AGB2009: evolving alliances

This part of the AGB2009 series (see the presentation)
AGB2009: evolving alliances


In business, alliances are often a matter more of opportunity than choice- the lesser of two evils.

If you want: the old saying “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”- hence, some really unusual alliances, linked to a specific objective.

Also with alliances built on a long-term common goal, you have to consider that, unless the alliance integrates the partners into a new organizational entity, the evolution of each member could undermine the original reasons to join forces.

Moreover: a changing context could produce a shifting of priorities, removing the need for the alliance.

If the original alliance was built to counterbalance a former monopolist, as soon as the regulatory framework weakens its position, the members of the alliance will see the attractiveness of behaving as free agents- and compete with each other.

And, actually, often the former competitor tries to entice members of the alliance into breaking ranks.


The lifespan of an alliance? Have a quick look at the European alliances since the French revolution: few alliances lasted more than a generation.

Also if we are now used to see NATO as long-term relationship, slightly more than 60 years ago the first seeds of the alliance, during the African side of WWII, didn’t seem promising: a coordination nightmare.

The old joke, that NATO was created to keep the Germans in and the Russians out is but part of the reason why, in the end, the bloc was able to operate also beyond its original purposes.

During the time when Mr. Eltsin was president, Russia itself saw a paradigm shift, creating some of the dynamics that are now influencing the relationship between NATO members and Russia.

The Soviet Union and NATO played a cohesive role for the opposing alliance, but NATO itself is reconsidering what should be its own role in the XXI century.

It is still meaningful to expand the membership? How to balance the competing interests within the alliance? Should other ways found to allow NATO to become the back-bone of a global security structure, against increasingly flexible challenges, like peacekeeping and sea lanes or space protection?


Rick Atckinson, “An Army at Dawn”, 2007, Holt Paperbacks, Chapter 2, pagg. 69-115, Epilogue, pagg. 530-542
probably, without the experience in Africa, the war in Europe would have never been won, as all the coordination and logistics were learned on the ground, in Africa
Chrystia Freeland, “Sale of the Century”, 2005 Abacus, Chapter 10, pagg. 214-233; Chronology, pagg. 352-358
reads like a novel, and often sounds like a novel; but the evolution of the competing groups delivers more than one lesson on privatization and alliance-building
Zbigniew Brzezinski, “What Next for NATO?”, Foreign Affairs September/October 2009 (available online for free)
this article and the interview from NATO Secretary-General Rassmussen published online (search) give a public perspective on possible evolutions of both the role and organization of NATO, and its relationship with former enemies

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