NATO as a Changing Defence and Security Institution


In recent times, NATO has made a significant impact in regional and global security efforts. Although, NATO was established to maintain security in Western Europe and North America, the organization has provided solutions in other regions (Brzezinski 2009, p. 2). NATO’s intervention in Bosnia, Kosovo and Libya proved that the organization is changing its role and strategies. This paper discusses new characteristics of NATO’s intervention strategies. The paper evaluates and compares the organization’s role and strategies during the Cold War and post-Cold War period.

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New interventions

NATO has assumed the responsibility of military operations beyond its area of jurisdiction. The organization’s involvement in Kosovo was an indication of its new global mandate (Sperling & Webber 2009, p. 497). From March – June 1999, NATO established Operation Allied Force in Kosovo. NATO’s military operations in Kosovo resulted from the reluctance of the Security Council to intervene. In addition, NATO’s actions in Kosovo involved a bombing campaign that was considered controversial. From an international law perspective, NATO was not supposed to engage the Serbian army using military action without authorization of the Security Council. NATO’s military intervention oversaw utilization of air power. Nonetheless, NATO’s military action and use of air power was legally justified by the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR1244). In this regard, this was a justification of NATO’s new responsibility of intervening in non-member states.

NATO’s political intervention is viewed as a new strategy in the recent times. Considering the organization’s intervention in Bosnia, a new political ideology is shaping NATO’s responsibilities. In fact, the intervention in Bosnia was one of the first out-of-area deployments. NATO’s responsibilities in Bosnia were to establish peace and stabilize the country’s political situation. In this regard, the organization utilized Implementation Force (IFOR) and Stabilization Force (KFOR) to monitor and enforce peace.

However, NATO’s enforcement actions were against international law and political in nature. For example, NATO’s Operation Deny Flight resulted to grounding aircrafts and inspecting cargo that came through the seas. In addition, NATO’s interest in Bosnia resulted to using of air power. Moreover, the continued support of Bosnia government in improving security structures is a political intervention (Fouskas 2003, p. 56). In recent times, NATO has trained Bosnia’s security personnel and is shaping the country’s politics by introducing democracy and institutional reforms.

The extent of humanitarian intervention by security apparatus in a foreign country was evidenced in Libya. NATO was applauded for its rapid response towards humanitarian aid during Libya’s 2011 crisis (Kuperman 2013, p. 112). NATO exhibited its international obligation to provide humanitarian aid to countries undergoing a chaotic regime change. In addition, NATO’s authority over United Nations Security Council in respect to international responsibilities was recognizable from Libya’s events. NATO’s involvement in Libya raised ethical issues in regard to external aid when governments fail to provide citizens with adequate security during a crisis. For example, concerns of whether NATO was supposed to help the government or rebels require urgent addressing.

NATO during the Cold War

NATO’s role during the Cold War was to strengthen a military capacity for security and stability reasons. In this regard, NATO reaffirmed its role as a security body through lobbying to create a stable relationship between Europe and North America. Using free trading zones and political alliances was an effective strategy to reaffirm NATO’s security responsibilities. NATO’s role in creating a balanced and stable security force to deter aggression and coercion from enemies involved dialogue and an arms control strategy. NATO’s role in advocating for a stable economic and political status in the west was harnessed through activism, human rights principles and trade unions (Cornish 2004, p. 67).

The idea was to use a democratic approach and gather enough allies to oust undemocratic regimes that used insecurity and violence as a political strategy. NATO’s role in unifying Europe and its allies included deploying nuclear weapons as a strategy. In fact, a joint control over nuclear arsenal among western European countries and the United States was viewed appropriate during the Cold War era.

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NATO during post-Cold War period

NATO’s role changed during the post-Cold War era. In fact, this was evidenced when NATO assumed dialogue and co-operation with adversaries as a security obligation (Noetzel & Schreer 2009, p. 223). NATO’s role expanded to managing conflict in European regions. In this regard, NATO formed North Atlantic Cooperation Council in 1991 to provide a platform for sharing political and security ideologies (Gheciu 2005, p. 953). In addition, NATO adopted a partnership approach towards achieving peace. Moreover, NATO prefers a Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) that allows non-NATO members to provide aid in peacekeeping missions (Davis 2010, p. 35).

NATO’s new role in international security is mainly focused in countering proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons. NATO’s role as an international security agency in relation to maintaining peace and stabling political crisis has been critical. In this regard, the organization uses military engagement strategy in regions beyond Europe. Indeed, this has been evidenced from NATO’s military commitment in the fight against terrorism, especially in Afghanistan (Berdal 2009, p. 57). NATO’s military air strikes in Libya exhibits the organization’s increased operations from an international perspective.


Berdal, M & Ucko, D 2009, ‘NATO at 60’, Survival, vol. 51. no. 2, pp. 55-76. Web.

Brzezinski Z 2009, ‘An Agenda for NATO: towards a Global Security Web’, Foreign Affairs, vol. 88. no. 5, pp. 2-20. Web.

Cornish, P. (2004) ‘NATO: The Practice and Politics of Transformation’, International Affairs, vol. 80. no.1, pp. 63-74. Web.

Davis, C R 2010, ‘NATO’s Next Strategic Concept: How the Alliance’s New Strategy will Reshape Global Security’, Strategic Studies Quarterly, vol. 4. no. 4, pp. 32-49. Web.

Fouskas, V 2003, Zones of Conflict: US Foreign Policy in the Balkans and the Greater Middle East, Pluto Press, London. Web.

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Gheciu, A 2005, ‘Security Institutions as Agents of Socialization? NATO and the “New Europe”’, International Organization, vol. 59. no. 4, pp. 973-1012. Web.

Kuperman, A J 2013, ‘A Model Humanitarian Intervention? Reassessing NATO’s Libya Campaign’ International Security, vol. 38. no. 1, pp. 105-136. Web.

Noetzel, T & Schreer, B 2009, ‘Does a Multi-Tier NATO Matter? The Atlantic Alliance and the Process of Strategic Change’, International Affairs, vol. 85. no. 2, pp. 211-226. Web.

Sperling, J & Webber, M 2009, ‘NATO: from Kosovo to Kabul’, International Affairs, vol. 85. no. 3, pp. 491-511. Web.

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