75 years after its creation, is NATO still a deterrent?

Born seventy-five years ago, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is experiencing a new standoff with Russia. What is its deterrent force worth today? The analysis of researcher Cyrille Bret.

Some analyzes present the fighting in Ukraine as a proxy conflict between NATO and Russia. Is the Alliance now at war?

This is what the Russian government maintains, which claims that NATO is threatening it. Despite its requests since 2007, Ukraine is not a member of the Alliance. It is therefore not protected by Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty which stipulates that if one of its countries is attacked, each member must intervene to come to its aid. State support for Ukraine is provided bilaterally and not through NATO. The Alliance is indirectly involved in the coordination of several of its members, for example in terms of equipment supplies, troop training, or even intelligence, but it is not a party to the conflict. If this were the case, it would mean that nuclear powers would be engaged in war against Russia.

Is this a possible scenario?

NATO can only adopt a defensive posture. If it is not attacked, it will not enter into conflict. As for Russia, it is already struggling to defeat a country like Ukraine which until then had no modern armed forces. Attacking a NATO member and incurring a response from the Alliance would not be in its interest. Its resources are today absorbed by the Ukrainian front and the fight against terrorism. The latest attack in Moscow is a reminder that the country remains a favored target for Islamist movements. Putin, however, displays the desire to follow a strategy of tension with NATO, through cyberattack campaigns, the exploitation of migratory movements, his influence in Africa…

Does Russia fear that NATO will strengthen its power in Europe?

Yes, it is even the common thread of its strategic posture in Europe. Russia knows that, militarily, it does not have the forces to counterbalance the Alliance. It is traumatized by NATO's intervention in Kosovo and Serbia in 1999. It fears its continued expansion, including in areas where it itself was lastingly influential, such as Moldova or the Balkans. She fears what she sees as a subversion of Russian influence in Europe.

Does NATO still have as much weight on the geopolitical scene, seventy-five years after its creation*?

Its original purpose was to counter the Soviet threat. After the fall of the USSR, no longer having an enemy, member states were tempted to reap the peace dividend and make savings on defense budgets. For around thirty years, NATO then lost its influence. But the invasion of Ukraine in 2022 justified new spending efforts by member states and thus reconstituted the military strike force and, with it, its deterrence capacity.

Donald Trump has threatened to break agreements with the Alliance if he is elected to the White House. Could NATO survive there?

Donald Trump's words seem more like a provocation than a plan of action. He warns that Europeans must contribute more to the defense of Europe. Today, the United States provides more than a quarter of NATO's budget and the vast majority of military forces. It is obvious that if they were to leave the Alliance, it would lose most of its military strike force. But without it, the United States would deprive itself of an essential lever of action in Europe. Today, it is difficult to see how they could do without it…

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