General Studies IIINSTITUTIONS AND ORGANIZATIONSInternational Organizations

NATO: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization


Discussions were held between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Russia regarding the security situation in Ukraine.

About NATO:

  • The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 27 European countries, 2 North American countries, and 1 Eurasian country.
  • The organization implements the North Atlantic Treaty that was signed on 4 April 1949.
  • NATO constitutes a system of collective security, whereby its independent member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party.
  • The NATO headquarters are located in Brussels, Belgium, while the headquarters of Allied Command Operations is near Mons, Belgium.
  • Since its founding, the admission of new member states has increased the alliance from the original 12 countries to 30.
  • India is not member of NATO.
  • The most recent member state to be added to NATO was North Macedonia on 27 March 2020.
  • NATO currently recognizes Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine as aspiring members.
  • An additional 20 countries participate in NATO’s Partnership for Peace Programme, with 15 other countries involved in institutionalized dialogue program.
  • The combined military spending of all NATO members in 2020 constituted over 57% of the global nominal total. Members agreed that their aim is to reach or maintain the target defence spending of at least 2% of their GDP by 2024.

Why was NATO formed?

The organization was formed as a means to ensure collective security in western Europe. Even though World War 2 had come to an end, the deteriorating relations between two former allies, the United States and the USSR would eventually lead to the Cold War. The USSR sought to expand its influence in Europe through the spread of communism, while the US saw the ideology of the USSR as a threat to its way of life. Hence it saw the need to form NATO.

NATO – A Brief Background

  • The Treaty of Brussels, signed on 17 March 1948 by Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, and the United Kingdom, is considered the precursor to the NATO agreement. This treaty established a military alliance, later to become the Western European Union
  • North Atlantic Treaty, which was signed in Washington, DC on 4 April 1949, was a result of the talks for the military alliance. It included the five Treaty of Brussels states, United States, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Iceland
  • Three years later, on 18 February 1952, Greece and Turkey also joined
  • The incorporation of West Germany into the organisation on 9 May 1955 was described as “a decisive turning point in the history of our continent” by Halvard Lange, Foreign Minister of Norway at the time
  • One of its immediate results was the creation of the Warsaw Pact, signed on 14 May 1955 by the Soviet Union and its satellite states as a formal response to this event, firmly establishing the two opposing sides of the Cold War

What are the issues with NATO?

Currently, NATO is grappling with major strategic challenges, both from inside and outside. Apart from threats from actors like Russia, there are also fundamental challenges emanating from within, like its role in new and emerging security domains. Some of the challenges from within include the following:

  • The weakening of democratic ideologies

  • NATO is based on democratic ideology – a contrast to the authoritarianism propagated by countries like Russia and China.
  • However, the democratic backsliding by some of its own members like Turkey and Hungary is posing a major threat to this alliance.
  • Since the failed coup attempt in July 2016, Turkish President Erdogan has cracked down on freedoms within the country, leading to a push of an authoritarian government.
  • It has also ensured close defence partnership with Russia by purchasing S-400 and launched an invasion into Kurdish-held northern Syria. Both these moves were condemned by the rest of the NATO members.
  • As for Hungary, it adopted a law that requires foreign-funded NGOs to register as foreign agents. This law is said to threaten human rights activists, limit academic freedom and strengthen political control over the judiciary.
  • Such trends from Turkey and Hungary are threatening the very foundation of the NATO grouping.
  • Unpredictability

  • The unpredictability of some of the strongest members of NATO, especially the US, is another internal threat for the alliance.
  • The US President Trump called the alliance “obsolete”, stating that the US is not benefiting from NATO.
  • Defence budget sharing

  • Every NATO ally is supposed to spend 2% of its GDP on defence.
  • Only few countries reach this target, including the US, the UK, Greece and Estonia.
  • The US contributes three-fourths of NATO’s budget.
  • Thus, Trump, since being elected, has been vociferous about this issue.

India and NATO:

  • India, as per its non-alignment strategy, still maintains a distance from the NATO alliance.
  • This stand is not in line with some steps taken by India
  • India is doing military exercises with countries like China and Pakistan.
  • India already has military engagements with many NATO members, such as the US, Britain, and France.

Arguments favoring India NATO Alliance

  • Engagement with NATO could facilitate productive developments against terrorism, changing geopolitics, the evolving nature of military conflict, the role of emerging military technologies, and new military doctrines.
  • Further, it would be easier for India to deal with the military establishments of its 30 NATO member states.
  • On a bilateral front, each of the members of NATO can support in strengthening India’s national capabilities.

Why India didn’t give much attention to Join NATO?

  • India has viewed European Powers with suspicion. This mindset is due to India’s historical struggle against European powers-The France, Portuguese, Dutch.
  • India’s reliance on Russia during the Cold War years due to the political divide between the west.
  • After the end of the Cold War, the India-Europe tie could not be strengthened due to a lack of high-level political interest. This prevented India from taking full advantage of a re-emerging Europe.

Arguments against India NATO Alliance

  1. The Idea of Non-alignment after the Cold War years has little relevance. For example, after the Cold War years, NATO built partnerships with many neutral and non-aligned states.
  2. Most of the NATO members are well-established partners of India. For example, India has military exchanges with many members of NATO — including the US, Britain, and France
  3. For the European and NATO members to play any role in the Indo-Pacific, they need partners like India, Australia, and Japan.
  4. If India wants to draw Russia into discussions on the Indo-Pacific then, engagement with NATO is significant. Because, NATO has regular consultations with both Russia and China.
  5. Russia and China have intensive bilateral engagement with EuropeIndia cannot afford to miss out.
  6. India’s worry that joining NATO will upset Russia-India relation is groundless. As engagement with Quad and a closer alliance with the US have already strained India-Russia relations. Further, deepening ties between China and Russia calls for India’s application of Strategic Autonomy.


What are the present issues in the NATO alliance?

  • It is divided on how to share the military burden and balance between NATO and the EU’s willingness for an independent military role.
  • There is no convergence in decision-making in matters related to Russia, the Middle East, and China.
  • Conflicts among NATO members have increased. For example, Greece and Turkey.
  • NATO’s recent adventures in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have not been successful.

Source: Indian Express

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