NATO’s Return to Europe: Engaging Ukraine, Russia, and Beyond

  • Published

NATO’s Return to Europe: Engaging Ukraine, Russia, and Beyond, edited by Rebecca R. Moore and Damon Coletta. Georgetown University Press, 2017, 272 pp.

In NATO’s Return to Europe, editors Rebecca Moore and Damon Coletta bring together seven leading political scientists, scholars, and historians to examine issues within the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) while outlining options for the future. Employing the history of NATO as the backdrop to make sense of geopolitics in the Ukraine, the authors clarify the challenges facing the alliance while recommending future solutions to preserve NATO by returning the focus to European affairs.


Broken into seven chapters, NATO’s Return to Europe primarily orients to the past 25 years of the alliance’s history following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The authors argue that decisions made in adjusting NATO’s membership and purpose in the wake of the Cold War directly contributed to challenges that would manifest in Georgia and Ukraine in the twenty-first century. Utilizing historical context effectively anchors various arguments in the book to make sense of Russian, European, and American decisions in the contemporary operational environment.


The seven chapters stand alone with independent arguments but also complement each other to form a holistic narrative and argument for how to galvanize the NATO alliance in the modern era. While the crisis in Ukraine is the primary event that spurs this analysis, consideration is also given to the rise of nationalism and anti-NATO rhetoric manifest within the alliance in 2016. The authors caution against these internal divisions with recommendations for commitment to NATO’s core principles alongside a deliberate strategy to provide security while prudently mitigating threats from Russia. This strategy focuses on a return to the basics of the alliance, as well as a focus on partnership to achieve cooperative security as the operational environment shifts from southwest Asia back to Europe.


While the book presents an exceptionally researched argument for NATO’s return to Europe; the book predominantly orients to actions in the Ukraine as a lens to understand tensions within Europe and within the alliance. Focusing on Ukraine marginalizes other NATO challenges such as the rise of nationalism or the developing cybersecurity issues plaguing democracies worldwide. Despite this narrow focus, the authors still capture the alliance’s history as well as the significant challenges for member states in an increasingly complex geopolitical landscape.


NATO’s Return to Europe provides excellent insight into the challenges facing the NATO alliance. Comprehensively linking the alliance’s history with current global events, the authors effectively deliver the argument for NATO’s preservation with a return to Europe. This is an informative read for military professionals and scholars seeking to understand the complexities of NATO as well as the alliance’s options in the future.

Lt Col Matthew C. Wunderlich, USAF
8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron
Al Udeid AB, Qatar

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."