Should NATO be extended to the whole world?

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The Debate Over a “World NATO” was fueled by the publication of an article under this title in the autumn of 2006 in the prestigious magazine Foreign Affairs, signed by two specialists in international relations, James Goldgeier and Ivo Daalder, future United States representative to NATO. For them, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is already “global” in its missions, for example with the war in Afghanistan in 2001: “Designed to protect post-war Western Europe from the Soviet Union, the alliance is now trying to bring stability to other parts of the world. †

But the two authors believe the organization should go further, ie to open its doors “to any democratic state, anywhere in the world, ready and able to contribute to the fulfillment of [de ses] new responsibilities »† This would mean a revision of the founding treaty, excluding expansion to include non-European states. NATO would open up to Australia, Brazil, Japan, India, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea…

France has opposed this expansion since 2006

This idea aroused some interest at the time, especially in the United States, but also many critics. In a context of (already) increasing Russian warmongering and the stagnation of intervention in Afghanistan, some observers point to the risk of too much ambition at the expense of the organisation’s core business. In 2006, under the pen of its Defense Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, France became concerned about an idea that could be at risk “to dilute the natural solidarity between Europeans and North Americans into a vague whole, but also and above all to send a bad political message: that of a campaign initiated by Westerners against those who do not share their views”

The idea of ​​a “world NATO” raises questions about the definition of the Atlanticist project. Founded in 1949, that is, when the two Western and Soviet blocs froze, NATO can be seen above all as a defensive territorial alliance aimed at guaranteeing the security of its members in a context of the Cold War – or, since the fall of the USSR in 1991, in a context of maintaining a US and Russian sphere of influence in Europe; it can also be seen as an organization united by certain values ​​and striving to promote them.

Atlanticism in question

Both dimensions are present in one of the most important definitions of the organization, that of the political scientist Karl Deutsch, who saw one there in 1957 “security community” become. NATO, in his view, is an organization created with security in mind, that is, on “the assurance that members of the community will not fight each other physically, but will resolve their differences in some other way”† But it is also precisely a community, defined by “the compatibility of large values” – constitutional democracy and the market economy – and by a “mutual sympathy” by “loyalties” the “feeling of one us”. Which, from this point of view, would not prohibit its extension to democracies outside the Atlantic sphere.

Thus, for some authors, the idea of ​​a “world NATO” contributes to a redefinition of what is called Atlanticism. Although organized in contrast to communism during the Cold War, this movement emerged at the end of the 19th century.and century and was already aimed at a wider area than the transatlantic area. In 1939, the journalist Clarence Streit presented in an essay, Union Now. A Proposal for a Federal Union of the Democracies of the North Atlanticthe creation of an “Atlantic Union”, which would also include Commonwealth states such as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, but whose constitution “explicitly affirm that it is designed to evolve into a universal government”

Political ideal, strategic danger?

In this perspective, Atlanticism is seen not only as a Cold War defensive alliance, but also as a democratic vanguard that should inspire by example. A vanguard that resembles the“covenant of peace” what described Immanuel Kant in his test Towards Eternal Peace (1795): “If luck were to have a powerful and enlightened people form a republic (a government that should naturally tend toward eternal peace), there would be a center for this federated alliance: other states could join it, to make sure to ensure their freedom, in accordance with the idea of ​​international law, and it would expand more every day by new additions.”

Today it is because illiberal or dictatorial states reinforce and encourage each other, and destabilize the security of Europe and its allies, that the idea of ​​a global NATO resurfaces. But the criticism of this project, commendable as it is, remains no less legitimate. Would a globalized NATO, theoretically speaking, not be a form of Western imperialism in disguise, forbidding any critical reflection on the functioning of American democracy or the capitalist system it promotes? From a strategic point of view, it is primarily a safe bet that an extension of NATO to countries like Taiwan or Australia would be perceived by China as an aggression. In short, world NATO is probably not for tomorrow.

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