The effectiveness of NATO in the future largely depends on its ability to balance its focus on the pressing issues of eastern Europe, while also considering and expanding its involvement in other key regions of the world.
The role of the U.S. within NATO
Given recent events in eastern Europe, the U.S. in particular needs to evaluate its “pivot to Asia” regional strategy. Originating largely in the Obama administration and continuing through the Trump and Biden administrations, the goals of the strategy are strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening working relationships with emerging powers, expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights. With this adjustment in foreign policy the NATO member-states are faced with the daunting task of determining the role of NATO in an era of renewed power struggles.
Despite the common assessment within national security circles of China being the central threat to U.S. security interests in the next several decades, it is critical for the United States to not discount other major threats to international peace. With the United States being a central feature of the NATO alliance, a complete pivot to Asia for the U.S. would undermine common interests among NATO allies. A firm commitment from the United States to NATO allies in Europe is necessary to serve as a deterrent to unwarranted escalations.
The challenges and importance of NATO
A steadfast allegiance to NATO and like-minded states, though still present in Congress and the Defense Department, is often threatened by isolationist tendencies among the greater population. This issue is not exclusive to the U.S.
Though worrisome levels of distrust exist among the populations of some NATO member-states, this alliance and others will be a critical characteristic of maintaining democratic norms and international peace. To maintain its relevance, NATO will need to seek close cooperation with other alliances, particularly those focused in Asia. In the age of globalism, unilateral action is no longer a favorable option. Increased integration of NATO with other alliances and forums such as the Quad and AUKUS will bolster U.S. security and the security of its allies.
Aggressive action in Ukraine and the increasingly escalatory situation in the South China Sea and around Taiwan clearly indicate the importance of unity and solidarity of like-minded democratic nations. Though, historically, NATO has been a key part of European stability, the path forward for the long-standing alliance is to expand its scope to address evolving issues.
NATO, certainly, will not have to act alone. Developing alliances, particularly in Asia, will work to unify allies in the region and will include expected nations such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, but also nations that have become increasingly concerned with Chinese aggression, like India and Vietnam.
The takeaways from Russia’s action in Ukraine
While Russia’s action in Ukraine has cemented the importance of NATO in Europe for many, it also serves as a reminder that the effects of such actions are felt around the world. Whether it’s refugees fleeing a war zone or the rising costs of food and fuel half a world away, these actions highlight the interconnectedness of our world and the importance of understanding those connections. A degree in political science prepares individuals to understand geopolitical climates and participate in bringing about the meaningful change and stability needed to ensure peace and prosperity both at home and abroad.
By: Salem Thomas, EKU Graduate Assistant
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