05.05.2020 Author: Vladimir Platov

Does NATO have a Future?


In light of recent developments worldwide, including lack of NATO involvement in efforts to protect citizens of the alliance as the Coronavirus continues its spread, a fundamental question arises of “whether NATO today enhances global security or in fact diminishes it.”

It is common knowledge that NATO was established in April 1949 in order to serve as a counterweight to the growing political and military might of the Soviet Union. From 1949 until the collapse of the USSR, “NATO’s primary purpose was to unify and strengthen the Western Allies’ military response to a possible invasion of western Europe by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies.” After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in October 1991, “the rationale behind NATO rendered the organization moot.” Seventy years on, the world has drastically changed, the USSR and the Warsaw Treaty Organization no longer exist, the Berlin Wall has fallen, but many large bureaucratic organizations, such as NATO, continue to thrive and “feed” military and political elites of the United States and Europe. Moreover, NATO has been expanding despite promises to the contrary. The West chose not to reciprocate the trust shown to it by the Soviet Union almost thirty years ago.

As reported earlier, while COVID-19 continues its rapid spread in various countries, including those that are part of NATO, more and more people throughout the world are becoming increasingly critical of the alliance’s unwillingness to truly help the citizens of its member states in their fight against the Coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the organization is following Washington’s lead by increasing military spending so that the US military industrial complex and other beneficiaries can earn more. All of this is happening to the detriment of citizens’ safety, especially because of cuts to spending on important needs of society including healthcare. Requests for help published by Spanish and Italian media outlets addressed to the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC, NATO’s principal civil emergency response mechanism in this part of the world) remained unanswered. And the Alliance was even unable to provide assistance by supplying medicine and personal protection equipment (PPE), which the EADRCC should have access to in the event of a large-scale armed conflict. Given the current state of affairs, many European media outlets have asked a reasonable question: “So what have EADRCC officials been doing aside from spreading anti-Russian propaganda and pushing its member-states to give money to it?”.

The views expressed by European news sources were confirmed in the recent speech given by Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg, who admitted that due to the Coronavirus pandemic, undoubtedly, military budgets of Alliance member states would be cut. Still, in order to stop this from happening, he again began to promote his favorite viewpoint that the threat from Russia had supposedly not diminished during the press conference at the end of the Meeting of NATO Ministers of Defense in Brussels. It thus seemed as if the Secretary General was hoping to attract additional funding for the Alliance. He also deliberately failed to mention that it was not NATO but instead its so-called rival power, Russia, which during the difficult times for many nations, including NATO member states, responded not with threats but by providing humanitarian aid to a number of European nations being ravaged by the Coronavirus pandemic in the form of military doctors and medical equipment.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO has tried to justify its existence by any possible means. The terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001, gave the organization a new lease on life. But given that the USA has come to an agreement with the Taliban, this particular reason for NATO’s existence will disappear once again. And, according to some observers, now that the United States is “becoming increasingly preoccupied with China, there is a growing feeling in the Trump administration that NATO is no longer a burden the United States should have to bear.” The alliance, which has existed since 1949, has come to the end of its road.

An article in The National Interest implies that, at present, NATO does not enhance global security but instead diminishes it. It also suggests that in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, “world leaders need to reassess expenditures of resources based on real and present threats to national security” and to reconsider their continuing commitment to NATO, “whose global ambitions are largely driven and funded by the United States.” The report in the National Interest provides 10 main reasons why “NATO is no longer needed.”

First of all, the three main reasons for creating the alliance “are no longer valid.” Instead of still focusing on an open confrontation with Russia, formerly the Soviet Union, that began in 1949, the West ought to reconsider the proposal made by Moscow (which it initially rejected out of hand) to create “a new continental security arrangement ‘from Dublin to Vladivostok’.” After all, if the concept had been accepted, Russia would have been a part of “a cooperative security architecture that would have been safer for the global community.”

As for the idea, being artificially spread by some in current political elite circles in the West, that Russia poses a threat, it is important to remember that, according to estimates by experts, the size of the Russian economy is one tenth of that of Europe. Hence, the EU can afford to defend itself against Russia, and neither the presence of US military in Europe nor the existence of NATO can be justified at present.

The alliance’s Article 5 (the “attack on one is attack on all” clause) is also not immune to criticism and cannot be used to explain why NATO continues to exist. After all, the only time this organization invoked it was in response to terrorism, i.e. the attack of September 11, 2001. And indeed Russia ended up providing “invaluable logistical intelligence and base support for the post–9/11 Afghan engagement.”

It is equally important to remember that not only does the United States “continue to spend close to 70 percent of its discretionary budget on the military,” such expenditures in other countries are also unjustifiably high. Americans as well as Europeans, therefore, “have the right to ask why such exorbitant “spending” is necessary and whom does it really benefit.” After all, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, it has become painfully clear that “the health-care systems in the West are woefully underfinanced and disorganized.” Hence, “diminishing the cost and needless expense of NATO will make room for other national priorities of greater good.”

Today, we all see just how much the world has suddenly changed in the space of just a few months. Yes, the world has really changed and so has the entire population of the Earth and not only a few nations. And hopefully, in the future, we will be able to strive towards our goals and our dreams confidently rather than gradually. In addition, the global community ought to make resolving important issues plaguing societies its priority instead of focusing on strengthening military alliances, such as NATO, which has obviously become an anachronism. It is thus reasonable to state that the NATO era has finally come to an end.

Vladimir Platov, Middle East expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.