Patterns of NATO Evolution: Achievements and Prospects

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2020-64-1-26-34

I. Istomin (,
MGIMO University, 76, Vernadskogo Prosp., Moscow, 119454, Russian Federation;
I. Bolgova (,
MGIMO University, 76, Vernadskogo Prosp., Moscow, 119454, Russian Federation;
A. Sushentsov (,
Institute for International Studies MGIMO University, 76, Vernadskogo Prosp., Moscow, 119454, Russian Federation;
O. Rebro (,
Institute for International Studies MGIMO University, 76, Vernadskogo Prosp., Moscow, 119454, Russian Federation


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is perhaps the most successful and enduring intergovernmental military alliance in modern history. Such longevity can be attributed to the versatility of the Alliance. Comprising several institutional functions, it has been able to adapt to the changing security environment by successfully merging functional pluralism with reduction of multitasking. Such institutional agility, coupled with the U.S.’ willingness to assume a leadership role and the superficial homogeny of its members, often obscured the constant struggle between their various national security interests. This article observes the current tumultuous state of affairs in the Transatlantic Alliance, looks into the roots of these frictions and aims to chart the likely path forward for the Organization in the next decade. To achieve this goal, the authors study the evolution of NATO’s institutional mandate comprised of three key functions (collective defense, security community, global projection of power) and determine the limits of its adaptability that set the framework for the future development of the Alliance. Applying the method of scenario tree, the authors identify possible bifurcation points and key contradictions and, relying on the expert survey, outline likely trajectory of NATO’s evolution. The study concludes that the growing number of member states and internal processes within them contributed to the increased heterogeneity of the Organization, thus, making it more difficult to set common agenda and mobilize limited resources. However, current heated debate between the allies about burden sharing and top priorities, though might trigger inevitable cosmetic changes to the terms of the partnership, is unlikely to undermine the foundational principles. In this context, the resurgence of a “Russia threat” will continue to serve as a mobilization factor with little chance of turning into a direct military clash. Rather the relations between Russia and “the West” will be stipulated by the confrontation of attrition in other areas with NATO playing an auxiliary role.


NATO, United States of America, European security, security community, liberal consensus, power projection, burden sharing


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For citation:
Istomin I., Bolgova I., Sushentsov A., Rebro O. Patterns of NATO Evolution: Achievements and Prospects. Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 2020, vol. 64, No 1, pp. 26-34.

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