How NATO was revitalized by the Ukraine crisis

How NATO was revitalized by the Ukraine crisis

French President Emmanuel Macron declared not so long ago that NATO was “brain dead”. He made the comment in an October 2019 interview with British weekly The Economist. His assessment was partly based on then-US President Donald Trump’s moody way of conducting his foreign policy and how he trivialized European NATO countries. On the crucial question of the famous Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which constitutes the heart of NATO’s deterrence, Macron wonders: “What will Article 5 mean tomorrow?

However, a lot has changed since the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis and NATO no longer seems brain dead. This is probably because many European countries feel the threat is on their doorstep.

In order to better understand what NATO could do in the event of a military confrontation, let’s take a closer look at the text of Article 5. It states: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America will be considered an attack on all of them and therefore they agree that, if such armed attack occurs, each of them…. assist the Party or Parties thus attacked by taking immediately, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such measures as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain security in the region of North Atlantic.

The article clearly states that each member country will take “the measures it deems necessary”. This action may be a declaration of war against an attacking country. Or it may limit itself to issuing a strong statement blaming the attacking country.

Thanks to the American security umbrella, the European continent experienced a long period of stability after the Second World War. Germany benefited the most from this umbrella because it was able to devote its resources to economic development. Apart from the Soviet interventions in Hungary in 1956 and the Prague Spring in the Czech Republic in 1968, there were no major clashes in Europe.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has definitely revitalized NATO. It may continue to strengthen the alliance, but it may not regain the vitality of its early decades, as international organizations also age over the years.

The attitude of European members of NATO varies according to their perception of the threat posed by Russia

Yasar Yakis

The attitude of the European members of NATO varies according to their perception of the Russian threat. The Baltic countries must feel more threatened as they restrict Russia’s access to the open seas. Countries like Spain and Portugal, meanwhile, must see Russia as part of the global balance of power. Romania and Bulgaria believe that the threat may be knocking at their door.

Turkey has always been a special case within NATO because, until the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, it was the only country that had a common border with it. As a result, he enjoyed the favor and support of NATO.

However, the United States has always treated Turkey as an outsider on which it could impose any foreign policy measure. There was a famous exchange of letters in 1962 between then US President Lyndon Johnson and Turkish Prime Minister Ismet Inonu. When Turkiye was planning a military operation in Cyprus, Johnson sent a letter saying that if the operation continued, Article 5 of the NATO Charter might not be used if Moscow attacked Turkiye. Thus, Macron’s apprehensions about the value of Article 5 had been put to the test as early as 1962.

The United States has imposed an arms embargo on its NATO ally due to Turkey’s military intervention in Cyprus. An embargo on its own ally was nothing but a measure that weakened the alliance, but the United States did it anyway. The 2019 expulsion of Turkiye from the consortium developing the sophisticated F-35 fighter jet was the most recent move by the United States against its NATO ally.

Regardless of its rocky relationship with Ankara, NATO will certainly emerge from the Ukraine crisis as a stronger alliance. A new defense architecture is expected once the dust settles in Europe. Germany could become a stronger player. It was said in the early 1950s that NATO was created to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down”. The same Germany can now become the backbone of the defense of Europe.

Japanese-American political scientist Francis Fukuyama published a book in 1992 called “The End of History and the Last Man”. He believed that liberal democracies and free market capitalism would become the final form of human government.

Despite Fukuyama, however, we are not close to the end of the story.

Yasar Yakis is a former Foreign Minister of Turkey and a founding member of the ruling AK Party. Twitter: @yakis_yasar

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News

Christi C. Elwood