Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has again stirred the pot by dismissing NATO as “obsolete.”
Trump has contended that the 28-nation military alliance needs to be radically rethought and framed away from its Cold War structure toward an organisation more capable of fighting threats like ISIS.
This argument ignores the multiple operations that NATO has conducted to bring stability to Europe after the Cold War and also in the fight against terrorism.
Below, we have explained why NATO continue to be important and how its global reach is as important as ever for both Europe and the wider world.
First formed in 1949, NATO was originally composed of just 12 members: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the UK, and the US.
In the following decades, NATO continued to expand, and it now includes 28 member nations throughout almost all of North America, Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, and a foot in the Middle East with Turkey.
And NATO is now moving toward a new expansion by welcoming Montenegro into the alliance. Although the Balkan country is not yet a member, it has begun accessions talks.
Additionally, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Macedonia are aspiring members of the military alliance.
Although NATO is based almost exclusively in Europe, and was primarily formed as a military alliance against the Soviet Union, it has a global reach and has participated in military operations throughout the world.
Globally, NATO is playing a role in combating Somali piracy off the Horn of Africa. Operation Ocean Shield, launched in 2009, has helped to drastically cut down on piracy and has helped stabilise shipping lanes in the region.
Close by in Ethiopia, NATO bases its support to the African Union. The operation helps provide training and operational capacities at the Union's request. And in Afghanistan, NATO continues to lead Resolute Support, a noncombat mission that provides training to the Afghan military.
In Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014, NATO also played a key role in combat operations in the country. From August 11, 2003, to 2011, NATO led the International Security Assistance Force.
And NATO is likely to play a major role in helping to combat ISIS, especially now following the terror attacks in member nations Brussels and Turkey. A majority of the nations that are part of the anti-ISIS coalition are already NATO members.
NATO's military capabilities are expected to be collectively paid for by every member state.
Ideally, each member state is expected to spend at least 2% of its annual GDP on defence spending. However, following the end of the Cold War and two decades of relative peace, the vast majority of NATO states do not meet their budgetary goals.
In this regard, Donald Trump is slightly right to question the ongoing worth of the NATO alliance. According to NATO's latest annual report released on June 22, 2015, only Estonia, Poland, the UK, Greece, and the US were projected to meet the 2% spending threshold in 2015.
This problem in spending caused then-NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to warn member nations in 2014 against becoming 'free-riders' under the umbrella of US military protection.
But the gap in military spending is not the largest problem facing NATO. Instead, Lisa Aronsson, a visiting fellow at the Atlantic Council, has argued that 'duplication, poor readiness, and a lack of deployability,' are the biggest problems facing European militaries, and that increased spending won't necessarily solve them.
NATO's Integrated Air and Missile Defence (NIAMD) operation is aimed at protecting NATO nations from any airborne threat -- whether that be from aircraft or missiles.
NIAMD is responsible for such actions as air policing, which tracks and intercepts non-NATO military aircraft. NATO air-policing operations have been responsible for providing security throughout Europe's borders against Russian aircraft.
In addition, NIAMD can also be used to down airborne threats, ranging from drones to ballistic missiles to military planes, using both surface and airborne weapons.
The NATO Response Force (NRF) was launched in 2002 to respond to any matter of challenges in as short a time frame as possible.
Comprised of air, land, maritime, and special-operations forces, the NRF is intended to be able to deploy to whatever location is needed inside of a minimal timeframe. And NATO has recently announced plans to expand the capabilities of the NRF.
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