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NATO headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, Jan. 8, 2015 (NATO photo).

Crises in Ukraine, Libya Confront NATO With Risk of Division

Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015

This past weekend, militants in Libya aligned with the so-called Islamic State (IS) brutally executed 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians they had captured. As the victims’ blood flowed into the Mediterranean Sea, their executioner declared, “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.” Even as most of Europe’s attention remains focused on the east and the fighting in Ukraine, the horrific murders highlight the threat the continent faces to the south. They also serve as yet another reminder, if one were necessary, that the operation to depose former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, once praised as a successful example of the responsibility to protect doctrine, has had dangerous consequences.

In particular, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is now faced with a double crisis simultaneously impacting different sectors of the alliance. The northern and eastern alliance members worry about the rise of a potentially more aggressive and unpredictable Russia, one that is able and willing to use the techniques of “special war” to push back against Euro-Atlantic expansion and reassert a Russian sphere of interest around its borders. This fits in with NATO’s traditional horizontal orientation, which envisioned first the Soviet Union and then Islamic extremism emanating from greater Central Asia as the principal threats to Europe. ...

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