History students travelled to London this week to gain a unique insight into the workings of NATO.
Attending NATO Engages on its 70th Anniversary was a once in a lifetime experience giving a key insight to NATO’s strengths and flaws, and how NATO intends to innovate to remain a viable alliance.
George Brown, BA (Hons) History: Modern and International
Staffordshire University was one of just 15 universities taking part in the mock NATO event held at held at the London offices of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
This event formed part of the run-up to the UK-hosted 2019 NATO Leaders’ Meeting, where heads of state and government and military leaders gathered to commemorate the Alliance’s 70th anniversary and celebrate its achievements.
NATO was created in 1949 with the purpose of guaranteeing the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. The UK was one of 12 original member states although membership has now grown to 29. All ‘NATO Decisions’ are taken by consensus.
Dr Simon Smith, Associate Professor of Security and International Relations at Staffordshire University, said: “Our students were split into two groups, representing Greece and Portugal and through their participation, they learnt more about how NATO operates and the complexities involved.”
Second year History student Aida Haughton said: “This was a real-time ‘taste’ of how decisions were made and agreed upon by all NATO member-states. A very fast-paced situation where although representing ‘your’ country’s best interest, one must not forget the joint goal of security for all member states.
“I was very impressed with dedication, competitiveness and hard work of all the participants and I would recommend other students to apply if presented with similar opportunity.”
Students were also given the opportunity to attend ‘NATO Engages’, the official public outreach event for the Leaders’ Meeting attended by world leaders. Guests included NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda as well as other NATO leaders, diplomats and leading global thinkers.
George Brown, also studying History, said: “Attending NATO Engages on its 70th Anniversary was a once in a lifetime experience giving a key insight to NATO’s strengths and flaws, and how NATO intends to innovate to remain a viable alliance.
“My main highlight was seeing a discussion in which we saw the Ministers of National Defence from Romania, Lithuania and Estonia, and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs from Ukraine and Georgia. It was interesting to see how the different Baltic states, both those currently in NATO, and those hoping to join, viewed external threats, notably from from Russia and China.”
Dr Smith, who this week posted an article in The Conversation entitled NATO and the EU: a short history of an uneasy relationship, said the events had been an excellent learning opportunity for students.
“It was both fascinating and personally rewarding to watch the students gain first-hand knowledge and experience with regard to the patterns of cooperation and conflict that characterize intra-NATO diplomacy.
“The scenarios posed the need for cooperative action in an unfolding crisis situation which resulted in an understanding of the many capabilities and constraints that shape the foreign policies of NATO countries in determining matters of collective security - and they had fun in the process.”
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