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What the Evolution of NATO's Missions Means for the Future

January 27, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Throughout the Cold War, American and European leaders
consistently portrayed NATO as a defensive alliance. They
emphasized the peaceful nature of their cooperation in contrast to
the Kremlin’s record of belligerence and aggression.
Moscow’s brutal suppression of even modest political
deviations within its East European satellite empire helped confirm
the proclaimed difference. Soviet tanks rolled into East Germany in
1953, Hungary in 1956, and Czechoslovakia in 1968 to crush reform
movements. Western insistence that the Soviet Union was a dangerous
aggressor while NATO was a purely defensive association was quite

Unfortunately, post-Cold War NATO’s image as a collection
of democracies pursuing defensive objectives corresponds less and
less to reality. Robert W. Merry, former editor of
Congressional Quarterly, the National Interest,
and the American Conservative, aptly observes that instead of appreciating
how the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union was
a boon to the security of the West, U.S. and NATO leaders
“turned NATO into a territorial aggressor of its own.”
He concludes that NATO today is “a danger, not a guarantor of

Washington is pushing the
Alliance to adopt an increasingly offensive focus, and the allies
could be making a major, self-destructive blunder to follow its

Avoidance of offensive actions and objectives disappeared early
in the post-Cold War era. The interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo
emphatically transformed NATO from a defensive alliance designed to
deter or repel an attack on its members into an organization with
an offensive orientation. In Bosnia, the Alliance used force simply
to prevent a secessionist movement from succeeding; no aggression
against a NATO member had taken place. Four years later, NATO
attacked a sovereign state, Serbia, recognized by the international
community, to detach one of its provinces, Kosovo. Once again, the
target of NATO’s military wrath had not committed the slightest act
of aggression—or even threatened to do so—against any
Alliance member.

The rationale for NATO military action had expanded
dramatically. Citing a security justification for the interventions
in the internecine Balkan conflicts flowing from the breakup of
Yugoslavia required a major stretch of logic. Even most NATO
partisans knew better than to emphasize such a far-fetched
rationale. Instead they focused on the alleged need to prevent a humanitarian tragedy. Even that
justification failed to hold up to any serious scrutiny.

A few NATO traditionalists were decidedly unhappy about the
Alliance’s new missions or expanded geographic focus. Writing
at the time of the Kosovo war, Washington Postcolumnist
Charles Krauthammer was caustic about the increasing focus of the
“new NATO” on out-of-area missions. “What was
wrong with the old NATO?” he asked …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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