there is still a relatively strong influence of the Communistic party and it can happen that the communists will come back to power. How would it look like if a member country of NATO was a communist party?
NATO isn’t strictly a military organization. Or at least, its benefits aren’t strictly concerning military. It has more to offer than protection. Lots of educational and economical programs between the member countries are planned for the future. Already existing NATO Defense college produce highly trained diplomats and politicians. Now we are persuaded that NATO will go on as a treaty organization. But to preserve its existence, it’s important that deep changes in the organization are made. The alliance must see potentials in the smaller countries. They have to focus on destroying a possible conflict before it begins. They have to be protectors of peace for Europe, America and other regions that may affect them. They must push the boundaries further in Europe. If all this is done, NATO will become the most powerful treaty organization in the World.

To summarize all past, present and the possible future of the alliance. Although it was created to prevent the Soviet attack, NATO still has a role in the peacekeeping of this world. There will never be total peace in the world but NATO can help minimize it so the world feels safe. After the UN, NATO is the most successful treaty organization in the world and that means that it is still powerful and needed.

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