The Russian intervention in Ukraine in February 2022 has served as a catalyst or actualizer of a long-standing trend in NATO: that of justifying its existence by its geographical expansion. This is both in organic terms, through the incorporation of new states into its structure, and in operational terms, through the execution of so-called out-of-area operations, and the intensification of its rivalry with Russia. This dynamic, which has been firmly established since the mid-1990s, has been overridden by the growing contradictions between the interests of its members, the successive changes in US administrations, and the transformation of the international system, characterized by an inexorable trend toward multipolarity. Altogether, these factors explain the extent to which NATO is facing a definitive choice. Starting with the implications of the war in Ukraine for NATO, this article provides a historical analysis of this phenomenon, noting the vicissitudes of NATO’s enlargements and operations over the past thirty years, and how these activities have enabled the alliance to weather the successive internal crises it has faced. Ultimately, the authors argue that the war in Ukraine marks the end of this dynamic and of NATO’s masculinist dilemma either to limit its operations to the defense of its members (in line with the collective security clause enshrined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty) or to complete pending enlargement processes, thereby endangering international peace and security.

Author Biography

Carlos González-Villa is Assistant Professor at the University of Castilla-La Mancha (Toledo), Spain. He teaches in the field of International Relations and Foreign Policy. He has conducted research stays at the Johns Hopkins University Graduate School of International Studies in Washington, the University of Ljubljana, and the University of Rijeka, among other institutions. He is a researcher at the Center for European Studies of the University of Castilla-La Mancha and a member of the Scientific Committee of Encrucijadas: Revista Crítica de Ciencias Sociales. Email ID: Carlos.GonzalezVilla@uclm.es

Branislav Radeljić is Professor of International Relations in the Department of Government and Society, United Arab Emirates University, UAE. He is the author and editor of numerous publications dealing with EU, East European, and Western Balkan political and socioeconomic developments. Outside academia, on an occasional basis, he conducts research and provides consultancy services within his area of expertise. He is also a UK- and US-registered expert witness for asylum, refugee, and immigration cases. He covers Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Russia, Serbia, and Turkey. Email ID: radeljic@uaeu.ac.ae