NATO’s Quest for Strategic Identity on Eastern and Southern Flanks

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Series Details October 2016
Publication Date 19/10/2016
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Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, NATO looked for a new rationale inside a new strategic global framework. For the Atlantic Alliance, the end of the Cold War implied less deterrence and territorial defense and an increase in strategic volatility beyond its borders. Between 1990 and 2010, the dissolution of former Yugoslavia first, followed by the ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan, shifted Euro-Atlantic attention towards overseas territories.

The outbreak of the Ukraine crisis in 2014 turned out to be a dramatic game-changer for NATO. Since then, the Alliance had to face controversial – but familiar – diplomatic and military dynamics, which echoed those of the Cold War. Just when Allied forces were ready to begin the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Russia appeared to resume the role of the major enemy. Thus, history seemed to be back in Europe.

In the wake of the Ukraine crisis, also the United States – NATO’s majority shareholder – reconsidered the role of the Alliance in its grand strategy. During President Obama’s first term, NATO did not represent the core of the US foreign policy. On the contrary, Obama’s second term showed a different approach towards Europe, by focusing on Russia.

The debate shows that today NATO is at crossroads as the most successful alliance in history. Out-of-area missions are not out of date, at least until when turmoil and international terrorism continue to upset the Mediterranean region and the Greater Middle East.

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ISPI: Commentary: NATO’s Quest for Strategic Identity on Eastern and Southern Flanks [PDF]

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