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CIAO Focus, December 2014: NATO After Ukraine

Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine has truly been a “game changer” for the Atlantic Alliance. Its implications for NATO’s further evolution can hardly be over-estimated and after the likely shoot-down of a Malaysian civil aircraft over Ukrainian territory, controlled by pro-Russian rebels, the situation is even more unpredictable. Even if the catastrophe has put heavy political pressure on President Putin to reduce Russian involvement in Ukraine, Moscow is still not likely to revert the annexation of the Crimean peninsula. As a result, the crisis will dominate the international security debate for a long time to come. Thus, signs of resolve directed at Russia, measures to reassure the NATO members in Eastern Europe and indications of further cooperation with Ukraine will rank very high on the agenda of the NATO summit in Wales in September 2014. With the draw-down of the operation in Afghanistan, some Allies tend to see NATO’s future role as primarily to preserve the territorial integrity of its member states. Hence, they argue in favour of a “back to basics” approach with an Alliance concentrated on its defence mission, according to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.

However, Putin’s intention to extend Moscow’s sphere of influence and to position Russia as an anti-Western power are not the only reasons for a profound reassessment of NATO’s future tasks and missions. There have been other developments which require a reappraisal of the Alliance’s role in the post-Afghanistan world. The rising relevance of the Asia-Pacific region and the growing role of China, the worrisome developments in the Middle East and North Africa, the limited success of NATO’s operations in Afghanistan and Libya, or the partial re-positioning of US attention towards domestic problems, are other factors that need to be included in the equation which will determine NATO’s future.

With the bigger picture in mind, NATO faces the challenge of coping with the legitimate security concerns of its Eastern members, but at the same time not falling into the trap of creating a one-dimensional “Eastern-Alliance”. Instead, NATO as a global actor has to preserve its 3600 perspective in order to be prepared for the complexities of the 21st century security environment. The three core missions NATO defined in its 2010 Strategic Concept – deterrence and defence, crisis management, and cooperative security through partnerships – will remain relevant. However, a new Alliance consensus needs to be forged on the individual relevance of each of the three pillars and their relationship to each other. All this will have to be achieved against a backdrop of tight budgets and dissent on how much should be spent on security and defence.

--Karl-Heinz Kamp, NATO Defense College, July 2014


From the CIAO Database:

Atlantic Council Survey: The Future of NATO

NATO's Cyber Capabilities: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

The "Home Game" Counting Violent Extremism within NATO

Five Long-Term Challenges for NATO beyond the Ukraine Crisis

Security in the South Caucasus: the EU, NATO and Russia


Outside Sources: *

North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Putin Has Done NATO a Big Favor (The New Yorker)

The history of NATO - video timeline

Russia Baltic military actions 'unprecedented' – Poland

NATO (The Guardian)

* Outside links are not maintained. For broken outside links, CIAO recommends the Way Back Machine.