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Apr 07, 2024 / 21:00

NATO's 75 years of up and down

After 75 years, NATO is now facing its true test and challenge of its existence and uncertain future.

NATO is 75 years old. The world's largest and oldest military alliance had only 12 members when it was born three quarters of a century ago. Now, it has 32 members after several rounds of alliance extensions. For many decades, NATO and its members always publicly claimed that NATO was a success story. They were both right and wrong. NATO's history in the last 75 years is a story full of ups and downs. 

 NATO flag. Photo: Reuters

NATO was established to contain Communism in Europe and the Soviet Union after World War II in the 20th century. During the Cold War time, its opponent was the Warsaw Pact. Then, the Soviet Union collapsed and the Warsaw Pact disappeared. NATO and the West prided themselves on winners. It followed a time of cooperation with Russia as the successor of the Soviet Union. The once enemy became a partner. And NATO expanded eastward and toward Russia's border lines. With Vladimir Putin as Russia's president, NATO soon got its biggest and most difficult problem and challenge. NATO was as good as paralyzed in the wars between Russia and Georgia as well as when Russia seized Crimea. Since 2021, NATO has been practically in confrontation, again, even in a hidden war, with Russia because of the war in Ukraine between Russia and Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine clearly shows that NATO isn't militarily strong and internally coherent as NATO always has believed and claimed to be. With its political and military engagements for Ukraine, NATO has returned to its starting point 75 years ago. But the fateful difference for NATO is today's Russia isn't the Soviet Union in the past. For NATO now, the most urgent question is to be or not to be - for the first time in its long history. And NATO has to seek and find the answer to this question in the outcome of the war in Ukraine. NATO's fate, existence, and future are now totally dependent on whether Ukraine will finally win or lose the war with Russia, in other words, on Russia, too. Therefore, NATO has more than enough fact-based reasons to be more sorrowful than enjoying its 75th birthday.

Russia isn't the unique threat causing headaches to NATO. Having more members doesn't automatically mean becoming stronger. NATO has nothing but political determination to be sure that Ukraine, and NATO with Ukraine, would some days later win the war against Russia in Europe. NATO members's mistrust towards the US is growing and dissent among NATO's members too. After 75 years, NATO is now facing its true test and challenge of its existence and uncertain future. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed by Ambassador Tran Duc Mau are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Hanoi Times.