WMU News

NATO expert says alliance at defining moment as 50th anniversary celebrated

April 15, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- As NATO celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, the alliance stands at a crossroads that will shape both NATO's and Europe's future for decades to come.

Dr. Lawrence Ziring, the Arnold E. Schneider Professor of Political Science at Western Michigan University, says the war in Kosovo could threaten NATO's survival and bring about dire consequences.

"NATO cannot fail," Ziring says. "Whatever success means in this instance, NATO has to achieve it. We can't allow Slobodan Milosevic to destroy NATO. In destroying NATO he might well be undermining the European Union as well. Europe might well fall out and take on the same character it had before World War II. And I don't think anyone wants to revisit that particular period. But it's possible. One shouldn't say this is far fetched. It is certainly within the realm of possibility."

Ziring has just returned from Washington, D.C., where he attended a conference on NATO, jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Atlantic Council, the U.S. Army Association and the Center for International Strategic Studies. The editor of the 1993 book on "The New Europe and the World," Ziring has been an academic associate, since 1988, of the Atlantic Council, taking part in such activities as a seminar for European defense ministers.

In addition to the war's outcome, much will be determined at a NATO summit April 23-25 in Washington, that will chart the alliance's future course and observe its 50th anniversary, Ziring says. Europe's fate hangs in the balance.

"Europe is passing through a very difficult phase," Ziring says. "This could be the beginning of a golden age or the return to a very grim set of circumstances."

Though embroiled in the conflict in Kosovo, NATO's peacekeeping abilities have been proven over the years and the organization has much to be proud of in its long history, Ziring adds.

"NATO has been extremely successful," Ziring says. "In the long period of the Cold War, NATO never fired a shot in anger. We didn't have to use our violent capabilities in coping with threats to the security of Western Europe. To that extent, NATO has been very successful."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

Media advisory: For additional comments or an interview with Ziring, call (616) 387-5702. More of Ziring's comments can be heard on WMU's newsline, a radio service produced by the Office of University Relations. To access the newsline, call the toll-free number (888) WMU-NEWS. Follow the prompt and press (1) to access Ziring's comments.

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