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NATO Rejuvenated: Alliance Takes On Renewed Purpose Amid Ukraine War, Say Experts

03.04.2024 16:42

Ongoing Russia Ukraine war propels NATO into resurgence, showcasing pivotal role in credible deterrence, European security, says Panayiotis Ioakimidis, emeritus professor of international relations While alliance has 'found its new, old mission,' with more members, greater defense...

ATHENS (AA) — Once dismissed as "brain-dead" by the leader of a major ally, NATO has enjoyed a resurgence since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war, which showcased for many members how it can serve as a means for credible deterrence.

NATO marks its 75th anniversary this year as the war continues to rage in its third year, serving served as a wake-up call for many European countries that had axed their defense budgets and capabilities after the Cold War.

Before Feb. 24, 2022, when Russia launched its "special military operation" into its western neighbor, some officials of EU countries that were also NATO allies argued that the European bloc should concentrate on building a more autonomous security architecture, free from reliance on strategic goals and military capabilities of the US.

With this position having lost its appeal, prevailing debates in Europe have focused on what how to improve the capacity of the alliance to deal with current and future challenges.

Pointing to French President Emmanuel Macron's 2019 claim that "NATO is brain-dead," Panayiotis Ioakimidis, emeritus professor of international relations at the National University of Athens, said the alliance "is now resurrected thanks to the Ukraine War."

Speaking to Anadolu, he said: "In other words, the aggression of Russia and the war in Ukraine have endowed NATO with a new mission, again. Which is actually the original mission of NATO: to ensure security and stability in Europe."

"Safe to say NATO found its new, old mission," Ioakimidis maintained, pointing to the latest enlargement of the alliance that incorporated Finland and Sweden as full members, as well as the rise in 18 members states' defense budgets, reaching the target of 2% of GDP.

Future 'not so bright'

While noting that this trend could change with the re-entry of former US President Donald Trump — who has criticized NATO's European allies on several occasions — into the White House of after elections later this year, Ioakimidis said that "for the time being and in the short and medium terms, NATO is the indispensable component of the European security."

But further into the future, the EU is likely to take on a greater role, said the Greek academic, arguing that the bloc should "deepen its strategic autonomy which requires developing military capabilities and infrastructure."

According to him, this is a difficult but necessary task, as NATO could prove meaningless if Trump stays his course.

While the outcome of the war in Ukraine will be another decisive factor shaping the future of the alliance, he said that all in all, the "long-term future of NATO is not so bright.

"So, Europe needs to be positioned to address whatever challenges."

On other major challenges for Europe besides Russia, Ioakimidis counted terrorism, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, and cyber-war.

The EU should act as a peacemaker, which is among its original functions, he said.

"This involves efforts to resolve disputes and conflict in a peaceful way, through diplomacy in accordance with international law. The EU should also abandon the policy of double standards to be able to act as a credible peacemaker," Ioakimidis underlined.

'Main pillar of European security'

In reference to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and pro-Israeli remarks and policies by some EU members and officials, he asserted that credibility "is a very important asset for the EU. So, to preserve the credibility, it should follow very consistent policy, towards Ukraine, towards the Middle East and towards Gaza."

"As such, when there is a flagrant violation of international law, no matter where it is, the EU should loudly be able to say it," he added.

Credibility is what allows the EU to reach the Global South and elsewhere in the extra-Western world, he said, stressing that it should not be undermined.

As for non-EU members of NATO like Türkiye, he said that even if Europe eventually embraces a more autonomous defense architecture, the continent's security demands that it maintains a strategic relationship with that country.

"In a nutshell, the non-EU members of the alliance should maintain a close strategic, relationship, especially in the military and defense policies, with the union."

Also speaking to Anadolu, Dimitri Triantaphyllou, a professor of international politics at the Panteion University in Athens, emphasized that NATO has achieved its primary goal of ensuring stability and peace in Europe.

"NATO provided Europe, which was devastated during World War II, security in the face of the Soviet threat from 1949 to the end of the Cold War. By doing so, it also allowed to flourishing of the EU in the early period," he said.

Triantaphyllou added that the alliance also played a role in managing the tension between Greece and Türkiye, both members of the alliance since 1952.

Even France has now recognized the importance of NATO, he said, pointing out that Sweden and Finland, which have maintained neutrality for decades, decided to join the alliance after the war in Ukraine broke out, underscoring its pivotal role for Europe's security.

"NATO has been successful since its formation, owing to its ability to adapt according to the new conditions, never mind how complicated these adaptions could be," he said.

Triantaphyllou also said moods and policies in Europe have shifted to make hard power, referring to military might over other forms of influence, a greater priority.

He underlined that the Trump administration's rhetoric and the war in Ukraine has led European nations, both individually and collectively, to strengthen their military capabilities.

"That being said, NATO is and will remain a main pillar of European security," Triantaphyllou said, adding that he doubts the trans-Atlantic security architecture would not suffer in the event of a Trump election.

Regarding future challenges that NATO may need to address, he emphasized the importance of countering anti-system parties within Europe, as well as Russia's hybrid warfare tactics, including manipulation of elections in Western countries, conducting psychological operations, and securing trade and energy routes vital to Western economies. -

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