The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO or, in French, OTAN) was formed on the 4th April 1949. It was said at the time that NATO’s purpose was to “keep the Americans in Europe, the Russians out and the Germans down.” To the extent that this is true, NATO has been very successful. The Americans still have a presence in Europe, the Russians have stayed out of NATO member countries, and the Germans work in cooperation with the other member states.
The alliance is now 65 years old. During the Cold War it had 16 member countries; now it has 28. The greater number came about as the result of the fall of communism. This, of course, is part of the problem. Russia still has not accepted the fact that many of its former constituent republics don’t want to be associated with their former bosses in Moscow. This includes Ukraine and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
On the eve of the NATO summit in Newport, Wales, President Obama stopped over in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, to reassure the Baltic countries that America will stand by them, if they are attacked by Russia. Reportedly, there has been a great fear that Vladimir Putin will do to them what he has done in Ukraine – invading them and destabilizing them, using their Russian minorities as an excuse. (Remember, Hitler did the same thing over 75 years ago, invading the Sudetenland to protect the German-speaking minority.)
Today, September 4th, NATO leaders met in Newport to discuss the two great crisis that now confront NATO – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ISIS, or ISIL, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (or the Levant, which also includes Lebanon).
NATO was established specifically to protect countries from invasion by the communist Soviet Union. Communism is now dead in Europe but Russia still poses an enormous threat, specifically to countries that were formerly ruled from Moscow. Mr. Putin once said that the greatest disaster of the twentieth century was the fall of the USSR. In his mind, countries like Ukraine and the Baltic nations belong to Russia. It’s as if Great Britain was still claiming the American colonies or India and felt free to invade them at any time! It should be noted that Russia was an expansionist country long before communism – Catherine the Great first acquired the Crimea in the eighteenth century.
Originally, NATO did not project its military power beyond Europe. However, in 2001, it first invoked Clause 5, which authorizes all member nations to come to the aid of a country that is attacked. After 9/11, European countries helped the US, patrolling the skies to protect that country from further attacks. It’s ironic that the organization that was set up to protect Europeans from Russia was instead used in protecting the US from terrorism. In the following years, NATO troops were used in Afghanistan. A coalition of some NATO members were also involved in Iraq.
NATO’s outgoing Secretary-General, the former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, today said that NATO faces three serious threats, to the east, the south-east and the south. These threats are Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, ISIL in Iraq, and Syria and Islamic extremists to the south in countries like Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Sudan and Somalia.
NATO’s solutions are: the formation of a rapid response force to deal with any Russian aggression and the bombing of ISIL insurgents in Iraq and Syria. At the time of writing, nothing specific has been decided on the problems to the south.
The rapid response force idea has been suggested before but never got off the ground. The problem is that it would be a multinational force and requires the cooperation of a number of countries. In a crisis, it’s highly unlikely that there would be such cooperation.
As it is, NATO really is a 3-tier organization. The US is the leader and has been the “indispensable nation” when it comes to action; Britain, France and Germany are the second tier, almost always ready to back the US and offer some military support; other member countries are too small to make an impact. Interestingly, when meeting with the Ukrainian leader at the summit, the leaders of the four nations mentioned sat at a round table with him, while other leaders watched from the sidelines.
A serious military threat to all member countries could change things dramatically.
Such a threat could come from Russia or from ISIL.
The Bible shows a major threat from the Middle East, the south-east the NATO Secretary-General was talking about. A leader of a powerful Mideast nation to the south of Jerusalem is going to attack a northern power – some, at least, of the NATO members. This is prophesied in Daniel 11:40-44. In verse 44, the conflict widens to include nations “from the east and the north,” which could include Russia.
A century ago, the European nations, the Russians and the Ottoman Turks were all involved in the First World War. One hundred years later, the same disputes continue but manifest themselves differently. NATO members can talk but there is no prospect of solutions in sight.