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Is NATO Undermining Global Stability?



Authors: Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza(*) and Markus Heinrich

The Western Alliance has been one of the linchpins of the post-Second World War world order, but have its recent actions undermined global stability?

In May, the U.S. Aegis Ashore missile defence system in Romania – to be operated by NATO – was declared operational amid pomp and fanfare, stoking fresh tensions with Russia. The missile defence system is the latest example of NATO policies which have proved to be destabilising, but let us rewind for some context. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ending of the Cold War, the West, and by extension NATO, found itself in a very advantageous position: there no longer existed a rival in the military sense, European integration continued with the peaceful unification of Germany and the development of east European states which had been separated by the Iron Curtain, and Russia, the former enemy, increasingly became a trading partner. From a Western perspective, the Cold War really could not have ended any better. Why then, when the status quo was so much in its favour and the world was (mostly) stable, has NATO expanded, provoked Russia and arguably contributed to undermining global stability?

While much of contemporary literature, particular in the Western popular press, has been devoted to lambasting Russia’s bellicose actions (albeit legitimately), going deeper by also exploring NATO’s role in precipitating them has, conveniently, received somewhat less attention. Though Russia’s actions cannot be condoned, there are, as always, two sides to the story, and due to its expansion, provocation and interventions NATO has also contributed to the instability and tension which characterises the current international political climate.

Recruiting in Russia’s back yard

One of the factors contributing to NATO-Russia tensions has been NATO enlargement – despite pledges that it would not move eastwards, nor recruit former Warsaw Pact members – which Russia says threatens its security. This perception was formalised in its Military Doctrine of 2010 which identifies NATO military infrastructure moving closer to its border as the main external military danger. Since the Cold War ended, Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia have joined the Alliance, with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia and Montenegro (with which an Accession Protocol was signed in May) lined up to join. According to the Alliance its policy on enlargement is that “NATO’s door remains open to any European country in a position to undertake the commitments and obligations of membership, and contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area.” The question can be asked however, has NATO enlargement contributed to security in the Euro-Atlantic area?

Security in the Euro-Atlantic area, though admittedly influenced by a multitude of complex factors, is largely predicated on good NATO-Russia relations. It therefore follows that provoking Russia through expansion – thereby altering the balance of forces as well as the geographic distribution of those forces i.e. the security conditions that have ensured peace since the end of the Cold War – negatively affects NATO-Russia relations and, hence, negatively affects security in the Euro-Atlantic area.

Even if the case can be made that countries in the European Union, or soon to join it, should also join NATO in order to also integrate them into the European defence architecture, this would not cover countries clearly in Russia’s “back yard” such as Georgia. If this country joins NATO, then Russia’s fear of being encircled by the Alliance would not be paranoia but an undeniable reality. In such a case, it can be expected that Russia will respond, presumably by raising new forces and/or stationing them further west, which in turn could prompt NATO to respond and lead to a tit-for-tat remilitarization to the detriment of Euro-Atlantic security.

Missile shield (not) aimed at Russia

The logical principle called Occam’s Razor states that all things being equal, the simplest (or most logical) explanation is usually the right one. From a Russian perspective, if it applied this concept to the NATO missile shield currently coming online in Eastern Europe – which NATO claims is to protect Europe against rogue states in the Middle East and Russia fears is aimed at weakening its nuclear deterrent thereby altering the nuclear balance of power -Russia would (and did) conclude that its explanation is the more likely of the two. Even if one subscribed to the view that the missile shield was aimed at rogue states, NATO officials have been vague about whether it could be reconfigured to be used against Russia.

Although NATO officials have consistently stated that the Aegis anti-missile system would be ineffective against Russian Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles or ICBMs, evidently this has not allayed Russian fears. Russia also claims that the launching platforms could be used to launch cruise missiles, thereby violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and described it as a threat to regional and global stability. President Vladimir Putin has warned that any attempt to neutralise Russia’s strategic deterrent risks a new arms race and that Russia will take responsive steps and develop strike weapons capable of overcoming any missile shield. Thus, regardless of which explanation of the missile shield’s true purpose one believes, the reality is that after decades of mutual staged nuclear disarmament, nuclear rearmament is now a distinct possibility and it is NATO that has precipitated it.

Successful interventions?

Stability in the international system is predicated on peremptory norms – or jus cogens – of international law being observed without derogation. One of these norms governs the use of force, specifically the prohibition of fighting wars of aggression, i.e. wars fought not in self defence, unless they are collective actions authorised by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999 – regardless of whether or not it was the right thing to do – did not have the authorisation of the UNSC and therefore undermined the legitimacy of the United Nations and sent the dangerous message that unilateral interventions are acceptable in certain situations.

Another NATO intervention, this time in support of UNSC Resolution 1973, namely in Libya in 2011, though decisive and ending quickly, has also been dubious for a different reason. Libya is now largely lawless, with an array of armed militias controlling different areas of the country. The chaos has resulted in the Islamic State becoming increasingly active in the country, which has also become a paradise for people trafficking networks smuggling refugees across the Mediterranean – usually crammed into unseaworthy boats – as part of Europe’s migrant crisis. Although the intervention in Libya was in support of a UNSC resolution, NATO, as the main firepower provider, also carries responsibility for turning Libya into a failed state.

NATO has been, and continues to be, a valuable – if not irreplaceable – institution which serves an important purpose. This does not mean however that it should not be looked at critically, its policies questioned and its dubious actions pointed out. In order for the Alliance to continue to contribute to global stability, rather than stoke instability, the following conclusions are arrived at:

1. Further expansion of the Alliance will bring more disadvantages than benefits (potential candidates bring very little military capability but a range of potential problems) and will provoke Russia which fears NATO is encircling it.

2. The missile shield in Eastern Europe clearly antagonises Russia (weighing the risks of a rogue state striking Europe against the risks of a new nuclear arms race with Russia suggests the latter are the greater).

3. Foreign interventions set a dangerous precedent (when embarked upon without UNSC authorisation) and even when undertaken in support of a UNSC resolution should be carried through properly not to leave the chaos of a failed state in their wake.

(*) Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza is a political columnist and PhD candidate who has spoken at numerous international conferences and published articles on international affairs.

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Pakistan’s Nuclear Safety and Security

Sonia Naz



Wyn Bowen and Matthew Cottee discuss in their research entitled “Nuclear Security Briefing Book” that nuclear terrorism involves the acquisition and detonation of an intact nuclear weapon from a state arsenal. The world has not experienced any act of nuclear terrorism but terrorists expressed their desires to gain nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has observed many incidents of lost, theft and unauthorized control of nuclear material. The increased use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes has intensified the threat that terrorist can target these places for acquiring nuclear materials. They cannot build a nuclear weapon because production of a nuclear weapon would require a technological infrastructure. Thus, it is the most difficult task that is nearly impossible because the required infrastructure and technological skills are very high which even a strong terrorist group could not bear easily, but they can build a dirty bomb.

A dirty bomb is not like a nuclear bomb. A nuclear bomb spreads radiation over hundreds of square miles while nuclear bomb could cause destruction only over a few square miles. A dirty bomb would not kill any more people than an ordinary bomb but it would create psychological terror. There is no viable security system for the prevention of nuclear terrorism, but the only possible solution is that there should be a stringent nuclear security system which can halt terrorists from obtaining nuclear materials.

The UN Security Council and the IAEA introduced multilateral nuclear security initiatives. Pakistan actively contributed in all international nuclear security efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism. For example, United States President Barak Obama introduced the process of Nuclear Security Summit (NSS)in 2009 to mitigate the threat of nuclear terrorism. The objective of NSS was to secure the material throughout the world in four years.

Pakistan welcomed it and not only made commitments in NSS but also fulfilled it. Pakistan also established a Centre of Excellence (COEs) on nuclear security and hosted workshops on nuclear security. In addition to all this, Pakistan is a signatory of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 and affirms its strong support to the resolution. It has submitted regular reports to 1540 Committee which explain various measures taken by Pakistan on radiological security and control of sensitive materials and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) transfer. Pakistan is the first country which submitted a report to the UN establishing the fact that it is fulfilling its responsibilities. Pakistan ratified Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) in 2016. It is also the member of Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT). It can be rightly inferred that Pakistan is not only contributing in all the international nuclear security instruments but has also taken multiple effective measures at the national level.

Pakistan created National Command Authority (NCA) to manage and safeguard nuclear assets and related infrastructures. The Strategic Plan Division (SPD) is playing a very important role in managing Pakistan’s nuclear assets by collaborating with all strategic organizations. Establishment of Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA)in 2001 is another development in this regard. The PNRA works under the IAEA advisory group on nuclear security and it is constantly improving and re-evaluating nuclear security architecture. National Institute of Safety and Security (NISAS) was established under PNRA in 2014. Pakistan has also adopted the Export Control Act to strengthen its nuclear export control system. It deals with the rules and regulations for nuclear export and licensing. The SPD has also formulated a standard functioning procedure to regulate the conduct of strategic organizations. Christopher Clary discusses in his research “Thinking about Pakistan’s Nuclear Security in Peacetime” that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals are equipped with Permissive Action Links (PALs) for its stringent security. According to Pakistan’s former nuclear scientist Samar Mubarakmand, every Pakistani nuclear arsenal is now fitted with a code-lock device which needs a proper code to enable the arsenal to explode.

Nonetheless the nuclear terrorism is a global concern and reality because terrorist organizations can target civilian nuclear facility in order to steal nuclear material. The best way to eradicate the root of nuclear terrorism is to have a stringent nuclear security system.

Western media and outsiders often propagate that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals can go into the wrong hands i.e. terrorists, but they do not highlight the efforts of Pakistan in nuclear security at the national and international level. The fact is that Pakistan has contributed more in international nuclear security efforts than India and it has stringent nuclear security system in place.

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India’s Probable Move toward Space Weaponization



The term Space Weaponization tends to raise alarm as it implies deployment of weapons in the outer space or on heavenly bodies like Sun and Moon or sending weapon from earth to the outer space to destroy satellite capabilities of other states. Thus, space weaponization refers to the actions taken by a state to use outer space as an actual battlefield.

Space militarization on the other hand is a rather less offensive term which stands for utilization of space for intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance missions through satellites to support forces on ground in the battle field. Space militarization is already in practice by many states. In South Asia, India is utilizing its upper hand in space technology for space militarization. However, recent concern in this regard is India’s attempts to weaponize space, which offers a bleak situation for regional peace and stability. Moreover, if India went further with this ambitiousness when Pakistan is also sending its own satellites in space, security situation will only deteriorate due to existing security dilemma between both regional counterparts.

Threats of space weaponization arise from the Indian side owing to its rapid developments in Ballistic Missile Defenses (BMDs) and Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM). Both of these technologies, BMDs and ICBMs, hand in hand, could be used to destroy space based assets. In theory, after slight changes in algorithms, BMDs are capable of detecting, tracking and homing in on a satellite and ICBM could be used to target the satellites for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Many international scholars agree on the point that BMD systems have not yet acquired sophistication to give hundred percent results in destroying all the incoming ballistic missile, but they sure have the capability to work as anti-satellite systems. The reason behind the BMD being an effective anti-sat system is that it is easier to locate, track and target the satellites because they are not convoyed with decoys unlike missiles which create confusions for the locating and tracking systems.

India possesses both of the above-mentioned technologies and its Defense Research and Development Organization has shown the intention to build anti-satellite weaponry. In 2012, India’s then head of DRDO categorically said that India needs an arsenal in its system that could track the movement of enemy’s satellite before destroying it, thus what India is aiming at is the credible deterrence capability.

One thing that comes in lime light after analyzing the statement is that India is in fact aiming for weaponizing the space. With the recent launch of its indigenous satellites through its own launch vehicle not only for domestic use but also for commercial use, India is becoming confident enough in its capabilities of space program. This confidence is also making India more ambitious in space program. It is true that treaties regarding outer space only stop states from putting weapons of mass destruction in outer space. But, destruction of satellites will create debris in outer space that could cause destruction for other satellites in the outer space.

On top of it all the reality cannot be ignored that both Pakistan and India cannot turn every other arena into battlefield. Rivalry between both states has already turned glaciers and ocean into war zones, resultantly affecting the natural habitat of the region. By going for ballistic missile defences and intercontinental ballistic missiles India has not only developed missile technology but also has made significant contribution in anti-sat weaponry, which is alarming, as due to security dilemma, Pakistan will now be ever more compelled to develop capabilities for the security of its satellites. So far both states are confined till space militarization to enhance the capabilities of their forces, but if that force multiplier in space goes under threat, Pakistan will resort to capability to counter Indian aggression in space as well, which will be the classic action-reaction paradigm. Thus, it is pertinent that India as front runner in space technology develop policy of restrain to control the new arms race in the region which has potential to change the skies and space as we know them.

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Pakistan’s Nuclear Policy: Impact on Strategic Stability in South Asia

Sonia Naz



Most significant incident happened when India tested its nuclear device on18 May, 1974.After India’s nuclear test, Pakistan obtained the nuclear technology, expertise and pursued a nuclear program to counter India which has more conventional force than Pakistan. Pakistan obtained nuclear program because of India, it has not done anything independently but followed India. Pakistan just wanted to secure its borders and deter Indian aggression. It was not and is not interested in any arms race in the region. It is not signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT). Pakistan has not signed NPT and CTBT because India has not signed it. Since acquiring the nuclear weapons, it has rejected to declare No First Use (NFU) in case of war to counter India’s conventional supremacy.

The basic purpose of its nuclear weapons is to deter any aggression against its territorial integrity. Riffat Hussain while discussing Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine argues that it cannot disobey the policy of NFU due to Indian superiority in conventional force and it makes India enable to fight conventional war with full impunity. Pakistan’s nuclear posture is based on minimum credible nuclear deterrence which means that its nuclear weapons have no other role except to counter the aggression from its adversary.  It is evident that Pakistan’s nuclear program is Indiacentric.. Owing to the Indian superiority in conventional forces Pakistan nuclear weapons balance the conventional force power percentage between the two states. In November 1999, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar stated that ‘more is unnecessary while little is enough’.

The National Command Authority (NCA), comprising the Employment Control Committee, Development Control Committee and Strategic Plans Division, is the center point of all decision-making regarding the nuclear issue.According to the security experts first use option involves many serious challenges because it needs robust military intelligence and very effective early warning system. However, Pakistan’s nuclear establishment is  concerned about nuclear security of weapons for which it has laid out stringent nuclear security system. Pakistan made a rational decision by conducting five nuclear tests in 1998 to restore the strategic stability in South Asia, otherwise it was not able to counter the threat of India’s superior conventional force.

The NCA of Pakistan (nuclear program policy making body) announced on September 9, 2015 the nation’s resolve to maintain a full spectrum deterrence capability in line with the dictates of ‘credible minimum deterrence’ to deter all forms of aggression, adhering to the policy of avoiding an arms race.”It was the response of Indian offensive Cold Start Doctrine which is about the movement of Indian military forces closer to Pakistan’s border with all vehicles. Pakistan wants to maintain strategic stability in the region and its seeks conflict resolution and peace, but India’s hawkish policies towards Pakistan force it to take more steps to secure its border. Pakistan’s nuclear establishment is very vigorously implementing rational countermeasures to respond to India’s aggression by transforming its nuclear doctrine. It has developed tactical nuclear weapons (short range nuclear missiles) that can be used in the battle field.

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in 2013 that Pakistan would continue to obey the policy of minimum credible nuclear deterrence to avoid the arms race in the region. However, it would not remain unaware of the changing security situation in the region and would maintain the capability of full spectrum nuclear deterrence to counter any aggression in the region. Dr. Zafar Jaspal argues in his research that Full credible deterrence does not imply it is a quantitative change in Pakistan’s minimum credible nuclear deterrence, but it is a qualitative response to emerging challenges posed in the region. This proves that Islamabad is not interested in the arms race in the region, but India’s constant military buildup forces Pakistan to convert its nuclear doctrine from minimum to full credible nuclear deterrence.

India’s offensive policies alarm the strategic stability of the region and international community considers that Pakistan’s transformation in nuclear policies would be risky for international security. They have recommended a few suggestions to Pakistan’s nuclear policy making body, but the NCA rejected those mainly because Pakistan is confronting dangerous threats from India and its offensive policies such as the cold start doctrine. Hence no suggestion conflicting with this purpose is acceptable to Pakistan. This is to be made clear at the all national, regional and international platforms that Pakistan is striving hard to maintain the strategic stability while India is only contributing toward instigating the regional arms race.

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