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Expert: Future of NATO uncertain

Post-Cold War questions persist

POSTED: February 2, 2013 12:06 a.m.
 

The future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, is uncertain, a University of North Georgia professor told a group of lecture-goers Thursday night.

“NATO’s future? I don’t know,” said Craig Greathouse, associate professor of political science. “Does it continue to evolve? Does it continue to be an actor that matters in the world? Do you need an American presence in Europe? This is a big debate.”

Greathouse addressed a group of nearly 100 at University Center | GA 400 as part of the third installment in the Great Decisions Lecture Series.

Presented annually by the Foreign Policy Association, the series is a way for local communities to come together to discuss current, international issues. It’s presented locally by the University of North Georgia at the Cumming and Gainesville campuses.

Greathouse traced the history of NATO to 1949, when it was formed as an alliance of countries from North America and Europe committed to fulfilling the goals of the North Atlantic Treaty.

According to Greathouse, the initial NATO’s purpose was to prevent the spread of communism in post-World War II Europe. But in the ensuing 65 years, and particularly recently, the organization has struggled to maintain a clear focus.

“NATO has become relevant again after basically a period of 10, 12 years where NATO was trying to figure out what it was going to do,” Greathouse said. “What you have is an institution that has had to readjust, to change what it was, what it is, compared to basically what it was created to do.”

The shift started in the late 1980s.

“The Berlin Wall fell in ’89,” he said. “You have basically the collapse of East Germany, the beginning of the collapse of Central Europe. Basically, it’s a domino effect and all of a sudden what had been a great threat starts to become less so.”

In recent years, Greathouse said, issues such as those in Afghanistan, Africa and the Middle East, as well as global problems including terrorism and cyber threats, have continued to stir debate over the organization’s fate.

“The problem is most of those these things fall outside the physical confines of Europe,” he said. “That’s not what NATO’s designed to do.”

The NATO discussion was Howell Barden’s second Great Decisions lecture. He plans to attend more of them.

“I’ve enjoyed them,” he said. “They’re informative and I’ve learned a lot of things that I never knew and a lot of it makes sense.”

The lecture series continues at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 7 with “Threat Assessment” by Dlynn Armstrong-Williams, head of the university’s department of international affairs and political science. 

 

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