A new role for NATO

The collapse of the communist states in Europe threw NATO into an existential crisis. A huge political and military apparatus was all of a sudden up in the air, finding itself with no enemy or mission. However, critics who rushed to say that the alliance had been assigned to the dustbin of history underestimated the fact that apart from containing the Warsaw Pact, NATO played an additional role: It was the vehicle through which Washington could exercise its hegemony on the Continent while also putting the brakes on Europe’s political and defensive emancipation. Despite its eastward expansion, the 1990s was a most challenging period for the transatlantic alliance. During those years, NATO had often contributed to resolving crises, but 9/11 and the ensuing war on terrorism presented it with a new historical mission: the fight against global terror. The alliance is being modified to meet the demands of its new role and the coming Istanbul summit is expected to see more steps in that direction. These days, NATO knows no geographical limits. It is transforming into a policeman of the new world order but at the same time it is portrayed as a regional security system with a penchant for expansion. Apart from taking on new members, NATO has also established ties with other countries through the Partnership for Peace program. NATO officials are promoting a similar program in the Middle East, but things are more difficult there. The Islamic world is a minefield and this is unlikely to change as long as the Palestinian issue remains unresolved and Iraq under foreign occupation. In truth, the Americans are trying to turn their political and military deadlock into a NATO deadlock.