NATO was developed from the 1948 North Atlantic Treaty, which stipulated that member states should defend one another if they were attacked (Collins 1).
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NATO is a military cooperation of “Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States (Collins 1)”.
The vast NATO membership has grown since the formation of the organization in 1949. The latest entrants into the military union joined in 2009 (Collins 1). NATO’s headquarters is in Brussels and its roles in international politics have been prominent since its formation. Due to NATO’s dominance in international politics, this paper seeks to analyze its formation and the roles it has played in international politics.
NATO’s formation can be traced to the era of communism where Western states tried to stop possible attacks from Russia (Collins 1). Notably, the US was a pioneer in this strategy because it sought to defend itself from attacks by Russia. However, the 1948 treaty of Brussels, which saw the participation of France, United Kingdom, Belgium and Netherlands, is considered to lay the groundwork for the formation of NATO (Collins 1).
This treaty saw the formation of the Western European Defense Organization, which was designed to protect western European powers from any attacks by its aggressors. At the time, US had no role to play in the union. However, after the formation of the Western European Defense Organization, the US was invited to the union to balance Russia’s power (Collins 2). Soon after this development, NATO was birthed.
The NATO treaty outlined that any attack on any member state would amount to an attack on all member states (Collins 1). Therefore, retaliation attacks were to be undertaken by all member states. At the time of the first formation, NATO was only comprised of “United States, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Iceland” (Collins 1). The protection of member states included the use of military power.
Nonetheless, the use of military power is not always the first course of action to be pursued by member states. The resolve to use military power only surfaces if there is a need to do so. Military power therefore only stands as an option.
NATO’s mandate is only limited to states which are above the tropic of cancer. Therefore, any conflicts that occur out of this zone are avoided. Comprehensively, the formation of NATO saw the standardization of military procedures, such that, the US adopted most European military practices and European member states adopted some US military practices. So far, NATO has remained a force to reckon with in world politics.
NATO’s role in international politics has especially been brought to fore by the war on terror. For instance, the September 11 attacks marked the first time NATO invoked article five of its charter, which requires member states to protect one another if an attack occurs. This article had never been invoked before (Collins 17).
The September 11 attacks marked NATO’s involvement in Afghanistan where it intervened to root out Taliban and Al Qaeda elements. The Afghanistan intervention saw the birth of operation eagle assist, operation active endeavor and several minor military operations on the Mediterranean Sea (which were designed to prevent the movement of terrorists and their weapons) (Collins 28).
In 2003, NATO took control of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan to have more control of the country and to stop the spread of Taliban and Al Qaeda activities. Alongside these interventions, NATO was instrumental in training the Afghanistan military and police to help root out the Taliban and stop their terrorist activities.
NATO was instrumental in training Iraqi forces after Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled. The NATO Training Mission in Iraq has overseen this activity. This action was also initiated upon the request of the Iraqi interim government and it was guaranteed by the UN security resolution (1546) (Collins 56).
The mandate of NATO in Iraq (under the training mission) was to improve the structures and institutions of Iraq’s military to help them become an effective military and police force to provide stability to the Middle Eastern nation. The mandate of NATO also stretched to provide mentorship to the Iraqi forces.
NATO was excessively instrumental in the recent operations on Libya to topple Gadhafi’s regime. In fact, the Libyan mission is among the most dramatic roles that NATO has played in the Middle East. During the Arab uprising, there were extreme confrontations between protestors and the Libyan government after similar protests toppled Tunisia and Egyptian presidents.
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Due to extreme human right violations (like the killing of protestors and the use of excessive force on protestors), the UN approved the use of military force to implement a cease-fire resolution backed by the 1973 UN resolution (Belkin 17). A no-fly zone was later imposed on Libya by NATO-allied forces.
Afterwards, an arms embargo was enforced on Libya and through the naval ships that surrounded Libya’s coast; Gadhafi’s government was unable to ship weapons into Libya. The Libyan mission was also aimed at stopping the importation of mercenaries into Libya (Belkin 17). However, during this mission, NATO also received support from Qatar and the UAE.
Nonetheless, the Libyan mission witnessed the first cracks of the NATO alliance because only eight of the 28 member states took part in active military combats (Belkin 17). It was reported that some NATO states saw the Libyan mission as overstepping NATO’s mandate (Belkin 17).
There were also accusations that the Libyan mission would begin to mark the demise of NATO after some member states were discontented by the actions taken by some of its partners in the Libyan mission.
Within the NATO alliance, France and the UK were dominant players in the entire operations, but it is reported that the operation would not have been successful without the input of the US (Belkin 17). The Libyan mission saw the capture and killing of the long-term Libyan ruler, Muhammad Gadhafi.
NATO’s formation has brought together several western military alliances to create a powerful military force in the world. So far, NATO has been instrumental in major military exercises in the Middle East and its mandate has extended to training, mentorship and pursuing aggressive military attacks.
The interests of member states are firmly within the operations of NATO, and based on recent world events, the growth of the alliance is expected to influence major military decisions in the world. The Libyan, Iraqi and Afghanistan interventions are just a few examples of the influence of NATO in world politics.
Belkin, Paul. France: Factors Shaping Foreign Policy and Issues in U.S.-French Relations. London: DIANE Publishing, 2011. Print.
Collins, Brian. NATO: A Guide to the Issues. New York: ABC-CLIO, 2011. Print.