Is NATO really obsolete ?

 By Patrick BAHZAD

6a00d8341c72e153ef01b7c851603e970b-800wiVery shortly, Donald Trump will be sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States. By all accounts, his Inauguration will resemble no other in recent history. The country is deeply divided and the gap between the pro- and anti-Trump will be very visible, even today, when the whole country should regroup around its new elected leader. To a European audience however, Donald Trump's recent comments about NATO being "obsolete" and "not dealing with terrorism" matter much more than the internal dissent in the US itself. Those statements have created a spark of outrage across NATO members and triggered a salvo of reactions pointing to POTUS' ignorance about NATO's record in both regards. While Mr. Trump's statements are definitely debatable, there is lots to be said about his critics as well. Here are a few thoughts on the topic.

The latest controversy touches on two core issues: 1) NATO's commitment to defending its members and 2) NATO's record when it comes to dealing with terrorism in general, and global terror organisations in particular. Both issues are closely linked to highly volatile situations: the new "cold war" with Russia on the one hand, and the fight against IS (or AQ) on the other.

Remember what NATO was meant for ?

NATO itself was created in 1949 as a system of collective defence aimed basically at defending Western Europe (and North America) against the Soviets first, and more broadly against the Warsaw Pact after 1955. Large scale engagements in faraway lands were never supposed to be part of NATO's core business, which is one of the reasons some NATO members – Germany in particular – had a hard time adjusting to the concept of "out of area" missions, after the end of the Cold War. While there is no doubt as to NATO's essential contribution to peace and stability in Western Europe, NATO itself was not the only decisive factor in this achievement.

What has kept us safe from war is not so much the existence of the Alliance as the inherent risk of "mutually assured destruction" that any conflict between East and West could have morphed into. There has also been a dynamic at work in Western Europe , based on the realization that war as a means of achieving political gains was no longer an option. Without such fundamental awareness, it is difficult to imagine NATO could have united countries that had just emerged from the most devastating war the continent had witnessed since the 30 Years War. After the unravelling of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact however, the main "raison d'être" of NATO disappeared and the Alliance should have undergone major restructuring, yet it maintained its "business as usual" stance.

From that point of view, Donald Trump's statements are not that far off the mark. Carrying on as if nothing had happened meant that the US basically continued to provide most of European members with military security, thus enabling these countries to spend much less on defence. The financial burden of NATO lay mostly on US shoulders, but both the US and the Europeans were pretty happy with this unequal burden sharing. The US provided the security and thus maintained their influence over the continent, the Europeans spent more money on social policies and remained very much a junior partner in the Alliance.

The numbers' game

To the businessman Donald Trump, this deal is no longer a good one. He has a point there, and many European countries should have come to their senses a long time ago. The upside of the political panic that has now taken hold of a number of European capitals is that the current reality check may trigger a consistent and thorough reshuffling of defence budgets and policies across the continent. An increase in global expenditure is not necessarily on the menu, although some members do need to do more and better, but streamlining the many redundant programs and procedures among European countries would already be a good start.

Looking at numbers alone, it appears that NATO's five biggest European spenders, with a population roughly the same as the US, spend around 190 billion dollars annually on defence. This may equate to only 33 % of US spending, but taken together, it still represents the second largest defence budget in the world. It is three times the Russian budget and 40 billion dollars more than what the Chinese spend. What is missing here is not so much the money but a consistent, collective policy about means and ends. This is probably where a "business" centred approach could help or at least point the finger at the most blatant weaknesses.

With no existential threat looming around the corner, the Europeans just dropped the ball in the 1990s. Every country had its own procurement policies, armed forces structure and defence policies. NATO was something they were formally part of, but it was the Americans who provided the goods when push came to shove. Even the new Eastern European members, allegedly on the frontlines of the new "cold war" with Russia, don't spend that much on defence. In the Baltics, Estonia is the only country that meets the informal 2% of GDP mark.

BUt this is also where Trump's statements about "fulfilling obligations" is not exactly relevant. There are limits to applying accounting standards only in order to determine who is doing enough or not. By that rationale, Trump should be praising little Greece, the biggest European NATO spender in relatives terms (2,6% of GDP). Greece's concerns however are not so much their contribution to NATO's defence but rather making sure they could stand up to their powerful neighbour and also NATO-member Turkey, another big spender (2.1% of GDP), but an ally who has not proven very reliable of late.

NATO's Article V

Regardless of those numbers, there are many reasonable people in Europe who would agree that Trump is "onto something". NATO is not merely a defensive alliance anymore, but a military organisation with a global reach, engaging in a number of operations around the world that have nothing to do with defence. Meanwhile, the situation has changed on the European home front, and the Alliance is lagging behind, after it failed already to adapt to the post-cold war world. This needs to be addressed and we should see Donald Trump's statements as a chance to fix this.

There is another part of his statements that is much more contentious however. As a system of collective defence, NATO is built around the notion that all member States would come to the rescue in case one of them is attacked. This is basically what is stated in article V of the North Atlantic Treaty. Arguably, article V does not provide for automatic declaration of war by all members. Each one is simply compelled to provide the assistance it deems necessary in case of an attack. But questioning this principle, or raising doubts about US commitment to honour its word, carries serious risk. It was an ill-advised statement to make, based on a misguided accounting principle that only grasps part of the geopolitical reality. The upside is that it has caused such a stir that it will force some European partners into reconsidering their defence policy and waking up to their part of the "deal".

Now of course, we may argue in this regard about NATO's past decision to expand into Central and Eastern Europe. The fact remains nonetheless that the Baltic States, or Poland for that matter, are full members and should enjoy the protection they are entitled to. Whether this needs to be underlined by sending a few hundred troops into the area, patrolling their skies and preparing local forces for insurgency warfare against an unlikely Russian attack is a different matter. Troops can be moved out anyway, if and when a satisfactory political settlement is reached with the Russians. Therefore, the question is more about the political willingness (on both sides) to reach such a settlement. No doubt though, there are people – not just in Moscow – who will do their best to prevent such a deal from happening.

Ukrainian logjam

In that regard, there is probably more to come from those D.C. armchair strategists who promoted the idea of Ukrainian NATO membership. But Ukraine – a parody of a country ever since its independence – is much too hot to be handled safely, curtesy of the same armchair strategists who pushed the whole area on the brink of open war. A number of European countries are perfectly aware of this high volatility and have not forgotten about the chain of events that led to World War I. Giving Ukraine the guarantees of NATO protection is a recipe for disaster, as this could potentially encourage the "die hard" anti-Russian faction in Kiev to go ahead with a more confrontational attitude.

The Europeans have agreed to the current sanction regime against Moscow, but they will not allow Ukraine to be part of NATO, not now, and probably not ever. At the Bucharest summit in 2008, there already was serious push back from major European powers against a Washington fostered project of Ukrainian membership, and there will be even more if the topic is put on the table again. Ukraine is not exactly on its own militarily, but it is not part of the Alliance, and it will have to rely on individual States' help if it wants to carry on its protracted war against Eastern Ukrainian militias backed by the Russians.

The worst part in this mess is that Ukraine has now become a financial liability to the West and it will take years as well as massive cash inflow to turn this country around. And not even then is the outcome guaranteed. Surely, the Russians have now lost any chance at attracting Ukraine into their big Eurasian project, but it is the US and the EU which now own the Ukrainian can of worms, at least from a financial and economic point of view. A ludicrous lose-lose outcome, with no winners in sight. Maybe – hopefully – Donald Trump's comments were also aimed at those among the US political establishment who would like nothing better than further escalating the situation. If so, he certainly sent a stern reminder to these people that he will not be dragged into a foreign policy adventure like some of his predecessors did.

NATO's role in fighting terrorism

The other point Trump touched on was NATO's record in the fight against terrorism and on this issue, there is even more confusion. A number of op-eds and essays have been published in recent days, arguing that Trump has no clue and that he should read a history book to get the facts right. Possibly, but then again so should the authors of these pieces. As a military organisation, NATO as such has not carried out any operation in the fight against IS or Al-Qaeda. Some will say "wrong, look at Afghanistan and ISAF".  Well, sure, why not. Things are pretty simple …

ISAF was established under UN resolution 1386 and it was not designed as a NATO operation at the time of its inception. Initially, ISAF's goal was to provide security around Kabul and NATO only took over because the mission was in such a state of disarray it had to be salvaged somehow. After NATO stepped in to take the lead, the mission was considerably extended beyond Kabul and an increasing number of nations contributed to it. ISAF however was never intended at doing counter-terrorism, although it had a combat role and took part in counter-insurgency operations, notably during the unsuccessful Afghan surge.

So unless anyone is arguing that counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency are one and the same thing, NATO as a military organisation never did anything against transnational terror groups like the "Islamic State" or Al Qaeda. To be fair however, this is not NATO's or its European members fault. After 9/11, when the US invoked NATO's article V, America's allies offered military assistance, but they were rebuffed and side-lined by Bush Jr.'s administration which had other plans in mind already. Who needs NATO when you got the world's most powerful military ready to go ? It was the Bush administration that made NATO irrelevant and obsolete at that point, even though the attack on the US homeland was a clear cut case for triggering article V and mobilizing NATO's forces.

As for the "mission accomplished" adventure of Iraq, a small number of European NATO members got involved – the UK obviously, but also Italy, Spain, Denmark and Poland to various degrees – but not the Alliance as such. The only instances where NATO as a whole operated in foreign lands had nothing to do with terrorism, and even less with collective defence of its members. The Kosovo War (1998-1999) and the "No Fly Zone" over Libya (2011) obviously come to mind. Both were mostly airstrike campaigns. Although successful militarily, both operations had very mixed results from a political point of view.

Trump may not be an experienced strategist or political leader. If he manages however to push NATO into fixing its many shortcomings and focusing on genuine threats, that is not only those that have been mostly fabricated by a bunch of lunatics with an agenda, he will have done more for NATO's relevance and future than the three previous administrations put together.

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61 Responses to Is NATO really obsolete ?

  1. A.Pols says:

    Nato should go. Having morphed from a defensive alliance into an instrument of American foreign policy with the other “members” being satraps, it is no force for good and should have been liquidated when the Warsaw Pact was.
    Eventually in the evolution of history Nato will go bye bye, but maybe we can give it a “Decent Christian Burial” ahead of that.

  2. JohnH says:

    Said another way: “What is NATO’s purpose?” Like the goal of most of its recent military interventions, it’s purpose seems to be whatever its leaders choose to make it at any given moment.
    Or maybe it’s just an entrenched, obsolete body that’s mostly interested in careers for its staff and in self-preservation…

  3. Stu Wood says:

    The best thing about NATO is the alliance of Germany, France, and England whose many wars between them have killed millions and millions.

  4. scott s. says:

    I don’t claim any great knowledge, but it seemed to me NATO, even more-so than the US combatant commands, was designed as a collection of fiefdoms. From a US POV, these were SACLANT, SACEUR, and AFSOUTH. Each had its own bailiwick to play in and at least on the Navy side, it seems like things moved fairly seamlessly from US-centric to NATO-centric viewpoints. In the post-cold war world, those divisions seemed to no longer make sense for the US at least, and resulted in a “new” NATO, but I’m not sure the American people at least have been brought onboard with this. Hence the questioning as to NATO’s purpose.
    My understanding of history is that Poland has been something of a flash point in Eastern Europe for maybe 300 years but I’m not sure American strategy has really figured how Poland fits into things.

  5. Bandolero says:

    As a German I know two narratives about what NATO was in history adn what it became today. The western one is like you described it, NATO was founded as a defense organization against the threat from Moscow, and after the Warsaw treaty was dissolved more Eastern European countries took their chance and join it so they are protected against the threat from Moscow. The eastern one is that NATO was always designed to expand American hegemony eastwards in Europe, and as Moscow was weak for some time, the US used NATO to take advatage and did just that where Yugoslavia is a case proving that point.
    However, while these different narratives do a lot in seeding mistrust, it doesn’t matter much as looking forward is needed. What I think what the weak point of design in NATO is, is that it by design excludes Russia (and some others) from a common security architecture. The result of that design mistake is that NATO leads to a permanent posture of a US-led Western block opposing a Moscow-led eastern block – whereever the borders of the blocks currently are, and so instead of spreading common security, NATO inadvertantly spreads insecurity. Yugoslavia may be a point here, that without NATO Western Europe would likely not have been willing to try to gobble up Yugoslavia into the western system by subversion and by force, and thereby much bloodshed may have not occured if there would have been no NATO. Ukraine may be another point. Being members of NATO, Poland and Lithuania felt so secure, that they were not shy in trying a coup to unseat the Russia-friendly Yanukovich government in Ukraine and pull Ukraine into the western system, thereby massivley provoking Russia. If Poland and Lithuania were no NATO members, I doubt they would have pulled off that distrastrous provocation against Moscow. So, NATO may have become inadvertantly an organisation that encourages reckless behaviour of it’s eastern members against Russia, which would likely not occur without NATO, meaning that NATO inadvertantly spreads insecurity.
    Among German politicians it’s quite popular to say that one can’t devide security, so feeling secure must be achieved for all people in Europe including Russians, ie one needs a common security architecture in Europe including Russia. Putin is more than willing to make that happen. But some cold war warriors in the west seem no matter what to want a new cold war versus Russia instead, which brings no benefits for no one except for some special interests like the MIC.
    I think having Trump stirring up things regarding to NATO may prove a good opportunity to think about such strategic questions.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    If NATO had stopped expanding in 1999 (or 1955) the argument for its continued relevance would be stronger. Does the admission of Latvia to NATO really make the U. S. more secure? The U. K.? Or is it actually a provocation against Russia that works by deliberately making the U. S. and U. K. secure?
    Would admitting Ukraine, which had been part of Russia until 60 years ago, make the other members of the alliance more secure or less secure?
    As well as I can tell, NATO is serving as a means of venue-shopping to enable military adventurism, a dubious role for the alliance.
    Additionally, Erdogan’s Islamist Turkey is not the same as Ataturk’s secular Turkey.
    Given those considerations and more it would seem that the alliance deserves reconsideration at the very least.

  7. Freudenschade says:

    Europe probably should revisit it historical allegiance with the US. It’s interests are more aligned with those of Russia in the short to medium term, and those of China in the long term.
    With the US pulling back from its international commitments, the institutions set up by China as a countervailing force to the World Bank and the IMF could offer Europe greater influence more aligned with its own interests.

  8. Kooshy says:

    PB, in my understanding, fairly said, American people understood and comited themselves at all costs, to protect war torn western Europe, after WWII, aginst USSR, and Warsaw Pact. Honorably they stood by thier commitment, and protected Europe at all costs for over 70 years now, with blood and money. They did not mind how little Europe contributed all this years since they thought Europe need and is recovering the war. But, after the fall of USSR and end of Cold War, they don’t see or understand why they have to continue to be the bigest contributors to protect Europe from a financialy and or militarily much weaker power (Russia) then Europe is today. I don’t know and understand why a US tax payer has to pay for 70k US troops in Germany to protect 2nd or 3rd bigest economy of the world who has a universal health and pension plan we can’t afford here in US for ourselves. I guess/ hope that’s what president Trump is saying.

  9. BraveNewWorld says:

    The American plan to bring Israel into NATO first as an observer state and then later as a full member tells you every thing you need to know about why NATO has to go. Adding the small Eastern European countries is folly. Adding Israel is insanity.

  10. charly says:

    Some people say that the purpose of NATO is to keep the Americans in, Germans under and Russians out. It seems to me to be a more realistic answer than to say defense pact which the EU in itself already is. It also explains why countries like Serbia want to join the NATO.
    ps. With respect to defense budgets. The US has the habit to include as much as possible in the Defense budget. Europe has the reverse habit. See for a very obvious example Japans SS-520. A road mobile solid fuel rocket that put 4 kilo into (very low) orbit. Its civil use is like an AK47 which everybody knows is a great hammer and the reason everybody buys one.

  11. J says:

    IMO NATO is OBSOLETE, and should have been dissolved when the Warsaw Pact went the way of the DoDo Bird.
    Since the fall of the former Soviet Union, NATO has become little more than a hog trough.

  12. Ken Macaulay says:

    “even though the attack on the US homeland was a clear cut case for triggering article V and mobilizing NATO’s forces…”
    I thought it was only a military attack by a country that invokes article V – which has little to do with a terrorist attack by a non-state actor.

  13. crone says:

    “Or maybe it’s just an entrenched, obsolete body that’s mostly interested in careers for its staff and in self-preservation…”
    Excellent observation.
    How ’bout we also close some of those over 800 military bases we have outside the USA? The late Chalmers Johnson wrote much about the “American Raj” – here’s a link to a David Vine article some may find informative.,_our_base_nation/

  14. Balint Somkuti, PhD says:

    Originally it was Russia out USA in abd Germany down. Russians are in Germany is up and the US wants out. Questions?

  15. Edward Amame says:

    More Trumpy disconnect.
    At his hearing, Gen Mattis, Trump’s choice for Dec of Defense, said that he thinks Russia is our top threat and that US support is needed to counter Moscow’s attempts to break up NATO, which he called “the most successful alliance in modern history, and maybe ever.”

  16. Peter Reichard says:

    I completely agree with your comments. If NATO didn’t already exist would anyone but a hardcore neoconservative think to create it today? Beginning with Yugoslavia the reasonable defensive alliance of 1949 has been transformed into an offensive instrument of power projection that now requires the US to defend the geographically and logistically undefensible borders of the Baltic States and perhaps in the future even those of Georgia and Ukraine. This is insane and an accident waiting to happen.

  17. JJackson says:

    PB and all.
    I have no problem (as a UK citizen) with a military alliance with other States, but NATO, in its current form, must go.
    I wonder about this “… even though the attack on the US homeland was a clear cut case for triggering article V and mobilizing NATO’s forces.” was it?
    This seems a stretch based on a plain text reading of Articles 5 & 6. I very much doubt that the authors, in 1939, were thinking about a tiny non-State group with no military that managed to hijack a few civilian planes with minimal weaponry. To complicate matters it was the Government of Afghanistan that was the principal recipient of the US intervention not AQ. This seems very ‘doggy dossier’ to me. The US did not like the Russian backed government so it attacked and NATO members got drawn in.
    If you think this is a just justification let me put to you this hypothetical. It’s the 1970/80s and various South & Central States have formed a military pact. They decide that ‘The Camp of the Americas’ is a terrorist training camp and the US Government are a direct threat and decide to remove it and replace it with something less belligerent. This seems to be any easier case to make – albeit impractical due to their military disparity.
    Re, NATO. If not this NATO then what? The fundamental problem between Europe and the US is the role of NATO and the perceptions of threat. The US has for a long time spent an obscene amount on its military so it is now dis-proportionally powerful compared to any other State. It views Russia and China as threats and thinks it and its allies should prepare to counter them. The European public are less convinced thinking they are not, unless we keep poking them with a sharp stick. Euro-Borg tow the US line but are finding it increasingly difficult to control their public. The MSM are losing street cred. and, like the US’s Trump, we keep getting annoying politicians who failed to drink the coolaid and who the public still follow despite the establishments attempts to trash them. Now new have Corbynites, Trump, Le Pen and other supporters who just don’t trust the press or the establishment.
    Personally I would prefer an alliance of European States, sans the US, who could provide deterrence against any likely threat but whose aim was to gradually improve relations & reduce military hardware, by treaty, along the Eastern border to a point where neither side felt threatened.

  18. LeaNder says:

    I basically like Patrick Bahzad’s take. Vague connotation? Every Cloud has got a Silver Lining. Why not? …
    But yes, true, I had the same problem too. Not that I was a fan of the Taliban, quite the opposite really. But as far as I recall no one ever claimed they were responsible or sponsored 9/11.
    Irony alert: Remember the Hamburg Cell? Why didn’t the US declare war on Hamburg, or Germany for that matter?

  19. David Lentini says:

    Like most large peace-time military organiations, NATO has become a source of corruption and co-optation. Created as part of the phony Cold War dialectic, less to stop a Soviet attack that was very unlikely unless provoked (for which NATO would be very useful as we see today), NATO served a variety of political needs for the Anglo-American élites. In particular, NATO functioned to justify a large American military presence that satisfied Wall Street’s investments in military-industrial complex, and enabled Americans to be held hostage to whatever game the CIA could cook up as needed to support the MIC and globalist strategy to link East and West.
    This all became apparent when the Soviet Union collapsed. Suddenly, the neocons started moving NATO into threatening positions against Russia, and the service suddenly became a “force for peace and protection” around the Balkans and Mediterranean. Now the EU wants to use NATO as its personal Army.
    NATO needs to be scrapped now. We can develop a new force based on reality if needed.

  20. b says:

    I believe NATO should be carried to grave as soon as possible. It has become solely an instrument of aggressive U.S. foreign policy that is often in opposition to the security interests of the European people.
    The EU defense pact is too wide ranging and needs to be buried too. It should be replaced by a strictly defensive pact that also has levers to prohibit or prevent aggressive behavior (against pact internal and external enemies) by individual members.
    There is no need for any country in Europe to spend 2% of GDP on “defense”. That is way more than is necessary.
    To compare European spending to U.S. spending is nuts. By simple geography it is one the most safe countries one can think of. The U.S. spends on “defense” to be THE global supreme nation. That’s lunacy so why should Europe attempt to follow such an example?

  21. Willy B says:

    It was Lord Ismay, first secretary general of NATO who is credited with saying that.
    While Secretary General, Ismay is also credited as having been the first person to say that the purpose of the alliance was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down,” a saying that has since become a common way to quickly describe the alliance.,_1st_Baron_Ismay

  22. Willy B says:

    “After 9/11, when the US invoked NATO’s article V, America’s allies offered military assistance, but they were rebuffed and side-lined by Bush Jr.’s administration which had other plans in mind already.”
    THis is not entirely true. NATO did deploy a number of its AWACS aircraft to the US for the Noble Eagle air patrol mission, so that the US AWACS fleet could be dedicated to Bush, Jr’s upcoming wars. I know of no other NATO involvement in the so-called war on terrorism, however.

  23. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Nah, Iran is, she is one or two steps away from destroying the World Peace.

  24. Willybilly says:

    Spot on, you’re absolutely right. The mischief started in earnest right after the fall of the Berlin Wall….and it was deliberate in its various provocations, and its still continuing today…..

  25. Willybilly says:

    So very very true…… Insanily reigns supreme…..

  26. Old Microbiologist says:

    Absolutely correct. I know that in my adopted country Hungary it is a very hollow army. All armored vehicles were sold as scrap to a company in the Czech Republic and subsequently entered service with the Ukrainian Army and lost in combat or captured. There are zero helicopters now that all were donated to Afghanistan. They have 8 Grippen jets and 10,000 soldiers in the military. They have a single naval ship which is a mine sweeper on the Duna. But, given how small the military is they still have over 200 generals and even an admiral. There are 8 generals in the Air Force, one for each jet. It is really comical to consider this an effective fighting force. Recent changes to the Constitution now require all military to serve to the age of 61 so now promotions are non-existant unless these geriatric colonels and sergeants retire or die. Hungary won’t be fighting anyone soon which is a good thing. I am pretty sure it is the same in most former Warsaw Pact countries as well. Even Germany’s equipment are in a shambles.

  27. Bobo says:

    NATO is really a decision that the EU countries should decide if they want to continue or not while the U.S. should reduce its presence to the point that equals what the EU is willing to pay for plus the U.S. should only pay its part in what it deems of value. Nothing more, Nothing less.

  28. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Taliban did not act as a government with any responsibility to the people of Afghanistan.
    1: While drought was killing Afghans, Taliban were busy destroying the remains of what earlier Muslim zealots had destroyed in Bamiyan. At the time, Afghans peasants were trekking to Iran to avoid death by starvation – many children and the infirm perished during those days.
    In an analogous situation, Indira Gandhi flew to US, met LBJ, flashed her eyes, and asked for help. And LBJ, after leaving that meeting, is purported to have told one of his aides: “Make sure that little lady gets whatever she needs.”
    2: Taliban refused to surrender Osama bin Ladin and his associated to the United States; they should have. But even a modicum of rational thought was absent among them.
    3: Taliban sent women home from their jobs and their schools – first promising that they would be recalled – so to speak – which was not the case. All they wanted to have were the traditional illiterate woman of popular Afghan culture who was there to cook for them – and as is said in Persian: “have her legs up in the air”.
    The zealot response of Traditional Islam to the European Enlightenment has been a disaster for Muslims; in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Iraq to name a few places.

  29. Jack says:

    IMO, the west and in particular the US needs to get out of its mindset that we face an existential threat from Russia. We have more in common with them than differences. It is the military-intelligence and political establishment in Europe and the US that don’t want rapprochement. The big budgets are only for their gain. A cooperative relationship with Russia could mean dramatic reduction in expenditures and the elimination of the bureaucracy that undermines stability.
    A partnership with Russia could be usedto destroy the jihadists, explore space and usher in an era of enhanced economic development. I agree with Bandolero that there needs to be a new security architecture in Europe that is defensive and focused on preventing aggression by the states therein who have a long history of internecine warfare.

  30. Stu Wood says:

    Carl Bilt, diplomat and Sweden’s former foreign minster has a good article about Russia’s imperial instinct throughout history and continuing today. Maybe that’s a good reason to have NATO.

  31. different clue says:

    Stu Wood,
    You could still have that alliance between Germany, France and England without having AmeriCanada in it. Since such an alliance would be more strictly among the North EAST Atlantic countries, it could rename itself NEATO, the North East Atlantic Treaty Organization.

  32. different clue says:

    Chinese interests aligning with European interests in the long run? That’s funny. China’s long run interests concerning Europe involve de-industrializing Europe to a Moldova level so that Europe will not compete with China for natural resources.

  33. LondonBob says:

    I remember reading some bigwig, I think he was in the Bush administration, commenting on Russia and NATO. He said Russia wasn’t invited in as it was felt the Russians wouldn’t follow orders and would seek to impose their views. Of course we are all supposed to forget the friendship between Bush and Putin, the close cooperation and the fact, to his credit, Bush and his administration didn’t allow the Ossetia thing to morph into anything more. Obama could have learnt something from that.
    Of course the fact members don’t pay their share and the US pays a lot more is a feature not a bug. Allows the US to dominate NATO. Hence the alarm that Trump proposes cutting US defence expenditure whilst advocating others spend more.

  34. Willybilly says:

    LOL, Karl Bilt is a CIA stooge. Period

  35. Babak Makkinejad says:

    If we take the idea of Persistence of the Past seriously, then we must also take into consideration the possibility of virulent anti-antisemitism persisting among Christians as well as that of Western Diocletian states again trying to destroy the political power of the Rus.

  36. BraveNewWorld says:

    I would make the case that article 5 was far less of a factor for what followed than GWB walking up to a mike and stating “Ether your with us or you are with the terrorists.” That scared the sh_t out of all western leaders. Every one was trying to help up to that point but that was the point where the West agreed to abandon international law in it’s entirety. From that point forward no western leader has dared to voice a contrary opinion. The world is still experiencing the fallout of that statement.

  37. Freudenschade says:

    stay abreast of China developments. They are starting to crack down on IP protection, because further economic development requires corporate R&D. Your mercantilist view either applies to all industrialized nations, not just China, or none. I’d suggest it’s a very antiquated notion and doesn’t apply at all.

  38. turcopolier says:

    “I’d suggest it’s a very antiquated notion and doesn’t apply at all.” Why? I’d suggest that you have been indoctrinated with the idea that free trade is necessarily good. IMO, It is if it benefits you. Adam Smith said the same thing. In fact FT is wonderful for investors like me because it brings us profits at the lowest costs, but if your industry is wiped out and you have no job because of it then it is a very bad idea. pl

  39. different clue says:

    Chinese mercantilism is an obvious fact. The American OverClass’s use of China as a low cost production platform from which to attack and attrit and degrade high and mid paying American industry is also well known, with results visible to all. Same for the American OverClass’s use of Mexico, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and others for the same purpose, though to a lesser extent.
    I don’t see Germany competing on the basis of $1-dollar-an-hour wages, zero social security, zero unionization permitted, zero health and safety laws, zero environmental laws and protections, etc. But of course you live in Germany and I don’t. Do you know something I don’t know? Do the Volkswagen-makers in Wolfsburg make $1-doll-an-hour? If that is the case, please tell us so we can surrender some happy myths we have about Germany.

  40. different clue says:

    Well . . . what’s stopping you? Europe is a Free Country. You can de-NATOize any time you want. So why haven’t you already?
    I have already offered you the alternative of having a strictly EUropean NEATO of your very own. If you don’t like that one, you are free to come up with another, or with nothing at all. What are you waiting for?
    Come Home America! Free the NATO One Hundred Thousand! ( One hundred thousand American soldiers held hostage in NATO Europe. If I got the number technically wrong, I have happy to accept correction of course).

  41. A. Pols & Peter Reichard,
    The US could certainly leave NATO but would the benefits outweigh the disadvantages of such a move ? I suspect not. Any power vacuum you leave (and this would turn into one) is always filled by someone else.

  42. That would be the best outcome you could hope for in case NATO was terminated. But other scenarios as just as lilely.

  43. DV,
    Latvia is part of NATO now, so that’s that.
    On the other hand, Ukraine will not (ever) be part of NATO, so that’s that as well.
    As far as reconsideration is concerned, yes, but see what happens. Various options on the table.

  44. Kooshy,
    Don’t think it’s accurate to say the Europeans didn’t do enough for defence at the time of the Cold War. The German Bundeswehr’s “panzer-divisions” were one of the most potent armor forces of NATO in that regard.
    Besides, when you’re contemplating the idea of your own country being turned into a huge pile of rubble (talking about Germany again), you tend to see things differently.
    AS I mentioned, there were many upsides to the US’ being in charge. You can get out, but you gonna lose that influence and leave the door open for others to take charge.

  45. All,
    Israel will never be part of NATO and won’t bother asking. They don’t need NATO and don’t want NATO.

  46. All,
    Article V was triggered after 9/11, but it was the Bush administration that kept NATO out because their plan was not just to go after OBl, AQ and the State that protected them (Afghanistan), but to start a large war to reshape the ME according to Neo-Con ideas. They knew NATO would not be onboard for that and that is the reason NATO was shut out, nothing else.

  47. b,
    European countries have interests (and problems) reaching much further than the borders of the EU. You may turn Germany into a giant Switzerland, and it is not going to make those problems go away. While armed intervention should never be the only option, it needs to be on the table when it’s required.

  48. Willy B,
    “Noble Eagle” was not a NATO operation, but joint US+Canadian only. NATO took over a couple of missions (“Eagle Assist” & “Active Endeavour”).

  49. Bobo,
    I’m all in favour of what you’re suggesting. However, you need to realize that NATO as an instrument of US influence over Europe would be lost in that case. Again, I’m all for it.

  50. All,
    Carl Bildt is a national of a neutral country. He should worry about Sweden and leave it to actual member NATO members to deal with these issues.

  51. Peter Reichard says:

    NATO should be replaced but it is reasonable for Europe to have a defensive alliance. What I propose is that America have an auxiliary relationship with it, not treaty obligated to come to its defense but with interoperability of equipment, communications, etc. to be able to quickly partner up with it on an ad hoc basis if vital US interests were at stake. This avoids both the power vacuum as well as the trap of “entangling alliances”.

  52. LeaNder says:

    Babak, 1 + 3
    personally I find the destruction of cultural heritage, in this case the Buddha statutes Bamiyan, just as revolting as e.g. staging public female floggings or executions in a football stadium. But no, I wasn’t aware of the drought, or don’t recall it.
    I vaguely recall your comment concerning traditionally male and female spaces, but I somewhat doubt women would need Burkas if it was about their earthly destiny as cleaners, washer, carers, cooks only. The trouble seems to start with their ability to procreate. At least it feels the former trades would not necessarily make a Burka compulsion necessary.
    Again, I deeply disliked the Taliban, but seem to recall they demanded proof of OBL’s involvement. Felt like a legitimate demand at the time. … Vaguely recall the later video puzzles.
    Would it have changed anything had they delivered him tied up to the White House or Pentagon at the time?

  53. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You do not understand; a wounded Giant was threatening Afghanistan, Taliban had to give in to the demands of the Giant in order to spare Afghans more war and more bloodshed.

  54. mike says:

    Patrick B –
    Hope you will post again soon regarding the battle for Mosul. Reports are that the Iraqis have begun erecting pontoon bridges across the Tigris paving way for assault on W Mosul.
    I understood that the old city in west has much smaller streets and many alleys so may be much tougher to take. But apparently there many Iraqi officials who believe that west Mosul will be simpler than the east. Any opinions?

  55. Freudenschade says:

    I see the problem. You assume I live in Germany. I do not. If you do business in China, you will know that this concept of mercantilism and $1/hr wages is well outdated. First, China is no longer a low wage nation. Many high quality manufacturers are on a par with the US and Europe. The Chinese leadership is trying to solve many of China’s problems, such as pollution, an aging population, and a lack of corporate investment in R&D. Their policy changes are dramatic, but it remains to be seen if they will be successful.
    Your own views sound a little bit like the Economist from the early 2000’s. Time to buy some new issues. 🙂

  56. Bandolero says:

    Willybilly, LondonBob, james
    Thank you for your friendly replies.
    I think the whole discussion about NATO may and should boil down to a very simple question:
    Shall NATO be an instrument to maintain security, regional or global, or shall NATO be an instrument to spread the reach of Pax Americana, the liberal world order, the community of western values, Wall Street or however the western system may be named?
    If NATO’s mission is to maintain security, then I may see NATO as a helpful tool, but then NATO shouldn’t be engaged in doing or backing up violent regime changes in foreign countries, whether they are named Yugoslavia, Libya or elsewhere, because violent regime changes in foreign countries inevitably spread insecurity, but instead NATO would have to work against such reckless behaviour, even – or especially – if it’s a NATO members’ behaviour, and even if the name of that NATO member is USA. If NATO is to spread security, it must sincerely cooperate with other powers to do so, especially when NATO is operating right across their borders like it is regarding Russia (see eg the Baltics) and China (see eg Afghanistan). If that is the case, meaning NATO is there to maintain security, regional or global, than there is a good case to look what’s needed to do that and renegotiate the sharing of the costs among NATO members – which will likely result in a very drastic lessening of what the USA should contribute.
    However, if the mission of NATO is to expand the reach of Pax Americana, like outlined in “full-spectrum dominance” goals of the Pentagon, the opposite is true. NATO is then an organisazion spreading insecurity. There’s no reason at all to support that organisation for people who like security, if NATO is giving backup to revolutions in foreign countries to expand western hegemony. And if these regimes changes are spearheaded by Al Qaeda or Nazis it is even less so. Having not the courage to directly oppose these NATO policies the silant and opportunistic resistance of some European countries is just driving down their defense spending.
    And here it’s where Trump’s push for a fair share of the burden will get intersting. The German people, for example, are told they need to tolerate US nuclear weapons in Germany, even as the majority of Germans don’t want them there, because the US want them there. Regarding US bases in Germany, a huge argument for them is, that they bring better economics for the regions which host them, because the US soldiers spend some money there. If one would ask the German people in a referendum, I’m quite sure they’ld prefer a Disney park spending money there instead of a US base, which I think the majority of Germans see more like an unfriendly act disturbing brotherly German relations with Russia. But, as long as the US soldiers bring money, OK, the Germans tolerate that. As the Brits said they’ll leave Germany about five years ago, I know noone who complained except some local mayors saddened by econonmic loss of their communities. And that is all while the US people are told they must spend many billions of their hard earned tax Dollars in German bases because the Germans won’t feel safe without that, while the real reason is that some US and other globalists and special intersts lobbyists want these bases to spread Pax Americana.
    So, if Trump pushes with his line of financially sharing NATO burdens I’ld expect all that inconsistent lies to blow up big time, and I’ld appreciate that very much.

  57. Bandolero says:

    How do you know Carl Bildt is with the CIA?
    Sure, he’s a Neocon, but I always thought he was purely Mossad.
    Did he also sign up wit the CIA? Carl Bildt recently wrote he welcomed Trump’s “election as America’s 45th president” and that he is “eager to work with” his “administration.”
    And that’s while Carl Bildt shortly before famously wrote:
    “If Donald Trump was to end up as President of the United States I think we better head for the bunkers.”
    I always thought such chutzpah was just typical for Mossad. Are you really sure Carl Bildt also signed up with CIA? if so, shame on CIA, that they enrolled him.

  58. Procopius says:

    I have asked the same question, but sarcastically. The answer, obviously, is the same as why we don’t bomb North Korea’s nuclear facilities, as Israel wants us to do with Iran. We have some certified lunatics running our “strategy,” but they don’t want to commit suicide.

  59. charly says:

    The EU has a defensive alliance. It is called the EU

  60. charly says:

    If you try you get to experience a) regime change and b) economic theft (America is really good in stealing) so no, leaving NATO is not really possible

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