NATO: Still Relevant? WI

            Dr. Arthur Cyr gave the third Great Decisions Lecture on February 27, speaking on NATO’s relevancy in today’s political climate, concluding that it is still established, even if not important.

            Cyr, former president of the Chicago World Trade Center, focused his lecture around supplying extensive information on the international political climate at the time of NATO’s creation. He also dwelled significantly on the importance of the Korean War in legitimizing NATO’s existence. 

The Q&A session following Cyr’s lecture was devoted to NATO’s place in the modern world. Cyr pointed out that the famous Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which states that an attack on one member of NATO is an attack on all, has only been invoked once. 

            This occasion was after 9/11. 

“I think that over the long term, NATO will have to change…if it is to survive,” Cyr said of NATO’s future.

Many of the questions posed to Cyr concerned the effect of important world affairs on NATO’s future.

In consideration of Russia and China’s public stances on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, Cyr said that the fact that each of these nations holds veto power in the United Nations should not have an effect on NATO’s survival. 

“The U.S., Russia, and China have similar goals,” Cyr said. “Russia and China have been vocal in condemning North Korea’s last two nuclear tests.”

The importance of the survival of the European Union to NATO’s endurance was a different matter, though. 

Cyr said, “If the [European] Union did fall apart, I think that would have an indirect weakening effect on NATO.” However, Cyr did not believe there was much danger to NATO in Britain’s desire to leave the European Union. He explained that while there are plenty of “younger Tories who want to get out of Europe” in Britain’s government, the nation is very likely to stay in the European Union.

As for NATO’s future on the world stage, Cyr does not believe that NATO will become involved in Syria. He pointed out that NATO was involved in Libya in part because of Libya’s importance as an oil producer. Syria does not produce oil. 

Furthermore, President Obama’s decision to overrule his Cabinet and stay out of Syria, according to Cyr, will likely discourage NATO from becoming involved in the war-torn country.

In summary, one can safely conclude from Cyr’s lecture that NATO’s endurance is more than likely, but its relevancy is in serious question.

            Cyr has authored four books on international politics and served as president of the Chicago World Trade Center and vice president of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.