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Prologue to R2P and Diplomatic Capital: On the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Kritika Kaushik,
Research Intern,

In our previous discussion, I talked about how diplomatic capital of smaller countries can widen the scope of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). In today’s article, we will analyse the relevance of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in context of R2P.

Different Phases of NATO’s existence:

During the Cold War, the most important objective of NATO was to contain the Soviet expansion in Europe.
1st Expansion of NATO:
The admission of Greece and Turkey gave NATO an entry to the Aegean Sea. Anatolia became a natural bridge to the Caucasus and NATO bombers thus acquired additional access to deeply penetrate the Soviet airspace from the South, circumventing other Warsaw Pact members.
The major disadvantage of the first enlargement though was that it brought along the additional burden of two isolated potential land fronts where reinforcement would have been possible only by sea. This was especially true of Greece, a country extremely vulnerable to a land attack from the North (as World War II had demonstrated this). The Eastern Turkish border – directly exposed to a land offensive from the Soviet Union – was also worrisome to the Alliance.
2nd Round of Expansion:
The next round - the admission of the Federal Republic of Germany also strengthened NATO. This was the time when an “Iron Curtain” (Berlin Wall) had been built between East & West Germany.
3rd Round of Expansion:
NATO welcomed former WARSAW pact members for membership. This has threatened Russia who often blames NATO for unrest in the Balkans, for instance.


Diverging interests
As NATO has expanded from a tight-knit group of Western European allies to a collection of twenty-eight members whose security interests are not always aligned, scholars argue that NATO has lost the political cohesion that is essential to successful alliances.
However, in the recent past, we have seen how NATO allies have been cooperating in Syrian crisis. E.g. Turkey recently agreed to build a safe zone in North Syria.

9/11 Attacks
The 9/11 attacks were a major blow to NATO as an alliance because US sidelined the alliance and fought the 2001 war in Afghanistan by itself.
Afghanistan crisis
NATO’s relevance is still there atleast normatively speaking (because otherwise, the US has decided to withdraw troops from Afghanistan). NATO will remain a key stakeholder in Afghanistan’s peace process even if the US withdraws because lack of international leadership will give a gaining ground to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

My recommendations:

NATO should be redefined as an institution rather than as a movement against the erstwhile Soviet Union. This will therefore allow NATO to work as a positive force and a positive ingredient in the responsibility to protect doctrine.

Theoretically and practically speaking, there should be a widening of the definition of human rights so that R2P’s base can be broadened. For instance, the value of human rights of civilians in Syria should be treated equal to that of citizens of Western countries, thereby, making it a responsibility of big powers to avoid collateral damage as far as possible. 


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