By Ihsan Bal
When the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was set up in 1949 as an expression of mutual understanding on defense between Europe and North
America in the wake of the enormous destruction of the Second World War, its aims were very different from those of today.
It faced a communist Soviet Union and later the military Warsaw Pact which the USSR had founded.
Its goals were obvious and it was clear who its enemy was.
The aftermath of the Second World War was a period in which there was a tooth and nail struggle in many areas between the Soviets and the West. The period was called the “Cold War” because the nuclear weapons which both sides possessed had created a balance of terror through which it was obvious from the outside that there would be no winning side, thus preventing a hot war.
For many years, the notion of the balance of terror was the main plank of NATO’s deterrence strategy and continued until the 1990s. But then the fall of the Soviet system, which had been in a way the reason for the creation of NATO, left the alliance without an enemy or a purpose and started fresh debates.
This new system and these debates over time changed the nature of NATO.
Quest for a New Strategy
The period of Bill Clinton’s presidency, when globalization in the world had reached its peak, comprised of the years when America, the leading spirit in NATO, had sealed its leadership of the world following NATO becoming perceived as the gendarme of American hegemony.
The military and humanitarian operations that were carried out during subsequent years in countries like Bosnia, Kosovo, and Somalia aimed at ending their internal conflicts may be interpreted as a change in this perception, with the operations being steps taken which added new purposes for NATO’s existence.
Perhaps the most important transformation in NATO’s history came with the September 11 attacks. NATO had been unable to prevent an attack on the U.S. in its own home. Thus a new strategic review placed the struggle against terrorist organizations at the top of the list.
But for this struggle to take place, it would not necessitate the massive nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that it possessed¸ but rather more intelligence-sharing and new practices which would neutralize small targets.
Although the threat from terrorism was not wholly eliminated, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, whose name had come to symbolize terrorism, and the neutralizing of many targets during this period, were both followed by the alarm level for terrorism being brought down.
Since the Lisbon Summit, NATO seems to have abandoned deterrence and focused instead on how to introduce a preventative security doctrine with an early warning system.
The concept on which this new approach is based depends on neutralizing threats to countries within the alliance by destroying missiles in the air after they have been fired in a possible attack, relying on an early warning system from observation points like Kürecik in Malatya.
This new approach envisages implementing measures to prevent rockets with nuclear war heads striking the countries of the alliance, without having to specifically identify another country as the enemy. Thus a security umbrella would be created.
The Chicago Summit will see details being provided to ease the burden which will be shared between the countries of the alliance when they move from balancing terror to the intelligent defense doctrine, strategy, technological suitability and practicability of this system.
In its form, the Chicago Summit brought together not just the 28 present members of NATO but a total of sixty countries. This aspect demonstrated the flexibility of the alliance in its readiness to form partnerships and cooperation with large numbers of countries.
But there is also another important topic. In order to remove any anxieties in countries like Russia, some of the resolutions were open to debate.
It remains to be seen whether the members of the alliance can devise solutions relating to this new defense system which will end the fears of the Russians.
Head of USAK Science Committee