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NATO: Out of the cold, into the fold

Its goals were lofty and practical: to protect the free world and each other. Attacking one member of NATO meant you had attacked them all. At first, Canada played an important role as a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during the Cold War. But when the Communist threat died, some Canadians wondered why we were still part of the alliance. As NATO continues to redefine its mandate, Canada struggles to determine its own role.

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In its fifth decade, NATO faces a plethora of problems: the threat of terrorism, internal bickering between member states, and competition from the burgeoning European Union collective. The 2002 NATO Prague summit is thus aptly named the Transformation Summit.

As shown in this CBC Television documentary, the revered network of long-time allies plans to put all former Cold War tensions to rest by welcoming its former communist adversaries: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. This new multilateral alliance, once a buffer to the threat of Soviet aggression, now turns its focus to combating the modern threats of terror. 
• An editorial in the Winnipeg Free Press argued that NATO's expansion did little to prove its worth or focus. "Although NATO may be larger on Friday, it is not at all clear that it will be stronger or more effective. The new members add little if anything to NATO's military might, although they vastly extend its military responsibilities. Neither does their admission help to clarify what purpose NATO now serves. Its original purpose -- a united front against a Soviet invasion -- has long since vanished, and even as NATO has grown, the reasons for its continuing existence have become more obscure." -- Nov. 19, 2002

• In a New York Times op-ed piece, academic Michael McFaul praised the expansion and success of NATO. He wrote: "The celebration in Prague should have been more raucous. The most successful alliance in world history has extended to corners of Europe unimaginable just a few years ago. The military capacity gained for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization from expansion is minimal but the political returns will be fantastic.  More than any other institution, NATO has helped make Europe democratic, peaceful and whole. What is particularly striking about the new members -- Slovenia, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia -- is how many of them emerged from Communist rule with no democratic traditions. The pull of NATO, the desire to join this Western club, created real incentives for democratic consolidation."

• The Warsaw Pact formally disbanded in 1991. In May 1997, NATO and Russia cemented a new relationship with the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security. This agreement promised Russia that NATO had no aggressive plans of deploying troops into Eastern Europe. The act also provided for the creation of the Russian-NATO advisory council.

• Membership in NATO as of 2004 (in alphabetical order): Bulgaria (admitted in 2004), Belgium (1949), Canada (1949), Czech Republic (1999), Denmark (1949), Estonia (2004), France (1949), (West) Germany (1955), Greece (1952), Hungary (1999), Iceland (1949), Italy (1949), Latvia (2004), Lithuania (2004), Luxembourg (1949), Netherlands (1949), Norway (1949), Poland (1999), Portugal (1949), Romania (2004), Slovakia (2004), Slovenia (2004), Spain (1982), Turkey (1952), United Kingdom (1949), United States (1949).
Medium: Television
Program: CBC News: Sunday
Broadcast Date: Dec. 8, 2002
Guest(s): Adrian Nastase, George Robertson, Jamie Shea, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Alexander Vondra
Host: Carole MacNeil, Evan Solomon
Duration: 14:47

Last updated: July 18, 2013

Page consulted on December 12, 2014

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