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THE FUTURE OF NATO

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1949, to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area. Except for the United States and Canada, all NATO’s 28 members are from Europe.

Donald Trump described NATO as obsolete and if this statement which raised a concern that the United States’ commitment to NATO is not guaranteed, the repercussions could result in serious challenges to Europe’s security.  Trump has repeatedly stated his intentions to open and explore a new relationship with Russia. Whilst this could be creating a new opportunity in resolving outstanding issues with Russia, especially in Ukraine and Syria, the flip side being that if this rapprochement is combined with disengagement from NATO, it could have serious consequences of the perceived security of Europe especially that of the Baltic states. 

However, Trump’s observation that European Governments often free-ride on American military is a view shared by many in Washington. Even President Barack Obama has criticized European over-reliance on U.S. military spending. The Trump’s election has created panic in Europe and the EU members are pushing for advancing the EU common Defence and Security Policy. Calls for further cooperation, or otherwise Europe will remain weak and inefficient.

It has been stressed by EU officials that these efforts are not intended to duplicate or compete with NATO. However, even though all these efforts are coordinated with NATO officials, the main drivers behind them is the vulnerabilities in the European Security. EU members feel vulnerable to their over reliance on US in NATO and if the US does act as what happened in Ukraine can possibly happen to an EU state or even a NATO state. Brexit and Turkey’s struggle with EU membership negotiations make the UK and Turkey as potentially slightly withdrawing from the Europe’s security architecture. However, lack of political will and mutual trust among EU member states has long been an obstacle to framing of a policy that could lead to a common defence. This will mainly become another obstacle of the development in parallel of both of a European Defence mechanism and NATO. The problem of focus, responsibilities and priority can damage both alliances and drive them into irrelevance.

Article V of NATO states, "The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”.

The doubts regarding the future of NATO are related to the commitment of members to act collectively in case of crisis. Can members carry on commitment to defence budgetary to keep deterrence on the desired level. Will any further enlargement of members complicate NATO intervention and even impacts members’ commitment to article V. The Turkey NATO relation given rapprochement with Russia and tension with the EU if added to Trump’s potential rapprochement with Russia raises questions on how NATO will emerge from this period.

In addition, questions related to NATO’s inefficiency in dealing with non-conventional threats such as terrorism have come to the forefront. Also, how can NATO develop its cooperation mechanisms to include non-members such as Japan?