Nato - the next generation

Share
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

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

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
 

‘They’ve seen the future – and got it for a song’: the unlikely history of Canary Wharf

Jack Brown
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee