Since the start of the Cold War, NATO has been the world’s preeminent military alliance. However, escalating hostilities between NATO and Russia are creating geopolitical challenges for NATO members. In this episode, our friend and guest Rachel Rizzo discusses NATO’s changing security environment.

An Intergovernmental Military Alliance

NATO is a 28-member intergovernmental military alliance established in 1949 between the U.S. and European nations to counter the Soviet military threat. Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO’s core functions have remained collective defense and cooperative security. Its members also collaborate on anti-piracy initiatives, peacekeeping missions, and military trainings. Underpinning the alliance is NATO’s Article 5, which states that an attack against one is an attack against all. It has only been invoked after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

More than just a military alliance, Rizzo argues that NATO is a testament to western values of liberalism and inter-governmental cooperation, as well as a sign of western nations’ geopolitical cohesion.  

Changing Dynamics in Europe

Over the past several years, Russia and NATO have spiraled into a security dilemma. Russia claims the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act should have precluded NATO from expanding membership and bases to eastern European nations during the past several years. NATO members, on the other hand, argue that the security landscape has changed to where expansion is permissible. At the same time, NATO members are increasingly concerned about Russian incursions against neighboring Georgia, Estonia, and Ukraine.

In the midst of this rapidly changing security environment, NATO is preparing for future risks. For instance, it is becoming better equipped to respond to cyber and energy security threats.

NATO and the Trump Administration

During his campaign, President-elect Trump said he may not defend NATO members under attack. Although he has since walked back on his language, NATO members experiencing increasingly precarious security situations are alarmed by Trump’s noncommittal rhetoric.

Dig Deeper

Take a look at some of our favorite articles that we came across while researching this topic:

About the Author
Grace is the Program Assistant for the Wilson Center’s Africa Program and received her M.A. from the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University, focusing on international development, conflict resolution, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Grace holds a B.A. in both Global Studies and Political Science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Previously, she served as the assistant to the President and Executive Vice President of the Henry L. Stimson Center. Grace has traveled to Africa on multiple occasions, most recently to Kenya as a field manager for the health textiles manufacturer Vestergaard-Frandsen.