The Need for NATO

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  • by Anup Shah
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A leaked version of the Pentagon's 1994-1999 Defense Planning Guidance report advises that the United States "must seek to prevent the emergence of European-only security arrangements which would undermine NATO ... Therefore, it is of fundamental importance to preserve NATO as the primary instrument of Western defense and security, as well as the channel for U.S. influence and participation in European security affairs."

Forgotten Coverage of Rambouillet Negotiations, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

On this page:

  1. NATO: a need for it?
  2. NATO and Kosovo
  3. More Information

NATO: a need for it?

With the 50th anniversary of NATO in April 1999, the question of the future of NATO should once again come to the fore. NATO was created in the light of the Cold War and its mandate said that it will comply to the UN Charter. However, as the Cold War has ended, the role for NATO has perhaps also ended. Yet it seems like the major powers are keen on actually expanding NATO even more, which could result in more countries arming themselves with deadly weapons on the grounds of "security" This expansion would also result in US companies making more arms sales.

Gen. Eisenhower intended to keep the USA involved for national defence purposes, through NATO, in Europe for only 10 years (i.e. until 1960). This publication from the Center for Defence Information has more information about problems with current NATO expansion policies.

The expansion of NATO also could possibly serve to undermine, or guard against a possible Russian uprising, which is probably an unfounded fear and does little to help relations with Russia and China and other countries that may feel worried about a NATO expansion right on their doorstep. NATO attacks in Yugoslavia have been met with harsh criticism by Russia and there are fears at the very top that this can be seen a direct threat to Russia. As the following link suggests, there are many reasons why NATO should NOT be expanded and why the UN shouldn't be further undermined. (The previous link gives 46 very good reasons and is worth reading.)

We now also see NATO possibly acting without UN Security Council authorization and calling itself a peace-keeping force. While the UN itself is not perfect, it has more experience in peace-keeping activities but has constantly been undermined or used by the more powerful nations when it suits them. In Europe there is also the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which has 55 member states and is a more inclusive organization. These two organizations have more members than NATO and therefore can offer a wider diversity of experiences and NATO should therefore remain under their jurisdiction, rather than try and duplicate it, where it only surpasses the UN and OSCE in military capability -- which is not enough when it comes to peace-keeping roles.

This duplication suggests that NATO could be competing with the UN. That seems redundant. It would make sense that the powerful nations contribute to the UN fully (for example, the USA owes huge amounts of money to the UN) and help it remain or improve in effectiveness. However, there may be political reasons to not cooperate, such as the feeling that the concentration of unipolar power, or maintenance of world hegemony, is still required, trade avenues need to be opened at whatever cost (huge arms deals also accompany the addition of new members and the regions that NATO does expand into could open exclusive trading pacts while at the same time maintaining presence in key strategic areas), etc.

The UN is even open to the idea of regional bodies being involved in conflict resolution, but with the cooperation of the UN, not the blatant undermining, as we are seeing in Kosovo, which can also run into the danger of trying to do more than it is capable of.

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NATO and Kosovo

NATO was used to try and quickly enforce peace. However, there were a number of criticisms about NATO involvement. The US domination of NATO during the Kosovo crisis in particular, has also made the EU think again about its security situation, and possibly consider a separate rival body, as this report mentions. As the quote at the very top of this page mentions, as well as the report hints towards, the US would not be keen on such a body where their influence in the region would be reduced.

See the Kosovo Crisis page for more.

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More Information

For more information visit the following web sites:

  • This article from Foreign Policy in Focus provides many links to more sources of information for NATO-related issues, while also providing a good discussion on current problems with NATO.

  • The Conflict Campaign from Oxfam.

  • Centre for Defence Information, an independent military monitor based in Washington D.C. run by retired military generals, admirals, colonels etc who present a very open and objective critique of the military policies of USA and the world. They have a TV series called American Defence Monitor which presents information on the military's effect on the political system, the economy, the environment, and society as a whole. They also look into foreign policy, international affairs, armed intervention, and nuclear and conventional weapons.

    They have some extremely useful web material:

    • Many other transcripts on a variety of military issues is also viewable online.
    • They also maintain a weekly archive of their newsletters that are very informative.
    • Their Defence Monitors provide insight into some complex issues especially about American military policies.

  • The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research is a great site for in-depth views on many issues of today.

  • Deterring Democracy. An excellent online book by Noam Chomsky.

  • The Peace Pledge Union is a great web site with hundreds of statistics on wars and conflicts as well as covering many issues related to wars and arms trade.

  • NATO Enlargement part from this section on the Council for Livable World web site provides additional articles.

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Author and Page Information

  • by Anup Shah
  • Created:
  • Last updated:

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