On Thursday, November 8th, Burch Diplomacy Club organized a guest lecture by Mr. Rohan Maxwell, the senior political-military adviser at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Sarajevo, on the topic “Why joining NATO should be BiH’s strategic goal?” for its members, as well as International Burch University students and faculty.
Upon his arrival, Mr. Maxwell was welcomed by Melisa H. Mehmedović, the president of Burch Diplomacy Club, and prof. dr. Adis Maksić, the head of the Department of International Relations and European Studies. The three held a brief welcome meeting upon the guest’s arrival, before continuing with the program.
During the lecture, Mr. Maxwell first provided a brief history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization from its inception in 1949 onward. Then, he discussed NATO’s central tenet – the principle of collective security, as guaranteed by Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty – before moving on to the benefits of membership in and partnership with NATO.
He discussed how NATO was founded by twelve original member states in North America and western Europe as a bulwark against potential aggression by any foreign power, especially the Soviet Union. Over the years, the Alliance expanded to today’s 29 members, including two of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s three neighbors – Croatia and Montenegro.
Then, Mr. Maxwell explained to the audience members Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which guarantees each signatory an equal guarantee of protection from external aggression. This principle is called collective security and makes the bedrock of the stability and comparative power of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Complementary to Article 5 is Article 4, which provides for consultations on threats to any member state’s national security and territorial integrity. This mechanism and regular summits of ambassadors to NATO and heads of government/state provide, according to Mr. Maxwell, a voice for smaller states to be heard on an equal footing with larger ones.
The equality of states in NATO and assurances of collective defense are only two of several reasons countries decide to devolve a certain amount of sovereignty by pledging to come to the aid of allies that are invaded in order to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Other reasons countries, especially medium sized ones, decide to join NATO is access to centers of excellence for their soldiers and common NATO equipment that is generally too expensive to be purchased by a small state, as well as the possibility for air policing missions for countries that cannot afford their own air forces.
“Neutrality is too expensive,” Mr. Maxwell stated. “Neutral, truly neutral states, must have large militaries that are capable of defending their territory and that requires money – both to pay soldiers’ salaries and to acquire equipment.” Since Bosnia and Herzegovina is unlikely to be able to afford either, its best option remains NATO.
Lastly, Mr. Maxwell connected those established advantages with the potential for Bosnia and Herzegovina entering the alliance. Not only would Bosnia and Herzegovina be protected from external invasions, but its armed forces would have access to various centers of excellence for training and to large units of NATO equipment with which to train.