NATO has existed for 75 years, will the Western military alliance reach 100?

F-16 fighter jets at a NATO exercise in Romania

NOS Newstoday, 06:54Amended today, 07:21

  • Kysia Hekster

    NATO correspondent

  • Kysia Hekster

    NATO correspondent

Ukraine is having a hard time on the battlefield, the Russians are gaining more and more ground. How can NATO help Ukraine? That will be the most important topic at the summit of the Western military alliance in Brussels in the coming days. Today the foreign ministers meet, tomorrow the military alliance turns 75 years old. It will be a modest party in wartime.

Last weekend, NATO’s highest military officer, the Dutchman Rob Bauer, compared the situation in the world to the eve of the Second World War. The geopolitical situation is unstable, he outlined, with the threat in the east of the war in Ukraine and the possible danger in the west that Donald Trump will leave the alliance as re-elected president of the United States.

No wars on NATO territory

Yet there is certainly something to celebrate, diplomats emphasize. They speak of “the most successful alliance in human history”. Because there have been no wars on NATO territory for 75 years, which has also been steadily expanding in recent years. When it was founded, twelve countries joined, now there are 32. Finland and Sweden became members after the outbreak of war in Ukraine.

And so tonight there will be a party, invited by the Americans, and tomorrow there will also be cake. The really big celebration is planned for the summit in early July, when all heads of state and government of the member states will meet in Washington.

For example, the British news reported on the founding of NATO in 1949:

For example, the British ‘Polygon News’ reported on the founding of NATO

In Deterring Armageddona book about NATO published last month, journalist and British reservist Peter Apps calls the organization “a deeply imperfect institution, perpetually plagued by divisions”, but which managed to prevent even an inch of destruction for 75 years of the territory passed into foreign hands.

Collective deterrence is NATO’s core task. Article 5 states that an attack on one of the members is considered an attack on all members. In 75 years, the article has been invoked only once, after the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. Nearly 3,000 people were killed.

Outdated and brain dead

Russian President Putin ensured the resurrection of the alliance, which is once again in the spotlight thanks to the war in Ukraine. In the years before that, the right to exist of the defensive alliance was openly doubted. “Brain dead,” French President Macron called the organization in 2019, for example. Donald Trump labeled the club as “outdated” two years earlier.

The US contributes by far the most financially. In February, Trump, who wants to become president again, said that as far as he is concerned, countries that do not contribute enough should be attacked.

There has been a fuss about money ever since NATO was founded. In 2014, the allies agreed that each member would strive for a defense budget of at least 2 percent of gross domestic product within ten years, according to the statement from the NATO summit in Wales at the time. That was a few months after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea and flight MH17 was shot down.

According to NATO’s most recent figures, 18 of the 32 members meet that standard this year, and the Netherlands is close. Eastern European members of the alliance, which border Russia, are spending more, and are calling on other members to do the same. Last year, members determined that 2 percent is a lower limit.

In the meantime, on the sidelines of the anniversary summit in Brussels, the question of who will be the new CEO is also discussed. Will it be outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte? An answer to that does not seem to be available today or tomorrow.

28 of the 32 countries, including the US, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, have now expressed their support for Rutte. But to be appointed, all countries must support Rutte. And so there are busy discussions behind the scenes.

Officially, Romanian President Iohannis is also a candidate for the post, but insiders say he has very limited support. Because the most important NATO ally America publicly supports Rutte, he still has the best chance of getting the job. After all, it would be a diplomatic failure if Joe Biden had to agree to another candidate.

To test

Will NATO reach its 100th anniversary? With all the international tensions at the moment, not everyone is convinced of this. If Russia wins the war in Ukraine, many think it will not stop there. President Putin will do everything he can to test the alliance’s willingness to support each other, they know at headquarters.

British journalist Apps outlines three possible scenarios if the alliance does not celebrate that anniversary in 2049. NATO has fallen apart, something else has taken its place, or the alliance has failed to fulfill its most important mission and the world has come to an end.

Rob Bauer, the highest-ranking NATO soldier, does not want to say which scenario seems most likely to him in that case. “I’m sure we’ll still exist,” he says.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: NATO existed years Western military alliance reach


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