A global NATO? From NATO to a “global alliance of democracies”?

Not only since the end of the Cold War NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation – has expanded considerably beyond what could be called the “Northern Atlantic” region. In fact, most of NATO's expansion has been in Eastern and South Eastern Europe. But NATO is more than just a North American and European affair. It now has global connections and partnerships, and some strategists propose to develop NATO into a “global alliance of democracies”.

In a fictious “Memo to the New President”, Will Marshall from the influential “Democratic Leadership Council” suggests: “You should seize the opportunity to lead NATO's transformation from a NorthAmerican-European pact into a global alliance of free nations. By opening its doors to Japan, Australia, India, Chile, and a handful of other stable democracies, NATO would augment both its human and financial resources. What is more, NATO would enhance its political legitimacy to operate on a global stage” [1].

Already today NATO has a close cooperation with what is called “Contact Countries”, presently Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. At the NATO Riga Summit in November 2006, NATO pledged to increase the operational relevance of relations with interested Contact Countries; and in particular to strengthen NATO’s ability to work with those current and potential contributors to NATO operations.

NATO has been cooperating with countries which are not formal Partner countries since the 1990s. For example, a political dialogue with Japan began in 1990, and Argentina and Chile contributed forces to NATO’s missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina [2].

NATO is also courting India, a potential key partner of NATO against China, but also in relation to Africa. NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue (since 1995 with six countries – Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. Algeria joined in 2000) [3] and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative ICI (since 2004) are aimed at expanding NATO's influence into the Gulf region, with Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates being formally part of ICI, and Saudia Arabia and Oman “showing great interest” [4].

Kill the UN

While from conservative US side the idea of a global alliance of democracies is openly praised for its “hidden agenda” to kill the UN [5], democrats are generally a bit more diplomatic about it. While they do not want to “kill the UN”, they want a “concert of democracies” as an alternative forum which can authorise the use of force (military intervention) in cases when a veto in the UN Security Council “prevented free nations from keeping faith with the aims of the U.N. Charter.” [6].

Ivo Daalder, an early Obama campaign foreign policy adviser, is a protagonist of this new global NATO. In 2006, he wrote: “NATO should see these global partnerships not as a final objective but as a first step toward formal membership. […] NATO's new global-partnership project should play a similar role by preparing the alliance to transform itself from a transatlantic entity into a global one. NATO need not decide in advance which countries it would invite to join its ranks; it need only decide that membership should in principle be open to non-European countries“ [7].

What for?

Besides all the nice Sunday talk about democratic values, it is clear that this “alliance of democracies” is not about democracy. NATO and US strategists expect a new confrontation between China and Russia on one side and “the West” on the other side in the competition for decreasing resources, especially oil and other raw materials. In this scenario, NATO and a global alliance of democracies should enforce Western global hegemony, and access to resources, if needed by force.

As US influence in the UN is at an all-time low, an alternative forum is needed to provide the public justification. NATO's debate about a new strategic concept, which will also include the authority to act without UN authorisation, is one important step in this direction. It's high time to put a spanner into the works.

Andreas Speck


[1] Will Marshall: Memo to the New President, 15 January 2009, http://www.ppionline.org/ppi_ci.cfm?knlgAreaID=450020&subsecID=900194&co...
[2] NATO: NATO’s relations with Contact Countries, http://www.nato.int/issues/contact_countries/index.html, accessed 19 February 2009
[3] NATO: NATO Mediterranean Dialogue, http://www.nato.int/med-dial/summary.htm, accessed 19 February 2009
[4] NATO: Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), http://www.nato.int/issues/ici/index.html, accessed 19 February 2009
[5] Charles Krauthammer: Special report with Brit Hume, Fox News Network, 26 March 2008, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,342137,00.html
[6] Ikenberger, John, Slaughter, Anne-Marie: Forging a World of Liberty under Law, September 2006, p26, http://www.princeton.edu/~ppns/report/FinalReport.pdf, accessed 19 February 2009
[7] Ivo Daalder and James Goldgeier: Global NATO. In: Foreign Affairs, September/October 2006, http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060901faessay85509-p0/ivo-daalder-james-..., accessed 19 February 2009