NATO is Not Only About Security, but Also About Values
It is hard if not impossible to sustain the life of any collective organization without shared values and moral authority. NATO needs not only military and institutional modernization but foremost the re-invocation of the principles and values upon which it has been built. The enhancement and promotion of the shared values of democracy, freedom and the rule of law, is the only way to increase solidarity and unity among the member states.
NATO needs not only military and institutional modernization but foremost the re-invocation of the principles and values upon which it has been built. NATO is not only about security, but also about values. This fact is often forgotten in the overarching debate about the role of the Alliance in the 21st century. All NATO member states - need to ask the question - what does the Alliance protect? Upon answering this question, they will find that they have more in common than they think.
The enhancement and promotion of the shared values of democracy, freedom and the rule of law, is the only way to increase solidarity and unity among the member states. NATO has to return to its founding values "the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law" stated in the opening paragraphs of the North Atlantic Treaty. One might ask how the military alliance can be built on such an elusive concept as values, and why does it need them in addition to new brigades and ballistic missiles?
It is hard if not impossible to sustain the life of any collective organization without shared values and moral authority. The worst that can happen to NATO nowadays is the loss of solidarity and unity among its members.
In a world scattered by a variety of threats, nothing but the shared principles can encourage states to step up their interest and display their political will in collective defense. While the nature of modern threats is more disseminated and ambiguous than ever, saying that one threat is more urgent than an other might be misleading. Russian aggression, the refugee crisis, and Islamic extremism - are all of equal importance. To say differently is a matter of perception, not reasonable analysis.
The Alliance needs a flexible and innovative response to deal with a range of security challenges, of course. But, to reshape NATO to the standards of an effective 21st century organization is easier than to restore and enhance its moral authority and unity. Those who think that the theme of values and principles is outdated should look closer at the current political scene. The rise of populist politics among NATO members, an imperialistic Russia and ideology-driven terrorism – on the other side- should be the best proof that ideologies might be no less important than they were in 1949. The lack of a firm position on liberal principles, and policy that focuses exclusively on security, will make NATO stand weaker on the complicated and unstable international political landscape.
NATO leaders have to rebuild the Alliance as the guarantor and protector of liberal values. I don't mean as in the unsuccessful international adventurism of the 90s. But, when the UN is too broad and the EU too fragile, NATO might be the only institution in the region able to sustain the fundaments of peace, democracy and solidarity. With this moral authority, it would be easier for NATO to enhance trust and unity among its members. To develop the DNA of solidarity among them is to extend the rhetoric and agenda on something bigger than only security – on traditions and values that all members share and have agreed to protect.
Hence, NATO has to aim for a higher status than just a mere military alliance. It should put more emphasis on Article 4, encouraging and enhancing consultations and constant communication among member states to create a sense of shared responsibility for the security of all members. The vocabulary should be shifted from the terms referring to the East and Southern Flank, as if they were separate units, but instead treat them as a whole. The whole should be the focus of NATO policy-makers. More meetings and summits will invoke the sense of collective purpose and unity. Highlighting the principles and values NATO is protecting through the development of organizational think tanks, and democratic institutes, should be at the forefront of the Alliance's agenda.
In the age of disorder, more than ever before, NATO members should unite around the founding principles and values that the North Atlantic Treaty outlined.
Adrianna Stanoch is a second-year undergraduate student at King's College London, Department of War Studies.
This article has been submitted for category D "Increasing Solidarity in the Face of Divergent Threat Perception" of the "Shaping Our NATO: Young Voices on the NATO Summit" competition. Comments are most appreciated. You can also read the other articles in this category. Category D marks the end of the competition. We would like to thank all participants and members who have submitted op-eds and/or provided comments.
Learn more about this competition.
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