NATO: A Cold War Relic?
Monday, March 12, 2007
European and U.S. officials are asking, has the necessity for the trans-Atlantic alliance passed?
The European Union and the United States are locked in bitter competition over nato’s role in the defense of Europe. Some people dismiss the rivalry, saying the EU will never be independently strong enough to take nato’s place. However, as Europe continues to advance toward creating its own independent military, nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) may become a Cold War relic.
In addition to the unmistakable strengthening of Europe’s military power and its growing confidence in handling military missions on its own, faultlines in the Atlantic alliance are showing, with the U.S. and Europe both showing themselves increasingly willing to sidestep the nato bureaucracy in order to pursue their own goals.
The beginning of the end for nato may trace back to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991—the very event that, ironically, demonstrated nato’s effectiveness. The alliance, after all, had been established in 1949 to protect Western Europe from Soviet invasion.
When that threat disappeared in the early 1990s, nato’s existence continued because European allies needed nato to stabilize post-Soviet Central and Eastern Europe; at the same time, the United States, nato’s most powerful member, wasn’t about to lose the primary means by which it could influence Europe.
However, the end of the Soviet threat produced another major consequence that today threatens nato’s existence. It gave nato’s European members, most of which were also members of the EU, the freedom to accelerate the creation of a European superstate.
As part of this process, the EU began creating a security and defense policy of its own. Europe’s desire for an independent military became obvious after nato’s bombing campaign in 1999. The Yugoslavian wars made two facts painfully clear to the EU: that Europe had unacceptably weak military capabilities, and that the United States was the only member of the nato alliance capable of conducting high-intensity military campaigns. Europe’s success in breaking up Yugoslavia was purely the result of U.S. military power. More