Old NATO dying, new NATO evolving

BRUSSELS – NATO’s absence from the early military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the USA’s practice of creating ad hoc alliances, and the dispute between member states over sending Patriot missiles to Turkey during the latest war have let many people believe that the «North Atlantic dinosaur,» created for a planetary conflict between two worlds, is dying a gradual death. Strange as it may seem, although this is what is actually happening, the opposite is also true: NATO as we have known it for the past 50 years is indeed breathing its last. In its place, however, a completely new NATO is being born. We may not have realized it, but we are now living at a time when the new architecture of future security is being designed. Although many political and military aspects of the new NATO are still on the drawing board, according to senior allied and US sources in Brussels, it is to be a very effective, flexible and dynamic tool, with an extremely active role to play and an expanded presence on the international stage. There is an almost unprecedented flurry of diplomatic activity within the alliance at the moment, with everyone working feverishly to complete by next year the radical transformation decided on in Prague. This is of more interest to Greece than the question of whether or not we are to get one of the new headquarters of the new military administrative structure – which will, if it happens, be Greece’s «reward» for its position on the Iraq war. Many important decisions on the new NATO are expected to be taken by the defense ministers of member states at an important summit scheduled for mid-June in Brussels. There are certain factors that will determine the structure of the new alliance among those decided upon in Prague and which have now progressed to a far more significant stage of implementation. The foundations of NATO in the 21st century will be focused on a number of issues: the effort to achieve a new type of flexibility in both reaching and implementing decisions without changing the institutional framework; the possibility for those who disagree either to remain silent or even to leave without raising any obstacles; the organization of new military capabilities; the new administrative structure; enlargement; the international range of action; the opening up of the agenda to issues other than the purely military, such as terrorism and organized crime of all kinds; transferring the center of gravity to three new geographical directions, that is, toward Eastern Europe, the USA itself and to other countries in the Persian Gulf among the USA’s traditional allies; the close relationship with Russia and Ukraine; systematic action in specific areas, such as the Balkans and the Mediterranean, in close cooperation with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the creation of a relationship with emerging European defense groupings.

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