Leading Article: Nato should be proud of its changed role

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The Independent Culture
IN THE sense that it didn't come up with a new, more forceful plan for conducting the war in Yugoslavia, Nato's 50th anniversary summit was not a success. But Nato is still feeling its way towards a new role in the post-Cold War world. Much of the strategy document agreed last night by Nato leaders seeks to make retrospective a sense of the revolution that has already occurred. The end of the need for a defensive alliance against Russia, and the accession this year of the Czech Republic and Hungary, means that Nato is quite a different animal from the one born in 1949.

The old charge that Nato is simply a front for US imperialism will not wash any more. The war for Kosovo further underlines this point, in that the US has no strategic interest in restoring the Kosovar Albanians to their homes.

The present war marks another departure for Nato in that it is not a defensive operation in the sense envisaged by its founders when they pledged to "maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack". In 1995, Nato launched air strikes against the Serb forces who were threatening the territorial integrity of Bosnia, which was already a recognised state by then.

Now its members are at war to defend the human rights of a minority group within the sovereign state of Serbia which, along with the autonomous republic of Montenegro, is all that is left of Yugoslavia. The Americans were keen yesterday to insist that the new mission statement for Nato did not contradict or go beyond the founding treaty. This kind of sensitivity about an expansion of Nato's aims is timid and counter-productive. Kosovo is a test of a new international morality. If the war works and the Kosovars return to their homes, it will be hailed as a triumph for a new style of muscular ethical foreign policy.

Nato should proclaim its new role with pride.