Critically analyse the role of NATO in post-Cold war Europe, with special emphasis of the significance of the two rounds of enlargement, including the similarities and differences between them.

Authors Avatar

Critically analyse the role of NATO in post-Cold war Europe, with special emphasis of the significance of the two rounds of enlargement, including the similarities and differences between them.

        New World Order? New NATO? It is essential that NATO adjusted itself to new IR realm, where a tiny spark can ignite a global conflict. Therefore it is a global alliance that NATO should become to prolong its existence for next 50 years. To adjust its efficiency, it must enlarge.

        Four years after accepting new members – Hungary, Czech and Poland – NATO is on a crossroads. There are voices to be heard, louder and louder, that NATO is in crisis and its future seems uncertain. Contrary to what it may seem, it is not a question of internal dispute within the Alliance. During fifty years NATO’s existence similar disputes happened quite often. But then, clear framework of Washington Treaty and a common (Soviet) threat were enough of a cure to heal most of them.

Now its is different. It is not merely an incidental problem – it has come to question its existence, question the identity and future shape. Warsaw Pact seized to exist, Soviet Union has gone with the wind, communism is no longer a threat to Western Europe, German state is united and democratised. With NATO born in different world, is it still needed? Definitely a ‘be or not to be question’… Unfortunately for political alliances, they, unlike Hamlet, can not ponder identity problems.

Konrad Adenauer said in 1965 that NATO would not live forever. The end of Cold war was said to be ‘the end of history’. Last fifteen years disproved that idea as being completely false. Though, it might have been a death sentence to the Alliance. Now, left on life support is waiting for ‘coup de grâce’. But I believe NATO still has its purpose.

Alliance has a lot to change in the way it functions to protect the idea standing behind its birth. The Cold war was won by nations from within ‘the grim block’, by means of slow decomposition of totalitarian regime, preservation of the spirit of freedom, resistance of dissidents and popular movements like the Polish Solidarność or Czech Karta. But it would not be possible without NATO direct support.

Washington Summit 1999 gave voice to NATO being most powerful alliance in history. A platform of cooperation with OSCE and Russia, instrument of peace process and stabilisation in Balkans joined America and Europe in mutual effort to uphold the world peace. Summit of ’99 gave the much-needed new definition of Strategic Concept enumerating ‘new’ threats and challenges: ”oppression, ethnic conflict, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the global spread of weapons technology and terrorism”. It secured a place for so called ‘out-of-area’ missions. Last but not least, it launched the Membership Action Plan, thus providing aspirant countries with a more systematic, focused and result-oriented process.

        If after September 11th 2001 there were any doubts concerning NATO’s future, it was not because of a wrong course taken in Washington, but rather its slow pace. Adjusting always takes time, especially to security realms where regional conflicts are bound to become global. Such a global cooperation is then much required. One, however, is not very popular within the European NATO members. Recent conflict in Iraq brought up an old European conviction of NATO being a ‘global domination tool’ for the United States. And European politicians started taking under consideration their voters dislike to see their kids being sent to fight non-European wars. Yet, the only way for NATO to survive is to become global. Advents of September 11th proved that main threats could not be labelled anymore as being purely local or regional. Since people began to realise it, politicians should follow. They should learn by heart the words of John Donne’a:

“Therefore never send to know for who the bell tolls; It tolls for thee”.

Realising that state’s decision to join the ongoing conflict lies always within the government itself, the main notion remains unchanged: it is high time to prepare for ‘new’ threats. This, however, involves thorough reform of Alliance’s inter-operability and creation of fast response forces. Therefore EU’s decision to create similar does not weaken NATO, it rather strengthens it. If Washington Summit (New Strategic Concept) created a field for discussion about reforms, Prague Summit held it, it is up to the Summit in Istanbul to make them.

Join now!

US Congress is now considering second round of enlargement, an issue addressed at the allied summit in Prague, in November 2002. During the last round of enlargement, the Senate voted in favour of admitting Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary to NATO. Other members of the alliance followed suit, and the three countries became members in March 1999. It was the fourth time that NATO had admitted new states, with membership increasing from the original 12 to 19 today.

At the previous NATO summit in April 1999, the allies underscored that they were open to further enlargement. They created ...

This is a preview of the whole essay