NATO has seen enlargement through its period of inception. Since its establishment in April 1949 with a mere half a dozen members, its current standing stands at nearly 28 members from different parts of the world engaged in defense and military alliance. However with the developments taking place and the end of the Cold War and Afghanistan invasion, the need has been felt for expanding the circle of members list of NATO. This decision would have its repercussions in multiple facets and all these must be taken into account. Each of the member state has its own views and concerns with regard to the intended expansion.
With progress and development in the global circles, the NATO entity is forced to ponder over expansion and entailment of new members that were once the enemies. This consideration brings along certain constraints with regard to the control mechanism and the working relationship establishment. The question of Russia and the other Eastern European countries is one of them.
The enlargement process must be seen in the context of the three forces. United States of America, Russia and the Western partners from NATO within. Russia being still the dominant force in the context of Ukraine and Georgia political sphere cannot be ignored and all decisions made for enlarging the entity would have an impact on the balance within (Kanet 2008).
Any expansion in the count of NATO members would bring about the consideration of relationship and ties with European Union and Russia. Countries such as Poland and other members of the Eastern Europe primarily Baltic region which has remained area of interest for Russia would have direct impact on the overall balance of power and decision making by NATO.
The induction of the members in waiting (Balkan states) may lead to establishment of monopoly and grouping with the NATO entity itself. With United States providing them support and other forms of assistances. The event of Iraq invasion saw similar account of happening when countries enjoying the de facto status of recognition in NATO provided their moral and military support to United States.
The case of Georgia and Ukraine were another bone of content between the ties of NATO members. Where United States advocated the need for expansion and the Western powers in the likes of Germany and France opposed this move and called it premature. This created a subtle rift within. The myth and the alleged aspirations of Russia aiming to rejuvenate its role as the “Greater and more influential Russia” can also be minimized by expanding the members list. At the same time as a counter strategy, bringing about Russia more closer to the NATO as a partner would enable removing any residues of mistrust and enmity that may be prevalent at present in the international political sphere.
In the wake of such developments and Russia’s re resurrection as a force under Vladimir Putin, its presence and influence cannot be ignored and it has to be provided a recognition based on equality and without disturbing the balance within the alliances system and in the geographical political landscape (BAÇ and GÜRSOY 2010).
Insecurities must be addressed. At the same time the alienation of Russia cannot be afforded. In recent times more significantly under the reign of Barrack Obama, United States of America has shown its subtle willingness to normalize the ties with Russia with regard to the Eastern European influence. The relationship saw a dip in its existence on account of Russia’s influence in Ukraine and the potential interest in the pipeline and other natural resources possessed in that region. All these factors have to be taken into account with regard to the future expansion that is intended.
The introduction of new members and expansion would result in relative twist and turn in the tilt that is presently existing. With United States of America aiming for more active role in the areas of Balkan region, and this has been evident through the military and defense support provided to the states in different phases. Any activity of similar sort in future would require assurances and measures of taking the members into confidence, for the previous similar attempts resulted in building of resentment in the European bloc of NATO members (FLOCKHART 2011).
In the global context the expansion would serve as a sign of improvement for it would melt the ice that has long persisted between United States of America and its long time for Russia. However in the internal aspect of the NATO, it may lead to imbalance in power and resentment from within, which has been seen multiple times in past. Efforts must be made in this regard to ensure that the balance is maintained and at the same time the newcomers are accepted in terms that are acceptable to all the members and without creating any major resentment within. Neutralizing the factors and concerns aforementioned would enable protecting the small sized states in a better way. It would enable preventing any mishaps and manipulation of states for being used as corridors and proxy regions for wars that have long been done so throughout the history of Post Second World War and predominantly in the Cold War scenario.
Is the notion of military alliance an anachronism in twenty first century? What are the threats that member states face? And how do they differ from the Cold War scenario?
In the post Cold Scenario, the NATO members are faced with number of challenges. One of the most severe one in this regard is the potential possession of nuclear arsenal and subsequent proliferation of the weapons and nuclear material. Recent days have shown instances of proliferation coming forth. The disintegration of U.S.S.R was one critical time where serious concerns were expressed with regard to the safety of nuclear arsenal that was one possessed and protected by the U.S.S.R administration.
In the most recent events, the proliferation claims that hit the world in form of Iran nearly declaring itself nuclear capable and North Korea going nuclear were two of the problems faced with regard to the ever expanding group of nuclear arsenal possessing states in the global community. NATO must play an effective role in this regard to ensure that number of states gaining reach of nuclear material is restrained and curtailed upon.
Other contemporary challenges faced:
Other challenges that the entity of NATO is that of the Afghanistan invasion and the subsequent outcome. The Afghanistan event would define the future outcome of NATO in coming decades with regard to its affectivity and strength to dismantle any force that hinders the global peace. NATO must be an entity that is beyond the mere support provider on ground for aggressive and defensive processes. It must make use of other pillars of dominance such as diplomacy, reach out, and other facets addressing that are beyond the mere military support and armament.
The handling of Russia in the post Cold War scenario, ensuring that it is not dragged into too much isolation and retreat and that the same time keeping a check on its military expansion, alliances and neutralizing its impact is another challenge faced that must be handled in a timely manner. Minimizing and neutralizing the role and influence of Russia in the region of Balkan is another challenge (Cascone, 2009). Making sure that Russia does not establish and strengthen its grip over the Balkans as it has throughout the history of 19th and 20th century serves as real time challenge for NATO members to counter and overcome.
The natural side of calamities and dilemma:
NATO has its role cut out not just in terms of preventing counterproductive military alliances, but to ensure that the minor scaled offenses are checked for as well. This along with the unforeseen situations of natural calamities and pirate activities in different parts of the seas and oceans across the world. Two examples and challenges faced in this regard are the handling of the earthquakes, the tsunami that struck the world and handling the turbulence on seas in Gulf of Aden. All these demand an active role and contribution from the entity of NATO.
Lack of diplomatic channels affectivity:
The NATO entity does not provide an effective diplomatic circle presence that would enable engagement of the aggressive states to be indulged into the dialogue and mediation process and retreat from the possession of the dangerous arms. This stands as a severe challenge in the present day circumstances and existence of NATO as an effective and ineffective military cum diplomatic entity (Winn 2003).
Revamping of Northern Atlantic Council:
The need is to expand its horizons and make the N.A Council more effective with regard to the rules of engagement and more active participation. This council must be made effective with regard to the pre prediction and counter measures providing. The Council must be used for purpose of bringing about the members onto one page and make sure that there is no feeling of alienation between the members associated. Protection of the Black Sea, Mediterranean and other areas of strategic importance with regard to seas exploration needs to be prioritized by NATO.
The need is to build trust between the member states. Clear lines of gulf exist between the member states with regard to fear and lack of trust within through its Council. Confidence building measures are needed to be enacted in this regard which will make for a more effective NATO entity in the contemporary world (Gheciu 2005, 228).
The question of Afghanistan, the post withdraw phase and the role of ISAF is in question and needs a lot of answering. This presents a litmus test with regard to the abilities of NATO in becoming the most effective entity in parallel with U.N, although relatively smaller in size than U.N. Collaboration with the other giant entities such as E.U, World Bank needs to be integrated into the working principles of NATO which would enable it becoming more effective in the context of its existence. Bridging the gap between the civilian entities and the military purposes and facet of NATO needs to be addressed.
At present and since its inception, NATO has been tagged as an entity of mere military alliance. It must be presented in a more comprehensive manner that fulfills the needs of the member states and the global community towards long lasting peace.
BAÇ, MELTEM MÜFTÜLER, and YAPRAK GÜRSOY. Is There a Europeanization of Turkish Foreign Policy? An Addendum to the Literature on EU Candidates. Defense, Istanbul: Department of International Relations, European Institute, 2010.
Cascone, Gabriele. NATO Enlargement and Western Balkans. Georgetown University Press, 2009.
FLOCKHART, TRINE. ‘Me Tarzan – You Jane’: The EU and NATO and the Reversal of Roles. Defense Analysis, Copenhagen: Danish Institute for International Studies, 2011.
Gheciu, Alexandra. NATO in the New Europe: The Politics of International Socialization After the Cold War. Stanford University Press, 2005.
Kanet, Roger E. The "New" Members and Future Enlargeement . Defense report, Georgetown University Press, 2008.
Winn, Neil. CFSP, ESDP, and the future European Security: Whither NATO? University of Leeds: EBSCO, 2003.