Early next month, just a few days after President Barack Obama visits its Brussels headquarters this week, Nato will turn 65. That is normally a good age for retirement. But Vladimir Putin’s blatant actions in Ukraine have put a halt to any such thoughts. The transatlantic defence alliance is still very much needed. The question now is not whether Nato should retire, but how it should respond to the new challenges to its east.
Over the years, the alliance has evolved through various phases in response to changes in the security environment. During the first phase of its existence – let us call this NATO 1.0 – the alliance’s focus was on defending western Europe against an attack from the large Soviet-led forces arrayed against it. The North Atlantic Treaty, which was signed on April 4 1949, committed each of the 12 signatory states to regard an armed attack against one as an armed attack against all. Collective defence was the essence of Nato’s mission – and remained so until the cold war ended in the late 1980s.