The North Atlantic Council (NAC) consists of all NATO member states and has effective political authority and powers of decision. Permanent Representatives of all member countries meet together at least once a week. The Council also meets at higher levels involving Foreign Ministers, Defense Ministers or Heads of Government but it has the same authority and powers of decision-making and its decisions have the same status and validity, at whatever level it meets. The Council has an important public profile and issues declarations and communiqués explaining the Alliance’s policies and decisions to the general public and to governments of countries which are not members of NATO. The Council is the only body within the Alliance which derives its authority explicitly from the North Atlantic Treaty.
A: North Korea
Since the Korean War of 1950-1953, the Korean peninsula has been divided into an affluent, capitalist south and an underdeveloped, communist north. The erratic split of this ethnically homogeneous nation has given rise to six decades of ebbing and flowing tensions. In recent years, these tensions have reached new heights, with the northern Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) having allegedly developed long-range nuclear missiles, capable of reaching parts of the United States of America and its allies in South-East Asia. With personal attacks flying to and fro between leaders of both states, combined with their often-unpredictable policies, it becomes clear how the North Korean issue is one of global security. The NAC and its member states are tasked with finding an appropriate response to this challenge.
B: NATO’s Eastern Dimension: Assuring Allies and Managing Russia
Russia’s continuing intervention in Ukraine, including its annexation of Crimea, presents an unequivocal challenge to European security. Russia’s actions are not just a stark rejection of Euro-Atlantic integration; Russia has shattered the vision of a stable, secure, and economically healthy Europe that has guided the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and European Union (EU) policy for two decades. The United States and other NATO members and partners are responding with tools readily at their disposal: economic sanctions on Russia and NATO conventional military measures geared towards demonstrating readiness and new capabilities.
NATO leaders clearly stated their intent to continue on this path in the 2014 Wales Summit Declaration, when they announced a Readiness Action Plan that will create a more capable and responsive NATO Response Force and provide a more robust rotational presence in Eastern Europe. They also
expressed support for the graduating economic sanctions that have been imposed upon Russia. These measures indicate a common rejection of Russia’s actions and a shared commitment to certain concrete steps in response. There is broad agreement that NATO and the EU seek to make Russia pay for its aggression, deter plausible future Russian coercion and threats, reassure NATO member states, and help support the security of non-NATO states, especially Ukraine. However, neither the NATO Alliance nor its individual members currently have a comprehensive strategy for accomplishing these goals. This is not surprising. Not only do Russia’s ambitions remain uncertain, but NATO and EU countries themselves face competing political and economic interests and pressures. NATO, working closely with the EU, needs to regain the initiative to proactively seek peace and stability on the continent and and a coherent, cohesive way forward.