Iranian Experts Reflect on NATO Meeting in Bucharest

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Dr. Asgarkhani, professor of international relations at Tehran University, reflects on the establishment of NATO, saying, the statute of NATO puts it as a security regime and it should be understood in relation to its goals.

He added that NATO has been based on realistic and liberalistic approaches and every one of those approaches gives a special meaning to NATO.

The professor added that according to the approach taken by neoliberal institutionalists, NATO was set up to promote regional and international security and they even consider the organization as the security arm of the United Nations.

The political expert noted that neoliberal theorists have added fighting terrorism, preventing civil wars, campaign against narcotics as well as providing aid in cases of natural disasters like tsunamis in addition to promoting international peace and stability as new missions for NATO.

“Some of these theorists previously introduced the United States as a hegemonic power which should guarantee global stability, but new theorists of NATO maintain that it is for NATO to assure global stability,” he said.

Dr. Asgarkhani further noted that according to the realistic approach, the main philosophy for establishing NATO was existence of a foe in the form of Warsaw Pact. Therefore, those theorists noted that after disintegration of Warsaw Pact, there would be no reason for NATO to exist.

The academician also stated that growth of NATO was inevitable, adding, “Although some believe that NATO is like a living creature and needs to develop in order to be, but I believe that this growth would be cancerous and may lead to final annihilation of NATO.”

Tehran University’s professor of international relations also stated that apart from neoliberal viewpoints, NATO is facing a number of crises according to objective studies.

“A major challenge with which NATO is currently facing is existence of subjective threats instead of objective ones. Now, the enemies of NATO do not exist within a specified geographical border and there is no clear-cut way to fight them,” he said.

Asgarkhani also stated that if NATO means to become a European force, it would not include the United States and even such countries as Russia and Serbia.

“The political crisis in NATO is serious. Some countries maintain that NATO should remain a European force and are not ready to let the body assimilate Russia and Serbia, let alone the United States…. At present, inclusion of European countries and elimination of other countries has posed a serious threat to NATO,” he added.

He noted that designing a model to connect European Union and NATO, European security independence model, the model which emphasizes on autonomy of the European Union as well as assimilating other countries in the organization’s operations need harmony and that harmony is currently missing in NATO.

Asgarkhani said that subjective threats instead of objective threats is a major challenge with which NATO is currently facing, adding, “At present, al Qaeda terrorism as well as separatist movements in all corners of the world cannot be defined within certain borders and are mostly of cultural and political nature.”

He opined that NATO is not ready to fight terrorism as has been proven by its failure in managing the war in Afghanistan.

“NATO issued a statement last month in which it admitted to capabilities of its forces to fight al Qaeda and Taliban through the Internet,” he said.

The academician stated that if the organization is to survive, it should change its principles.

Seyed Reza Mirtaher, a researcher on international security, also maintains that NATO was established during the Cold War and now that Russia is gaining renewed power under Putin, it is planning to expand its influence on Russia and its allies under the aegis of fighting terror.

“Russia, as heir apparent to the former Soviet Union, tried to regain the past power after 2000 and this has caused concerns in the United States and NATO. The main goal of the expansion of NATO is final disintegration of Russia,” he said.

Mirtaher noted that there are internal conflicts among NATO members like territorial disputes including territorial disputes between Turkey and Greece over Aegean Sea as well as disputes between Greece and Macedonia.

“Since Greece insists that Macedonia should change name because it is the name of a province in Turkey, it has opposed membership of Macedonia in NATO and has, instead invited Albania and Croatia to join NATO,” he said.

The researcher noted that some NATO members follow suit with the United States while others consider France and Germany as a symbol of traditional Europe.

Mirtaher further stated that at present, there are differences between new members and traditional ones over various issues and while new members follow suit with the United States others consider France and Germany as a symbol of traditional Europe.

“Therefore, France and Germany have opposed assimilation of Ukraine and Georgia…. This difference between new members and traditional ones, which seek their national interests in having relations with the energy-rich Russia, will further increase the gap between the two groups,” he said.

Mirtaher noted that some NATO members are not cooperative to help the organization achieve its goals and, for example, some of them have not accepted to send equipment and forces to Afghanistan.

“Many European states seek welfare of their nations and are having difficulties in funding military operations. Therefore, the mainstay of NATO, unlike the United States and its allies, are not willing to get engaged in any conflict anywhere in the world,” he said.

Also, Dr. Sajjad Soltanzadeh, researcher of NATO affairs, noted that the necessity for NATO after disintegration of the former Soviet Union and the fact that it had been established to oppose the Soviet Union and Communism in Europe during Cold War era has cast serious doubts on the need for its existence after the Cold War.

“The proponents have tried to present various theoretical and innovative justifications for its survival after the 1990s…. the most important of those ideas were cooperation between the United Nations and NATO to make it executive arm of the United Nations through settlement of Balkan conflicts, expansion of NATO and assimilation of new members as well as compilation of a new strategy for NATO during its summit meeting in Washington in 1999,” he said.

The researcher added that the new documents had defined terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, religious radicalism, international organized crime, immigration, ethnic and racial conflicts and insolvent governments as new threats that should be handled through new strategies.

“Developments in 1990s, has relatively helped the organization to survive, though differences still continue. Fighting terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction have been defined as two new paradigms that necessitate continued presence of NATO…. The 9/11 terror attacks marked a watershed in NATO’s life. It was after those attacks that fighting terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction were defined as new goals for the organization,” he said.

Soltanzadeh said that accepting leadership of international operations against terrorism in the summer of 2003 was the first mission undertaken by NATO outside its traditional borders.

“NATO leaders approved a document in their meeting in Riga in 2006 according to which they delineated the outlook of the organization for 10-15 years,” he said.

The researcher added that the new document put emphasis on terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, instability resulting from insolvency of governments, regional disputes, increasing access to unconventional arms, misuse of new technologies, as well as cutoff of the flow of vital natural resources like energy as the most important challenges facing NATO.

He added that the issue of energy and NATO’s role in assuring energy security as one the most important issues which have been put on new agenda of this organization.


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