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Q&A: Ivan Dinev Ivanov, Political Science – NATO Changed But Still Relevant

Political science professor's new book examines NATO's relevancy.

Date: 1/24/2012
By: Tom Robinette
When the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in 1949, its 12 founding members rallied together to counter the growing risk of Soviet expansion into Eastern Europe.

The Cold War has been over for two decades and NATO has since shifted gears. It now boasts 28 members and works to resolve global issues including assisting troubled nations with crisis response, stabilization and reconstruction.

Ivan Dinev Ivanov, doctoral graduate and visiting assistant professor in political science at the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences, delves into NATO’s changes in his new book, “Transforming NATO: New Allies, Missions, and Capabilities.”
Political Science Professor Ivan Dinev Ivanov examines the relevancy of NATO in his new book.

What was the inspiration for your book and why is this relevant now?
I chose NATO because after the 2002 (Prague) summit, I realized major transformational events occurred within the alliance. NATO became larger, but also more internationally involved than ever in its history. I grew up in Bulgaria and did most of my education in Europe. So I thought it was a big change for us – Bulgarians, East Europeans and Europeans in general. I realized, however, NATO’s transformation posed major challenges for the United States as well. New relationships emerged between the United States, its old European allies, and the new members. NATO had to adapt to the new strategic environment that emerged in the aftermath of 9/11, and get prepared to meet the challenges of the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Can you explain your theories regarding NATO’s changes?
New allies, missions and capabilities – conceptually those are the three topics around which the presentation is clustered. What I’m saying in the book is that you can’t take a one-sided approached at NATO’s transformation; we need to look how these three aspects are intertwined and combined. … The end of the Cold War meant that the Soviet threat had disappeared and the alliance needed to find new role in the international system. I argue that today’s NATO functions in a way similar to the heterogeneous clubs, i.e., as an organization comprised of very diverse groups of nations, where members develop specific skills and capabilities, which I call the idea of complementarities. Allies choose to specialize in a narrow area, thus adding to the already existing capabilities or focus in areas where they can contribute more effectively than others.

What were some of the challenges in your research?
When you do a contemporary piece, it’s like you’re shooting a moving target because it’s changing all the time. I originally wanted to study the NATO expansion. I asked myself, “What can I bring to the literature on NATO?” I cannot explain the expansion process without looking into the other aspects of NATO’s transformation if I don’t look at the other factors – the new missions and capabilities. I wanted to develop an elegant framework that not only explains contemporary events, but also differs from the existing literature. Most of recent scholarship focuses on NATO’s role in Eastern Europe’s democratization. I chose to explore the traditional meaning of alliances, namely how NATO’s expanded structures affect the Alliance’s new missions and capabilities, and how these shape the larger process of transformation.

How do you explain the importance of the United States’ relationship with NATO?
The US needs NATO. Some scholars have expressed skepticism about NATO’s role and utility in the modern international system. The matter of fact is the US needs NATO not only because of its capabilities but also because of its added legitimacy (or broad acceptance of a governing system’s authority). … It’s safe to predict NATO will stay in business for the next 20 years. We need NATO, and we need to work closely with the allies because there’s a lot of work to get done. If you look around in sub-Saharan Africa, in the Mediterranean, in the Middle East and in the Caucuses there is a huge need for various peacekeeping and stabilization operations. NATO has to be very careful. The problems of nation-building pose major challenges in the post-Cold War and post-9/11 world. These problems are not going away. Some of them are actually going to get aggravated.

Why is this work you’ve done important for the A&S political science program?
I’m expanding the existing literature on international security that also has relevancy to contemporary U.S. foreign policy. I can tell you that when we are able to offer a class on NATO and alliances, the class fills up very quickly. Students are generally interested in the topic and want to know more what NATO does today. Alliances are also an important part of international security cooperation. I think the book also adds to the fact that our department has specialization in security studies and attests to our overall research productivity in this area.

Where can readers buy the book?
The book is available at the UC bookstore; publisher Lexington Books, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group; and online retailers (hardcover and e-book) such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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