Future of NATO: Can it stretch beyond Europe

Articlenumber 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty states that an armed attack against oneor more parties of NATO will be considered an attack against them all and inresponse it can exercise military powers to restore and maintain the securityof the North Atlantic area.


Article number 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty states that anarmed attack against one or more parties of NATO will be considered an attackagainst them all and in response it can exercise military powers to restore andmaintain the security of the North Atlantic area. This article, laid down in1949, could not foresee the threats of globalized world it is facing today.Probably no-one can argue that instability or conflict beyond NATO borders candirectly threaten alliance security, although most violent conflicts andinstabilities are today happening beyond its borders. Since most of its membershave a colonial past, trouble from far away Asia or Africa can head towards thefoothills of Alps and can surprise. 


The question of how to adapt to the demands of theglobalized world and maintain the security in the region has been a keychallenge for the organization throughout this century.

Evidently, it is for this purpose that it should re-evaluateits position and role in the world and apparently it has opted with anintention to move towards becoming a worldwide organization.

Not seeking just the territorial integrity of its(geographical) member states but endeavouring for global alliance byestablishing partnership frameworks around the world and bilateral agreementson individual basis with non-European democracies and other countries declaredto have areas of mutual interest with NATO, such as Australia, Japan, NewZealand and South Korea.

While the question of how far from “home” should NATO operateis vividly argued both inside and outside Europe, and brought arguments andcounter arguments. One can examine NATO operations outside its territory, inAsia and Africa, to understand the efficiency and effectiveness.

Its mission in Afghanistan fulfilled the objective after thedeath of the Al Qaida chief, Osama bin Laden, who was killed a decade after theoperations. Nevertheless, when one evaluates the mission’s steady goal in theregion’s stability, there can be no doubt that the mission has failed.

Similarly, its mission in Libya clearly showed theweaknesses in the military alliance and lack of coordination between Europeanmembers and United States.

The US in the midst of the conflict withdrew from thefrontline role and minimized its contribution. On the other hand, the missionconsidered as a success upon its termination, has proven to be another failurein the light of current events and ongoing instability.

NATO’s ability to remain relevant to global policing rolewould depend how effectively it can act and coherently hold together as onealliance as varying interests and priorities of its 28 member states will bringstupendous challenges.

Despite sharing the same values and many of the securityconcerns, it is still an alliance with member states of different priorities,also of different military capabilities. This will pose serious challenge to astandard operational parameter and adopting same strategic perception towardsan emerging threat.

At the same time, due to its insufficient presence andengagement with other continents, NATO is lacking understanding of Asian orAfrican security challenges. That will harm its missions while operatingoutside Europe.

Even the former US commander, General Stanley McChrystal hasadmitted publicly that the US began the war with frighteningly simplistic viewof Afghanistan and that the knowledge is still not sufficient to end theconflict efficiently.

Globalized world brings global challenges, yet notnecessarily a global alliance can give the needed response, particularly whenthe integration, interests and capabilities of this alliance remain fragmented.

NATO should thus primarily maintain its purely defensivepurpose against direct threats towards its member states.

In regard to its security policy, it should intensifycooperation with the EU and particularly in conformity with the Common Securityand Defence Policy, in order to act with more integrity and in mutual support,as well as minimize duplication and maximize effectiveness.

At the same time, rather than taking up missions outside itsterritory not in response to a direct attack on its territory but in the nameof global security, it should seek to enhance cooperation with other regionalorganizations, such as African Union for example, offering them support ifneeded, yet not taking the lead in these operations.

The best way forward for NATO could be while working withemerging nations or regional groups outside Europe, it can seek to forge aglobal consensus on common security challenges such as terrorism and piracy andpush for collective security mechanisms.

However, it can share its expertise with others to bringabout continental power blocks such as Asian NATO or African NATO in line withcollective security ideas in which regional players can play active role toachieve similar objectives for which NATO may not have to spend itsresources.