NATO returns to the front line of global security with Ukraine





With the deployment of Russian troops to the border with Ukraine, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has returned to the frontline of global securityafter play an insignificant role in recent years.

“What has been done Putin is doing NATO a huge favor. He has resurrected it and given it a new reason”, assures the professor of Contemporary History at the National University of Distance Education (UNED), Isidro Sepúlveda, to RTVE.es.

The military alliance, which was born in 1949 with the aim of prevent an invasion of the Soviet Union and that currently has 30 membersholds a summit in Madrid at the end of June, in which it will approve a new strategic concept. That is why what happens in Ukraine will be determinant to define its new direction.

NATO, once again at the forefront of global security

In recent years, the role of NATO was not very relevant. After the withdrawal of the United States from Syria, the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, declared the “brain death” of the Atlantic Alliance at the end of 2019. Macron criticized the lack of strategic coordination between Washington and partners of NATO due to the unpredictability of the United States under the presidency of the then president, Donald Trump, who even threaten to withdraw the United States from the Alliance.

However, the deployment of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine has once again put the Western military bloc on the front line of global security. “What Putin has done is doing NATO a huge favor. He has resurrected her and given her a new reason, ”explains Sepúlveda. “Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has been quite hesitantly searching for a fundamental goal and to date I had not found it”, he asserts.

For his part, the professor of International Relations at Comillas Pontifical University, Alberto Priego, emphasizes that NATO “has never ceased to be relevant”. “He has been protecting Europe for many years (…) what happens is that now he has returned to be a bit in the media, but has always had a very active role and especially on the eastern flank”, he stresses.

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Putin claims that The West is using NATO to surround Russia and wants the Alliance to cease its military activities in Eastern Europe. In addition, Moscow wants guarantees that countries like Georgia or Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that borders Russia and the European Unionnever be part of the Alliance.

The professor of Communication and Politics at the European University, José María Peredo, assures that Russia considers that “the western values ​​alter power structures in an uncontrolled way”. “Russia identifies that the more NATO advances, the more those ideas advance around its territory,” says Peredo, who adds that Moscow has “a sense of security environment inherited from its historical past as the Soviet Union, a very extensive territory that has to be protected by a consistent Army. So, the fact that all that vast territory of Eastern Europe and even Turkey is cohesive and coordinated with a single organization produces enormous insecurity for him.”

Soviet expansionism, reason for the birth of the Alliance

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a military alliance created in 1949 by 12 countries –Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States- with the aim of counteracting the threat of Russian expansion in Europe.

The Soviet Union responded in 1955 by creating its own military alliance with Eastern European countriesthe call Warsaw pact, but after the end of the USSR in 1991, many countries of the old pact became members of NATO. Nowadays, 30 countries are part of the Alliance.

At its creation, the “fundamental objective” of the Alliance was “to stop an invasion of the Soviet Union, which had already taken over many countries in Eastern Europe”, says Priego. “It The only thing that could stop Soviet expansionism was NATO. If it had not existed, the Soviet Union would have continued to annex countries. I would not have stopped in the GDR”, he points out, referring to the German Democratic Republic.

In this sense, Peredo assures that NATO was born after the Second World War “as an organization to organize the post-world war”. “Immediately, that postwar period becomes a Cold Warin a confrontation with the Soviet bloc, and NATO goes from being an organization to consolidate the progress of democracies and the liberal system (…) to a defensive organization against the possibility of conflicts in Europe with the Soviet bloc”, he details.

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Power and influence in NATO and military spending

The Atlantic Alliance has established the commitment that the Member States dedicate to spending on defense of at least 2% of the Gross Domestic Product of each country. However, so only ten NATO countries are at that level: United States, United Kingdom, France, Greece, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Croatia and Poland.

United States is the Alliance country that invests the most in defensewith 3.5% of its GDP, an estimated expenditure of $811 billionsomething that makes you “the loudest voice in NATO”, as defined by José María Peredo. “In all cases, the one who contributes the most has the most influence, both in the UN and in NATO and in other organizations,” he emphasizes. “In addition to the economic commitment, the United States has a fundamental issue, which is the nuclear umbrella and one leadership that no country of the European Union, not even the EU as a whole, can counteract”, he asserts.

Noisy debate at NATO summit over Trump’s demand to increase military spending

Washington has been pressuring European countries and Canada for some time to increase their military spending, since they invest much less than Washington. Then President Donald Trump sent letters to several NATO countries, including Spain, to remind them of the commitment to increase military spending, and even threatened to remove the United States from the Alliance if the military spending of the rest of the member countries did not increase. Trump complained to the Secretary General of NATO about how little Spain invested in defense, which although it has been increasing its budget in that section, in 2021 it was still the second NATO ally that dedicates the least proportion of GDP to military investments, according to The alliance.

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In this sense, Isidro Sepúlveda highlights that “the European countries can only gain weight if they increase their budget in NATO, which they have refused to do for decades.” “Since they don’t want it to be something very different, it’s hard for the cards to change and, above all, that the weight of NATO changes”, he adds.

The future and possible expansion of NATO

At the end of june, Madrid will host the next NATO summitwhich aims to review the strategic concept of the Alliance and approve its lines of action in the coming years.

Regarding the possible expansion of NATO, Alberto Priego affirms that the Alliance “neither seeks to be in expansion nor can the door be closed, because what Article 10 of the Washington Treaty says is that any State that wants to request its incorporation can do so”. “There is no criterion that says: this far we are going to get. It will go as far as the outsiders want it to go and then the members are free to say whether or not they comply and if there is any reason why they think it cannot be brought in,” he stresses.

For that reason, what happens in Ukraine will be decisive. According to José María Peredo, the Ukraine crisis “is going to be a heading setting throttle” of NATO. “The first direction of all is that we are going to assume that defense and security are an essential piece for advancing progress and defending freedoms,” he says. “The second commitment is going to be to define the objectives more clearly and make NATO more operational, that is, don’t fall back into that kind of ostracism that has remained for some years”, he asserts.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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