Alliances work when all those included are clear about the objective and are equally committed to its cause. For the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), this clarity has been lost in recent years to the detriment of the alliance. In the ebb of a major threat to the world, with the war on terror either being won the world over or at least subsiding to such a level that most nations feel they do not need to commit as much to the cause anymore, there is confusion as to its very purpose or at least what should be its next target.
Nato tried to keep the peace in the Bosnian and Serbian conflict and later the Kosovo crisis on the European front. But things changed after 9/11 and it was dragged head-on into Afghanistan and Iraq. It rounded up its Middle Eastern intervention with a parting role in Libya. But it could only watch on as Russia calmly plucked Crimea back from Ukraine and its own extended Middle East push. It got worse when a new regime in the White House demanded that other nations should share a greater cost of Nato’s operations, including in some theatres where it found itself at the behest of Washington. The Trump factor, it seems, has deeply fractured the alliance and now threatens to even unravel it completely.
French President Emmanuel Macron had lamented the ‘brain death’ of the alliance in the run-up to this week’s meeting, complaining about the unprecedented absence of US leadership which forms the core of the body. The selfishness of the US, its European partners believe, has left it at the brink of another crisis. After all, they only agreed to Nato to keep their borders safe. The US, it has discovered, cares little for that. One thing, though, is clear, for the European partners at least – Nato is too big to fail. Perhaps it is time they looked inward for inspiration and perhaps even new leadership.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2019.