NATO’s Worldwide Expansion in the Post-Cold World Era

NATO’s Worldwide Expansion in the Post-Cold World Era by Rick Rozoff

One of the most significant developments of the post-Cold War era, and certainly the most ominous, is the transformation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military bloc created by the United States during the genesis of the Cold War in 1949, into one that has grown to encompass the entirety of Europe, has expanded military partnerships throughout the world and has waged war on three continents.

NATO (Participating Countries)
NATO (Participating Countries)

In 2006 Kurt Volker, at the time with the State Department and two years afterwards U.S. ambassador to NATO, boasted that the year before NATO had been “engaged in eight simultaneous operations on four continents.” (1)

Two years later the State Department’s Daniel Fried told the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Europe:

“When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, NATO was an Alliance of 16 members and no partners. Today, NATO has 26 members – with 2 new invitees, prospective membership for others, and over 20 partners in Europe and Eurasia, seven in the Mediterranean, four in the Persian Gulf, and others from around the world.” (2)

Although then-Secretary of State James Baker had assured Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at the time of German reunification in 1990 that NATO would not be moved one inch eastward, the very act of merger occurring as it did led to the German Democratic Republic being absorbed not only into the Federal Republic but NATO and hence the latter immediately moving east to the borders of Poland and Czechoslovakia and closer to that of the Soviet Union. (3)

The two invited nations Fried mentioned above are Albania and Croatia, which became full members of the military bloc in 2009, completing a decade of expansion that saw NATO membership grow by 75 percent from 16 to 28. NATO expansion to the east has provided the Pentagon and its Western allies with air bases and other military facilities in Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland and Romania for wars to the east and south.

Macedonia, which would also have been absorbed in 2009 except for the name dispute with NATO member Greece, is now in a new category of nations being groomed for full NATO membership the alliance refers to as aspirant countries. The others currently are Bosnia, Georgia and Montenegro.

With the Partnership for Peace program that was used to promote twelve new Eastern European into NATO between 1999 and 2009 – every non-Soviet member of the Warsaw Pact and three former Soviet republics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) – the Mediterranean Dialogue, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative and, as of last year, the newly formed Partners Across the Globe (whose initial members are Afghanistan, Australia, Iraq, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Korea), NATO members and partners number at least 70 nations, well over a third of those in the world. (4)

During the Cold War few nations were in one or the other military bloc, NATO or the later Warsaw Pact. In fact the vast majority of countries were in neither and most nations could remain free of military entanglements. In 1989 the Non-Aligned Movement had 103 members.

Currently, for the first time in history most of the world’s nations have been pulled into one variety or another of collective or bilateral military partnership, specifically with the United States and its NATO allies. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) alone encompasses 53 countries.

In January of 2012 a meeting of NATO’s Military Committee Chiefs of Defense Staff was conducted with top military representatives of 67 nations.

The Partners Across the Globe and longer-standing military partnerships are slated to grow in all parts of the world. Among the more than 50 nations that have provided NATO with troop contingents for the war in South Asia are additional Asia-Pacific states not covered by other international NATO partnership formats like the Partnership for Peace (22 nations in Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia), the Mediterranean Dialogue (seven nations in North Africa and the Middle East, with Libya to be the eighth) and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, which targets the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates).

Those Asian states – Malaysia, Singapore and Tonga – are likely the next candidates for the new global partnership, as are Latin American troop providers like El Salvador and Colombia. The inclusion of the last-named marks the expansion of NATO, through memberships and partnerships, to all six inhabited continents.

Iraq and Yemen are likely prospects for inclusion in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. Mediterranean Dialogue members Jordan and Morocco applied for membership in the Gulf Cooperation Council (which is composed of the Arab world’s other six monarchies) during NATO’s war against Libya in 2011, for which Gulf Cooperation Council and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative members Qatar and the United Arab Emirates supplied dozens of warplanes.

If the West succeeds if effecting the overthrow of the Syrian government, Syria and Lebanon will be targeted for membership in NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue. (As will Palestine if and when it is recognized by the United Nations.) Were the above to occur, all 22 members of the League of Arab States would be NATO military partners. (5)

With the new administration in Cyprus confirming its intention to immediately join the Partnership for Peace, every nation in the Mediterranean Sea Basin will be a NATO member and partner. The integration of Cyprus will also complete the process of recruiting every European nation (excluding mini-states Andorra, Lichtenstein, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican) into the NATO orbit.

In the past three years there also has been discussion about NATO establishing a collective partnership arrangement, which could include individual partnerships as well, with the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which are, in addition to Malaysia and Singapore, mentioned above, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.

Similar efforts have been made by NATO to forge a collective partnership with the 54-member African Union. All African nations are members of the African Union except for Morocco and the fledgling state of South Sudan. All African countries except Egypt are in the area of responsibility of U.S. Africa Command, which before achieving full operational capacity in 2008 was created and developed by U.S. European Command, whose top military commander is simultaneously that of NATO.

The African Standby Force has been systematically modeled after the NATO Response Force, which was launched with large-scale war games in the African island nation of Cape Verde in 2006. The ASF is a joint project of NATO and U.S. Africa Command.

In 2007 the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s top civilian decision-making body, commissioned a study, in NATO’s own words, “on the assessment of the operational readiness of the African Standby Force (ASF) brigades.” (6)

The following year then-NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visited Ghana for three days and said “the military alliance could play an important role in training African soldiers,” in particular that “the Alliance had agreed to support the African Standby Force.” (7)

In 2009 the bloc began training African staff officers for the ASF at the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany. Joint Command Lisbon, the Alliance headquarters tasked to supervise military cooperation with the African Union, has trained African officers to run military exercises.

The current NATO secretary general has also bruited the intention to cultivate formal relations with India and China, likely to be based on the bilateral NATO-Russia Council model.

There has been discussion in recent years, including an explicit call by a Portuguese foreign minister for precisely such an initiative, for NATO to expand into the South Atlantic as well by building military partnerships with countries like Brazil and South Africa. (8) (Six warships with the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 held exercises with the South African navy in 2007 in the course of circumnavigating the African continent. Also in that year the same NATO naval force conducted operations in the Caribbean, the first time alliance warships entered that sea.)

NATO AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System)
NATO AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System)

In conjunction with the U.S., NATO is striving to assemble the remnants of defunct or dormant Cold War-era military blocs in the Asia-Pacific region, all modeled after NATO itself – the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and the Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America (ANZUS) – to replicate in the east against China what NATO expansion has accomplished in Europe over the past 14 years in relation to Russia: its exclusion, isolation and encirclement by military bases, naval forces and interceptor missile installations.

As the Pentagon and NATO are implementing plans to deploy land-based interceptor missiles in Romania and Poland and sea-based equivalents on guided missile warships in, first, the Mediterranean and plausibly afterward in the Black, Baltic, Barents and Norwegian Seas, so the U.S. has recruited Japan, South Korea and Australia into its global sea- and land-based missile shield grid, with a recent report indicating the Pentagon plans to add the Philippines to the list with the deployment there of an Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance interceptor missile mobile system of the sort already stationed in Japan, Israel and Turkey.

Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and other NATO leaders routinely assert that the European Phased Adaptive Approach missile system is aimed not only against Iran but North Korea – and Syria. In April of this year Rasmussen became the first NATO secretary general to visit South Korea. Days earlier his second-in-command, Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, spoke of the possibility of invoking NATO’s Article 5 mutual military assistance clause against North Korea.

Since 1999 the North Atlantic bloc has waged air and ground wars in Europe (Yugoslavia), Asia (Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan) and Africa (Libya), as well as running comprehensive naval surveillance, interdiction, boarding and assault operations in the Mediterranean Sea (Active Endeavor) and in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean (Ocean Shield) and airlift operations for African troops into the Darfur region of western Sudan and into war-torn Somalia.

Post-Cold War NATO has repeatedly and without disguise identified its purview and its area of operations to be international in scope, and over the past 22 years its efforts to achieve that objective have steadily accelerated to the point where the military alliance is well poised to supplant the United Nations as the main, indeed the exclusive, arbiter of conflicts not only between but within nations throughout the world. A U.S.-dominated armed bloc which includes three nuclear powers and accounts for an estimated 70 percent of global military spending has expanded deployments, operations and partnerships around the planet.

Four years ago Hans von Sponeck, former UN Assistant Secretary General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, wrote a scathing denunciation called The United Nations and NATO: Which security and for whom? for a Swiss journal in which, in a section called “21st century NATO incompatible with UN Charter,” he stated:

“In 1999, NATO acknowledged that it was seeking to orient itself according to a new fundamental strategic concept. From a narrow military defense alliance it was to become a broad-based alliance for the protection of the vital resources needs of its members. Besides the defense of member states’ borders, it set itself new purposes such as assured access to energy sources and the right to intervene in ‘movements of large numbers of persons’ and in conflicts far from the boarders of NATO countries. The readiness of the new alliance to include other countries, particularly those that had previously been part of the Soviet Union, shows how the character of this military alliance has altered.”

“[T]he United Nations monopoly of the use of force, especially as specified in Article 51 of the Charter, was no longer accepted according to the 1999 NATO doctrine.

“NATO’s territorial scope, until then limited to the Euro-Atlantic region, was expanded by its member to encompass the whole world in keeping with a strategic context that was global in its sweep.” (9)

For the past 18 years NATO has been attempting to supersede and ultimately replace the United Nations, as von Sponeck warned, initially by promoting itself as the military wing of the UN by leading multinational military forces under post-conflict mandates in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia – 60,000 troops in the first and 50,000 in the second case at peak strength. (The first two missions followed, respectively, a NATO bombing campaign against the Bosnian Serb Republic and 78-day air war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to be sure.) A comparable situation existed in Iraq, with NATO supporting the foreign occupation of the nation from 2004-2011. In fact all the post-Cold War NATO inductees – Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia – were compelled to supply troops for Iraq as proof of their loyalty to NATO before and shortly after their accession.

And for Afghanistan. But unlike the NATO missions in the above former Yugoslav territories, that in Afghanistan was to an active war zone, constituting NATO’s first ground war and first war outside Europe.

After the military alliance took over the International Security Assistance Force, it came to command almost all of the 152,000 foreign troops in the nation and soldiers from over 50 Troop Contributing Nations (the official designation). Armed forces from that many nations had never before fought in one war, much less under a single command and in one nation.

Those nations are:

All 28 current NATO members: The U.S., Albania, Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey.

Partnership for Peace adjuncts: Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Macedonia, Montenegro, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine.

Others: Australia (Partners Across the Globe), Bahrain (Istanbul Cooperation Initiative), El Salvador, Jordan (Mediterranean Dialogue), Malaysia, Mongolia (Partners Across the Globe), New Zealand (Partners Across the Globe), Singapore, South Korea (Partners Across the Globe), Tonga and the United Arab Emirates (Istanbul Cooperation Initiative).

Several additional nations supplied military and security personnel to serve under NATO command in Afghanistan without being formal Troop Contributing Nations such as Colombia, Egypt (Mediterranean Dialogue), Japan (Partners Across the Globe), Moldova (Partnership for Peace) and no doubt others. Efforts were made by the U.S. and NATO to secure troop contributions from such nations as Bangladesh and Kazakhstan.

The governments and militaries of Afghanistan itself and neighboring Pakistan are linked to NATO under the Afghanistan-Pakistan-International Security Assistance Force Tripartite Commission.

NATO has air and other military bases in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Those three nations have also been used by NATO as part of the Northern Distribution Network and other transit routes that include as well Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Iraq, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Oman, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, etc.

The war in Afghanistan, the longest in the nation’s history as well as in that of the U.S., has supplied NATO with an almost 12-year opportunity to consolidate an international military network and to develop the operational and command integration of the armed forces of almost 60 nations. This is the global NATO that among others the Obama administration’s first ambassador to the alliance, Ivo Daalder, has openly touted under that exact name since the beginning of this century. (10)

The increasing use of the word global by the U.S.-dominated military alliance (recall that its latest program is called Partners Across the Globe) leaves no room for doubt regarding the emergence of NATO as a self-designated international military force, history’s first, and its intention to assume so-called out-of-area missions much farther from the territory of its member states than previous military campaigns and operations in the Balkans, South Asia, North Africa and the Indian Ocean.

Many NATO members and partners, particularly former Soviet federal republics in the Baltic Sea region and in the South Caucasus, have used the Afghan war to gain combat experience for their armed forces to be used in conflicts in their own neighborhoods: Georgia, for example, in preparing for any resumption of armed conflict with South Ossetia and Russia such as occurred in August 2008.

The Georgian-South Ossetian-Russian war was preceded by Georgian artillery barrages against the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali on August 1 which killed six people including a Russian peacekeeper stationed there.

That attack occurred within hours of 1,000 U.S. Marines, airborne forces and other troops completing the two-week Immediate Response 2008 NATO Partnership for Peace exercise in Georgia.

Six days afterward the Mikheil Saakashvili regime launched an all-out assault against South Ossetia, timed to coincide with the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing.

American troops and military equipment remained in the war zone throughout the five days of fighting between Georgia and Russia which began after the latter nation reacted to the deaths of Russian peacekeepers and South Ossetian civilians (who overwhelmingly hold Russian passports) caused by the Georgian onslaught.

U.S. military transport aircraft ferried home 2,000 Georgian troops deployed to Iraq – the third largest national contingent after those of the U.S. and Britain at the time – as the fighting was still raging.

Five days after the war ended, Joseph Biden – then senator and chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, now vice president – rushed to the Georgian capital to support Saakashvili and offer $1 billion in “emergency aid” to the U.S. client.

Later in the month the U.S. dispatched the USS McFaul guided missile destroyer (part of the Aegis combat system designed to fire interceptor missiles), USS Mount Whitney (the flagship of the U.S. Sixth Fleet) and a Coast Guard cutter to the Georgian Black Sea coast, immediately south of Abkhazia and not much farther from the Russian shoreline. The heavily armed warships were, if one trusts Washington’s account of their mission, engaged in a humanitarian operation. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused the U.S. of bringing weapons into Georgia.

The American ships, joined by as many as fifteen other NATO vessels, and Russian opposite numbers deployed to the region were only some ninety miles apart.

After Saakashvili’s Pyrrhic attempt to eliminate the two barriers remaining to dragging his country into NATO – unresolved territorial disputes and the presence of foreign troops on its soil (at the time a small number of Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia and Abkhazia) – with the invasion of South Ossetia and following that an offensive against Abkhazia, the U.S. and NATO hastened to shore up their outpost in the South Caucasus.

In mid-September NATO’s Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and its North Atlantic Council (the permanent representatives – ambassadors – of all its 26 member states at the time) visited Georgia and, guided by the host country’s defense minister, inspected air force and infantry bases.

During the trip, the U.S.-controlled military bloc signed a framework agreement on creating the NATO-Georgia Commission, out of which developed an Annual National Program to further Georgia’s integration into the Alliance, an exceptional measure to circumvent the standard stages through which a candidate nation passes to achieve full NATO accession.

Washington followed suit in December when then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza announced a framework agreement on a U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership, which was formalized by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze in Washington on January 9, 2009.

In October of 2008 Washington deployed the destroyer USS Mason to Georgia for training exercises and in the same month the Georgian defense minister met with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the sidelines of a NATO defense chiefs meeting in Hungary, after which it was announced that “U.S. military assistance will be aimed at strengthening Georgian air defenses.” (11)

Toward the end of that month a delegation headed by Frank Boland, head of Force Planning for the NATO Defense Policy and Planning Directorate, visited Georgia to meet with the country’s top defense and military officials and prepare the nation for the next stage of NATO integration.

With the expansion of the U.S-dominated military bloc into Eastern Europe in 1999 and 2004, in the latter case not only the remaining non-Soviet former Warsaw Pact states but three ex-Soviet republics became full members, there are now five NATO nations bordering Russia. Three directly abutting its mainland – Estonia, Latvia and Norway – and two more neighboring the Kaliningrad territory, Lithuania and Poland. Finland, Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan are being prepared to follow suit and upon doing so will complete a belt from the Barents to the Baltic, from the Black to the Caspian Seas.

During the Cold War the total length of the Berlin Wall separating West Berlin from the German Democratic Republic was 96 miles. A NATO military cordon from northeastern Norway to northern Azerbaijan would stretch over 3,000 miles (over 4,800 kilometers).

Just as NATO has followed the U.S. into the Balkans and Afghanistan, the Caucasus and Africa, the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Oceans. into the global interceptor missile system and so-called energy security initiatives (in fact energy war, with frequent comments from American political leaders recommending the use of NATO’s Article 5 in regard to the transportation of oil and natural gas into Europe), so it has joined Washington in the new scramble in the Arctic Ocean, cyber warfare operations (including establishing a cyber warfare center in the Estonian capital of Tallinn) and the attempt to command the world’s strategic shipping lanes and choke points.

In May of last year the alliance’s top military commander, Admiral James Stavridis, asserted that NATO collectively has three million men and women under arms, 24,000 military aircraft and 800 ships. The 26 European members of the alliance spend $300 billion a year on their military budgets, which with U.S. and Canadian defense spending totals over $1 trillion.

Though Europe may be the base for launching military operations, it is not the main venue for them, as Stavridis pointed out:

“This is an alliance of enormous resources, and it represents those that stand with us today in Afghanistan, in the Balkans, in the Libya operation and in [the Horn of Africa region]. So these strategic, enduring partnerships in Europe are going to underpin the strategic focus on the challenges in Asia and in the Middle East.” (12)

Pooling and sharing military resources under NATO’s so-called Smart Defense program to further integrate respective national capabilities into a supranational NATO structure include the upgrading of NATO operational capabilities in Europe includes the Alliance Ground Surveillance System with a Global Hawk-like unmanned aircraft fleet and under control of the NATO Command Structure and the alliance’s over nine-year-old Baltic Air Policing mission which deploys warplanes from major NATO member states to skirt the borders of northwestern Russia.

Ahead of last year’s summit in Chicago, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen identified the progression from European theater interceptor missile systems like NATO’s Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence (ALTBMD) and the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) and the U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 battery deployed to Poland two years ago to current continent-wide territorial coverage with the integration of those systems with Washington’s European Phased Adaptive Approach, and stated: “As far as NATO is concerned, we have tested the systems and they work.” (13)

The next three stages of the Phased Adaptive Approach will consist of progressively more advanced versions of the Standard Missile-3 interceptors hitherto deployed on ships for both sea and land use. (The second is known as Aegis Ashore.) The current ship-based interceptor missile is the Standard Missile-3 Block IA. Its successors will be Block IB, Block IIA and Block IIB models to be stationed in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea regions, in Poland and Romania on land (24 Block IBs in Romania, as many Block IIAs in Poland), and in the Mediterranean on U.S. guided missile destroyers and cruisers, including four U.S. Aegis class destroyers to be based at the Naval Station Rota in Spain. The naval component could later be deployed in the Black, Baltic, Barents and Norwegian Seas as well.

Each more advanced model will extend the velocity of the missile and the range of the intercept, from short- to medium- and intermediate-range, with the Block IIB expected to be capable of intercepting long-range – intercontinental – ballistic missiles. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon were awarded first phase competition contracts for the Block IIB last year.

Not content with encircling the planet, NATO is also expanding into the heavens.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, its name now archaic as most of its members and all of its dozens of partners do not border the Atlantic Ocean, north or south, is well advanced in its U.S.-crafted mission to expand into history’s largest and first international military bloc and an unprecedented threat to world peace.


1. U.S. Department of State
May 4, 2006

2. U.S. Department of State
April 23, 2008

3. Rick Rozoff: 1989-2009: Moving The Berlin Wall To Russia’s Borders
November 7, 2009

4. Rick Rozoff: Partners Across The Globe: NATO Consolidates Worldwide Military Force
April 26, 2012

5. Rick Rozoff: Chicago Summit: NATO To Complete Domination Of Arab World
April 18, 2012

6. North Atlantic Treaty Organization

7. Ghana News Agency
November 21, 2008

8. Rick Rozoff: Global NATO Raises Alarms From Arctic To Brazil
September 17, 2010

9. Hans von Sponeck: The United Nations and NATO: Which security and for whom?
Current Concerns
No 2, 2009

10. Ivo Daalder and James Goldgeier: Global NATO
Foreign Affairs
September/October 2006

11. Civil Georgia
October 9, 2008

12. U.S. Department of Defense
American Forces Press Service
May 3, 2012

13. Rick Rozoff: Chicago: NATO To Announce Activation Of European Missile Shield
May 2, 2012

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