How Does the Future of the NATO Look Like in the New Century?

Term Paper, 2008

9 Pages, Grade: 1,0


After the end of the Soviet Communism, the NATO was described by many experts as a dying institution. Kenneth Waltz, an American political scientist judged the NATO in 1990 as a “disappearing thing” and he forecasted, that it’s only a question of time until this institution will become insignificant.[1] The big common enemy was missing and the probability of a new rising threat for western civilization was about zero. The need of article V, including its security guarantees seemed to be useless and therewith the “raison d’être” of the biggest multilateral intergovernmental security community was lost. Critics see the NATO as a relic from the Cold War and suspect the United States of America to utilize this institution in order to enlarge and intensify their worldwide sphere of influence.[2] The only fait accompli is the fact that NATO has changed. To underline this statement General Secretary Robertson was wearing a t-shirt, with the slogan “This ain’t your daddy’s NATO”, at the NATO summit 2003 in Colorado Springs.[3] The question accrues what the NATO exactly is in our days and if the changes made, since 1990 are significant enough to guarantee the survival of the biggest multilateral military alliance? The following essay analyzes what the NATO is and investigates the different future scenarios of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

As Professor Hanns W. Maull remarked in his essay “the Future of the NATO”, NATO means “different things to different people”. Therefore I will define what fundamental parts are integrated in the concept of NATO and analyze if they still exist and how they have changed. On the basis of this analyze, the essay will investigate the possible future of the Alliance. First of all, NATO is an international organization with an integrated military command structure and it is based on the maxim, that an attack against a member state is valued as an attack against the whole institution. Therefore the NATO is a security community in the sense of Karl W. Deutsch, in which there isn’t any force between member states. Another important part of the Alliance is military cooperation and intelligence sharing. And with rising importance it is also a political community focusing on security issues, supported by shared democratic values.

Even after the disappearance of a common threat, the NATO is still an international organization, even with increasing popularity. The membership enlarged and the attraction to be part of this western alliance is unbroken. This indicates that the NATO will remain an international organization and that there isn’t any threat to this characteristic. The aspect of the security community after Karl W. Deutsch is undisputable the heart of the NATO. Because of the high level of interaction and cooperation, as well as the mutual benefit of all member states the resignation of any country is improbable. Therefore, the NATO will remain a security community including military cooperation and intelligence sharing. Following the definition of what NATO is, the last aspect is the political role of the NATO. In the analyze this topic is the turning point. Neither the characteristic of an international organization nor of a security community are menaced or have a significant influence on the future of the NATO, but the role of the NATO as a political organization is fundamental to the future role of the alliance.[4] Since the Iraq crisis the unifying quality was lost. The American solo effort reduced the capability of finding compromises and the usage of the NATO as a political forum. The relevance of the institution depends on the willingness of its members to act within the political framework. Certainly the NATO will remain an international organization focusing on security issues, but the global importance will depend on the member states. The question accrues, what else affects the weight of the NATO and how powerful will and can it be in future?

First of all, it is important to know what kind of actual threats the NATO sees in our days. And how are these threats creating new functions, which will affect the future role and power of the Alliance. The legitimation of its existence was founded on the Soviet threat and the common idea to establish an organization, which will defend its members. In consequence, the Alliance had to redefine their goals and expectations in order to establish itself a new role in world affairs and give the organization a new legitimation of existence. In the year 1999 a strategic paper was published, declaring the new role of the NATO. It was the advancement of the strategic paper in 1991.[5] The threat, which had a unifying influence on the Alliance, is in our days much more diversified. The Alliance identifies organized terrorism, the proliferation of mass destruction weapons, armed hostilities about resources, possible retrogression of Russia and development crisis as well as wars and civil wars at the periphery of the Alliance as threat to the security of western civilization. The outcomes of this identification are seven main functions, which surpass the requirements during the Cold War. Firstly, article V still is important and active mechanism within the NATO. Secondly, the Alliance provides stability in euroatlantic relations and thirdly it is the most important transatlantic connector. Further the Alliance accentuates its role in the control of proliferation as well as arms control and disarmament. Fifthly, NATO is an instrument of collective security and therefore is the main provider of know-how, arms and soldiers during peace-keeping operations for the UN. In particular cases, the Alliance can even take the responsibility and act without an UN-mandate. Furthermore, the NATO focuses on the prevention of conflict and crisis management within the Alliance after article IV.

Seventhly, the last NATO function is to prevent the renationalization of security policies.[6] These future functions indicate the wide-spread range of possible areas of action.


[1] (28.05.08)

[2],0,0,NATO_Verteidigungsb%FCndnis_mit_Zukunft.html (16.05.08)

[3] (16.05.08)

[4] 003.pdf (26.05.08)

[5] (28.05.08)

[6] (28.05.08)

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How Does the Future of the NATO Look Like in the New Century?
University of Wroclaw
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Does, Future, NATO, Look, Like, Century
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Jenny Werner (Author), 2008, How Does the Future of the NATO Look Like in the New Century?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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