CHICAGO, April 30 (Xinhua) -- Despite its creation in the Cold War era, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is not only still relevant but "vital" to the United States, U.S. experts said recently at events of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Europe remains the most important partner of the United States and is at the top of the U.S. foreign policy, the experts said in front of participants from all the 28 NATO member states, which include a majority of European countries and Canada.
They agreed that NATO has long been the United States' closest ally in diplomatic efforts across the globe, and that protecting the partnership is a top priority of U.S. President Barack Obama's administration.
"NATO is vital to the United States of America, and when I say vital, we can't do without it," R. Nicholas Burns, former U.S. Ambassador to NATO from 2001 to 2005, said at a lecture.
He dismissed the recent skepticism that NATO is irrelevant in the post-Cold War era and that the United States should reorient its foreign policy accordingly.
"In our national discussion for people to be suggesting that Europe is a beautiful museum -- a nice place to visit but no longer where the action is -- is just completely wrong if you think about trade, investment, military power and politics," said Burns, who is also professor of diplomacy and international politics at Harvard University.
Burns held that more, not less, attention should be placed upon the transatlantic alliance in the current international environment, which is filled with changes and uncertainties.
It is in such an atmosphere that the United States most needs its allies who have proved their loyalty time and time again, as Burns illustrated with the attacks of September 11, 2001.
However, despite NATO's unanimous support for the United States at the time of the 9/11 attacks and the later war in Afghanistan, the alliance encountered some difficulties with the buildup to the 2003 Iraq War.
As some traditional U.S. allies, such as France and Germany, protested the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the NATO alliance saw a slight fraying as the United States continued its unilateral operation, which in return alienated or angered some European countries.
According to Ben Rhodes, U.S. deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, reestablishing strong alliances with these European countries has been at the center of Obama's foreign policy, and NATO is similarly one of the best outlets for this diplomacy.
"The reason the president wanted to host the NATO Summit in general is because alliances are central to his foreign policy and central to his view of the world -- he very much believes that the United States is far stronger when we're working in concert with others, building coalitions to share burdens, and deal with common challenges," Rhodes said.
Obama made it a point to rebuild trust within NATO and realign these historical goals for the changing world, so that NATO can be a hub of alliances within a global network of relationships.
Leaders from both NATO member states and non-member partner countries will convene in Chicago on May 20 and 21 to discuss future NATO strategy and leadership, especially against the backdrop of transition from NATO's current military engagement in Afghanistan.
Rhodes said one of the reasons the U.S.-European alliances are so important is that they are based upon shared values and a common understanding, and that due to this historical connection the United States first looks to Europe for support in advancing its foreign policy.
"Because of those shared interests, those shared values and that shared sense of responsibility to one another and to the rest of the world, the transatlantic alliance and the European friendship that we have and the NATO alliance that we have has been at the core of the president's effort to strengthen that foundation of American foreign policy," Rhodes said.