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General Counsel Announces Reform of Mission and Structure of NATO

NATO was created initially to fend off a European war between the West and the Soviet Union. However, after the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO has continuous sought to reevaluate its role and method of operation in the world. On October 8, 2010, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen laid out NATO’s new “Strategic Concept”, which puts forth revisions to NATO’s structure, purpose, and activities. Rasmussen stressed that NATO will continue to serve primarily as territorial defense mechanism but its services will expand to cyber defense and missile defense. Rasmussen stated that more than 30 countries have ballistic missile capabilities that can reach Europe. Rasmussens reforms include making NATO more cost-effective such as NATO members buying and operating equipment together that they cannot afford individually. In light of the financial crisis, members have cut financial contributions. The new Strategic Concept will include reforms to funding NATO. Before presenting the newer elements shaping the document, Rasmussen outlined those that wouldn’t change because they remain vital to the security of Allied countries. The most fundamental element, collective defense, would remain a binding commitment.

The latest push to reform NATO illustrates NATO’s continuing effort to find its place in the world. NATO has been trying to rationalize its existence in a world that has changed considerably after the fall of the Soviet Union. With the unraveling of the Warsaw Pact, NATO needs to find a new political rationale for the existence of its colossal war machine. The first new Strategic Concept was presented in 1991 after the Soviet Union began its splinter and Soviet forces left Czechoslovakia and Hungry. The reform also represents NATO’s endurance in the international scene. It continues to survive and stay active besides the dissolution of its original intended purpose. NATO will change to accommodate its members latest security concerns, primarily terrorism, cyber security, and ballistic missile attacks. The inconsistency of these regular changes is that NATO’s original zone of hostility has been shrinking geographically while its zone of activity has continued to expand. Originally, NATO’s zone of hostility was basically limited to eastern Europe and the main threat was the Soviet Union. Now the range of possible attackers is world-wide.

Besides its reforms to meet new security challenges, NATO still is an organization that panders to the interest of its members, now 28 states. While NATO does promote global security, its main function, as reiterated by the Secretary General, is to protect the security of its members. NATO operates all over the world to advance its members’ interests. As new challenges to its members’ security continues to take on global characteristics, NATO may increase its military influence globally as well to serve its constituents’ interests.

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For an opinion on NATO from a Russian prospective see here.


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