NATO Summit: NATO in Trouble

The last great NATO summit took place in Washington in April 1999, right in the middle of the Kosovo air campaign. The next is due to be held in Prague at the end of this month. It will again be overshadowed by the prospect of another war, this time in Iraq. At the Washington summit, NATO had a direct interest in the management of the Kosovo war. Now it will be a spectator as the Iraq situation develops. Does this mean NATO has become irrelevant?

The World Today Published 1 November 2002 Updated 23 October 2020 3 minute READ

Timothy Garden

At one level, Lord Robertson, the NATO Secretary General, should be celebrating his achievements after three years as the frontman for the alliance. It has been an extraordinary period of strategic change in the world, and there are plenty of successes to toast over this volatile period. Yet the trends for NATO are not encouraging.

At the end of the Cold War, it managed to find a role as Yugoslavia disintegrated. Developing new capabilities and doctrines, the alliance, which had deterred an east-west nuclear war for half a century, transformed itself into an effective peacemaking and stabilising force. As the Balkans played out, in 1999 NATO even found itself running a shooting war for the first time in Kosovo. Yet the success of the Kosovo air campaign was a salutary reminder that the real effective military might depended almost totally on US contributions.

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