Chronology of Significant Events in NATO’s Recent History
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is at a crossroads following the collapse of the Soviet Union, its activities during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, its difficulties during the war in Afghanistan, and also its lack of impact on US foreign policy leading to the Iraq war.
For this reason I decided to put together a timeline of some significant way points in the alliance’s recent history.
1949: NATO is born. Twelve countries are the original signatories and members: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United States. The treaty is signed in Washington DC, USA.
1991: The Soviet counterpoint to NATO, the Warsaw Pact, dissolves.
1995: NATO launches air strikes against Bosnian Serbs, then mobilizes troops to monitor cease fire in Bosnia. This is NATO’s first military operation.
1997: NATO and Russia agree to on a treaty, the Foundation Act, forging ties to enhance common security. This is enhanced by the Permanent Joint Council, permitting Russia giving Russia a voice but no vote.
1999: The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland join NATO. They are the first former Warsaw Pact members to join the alliance.
NATO’s members at this point are: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United States, Greece, Turkey, Spain, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.
NATO conducts air strikes in former Yugoslavia over fighting with Kosovo. This is done without UN approval.
2001: NATO responds to the September 11 attacks against the US by articulating the alliance’s core mandate: that an attack against one member is an attack against all members. The alliance expresses its willingness to respond as a whole, in support of the US. The US sidesteps NATO, ignoring its calls for solidarity and decides to act on its own. The US rejection creates fissures of disunity, undermining the ideal of NATO common cause and common action.
2002: Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia invited to join the alliance.
2003: After two years of conflict, NATO is asked to participate in Afghanistan. This precedes the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, and was regarded as a means of using NATO resources to free up US resources in the possibility of war in the Middle East. NATO, having been once rejected, was apprehensive, and most of those who sent troops to Afghanistan had caveats for their deployment largely keeping them out of combat.
Furthermore, security (intelligence and military) efforts were poorly coordinated among alliance members, in part caused by the alliances growing disunity due to increased US unilateralism. Nation building efforts by the international community was a reflection of this disunity, most actors choosing to keep to personal policies without adequate consultation with their allies or with Afghanistan. Medium to long term policy planning regarding Afghanistan was minimal.
2004: Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia formally join NATO. Russia expresses concern, believing the potential for a NATO encirclement of a significant portion of its territory.
2005: NATO members agree to expand their role in southern Afghanistan, where the vast majority of fighting was taking place against a resurgent Taleban. Almost all alliance members refuse to fully engage, maintaining a series of caveats that would essentially block them from combat operations.
2006: NATO takes command of operations in south Afghanistan. However, only Britain, Canada, and the US commit significant troops to engage in combat operations.
2007: NATO commanders ask member countries to commit more troops to Afghanistan. Britain and the US commit more troops but other members refuse the request.
2008: The US announces it will send 3,200 more troops to Afghanistan and fails to convince its allies to also commit more forces.
In April, NATO invites Albania and Croatia to join. These countries were both previously Eastern Bloc allies of Russia. The alliance defers decision on inviting Georgia and Ukraine until December. Both of these countries were also former allies of Russia, further agitating Russia.
The US is the main lobbyist in favour of Georgian membership with other members, notably France and Germany resisting. US talk of support for Georgia along with material support to that nation embolden the country. Tensions between Russia, and Georgia and NATO increase and result in a short war between Russia and Georgia in August.