Why Nato’s adaptability is a strength and a liability in trying times

Nato’s eastward expansion has implications for regional stability. The alliance continuing to extend its reach, particularly towards Russia’s borders, has exacerbated long-standing geopolitical fissures and raises the spectre of conflict.

Moscow deems this progression a Western betrayal. The Kremlin views these manoeuvres as provocative, heightening regional tensions and challenging Russia’s perceived sphere of influence.

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Finland inducted into Nato as Russia warns of ‘countermeasures’

Finland inducted into Nato as Russia warns of ‘countermeasures’

Whether it’s Russia, China or the proliferation of advanced weapons among non-state actors, the alliance contends with a complex web of actual – and presumed – adversaries. Moreover, it faces emerging threats in unconventional domains, compounded by the intersection of conflict and climate change.

This confluence engenders a vicious cycle of resource competition, extremism and terrorism, exacerbating global instability and human suffering. As wars extend to new domains, the alliance must adapt to remain relevant. As its membership expands to 32 nations, Nato has intensified engagements with global partners, fortifying ties with key players in the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.

Notably, Nato is trying to deepen dialogue with long-standing allies such as Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand while also enhancing cooperation with the Gulf Cooperation Council and members of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.

Nato’s evolution transcends its original defence mandate. This shift extends its influence worldwide, blurring lines between military and political agendas. What began as a transatlantic alliance now risks departing from its core mission.

However, this expansion could undermine Nato’s effectiveness. Straying too far from its roots could dilute its purpose and alienate potential partners. While adaptation is essential, Nato must tread cautiously to ensure relevance and not overstep boundaries.

Nato is reportedly devising a strategy to provide substantial military aid to an embattled Ukraine. The proposed Mission for Ukraine initiative aims to secure a US$100 billion aid package over five years, marking a significant departure from previous approaches.

This plan signifies Nato’s readiness to directly supply weaponry to Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion. The urgency of this initiative is reflected by many leaders’ apprehension that the coming months will be decisive in determining Ukraine’s fate.

The need to enhance Ukraine’s defence capabilities highlights Nato’s acknowledgement of the crucial role it must fulfil in preserving regional stability. The deepening apprehension among Nato leaders over the trajectory of the Ukraine conflict signals a potential shift in Russia’s favour.

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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte shakes hands with President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 27. Rutte is expected to hold the post of Nato secretary general after he leaves Dutch politics. Photo: Reuters

Against this backdrop, Nato is preparing for the future. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is widely expected to be the next secretary general of Nato. As the alliance braces for challenges ahead, strategic foresight and cohesive leadership will be imperative in safeguarding Nato’s interests in an increasingly uncertain world.

The incoming Nato leader will inherit a transformed landscape in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. Not long ago, serious doubts shrouded Nato’s relevance, epitomised by French President Emmanuel Macron’s stark declaration of its “brain death”. Underpinning this scepticism was a shifting global order, exacerbated by wavering US commitment during the Trump administration. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine jolted Nato from its slumber, sparking a renewed sense of purpose.

As Nato grapples with its future trajectory, it faces an intricate geopolitical mosaic where strategic recalibration is imperative. Nato stands as one of history’s most formidable military coalitions, instrumental in fostering unprecedented peace across the Western world. However, the potential for internal strife looms large, particularly if Donald Trump returns to the White House.

Revelations from former administration officials indicate Trump’s inclination to withdraw the United States from Nato. His disruptive behaviour, evident in the tumultuous 2018 Nato summit, underscores the fragility of the alliance under his leadership. Trump’s potential return to power poses a serious threat to Nato’s cohesion and efficacy.

Trump adviser proposes tiered system for Nato members who don’t pay up

The US withdrawing from Nato would undoubtedly deal a severe blow to the alliance’s credibility. Trump’s expressions of admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s moves in Ukraine, which he called “genius”, raise concerns about his intention to pursue warmer ties with Moscow should he secure a second term.

There are reports that officials in Europe are quietly assessing the viability of Nato without American involvement. One scenario involves sustaining the alliance’s military capabilities for a limited period in the hope that a subsequent US administration will recommit to the alliance.

As Western leaders advocate for increased defence spending in Europe, the urgency of meeting the 2 per cent GDP target has grown. More than half of Nato members are expected to hit that mark this year. Poland stands out by allocating 4 per cent of its gross domestic product for defence – a move that signals the potential for alignment within the alliance.

This increased defence spending could become a permanent fixture amid Nato’s broader concerns about global security shifts. As Beijing strengthens its strategic partnership with Moscow, Western apprehension about China’s expanding influence will only intensify.

Dr Imran Khalid is a freelance contributor based in Karachi, Pakistan

  

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