When the NATO was formed in 1949, its primary purpose was to form a front that could compete with USSR. With the end of the Cold War in 1990, NATO was not dissolved: instead, its membership has expanded, and new objectives framed (basically to promote peace). Yet NATO’s history has all along been tarnished, with talks of USA’s dominance over other nations and constant undermining of the United Nations. In fact, USA’s dominance has even made the European Union rethink its security needs, because of which the question arises about the need of NATO.
First let us take a look at what the NATO really has done for peacekeeping. In 1954, the USSR suggested that it, too, should join the NATO to preserve peace in Europe. The NATO members, fearing the Soviet Union’s aim was actually to weaken the alliance, rejected the proposal, and this led to the USSR looking to secure itself against the NATO, forming an association with Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, and East Germany in 1955 with the Warsaw Pact. Thus began the Cold War.
The 1999 Kosovo crisis in Yugoslavia is another major point of criticism for the NATO. While NATO tried to quickly enforce peace in Kosovo, the way that NATO carried out its actions wasn’t something they should be proud of. Just because the country’s regime was clearly in grotesque violation of many international laws did not automatically justify any reaction without close examination and analysis. True the regime had violated humanitarian laws, but the NATO did the same when they responded. The bombing campaign that NATO had started was under the jurisdiction of the UN by NATO’s own mandate, yet it was overlooked. NATO Commanding General Wesley Clark declared that it was “entirely predictable” that Serbian terror and violence would intensify after the NATO bombing. And yet, we did not see NATO forces really doing that much to protect fleeing refugees in Kosovo, as they were busy bombing Serbia. Illegal depleted Uranium was used, just as it was in the Gulf War in 1991. Many civilian facilities were bombed by NATO while claiming that this was acceptable because these facilities were used by the military. Bridges, schools and media stations, oil refineries and other chemical factories also were amongst the major NATO targets which not only raised environmental concerns for the region, but also violated international law. Also, several factions in Russia feel threatened since the bombing and this in no way helps the peace keeping efforts and could in fact result in another Cold War.
The United States dominance of the NATO has long been spoken of. France protested in 1958 against the “special relationship” between the USA and the United Kingdom, and slowly withdrew its troops to strengthen its own defense. There have been instances when the USA has used the NATO to get involved in military conflicts without the consent of its Congress (the Congress never approved the attack on Serbia), yet had been reluctant to use the NATO when the French were suffering from insurgency in Algeria in the late 50s.
Now let us look at the needlessness of NATO today. Currently, there are three major alliances worldwide that work on peace-keeping efforts: the United Nations, NATO, and
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Of these, NATO has the smallest number of member nations. The other two, thanks to their larger numbers, can provide wider diversity of efforts, and the NATO should therefore try to work with them. However, by undermining them it has shown itself to be possibly competing against them. To provide a greater threat to terrorist groups, it would make sense that the powerful nations contribute to the UN fully (for example, the USA owes huge amounts of money to the UN) and help it remain or improve in effectiveness.
NATO’s reputation is badly stained, and most nations look at it as nothing more than the continuation of the Western Bloc of the Cold War era. The only manner in which it can get its respect back is by aligning itself to the UN and working under it, whether by means of dissolving it and putting the troops under the UN or accepting the jurisdiction of the UN.
[Image Source: http://flickr.com/photos/tim-waters/262597627/]