The future of NATO: NATO flexes its muscle memory

AS ORIGINALLY billed, the summit looked likely to be a humdrum affair. But a meeting of the NATO alliance in Newport in south Wales on September 4th and 5th, intended to mark the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, now looks likely to be one of the most important gatherings in the organisation’s 65-year history. From the moment in March when Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, sent his troops into Crimea, thus beginning the first forcible annexation of territory in Europe since the second world war, it has been clear that NATO is back in the business it was created for: collective territorial defence.Mr Putin has given NATO a shot in the arm just as its relevance was being questioned, and not for the first time. Although the alliance reached a peak of activity in 2011 with six operations in three continents (Afghanistan, Kosovo, Libya, a training mission in Iraq, counter-terrorism operations in the Mediterranean and counter-piracy off the Horn of Africa), most are now over or winding down. Russia’s military modernisation and menacing large-scale exercises close to NATO’s borders worried the alliance’s northern and eastern members. But most Europeans were more…

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