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North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)

I. Background:

1. Establishment:
On April 4, 1949, twelve nations including the US signed the North Atlantic Treaty to form NATO in the aftermath of World War II. It was the first time that the US joined a peacetime alliance which called for it to fight in Europe.

2. Reason Behind the Formation of NATO:
NATO was formed mainly to counter the threat of the Soviet Union to peace in Europe after World War II. The Berlin blockade of 1948, the Korean War of 1950, and the Communist take-over of Eastern Europe raised fears that the Soviet Union may use force to gain control of Western Europe as well.

3. Warsaw Pact:
As a counterweight to NATO, the Soviet Union along with the East European countries formed the Warsaw Pact. In May 1955, the Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania signed the Warsaw Pact treaty.
The Warsaw Pact was dissolved in 1991, after the break-up of the Soviet Union and the demise of communist Governments in Eastern Europe. In 1990, NATO and the Warsaw Pact members signed a non-aggression treaty.

4. Members of NATO:
Currently 26, US, UK, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Turkey, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Belgium, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark, Netherlands, Iceland, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

5. Secretary General:
Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (Foreign Minister of Holland)

6. Headquarters:
Mons, Belgium.

7. NATO’s Armed Forces:
The armed forces of NATO are stationed in all the member countries, under the command of the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (SACEUR). The SACEUR is always an US General. The US also provides most of the nuclear weapons.

8. NATO’s Strategic Concept:
Flexible response, a policy of nuclear deterrent with threat of first nuclear strike in case of attack on any member.

II. NATO Summit (Bucharest, Romania, April 2-3, 2008):

1. NATO's Expansion Plans:

Georgia and Ukraine Want to Join NATO:

The former Soviet Republics, Georgia and Ukraine, want to joint NATO’s Membership Action Plan (MAP), which grooms erstwhile communist States in Eastern Europe for NATO accession, as counterfoil to Russia.

Georgia and Ukraine Denied Pre-Membership Status:
During the NATO Summit in Bucharest on April 3, 2008, European leaders denied the pre-membership status to Georgia and Ukraine for the present. NATO pledged to grant membership to Georgia and Ukraine some day. The US, Canada and Central and Eastern European countries backed the membership bids by Georgia and Ukraine. However, France, Germany and others resisted it, fearing that the move would damage relations with Russia, a key energy supplier to Europe.

Formal Membership Invitations Extended to Albania and Croatia:
NATO extended formal membership invitations to Albania and Croatia to start negotiations to become the 27th and 28th members of NATO.

Russia Scores a Diplomatic Victory:
Analysts point out that the denial of NATO membership for the present to both Georgia and Ukraine was a diplomatic victory for the then Russian President Vladimir Putin. The then Russian President had warned NATO against moving to bring Georgia and Ukraine aboard. He also threatened that Russia could point its nuclear missiles towards Ukraine if it jointed NATO and hosted part of the US missile defence system.

2. NATO Endorsed US Plan to Build Missile Defence System in Europe:
NATO leaders adopted a communiqué stating that ballistic missile proliferation posed an increasing threat to allied forces, territory and populations. The Statement also recognised the substantial contribution to the protection of allies to be provided by the US-led missile defence system. It called upon all NATO members to explore ways in which the planned US missile defence system, to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic, can be linked with future missile shields elsewhere. The communiqué called on Russia to drop its objections to the missile system and to accept US and NATO offers to cooperate on building it. The plan for the missile defence system calls for 10 interceptor missiles based in Poland and a tracking radar site in Czech Republic

3. Russia's Stand:

Induction of Georgia and Ukraine an Immediate Threat to Russia's Security:
The then Russian President Vladimir Putin warned against NATO's plans to continue its eastward expansion, by stressing that the induction of Georgia and Ukraine was an immediate threat to its security. It was pointed out that the presence of a powerful military bloc on Russia's borders, whose members were guided by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty would be seen as a direct threat to Russia's national security.

Russia Ruled Out Returning to the Cold War:
Mr. Putin ruled out a return to the Cold War by pointing out that there was no longer any ideological split between East and the West, and no global players were interested in going back to the Cold War.

Russia Ready to Cooperate with NATO on Non-proliferation and Terrorism:
The then Russian President stressed on Russia's readiness to cooperate with NATO on Non-proliferation, and counter-terrorism. Russia also signed an agreement with NATO on land transit for non-military freight to Afghanistan

III. Conclusion:

1. Different Phases of NATO in the Post Cold War Era:

First Phase - Eastward Expansion:
The first phase in the post Cold War era saw the eastward expansion of NATO.

Second Phase - Out of Region Operations Under the War on Terror:
In the second phase - post 9/11, NATO's operations were stepped out of the European defence zone under the war on terror.

2.Third Phase - NATO Seeking Phenomenal Transformation:
With the revival of the US-German axis with the trans-Atlantic alliance after the take over of Ms. Angela Merkel as the Chancellor of Germany, NATO is seeking a phenomenal transformation.

3. US Visualises NATO's Expansion into Other Eurasian Areas:
Analysts point out that the US strategy visualises NATO expanding into other areas of Eurasia with the intention of promoting democracy and stability.

4. Increasing Relevance:
Currently the relevance of NATO has been increasing with the US Administration turning to NATO to expand its mandate in Afghanistan and play a substantial role in Iraq. Analysts feel that the US Administration is keen to reduce its military presence and vulnerability in Afghanistan and Iraq.

5. Factors Contributing to the Increasing Relevance of NATO:
The US Administration's realisation about the limits of unilateralism.
US visualising NATO as a key instrument in establishing global order.
Europe's desire to bridge the trans-Atlantic rift over the Iraq war.
The UN's diminishing role.
The rise of China and India.
The growing profile of Russia.
The uncertainties in the Middle East.
The global energy security.

6. NATO’s Involvement in Asia:
Analysts point out that NATO’s formal involvement in Afghanistan has set up a precedent that can have incalculable consequences in the future. This could have far-reaching effects on the regional security environment.
Analysts suggest that India should rely on quiet diplomacy and urge friendly countries in NATO to refrain from seeking a formal role for the alliance in affairs of Asia.
NATO has pledged to stay in Afghanistan for the long-haul to restore peace and stability there.


Published date : 02 Oct 2009 01:18PM

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