- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2002

As the dust has settled around New York and Washington since September 11, NATO has gone back to business as usual. Conferences convene espousing the virtues of enlarging the alliance. Summits discuss how close NATO should move to Russia. NATO promoters point to the invocation of Article 5, in which the alliance declared that an attack against one member of NATO was an attack against all, as an indication of NATO's relevance in the war on terrorism. Yet that symbolic gesture has yet to be translated into unified action.
For NATO to go on as if the world had not changed will guarantee the irrelevance of the alliance. The enemy NATO existed to fight the Soviet Union no longer exists, and Russia is becoming a pseudo-NATO member. NATO is in danger of settling on the sidelines as the world faces the gravest security threat of this generation.
Some, however, have a vision for the alliance beyond a political role within Europe and North America, a role which would address the most urgent threats facing the alliance today, threats not limited to a state. Sen. Dick Lugar, Republican from Indiana, addressed this mission Friday in a ground-breaking speech in Brussels to NATO ambassadors: "As important as they are, neither NATO enlargement nor NATO-Russia cooperation is the most critical issue facing our nations today. That issue is the war on terrorism. NATO has to decide whether it wants to be relevant in addressing the major security challenge of our day."
Calling NATO's role since September 11 "limited, largely political and symbolic," he addressed three schools of thought in Washington toward NATO. The first believes that NATO is primarily a political organization that should simply remain in Europe. It holds that NATO's main priority should be integrating Russia. The second believes NATO should remain as it is without engaging Russia. The third believes that NATO is the defense arm of Europe and North America and, as such, should respond to security threats facing the trans-Atlantic community regardless of where they occur. Here, finally, is a view that addresses the reality of a post-September 11 world.
"In a world in which terrorist threats can be planned in Germany, financed in Asia, and carried out in the United States, old distinctions between 'in' and 'out of area' have become utterly meaningless," Mr. Lugar said. So too have the distinctions between enemy and friend. The "enemy" now has many faces, and just as many attack tactics. NATO's goals should include keeping nuclear, biological and chemical weapons out of the hands of terrorists, with counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation being the alliance's main objectives.
There are those who will think this new mission is too radical. But September 11 redefined the threats that the West faces. Until the alliance realizes it must address current challenges to security in the trans-Atlantic community, it can consider itself a relic of the Cold War.

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