NATO's Expansion: Ramifications for India
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Issue Courtesy: Aakrosh | Date : 16 Nov , 2011

Formed in 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) constituted a system of collective defence that continued to enlarge its membership in keeping with Cold War imperatives to contain the erstwhile Soviet Union. After the reunification of Germany and subsequent collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1990, NATO moved its borders east, towards the Russian Federation, by adding new member states.

By the turn of the century, NATO had extended up to Asia in the east and southwest and up to North Africa to its south.

The process of joining the alliance is governed by Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty and by subsequent agreements. Countries wishing to join have to meet certain requirements and complete a multistep process involving political dialogue and military integration that includes signing numerous defence pacts such as a Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for Geospatial Cooperation, Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) and Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).

In 1999, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic were added to the organisation. The incorporation of former Warsaw Pact countries has been a cause of increased tension between NATO countries and Russia. Mikhail Gorbachev reportedly agreed to allow German reunification within NATO after being promised that NATO would not expand “one inch to the east.”2 Subsequently, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania and, thereafter, Albania and Croatia joined on 1 April 2009—so much for assurances given by NATO in keeping with their perceived strategic imperatives.

“¦along with the territorial expansion inherent in the growing membership, the mandate of NATO also evolved in keeping with emerging strategic imperatives perceived by the Western alliance.

By the turn of the century, NATO had extended up to Asia in the east and southwest and up to North Africa to its south. This coincided with a fundamental change in the strategic thinking in the United States—the senior NATO member’s national security strategy, i.e., the decision to shift the centre of gravity of its security strategy from Europe to Asia.3 The thought process of NATO’s expansion was motivated by the focus of the new American security strategy objectives which had metamorphosed beyond Cold War imperatives.

Consequently, along with the territorial expansion inherent in the growing membership, the mandate of NATO also evolved in keeping with emerging strategic imperatives perceived by the Western alliance. Though not as obvious as the growing membership, this has a major bearing on its current and future conduct with a debilitating effect on global stability and poses new threats to other sovereign powers hitherto unaffected by the Cold War era NATO-Warsaw Pact rivalry.

NATO’s original mandate given at Article 5 of the treaty reads as follows:

“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 and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”4

“¦ the original role of NATOs military was limited to countering an attack on territories of its member States in Europe, Algeria and North America.

The geographic parameters for such action are limited by Article 6, which reads:

“For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:

  • on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France (2), on the territory of or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;
  • on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.”5

In essence, the original role of NATO’s military was limited to countering an attack on territories of its member States in Europe, Algeria and North America.

The Alliance’s Transformed Strategic Concept

The collapse of communism and the Warsaw Pact led many to question NATO’s continuing relevance. The alliance’s intervention in the Balkans in the 1990s showed that NATO could be used as a force for creating stability even when no member states were under direct threat.6 With its expanded membership and the extraordinary changes in the Euro-Atlantic strategic landscape, the alliance members met in Washington in April 1999 to reevaluate the prevailing strategic concept in support of their common interests. Having noted that the nature of the global strategic environment had undergone “profound political and security developments,” they went about reengineering the NATO mandate and laid down new guidelines to meet the imperatives of a much wider spectrum, i.e., “committed itself to essential new activities in the interest of a wider stability.” Of note is the recognition by the alliance that “The dangers of the Cold war have given way to more promising, but also challenging prospects, to new opportunities and risks.”7 This exercise was an effort to craft a raison d’être to retain NATO and expand its functions even after the evaporation of the threat for which it had been established. To wit “NATO is slated to become a global military force.”8 This thought was further formalised at the NATO Summit in Prague on 21 November 2002 in the declaration issued by the heads of states of the alliance members.9

“¦the objectives of NATO as a global military alliance to ensure “˜energy security of its member states.

The new issues brought under the authority of Article 5 of the treaty included the threats posed by terrorism, sabotage and organised crime, the existence of powerful nuclear forces outside the alliance, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, cyber attacks, uncontrolled immigration of large numbers of people, instability in and around the periphery of the alliance, global spread of technology that can facilitate the production of weapons and access to strategic raw materials essential for stability and security of individual or collective members of the alliance.10

Of significance are “the objectives of NATO as a global military alliance to ensure ‘energy security’ of its member states. What this signifies is the militarisation of the world’s arteries, strategic pipeline routes, maritime traffic corridors used by oil tankers, and international waters.”11

Broadly interpreted, this pattern is reminiscent of the beginning of colonialisation by the Europeans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when they projected military power to corner global resources. The only difference is that the emerging modern version is a collective rather than individual effort by any one state, “with European characters.”

The intent of NATO to expand its mandate to Asia and beyond was first aired publicly in 1996 at the annual seminar held by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), which claims to be “the worlds leading authority on political-military conflict.”

U.S. senator Richard Lugar called for NATO to come to the aid of any member of the military alliance whose energy sources may be threatened. The justification of such an intervention would be under NATO’s mutual defence clause12 Article 5 of the treaty. He is quoted as saying that “[NATO] should recognize that there is little ultimate difference between a member being forced to submit to coercion because of an energy cutoff and a member facing a military blockade or other military demonstration on its borders.”13

Article 5 is the raison d’être of NATO. It construes any attack on one member as an attack on all NATO members. This Article 5 is the basis for the formation of NATO, “mutual defence.” Any interpretation of the clause in regards to energy security would mean that any NATO member whose energy sources are cut off would be able to rely on assistance from the rest of the military alliance. Article 5 could also be interpreted to insinuate that the cutting off of energy to any NATO member would be defined as an act of aggression or an act of war.14

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Brig Vijai K Nair

Brig Vijay K Nair, specialises in international and nuclear issues.

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One thought on “NATO’s Expansion: Ramifications for India

  1. We need to be careful that we are not manipulated into more intense militarism and front building through more and more NATO.

    India will be crucial to prevent solid blocks which often lead to frivolous wars like in Afghanistan and Iraq. The so called West also likes to prevent rapprochement of India and China because the US would be less strong if China and India could unite a bit more.

    The enlargement of NATO was to keep the weapons manufacturers in business which then needs more wars to empty overflowing warehouses. It costs a lot of money and the US is never ever content with what you spend on the military. Last not least, they will demand you troops participate in new wars and offer protection of your soil for money, i.e. station US troops in your place. .

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