The Obstacles of Managing NATO: A Way Forward
NATO's biggest mistake in the past has been to permit the citizens of its Western European and North American countries to fall into a feeling of complacency, ignoring the very prominent fear Eastern Europeans feel due to Russia's threats of invasion. NATO must put an emphasis on crisis education within its countries so that the organization can confidently right wrongs done by Russia's military.
It has been often said that ignorance is bliss; however, when it comes to international crises people should be aware of what is happening in order to take a stand on what is morally correct. NATO's biggest mistake in the past has been to permit the citizens of its Western European and North American countries to fall into a feeling of complacency, ignoring the very prominent fear Eastern Europeans feel due to Russia's threats of invasion. NATO has allowed itself to fade into the background, causing people to not only ignore the issues it faces but also to begin to mock the organization's inaction.
In order to keep the organization relevant, NATO needs to educate its constituents about the consequences that may occur if others ignore Russia's aggressive movements. NATO has demanded Russia to step down from its threatening movements towards countries in Eastern Europe; however, Russia has allowed its military to continue its illegal intervention in the Ukraine. Russia's blatant and very public disregard for NATO's request and the lack of public support for NATO's position destabilizes the Alliance's reputation. Presently, whatever actions NATO decides to take, it will receive large amounts of negativity because of its inability to clearly communicate and persuade others to comprehend the existing threat. People who are currently unaffected by this crisis are able to continue with their day-to-day activities with little or no consequences. According to the Polish Minister of Defense, if NATO loses its Eastern European territory to Russia, it "would have to reconquer it later." It would be much more difficult and resource-consuming to reclaim the territory than it would be to defend the land. This means countries need to support a position of active, substantial defensive actions in order to avoid a potential territorial loss to Russia.
Russia may also use non-military actions in order to conquer more territory and will engage in the use of propaganda to make their land conquest more acceptable. Inactivity from NATO in these Eastern European states might cause citizens to begin civil unrest activities like striking or rioting. This would allow Russia to justify its interference by promoting the view that these states need assistance to regain control. Not only would these countries possibly turn to civil unrest due to NATO's passivity, they would also lose confidence in NATO and its promises. This may result into a shifting of alliances and becoming more dependent upon Russia for safety and civil control. An end result could be that these countries turn to Russia to keep them safe instead. Secondly, NATO needs to validate to its member states that the Alliance will honor their commitments and help defend their countries from foreign forces.
NATO's inactivity to their commitment of defending a sovereign country in the illegal Russian enlargement would create a ripple effect throughout the world; in essence, creating a bigger problem for the Alliance: apathy. According to surveys done by the PEW Research Center, a majority of NATO countries' citizens thought NATO should not use military force to defend NATO's Eastern European allies if Russia has a serious military conflict with one of them. Considering NATO prides itself on having the "essential purpose […] to safeguard the freedom and security of its members," NATO needs to take an active, holistic and multifaceted approach to address Russian aggression and to restore faith in the mission of NATO. NATO may need to place a greater emphasis on its position of military activity, in dire circumstances, to secure its international obligations. When contracts such as Article Five of the North Atlantic Treaty are blatantly ignored, the fiber of the whole organization is torn apart and a sense of security is lost.
In order to influence and restore NATO's relevance in the world, NATO needs to embark in a public education campaign. This campaign would be directed at educating populations about how NATO may react in dire situations such as the Russian occupation of Ukraine. This campaign needs to be done directly and promptly. NATO needs to be brought to the forefront, sending representatives to speak about these concerns on a variety of media outlets and allowing itself to be more involved in the news. It should use its social media outlets to not only reach out to its following but to justify its actions so that people can be more understanding and knowledgeable of NATO. This would reduce the negativity of NATO's image. This strategy will lead to more education and support from countries which will result in NATO gaining more respect. Secondly, it will also allow the citizens of Eastern Europe to feel more secure in knowing that these protective treaties will be honored.
Lauren Dalfonzo currently attends Virginia Tech as an International Studies major with a focus on National Security.
This article has been submitted for category B "NATO's Biggest Mistake and Lesson Learned" of the competition "Shaping Our NATO: Young Voices on the NATO Summit". Comments are most appreciated. You can also read the other articles in this category. Learn more about this competition and how you can submit your own text or video in the categories C and D.
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