General De Gaulle once said that all alliances are like roses: they wither and decay. NATO might be a counter-example or it might not. While during the Munich Conference, the US Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, claimed "As an alliance we have never been stronger. We have never been more united. We have never been more resolved to move forward together," the general opinion was quite the opposite. On both sides of the Atlantic, no one would say that this statement strongly reflects the current reality. On the contrary, NATO is actually a huge object of controversies and is at a crossroads, trying to define its future, if any. Is NATO still relevant in a world of evolving coalitions and global economies? Is there a place for a military partnership originally formed to counter balance the Soviet Union (USSR) that no longer exists? Will the eternally-fraught transatlantic relationship be the downfall of the most powerful military alliance in the world? In order to understand this debate better, I will first present the framework of the current NATO's controversy, and then describe the NATO's advocates' point of view. I will consequently discuss the fact that, without reforming, NATO is no longer relevant in a post Cold War world.
[...] Even though Russia is not perceived as an ‘enemy' anymore, relations with it are still qualified of ‘problematic.' Consequently, in the context of tense connections, broadening NATO right into its sphere of influence might not be appreciated. More fundamentalists even declare that expanding the alliance right into Russia's backyard is simply asking for ongoing diplomatic trouble. In addition, in a more practical way, the enlargement of NATO involves difficulties in the representative and voting system. The decision process (veto, unanimous vote, etc.) of the alliance has never been fundamentally changed since its creation. [...]
[...] For the main advocates of the Alliance, it is as if ‘since NATO expands, it means that it is still relevant.' They use this reality as self- sufficient to appreciate its value. Moreover, the fact that, as early as 1991, the former communist countries turned toward the alliance, looking for the protection it insures, is proof of NATO's legitimacy according to them. Paradoxically, at the moment when interrogations concerning the usefulness of NATO started rising in the West, right after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and so the evaporation of the threat, the countries of Eastern and Central Europe began asking for their integration. [...]
[...] But the risk is that, now that its primary military mission of defense against the Soviet Union is completed, NATO completely turns into its political vocation. Indeed its defenders do not cease ‘spotlighting' the political mission of the Alliance and encouraging it to enhance this dimension. However, such a conversion would be an error to the extent that it would compete with, and overlap the task of, the United Nations. Indeed, institutions have a way of trying to perpetuate themselves by finding new reasons to exist. [...]
[...] It is a political view of NATO since this option defines the Alliance as the key institution of the international network, not only on the military field, but also in the political and diplomatic areas. To me, both of these solutions are radical. I think that the reality is somewhere between these two extremes. “NATO is transforming, NATO will be what we want it to General Jones, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR) declared. Certainly, if NATO succeeds in redefining itself in order to revive its relevance and legitimacy, General de Gaulle might be wrong and NATO will not share the same fate as roses. [...]
[...] This purpose was more relevant than ever when the Soviet Union and Communist nations of Eastern Europe formed their own military alliance to oppose NATO in 1955. This Soviet-led alliance is known as the Warsaw Pact. Yet, not only did NATO have a military dimension, but also it had a political purpose, that of upholding Western democratic values based on the rule of law and the freedom of the individuals. Under this political aspect was also the idea to keep the peace among former enemies in Western Europe, especially between Germany and France. [...]
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