Colombia’s formal partnership with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) marks the first time that a Latin American country has joined the European group, and signals a new shift toward the Global South by the Cold War-era alliance.
Colombia’s entry into NATO as a “global partner” signals that the U.S. military top brass are likely to call the shots for the South American country both in terms of its security policies and its geopolitical orientation, which becomes all the more crucial as the North Atlantic alliance increasingly strives to become a power in the South Pacific amid rising friction between the U.S. and China.
NATO began its partnership agreement with the South American nation in May 2017, immediately following the peace deal between Bogota and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP), yet the country still continues to be plagued by right-wing paramilitary activity, security forces who act with impunity, and the dire inequality that originally birthed groups such as FARC-EP.
So-called “global partners” of NATO are largely those countries that lie firmly in the Anglo-American imperialist sphere of influence or were directly occupied by the U.S., including Afghanistan, Australia, Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan.
The 29-nation alliance was formed in 1949 at the dawn of the Cold War for the purpose of consolidating a strategic bulwark against the spread of communism and Soviet hegemony in the Euro-Atlantic region.
Speaking in a televised address, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and outgoing Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos addressed his country’s membership in the military alliance:
Colombia benefits a lot from being an active part of the international community, many of the problems we face are increasingly global and need the support and collaboration of other countries for their solution.”
According to NATO, the new partnership will focus on cybersecurity, maritime security, and anti-terror and organized crime operations. The partnership will also include programs relating to the standardization of military practices, joint training and military exercises, and the modernization of the Colombian Armed Forces along NATO lines.
Colombia’s Integration Into U.S.-ruled Security Architecture Long in the Making
While the news came as a surprise to some, Colombia and the North Atlantic alliance have long collaborated in these fields.