60 Years On, NATO Faces Identity Crisis

Alliance struggles for meaning after end of Cold War
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2009 6:19 AM CDT
President Barack Obama meets with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 25, 2009.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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(Newser) – Barack Obama is in Strasbourg for a NATO summit, but on the 60th anniversary of the alliance's founding, its future seems increasingly muddy. Founded on a mutual defense pact against the Soviet Union and its satellite states, NATO now stretches as far as Turkey and provides most of the peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and Kosovo. Yet these days, Time writes, NATO seems to be having an identity crisis.

Its joint defense clause has only been invoked once—after 9/11, when the US laid the groundwork for NATO efforts in Afghanistan. Yet even there, US troops do most of the fighting and classical military success is elusive if not impossible. Without a true common enemy, said one Cambridge professor, "It's entirely unclear what NATO's reason for existence is after 1989."