Lukas Posch, Atlantic Community
Image from, with caption: NATO has added 12 new members since the German reunification and the end of the Cold War.
[O]ne of our defense organization's main issues is its declining approval. And this issue results from one of the biggest mistakes made over throughout the last decades. By staying quiet when having been publicly criticized, NATO allowed those who disapproved with its policy to influence the general public's opinion and to impose war weariness upon countries that were not even at war. And while the death toll kept rising in countries that fought terrorism under the banner of NATO, countries such as Germany and France saw disapproval ratings soar without any shot fired.
In order to be ready to meet the requirements current and coming challenges will be demanding of NATO, not only real fronts such as borders to Russia have to see an increase in NATO activity. It is the home front that matters, and it is NATO who did not concentrate on it. Over the past decades, conscription has been abolished all throughout Europe, not only rendering defense increasingly difficult, but also separating nations and their people from their military forces. It is widely known that one of the major advantages of conscription is the connection that is made in peoples' minds between their country, their civil rights and duties and their armed forces. NATO and its members, however, abstained from criticism, leading to a situation in which Turkey is the remaining relevant NATO member using conscript forces.
This year-long silence resulted in a situation in which NATO lost advocates in civil society. And in doing so, it made its initial situation worse when its proponents have to debate opponents on more and more fronts. The internet, social media, newspapers, general talk – all these are areas where NATO did not invest in public diplomacy to the necessary extent. We need strong NATO approval – not just for the sake of readiness to support other nations, but even to keep military spending at a level necessary to maintain efficient defense.
NATO and its members have an easy chance to increase approval in Eastern Europe by increasing its presence. It will be very much harder to improve ratings in countries that have not seen situations in which defense failed. But instead of remaining passive, NATO – and first and foremost, its members – must increase its public presence. They must put emphasis on what would have happened to Europe during the Cold War if NATO would not have been there and they must show, without any sugarcoating, what happened to those who fought for freedom and democracy and have lost. ...