NATO’s New Significant Threats

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by Claude Salhani (UPI)

In a rapidly changing world where terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons are replacing conventional enemies, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is finding that it needs to reinvent itself in order to address what it has identified as “significant threats.”

In the aftermath of the Cold War, NATO has entered a most challenging period of transformation, forced to adapt not only to the realities of a changed Europe but also those of a changed and changing world, said Richard Prosen, from the U.S. State Department’s Office of European Security and Political Affairs.

To face the challenges of the future, NATO is taking bold steps to complete its transformation from what was a “static reactive alliance focused on territorial defense” when it trained to deter the Soviet military “to an expeditionary proactive global security alliance,” said Prosen.

Indeed, in a post-Sept. 11 world, NATO found it had to reorganize itself and change its very foundation to take on rising threats facing the West. For the first time since its inception the alliance undertook a mission outside its traditional area of operations, deploying forces in Afghanistan to combat the Taliban.

This has proven to be a difficult mission, with several members of the alliance showing reluctance to commit troops in a conflict where resistance is rising and casualties are expected. Just two weeks ago, France, which is not part of the NATO military command, suffered 10 fatalities when a military patrol fell into an ambush.

At the same time as having to fight terrorism, NATO is facing a resurgence of what some analysts see as possible Russian expansionism, as was demonstrated by the manner in which Moscow handled the recent crisis in the Caucasus.

How will NATO cope with those challenges? Will the alliance remain steadfast? Will Turkey, a Muslim nation and an important NATO member given its geographic location straddling Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East, remain faithful to the organization, or will it be tempted to jump ship and side with its closer neighbor, Russia? The continuing delay imposed on Turkey in joining the European Union could play on Turkish sentiments.

So just how serious is the current threat to the Western alliance emanating both from terrorism and Russia?

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