Nato - the next generation

Related Topics
Five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there are encouraging signs that Nato is developing imaginative responses to the world's new security challenges. It is not before time. Fairly or not, the impression was gaining ground in Western cou ntries that Nato was proving incapable either of tackling serious crises, such as that in the former Yugoslavia, or of reforming itself sufficiently to take account of the transformations in the international order.

A low point was reached last November, when one of the worst rows between the United States and its European allies broke out over how to react to the Serbian assault on the Bosnian enclave of Bihac. The new ideas now taking shape in the Nato countries, and explained in this paper's interview with Willy Claes, Nato's secretary general, go a long way towards defining a future role for the alliance. They shouldinject it with a fresh sense of purpose.

There are four specific proposals. The first is the creation of a permanent commission between Nato members and Russia that would discuss European security in general and specific crises such as the Balkan conflicts. The idea is to ensure that the West springs no surprises on Moscow and avoids precipitating a Russian retreat into aggrieved isolation. It is an intelligent initiative, and one that would justify the second proposal - to expand Nato by admitting the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. No one, including the Russians, benefits from a security vacuum in central Europe. However, the West should entertain no illusions about the stiff resistance that Moscow will continue to mount against Nato's enlargement. If the alliance is to expand, the proposed Nato-Russian commission must be no mere cipher.

The third idea is that Nato should arrange security links with friendly and moderate countries in northern Africa and the eastern Mediterranean. The aim is to counter extremism and instability in the region, where the Algerian civil war is only one manifestation of growing political and social strains. As the French have long argued, this region is more than a southern European concern, since developments there are intimately related to events in the Middle East and the Gulf. Nato engagement in the areacould also reduce the risks of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The final idea, and perhaps the boldest, is the reorganisation of the US-European alliance into a transatlantic community united by commercial, monetary, political and cultural ties, as well as by the existing military relationship. Admittedly, with precise details not yet worked out, it sounds somewhat vague. But at least the proposal appears to address Nato's main problem since 1989: the need to redesign the alliance without forsaking the collective security guarantee that has been one of its greateststrengths over five decades.

As an alliance of democracies and the most powerful military bloc in history, Nato has a special responsibility to find answers to the questions posed by the revolutionary changes in the world over the past five years. After an uncertain start, there aregrounds for hoping that Nato may be getting some of the answers right.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...

Day In a Page

Read Next

I might be an MP, but that doesn't stop me fighting sexism with my breasts

Björt Ólafsdóttir

Daily catch-up: opening round in the election contest of the YouTube videos

John Rentoul
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor