NATO REMAINS POTENT AND RELEVANT
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
01 Sep 14. As the first time that Britain has hosted a meeting of NATO member states the summit being held in Wales on Thursday and Friday of this week is probably the most important since the ‘cold-war’ theoretically ended. NATO’s role at the heart of western defence remains as relevant today as it did when the organisation was founded in 1949. Back then the security threat was very different from that which we see today but ironically fear caused by the threat remains. NATO remains as relevant for the west today as it ever was. Let me remind of what the North Atlantic Treaty that was signed in Washington D.C. on the 4th of April 1949 laid out: ‘The parties to this treaty reaffirm their faith in the purpose and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments. They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and rule of law. They seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area. They are resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security. They therefore agree to this North Atlantic Treaty’.
Let me also remind and perhaps summarize here in one paragraph the fourteen original articles signed by the twelve founding members of the alliance and that on completion of the ratification process came into force 65 years ago on 24th August 1949: The Parties undertake to settle any international dispute by peaceful means, to contribute toward further development of peaceful and friendly international relations, to use their collective capacity to resist armed attack and to provide self-help and mutual aid, to consult when territorial integrity and political independence or security of any member is threatened, that an armed attack on one member should be considered an armed attack against all members (within a defined area but on forces, vessels and aircraft no matter where they are situated) not to interfere with the rights of and work done by the United Nations and the Security Council who shall have precedence for the maintenance of international peace and security, that all member states agree not to enter into any international engagement in conflict with the treaty, the establishment of a Council on which all members will be represented, the parties may by unanimous agreement invite any other European State to join and to share in the principles of the Treaty, that the Treaty should be ratified and carried out in accordance with their respective constitutional processes, that the treaty process should be reviewed, that there should be an opt out process of membership and that the Treaty itself should be in both French and English.
As UN Charter 51 properly defines and accords, each nation state has a right to defend itself. NATO does not conflict with the UN Charter and as the organisation has evolved and expanded it has sought to work hand in hand with the work of the UN and the Security Council. Without unity the NATO alliance is impaired but in its history this has thankfully rarely been the case. That NATO has not always had the right answers or responded fast enough is unarguable but I do believe that today is not only very relevant but more than fit for purpose. That does not hide from problems the organisation has and particularly that of inequality in the levels of capability offered in support of the NATO alliance. The US, UK, France, Netherlands, Norway and Denmark along with Italy and Spain can hardly be criticized in the levels of support that they provide. Others perhaps can.
This week as NATO members meet in Wales unity of the alliance will be to the forefront as the various heads of State including President Obama and Francois Hollande and chaired by British Prim