Is NATO still an effective military alliance?


"… at a time of austerity, the British public's enduring attachment to its men and women in uniform still isn't enough to save the country's £34 billion ($52 billion) defense budget from bearing its share of severe government spending cuts. The latest plan, issued in June, targeted the reduction of full-time personnel from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2018.
"The reality is that we're spending less on defense because the public or political appetite to do otherwise is absent," says Timothy Edmunds, a professor at the University of Bristol who studies defense and security institutions in processes of political and organizational change.
"  CS Monitor


  "… reduction of full-time personnel from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2018."   The force reduction goal will produce something that is not a serious armed force on the world scene.   This force will be so small that it is difficult to understand how the Brits will be able to maintain, "post, camp, and station" garrisons for necessary infrastructure.  Such facilities will require a lot of those personnel remaining..  Service schools for artillery, the engineers, the armored corps, etc. will be prohibitively expensive in manpower for such a small organization.  If the Scots leave the UK, this force will be even smaller.  The RAF and the navy will suffer similarly.

Canada long ago got rid of actual soldiers for ceremonies at the Houses of Parliament in Ottawa and at Fort Henry at Kingston, Ontario.  As replacements they have red coated actors who perform for the tourists in the summertime.  The picture above is of actors "changing the guard" in Ottawa.  They do a good job, but I do wish that their band would stop playing "Marching Through Georgia."

The Household Cavalry and the Brigade of Foot Guards are a big expense in the UK.

Casting call?  pl






This entry was posted in government. Bookmark the permalink.

83 Responses to Is NATO still an effective military alliance?

  1. Matthew says:

    Col: the sun has finally set on the British Empire.
    I recently enjoyed a wonderful visit to Quebec City where my family watched another acting troupe/marching military band. A beautiful location. A great parade. But I was relieved to find out the band were not real soldiers because they seemed so puny.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The show at Ft. Henry was pretty impressive with the firing of the artillery in that courtyard.

  3. To answer PL’s question in the POST–NO!
    Personally I would have the USA fund the British military to the extent soldiering and flying and sailing require men and women of skill, daring, and competence.
    Who knows perhaps military integration will lead to abdication of the KING or QUEEN and political unification of the English speaking peoples.

  4. turcopolier says:

    The Brits dislike us almost as much as the Canadians. pl

  5. It will all look very different when Scotland is free!
    Cumming Clan wiped out in early 14th Century siding with William Wallace.

  6. b says:

    “an effective military alliance” what for?
    To help U.S. imperial/hegemonic wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere? Or to defend NATO members homeland against potential military attacks?
    Who would and could today militarily attack any NATO member? Why then spend the money? Since 2000 the eastern Europeans have reduced their military budgets by 14%
    They do not see a realistic threat and act accordingly.
    The U.S. could do the same.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Integration would have better odds if we forgot that revolution business and accept the Queen as the head of state and join the Commonwealth.

  8. Fred says:

    Have us fund the British military? We’re going to draw down 100,000+, why should we pay for their army? No thank you. They can pay their own taxes for their own military.

  9. turcopolier says:

    I agree and have been in favor of abolishing NATO since the end of the USSR. At the same time the US should withdraw from any obligation to help Europe with anything. We can then concentrate on developing Russia as a partner. I would be quite willing to tacitly acknowledge a sphere of influence for them that would attract people like Putin. pl

  10. Ramojus says:

    Ask a national from any of the Baltic States if they see a realistic threat.
    They see Putin…. just like the Czar and Stalin before him.
    That’s why they joined NATO.

  11. turcopolier says:

    Really? b thinks this is a brave new world. pl

  12. kao_hsien-chih says:

    But the challenge facing countries further west is same as it always has been, for at least a couple of centuries now. Is Vilnius or Talinn worth the bones of the proverbial British, German, or American grenadier? Even with the full complement of budget and personnel, UK would not have been so eager to risk having to fight for its very existence for points so far east. Current reduction of budget and personnel is springing out of their desire, I think, to not get involved in little wars around the world, not so much the (presently) unstated purpose of NATO as an anti-Russian alliance–that has been in a much more complicated limbo for decades, I think.

  13. Matthew says:

    Ramojus: Sorry to be blunt, but why are the Baltic states our concern? The reckless expansion of NATO has increased America’s commitments and defense costs.

  14. Edward Amame says:

    The Brits are just following the advice that Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon gave to Herbert Hoover in the wake of the Great Depression:”Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate…It will purge the rottenness out of the system.” Except that the Brits have decided to liquidate the military, too.
    That’s an interesting decision considering what the Great Depression eventually wrought in Europe.

  15. Ah! The dreamers wishing wars have ended! Great Britain is not Europe IMO!

  16. turcopolier says:

    No? How is Britain different? All the old NATO countries (with the exception of the French) are getting a very cheap ride at our expense. pl

  17. b says:

    But they cut their budgets and do no longer have even the basic capabilities they would need.
    The Baltics have been losing some 20% of their manpower in recent years. If people born there no longer want to defend those countries why should we?

  18. b says:

    As a German I agree with that.
    It would be good for Europe as it would finally have to get its act together.
    Russia should have their sphere of influence at least over all the Russian speaking people. That includes of course Belorussia and most of the Ukraine as well as parts of the Baltic.

  19. PL are you referring to the nuclear shield/deterrent?

  20. David Habakkuk says:

    “They see Putin…. just like the Czar and Stalin before him.”
    They do not see Putin, they imagine him in terms shaped by historical trauma – much as so many Israelis and American Jews do Arabs and Muslims. In both cases, the trauma is eminently understandable, given the scale of the violence to which the traumatised were subjected. But trauma, however understandable, does not make for clear vision.
    In fact, Putin is an extremely complex and contradictory figure. There are two useful discussions by academics with a background in British military intelligence, Henry Plater-Zyberk and Paul Robinson. These may be excessively favourable, but they certainly highlight elements in Putin’s background and thinking commonly totally neglected in the West.
    Critically moreover current Soviet policy reflects an acute awareness of the dead end into which Stalin led the Soviet system. An interesting discussion of the lessons of the Cold War by Vladimir O. Pechatnov is at
    ‎Quite obviously, in terms of the priorities of contemporary Russian foreign policy, a reoccupation of the Baltics would make no sense at all. In relation to Georgia and the Ukraine, an actual and a potential problem area, NATO expansion has not had a stabilising effect, but rather the reverse.
    As regards the United States, and Britain, contemporary Russia is a power with which our interests sometimes converge and sometimes diverge. On one question – the inadvisability of empowering jihadists in Syria – the Russians quite patently have a clearer view of our common interests than do many in Washington and London.

  21. David Habakkuk says:

    “The British dislike us almost as much as the Canadians.”
    Actually British attitudes towards Americans are complicated and contradictory. To a degree this is because they are bound up with our attitudes to ourselves, which are often an incoherent mess.
    Different people here have very different attitudes. But also there are, as there always have been, enormously diversities among Americans. So, for example, I greatly admire Henry Siegman, buthave a visceral dislike for Richard Perle.

  22. Ursa Maior says:

    Not that you need tanks anymore to conquer a country.
    There is a saying here in Hungary (where we struggle to keep our 16,000 strong military alive): The russian tanks went out, and the western banks got in.
    E. g. most of Austria’s key infrastructure (like the refinery at Schwechat, or the Volksbank are all owned by russians). Or see Chancellor Schroeders position at Gazprom or Nord Stream.
    As of NATO since the unofficial motto of it is NOT true since a decade or so (Keep the russians out, the germans down and US in) it should rest finally in peace.
    I am saying all this seeing a looming new Munich (1938) above our eastern european heads.

  23. jerseycityjoan says:

    After seeing the many advantages of dependency they’ve enjoyed, I am becoming more and more envious of our allies.
    The US needs a US to hide behind. Where will we find one?
    Just think of all the money we’d save. We could finally think about ourselves for a change.
    A lot of things we think we have to do we don’t.
    We could also insist on more strings on the help we do offer. We could insist for example that the 2% GDP spending on defense be met by the other countries as a condition for our remaining in NATO.

  24. turcopolier says:

    NATO was and is a multi capable military alliance. It remains that. I refer to all aspects of military and strategic power. It is NATO that the US uses as a mechanism to wage war in such places as Libya and Afghanistan. If you ;oive anywhre in western Europe and you think that conventional military power hqs become irrelevant you don’t understand history, especially your own. We don’t need to be a hegemonic power in Europe, so let’s dump NATO as an obsolete idea. pl

  25. BruceR says:

    Col, just as a correction, the Ceremonial Guard on Parliament Hill in Ottawa is manned by army reservists from the Governor Generals Foot Guards and Canadian Grenadier Guards regiments. They’re not actors. Many Canadian soldiers have served on both Parliament Hill and on operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, in either order. You are correct about the presence of period interactors at historical sites like Fort Henry.

  26. IMO PL and probably wrong as often I am–then NATO continues to exist not for military reasons but the $14-20B the US spends on NATO most in Britain and the EU and with still about 100K troops and 100K dependents thinking they contribute a lot to the local economies and btw live much better than they would in the USA.

  27. turcopolier says:

    Bruce R
    OK. I see that “Canadian Army” has come back into use as a name. According to the wiki you have 20,000 regular soldiers, 20,000 reservists and 5,000 Rangers who are something like the Eskimo Scouts of the Alaska National Guard. I have not been to Ottawa for a number of years. When last I was there, my escort from the US Embassy introduced me to a number of the “guards’ at a guard mount. They said they were actors. Is it a new thing that you use reservists for this? pl

  28. Fred says:

    The Baltic States are not the United States of America.

  29. turcopolier says:

    “btw live much better than they would in the USA.” I doubt that but someone here who has served there recently will tell us. You served in the army thirty years ago or something like that. I, too, remember the days when the exchange rate for the Mark was so good that US forces lived very well over there. the Germans here will tell us if US soldiers have it easy economically in Germany or other countries. As for the economic benefit to Europe of the presence of our troops, why should we care? Why would the US Government care? pl

  30. Fred says:

    “… $14-20B the US spends on NATO most in Britain and the EU and with still about 100K troops and 100K dependents thinking they contribute a lot to the local economies…”
    Think of the American jobs created in America by spending American tax money in America rather than in defending Europe from a non-existent threat of invasion.

  31. “Russia should have their sphere of influence at least over all the Russian speaking people. That includes of course Belorussia and most of the Ukraine as well as parts of the Baltic.”
    I would be extremely averse to simply conceding Russia a ‘sphere of influence’ including the Russian speaking peoples of Eastern Europe.
    Leaving aside the Baltics, a key problem is the Ukraine, where you have an incredibly complicated overlapping series of divisions. Some years ago, when my brother-in-law married a woman from the West Ukraine, we went to Kiev to sort out her visa. Repeatedly, she addressed people in Ukrainian, and on every single occasion, without exception, they replied in Russian.
    However, that does not mean that the inhabitants of the most European of Russian cities want to be brought back under the suzerainty of Moscow. And even in the East, the oligarchs who dominate politics are probably in large measure happier being big fish in a smaller pond.
    But obviously, the wounds of the past are very close to the surface. If you say the wrong thing about Stefan Bandera in the wrong place in the Ukraine, you are liable to end up seriously injured. It would hardly be impossible to spark a process of polarisation which produced a catastrophic outcome.
    In such a situation, the last thing one wants is any hard lines drawn across or around the country. Even the prospect of the incorporation of the Ukraine in NATO tended to create such lines, as one of its effects was to make Yushchenko think he could attempt to buttress Ukrainian national identity by portraying the ‘Holodmor’ as a Russian attack on Ukrainian nationalism. Concession of a Russian ‘sphere of influence’ would also tend to create hard lines where situations need to be kept fluid.
    As with Northern Ireland, stability in the Ukraine requires that the outside powers maintain cooperative relations, rather than stirring trouble. In the case of Northern Ireland, some kind of resolution of tensions was made possible by cooperative relations between London and Dublin, and – at a crucial time – a constructive American role. The long term stability of the Ukraine depends, I think, on good relations between Moscow and Berlin, and would be helped by a constructive American role.

  32. oofda says:

    Is that 82,000 for the entire full-time British military? That is astounding.
    I was in Ottawa a number of years ago, and they were using reservists for the Ceremonial Guard.
    From Wiki-
    The Ceremonial Guard (CG) is an ad hoc military unit in the Canadian Forces that used to draw principally from two Primary Reserve (militia) regiments of Foot Guards: The Governor General’s Foot Guards from Ottawa and the Canadian Grenadier Guards from Montreal. However, since 2007 the Ceremonial Guard has been manned by a more pan–Canadian Forces approach: Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force personnel. Every summer, the Ceremonial Guard performs the Changing the Guard ceremony on Parliament Hill and posts sentries at Rideau Hall, the residence of the Governor General of Canada, and the National War Memorial.

  33. Thanks PL and “care” is never a word I would use with respect to US government policy. Federal programs are political solutions never designed for efficiency or effectiveness or caring!

  34. Charles I says:

    And perhaps their continuing interest, influence and capability in former colonial sphere, e.g. Mali

  35. turcopolier says:

    All right. the economic benefit to the European countries of the presence of our troops should not be a consideration for the US Government. pl

  36. Lord Curzon says:

    I believe you’re falling in to the old trap of confusing numbers with capability.
    The British Army will still have the capability of putting a division into the field with all of the incumbent logistics and necessary airpower, and naval power if littoral, fighting alongside its allies. Something that many nations still cannot do, and because of the last ten years (if not earlier considering all operations since Bosnia) with a combat-proven force. And that’s the crucial thing to note – in any future conflict it won’t be going to war independently but as part of a greater ORBAT.
    The UK’s always been, predominantly, a naval power with a small Army and finally after the short-sighted decision to get rid of the carriers back in the 60’s, the Royal Navy is finally getting them back, with the Fleet Air Arm back in business. The money for which has to come from somewhere. The Army’s had the lion’s share because of TELIC and HERRICK, but now the wheel has turned.
    As for actors at Buck House, I think Her Majesty would be less than impressed…

  37. jerseycityjoan says:

    ” As for the economic benefit to Europe of the presence of our troops, why should we care? Why would the US Government care?”
    Great questions, but obviously we do.
    Do we think that the more people who are dependent on us, the greater we must be? Why does the stupidity of spending money on people who live better than us never sinks in? Even more important, why don’t our changed economic circumstance ever sink in, either?
    Look at this writeup about the sequestration’s effect on the military. I agree that arbitrary cuts are not the way to go, but look at all we have left if the “worst case” happened. Two possible tipoffs in the quote: Note the use of “embarrassed” and the last sentence “Winnefeld said the budget uncertainty has left the military in a “strategic no-man’s land.”
    Are we not floundering here as we did after the Berlin Wall fell, unable and unwilling to reimagine the new world with far fewer commitments and responsibilities that could be ours, if we only made it so?
    “On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel presented the worst-case scenario for the U.S. military if the Pentagon is forced to slash more than $50 billion from the 2014 budget and half a trillion over 10 years as a result of congressionally mandated cuts.
    The reductions would come on top of $487 billion that President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans agreed to in August 2011.
    Among the dire prospects, the Navy would drop from 11 carrier strike groups to eight or nine, the lowest number since World War II. The Army would be at levels not seen since 1940, with cuts of more than 100,000 additional soldiers.
    The service is already planning to go from a wartime high of about 570,000 to 490,000 soldiers by 2017. The current plan to reduce the size of the Marine Corps to 182,000 from a high of about 205,000 could also be changed, cutting it to as few as 150,000 Marines.
    The Air Force could lose as many as five combat air squadrons as well as a number of other bomber and cargo aircraft.
    “We know the world’s watching. It’s embarrassing and unsafe to be in the situation we are in, which is scrambling in this way,” Carter told the committee.
    Winnefeld said the budget uncertainty has left the military in a “strategic no-man’s land.”

  38. jerseycityjoan says:

    Who would agree to go back under Russia’s sphere of influence who has managed to break away?
    Do you think Russia wants to be a partner? In what ways? They have a lot of social problems that are getting worse (well, of course, so we do), their life expectancy and population are decreasing.

  39. turcopolier says:

    Lord Curzon
    I don’t understand military capabilities? I think you have mistaken me for someone else. I can send you scans of my Staff College and War College diplomas. One division? Sir, the US Marine Corps, our smaller army has three Regular divisions. The US Army has ten divisions and several separate brigades in its Regular forces. Numbers count. A good big man will defeat a good small man every time. You should continue to cultivate a relationship with the French. As for the future of the Guards Brigade, perhaps the tourism ministry could help with budget.

  40. turcopolier says:

    IMO the desire to throw our money away on NATO is motivated by a simple minded belief in the primacy of the US. pl

  41. Ramojus says:

    My first comment that has elicited multiple replies! In fact, I agree with most of the opinions stated; my motivation was to gauge reaction.
    Yes, NATO is an anachronism. A better scenario, in my opinion, would be for the Baltic States to be within the influence of Germany and the EU. After all the Baltics were the staging area for the Operation Barbarossa northern front and there is Germanic influence as well as Slavic.
    I speak from the point of view of an American raised in the culture of the Lithuanian diaspora. My parents were Displaced Persons and very anti Communist (Russian). My father’s sister remained in Lithuania and was exiled to Siberia for over ten years. So yes, the wounds remain although that generation is almost extinct.
    I believe that it was the president of Latvia who stated that if current negative population trends continue, Latvia will cease to exist as a culture.
    I urge everyone to read the book; “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin” by Timothy Snyder, an unbiased historical account of how over fifteen million people were killed from the Baltics to Moscow; as well as how national boundaries were constantly changed throughout that era.
    TTG, I am anxious to hear your views on this subject.

  42. Matthew says:

    Col: Washington seems to revel in employer-employee relationship. As long as the checks keep being cut, everyone stays on Team America.
    Thought experiment: Don’t you think George Marshall would have told the Germans, the Japanese, and the British, “The Russians/Chinese can’t get to us until they’ve gotten you. Now carry your weight!”

  43. Matthew says:

    Ramojus: Many of us are actual immigrants or children of immigrants. IMHO, the problems facing the home countries of some newly minted Americans cannot serve as a basis of American defense policy. The only legitimate issue, in my view, is what is necessary to defend America.
    Sometimes this is frustrating. I never enjoyed watching IRA murderers fund-raising here–or listening to Amb. Jean Kirkpatrick criticize SOS Alexander Haig for (supposedly) leaning toward the British during the Falklands War.
    But when you get an American passport those ties to foreign countries should be cut. I find it frankly gross that some Americans (yes, AIPAC, I’m talking about you) seems to think our fellow citizens exist solely to advance a foreign nation’s interests.
    Best wishes.

  44. jerseycityjoan says:

    Yeah, they and a whole lot of other people apparently believe that primacy came with no expiration date and no limits on what we can give away for free, either.
    With every passing month, I see more reasons why our leaders in every area should be panic stricken about America’s future, both short term and long term.
    I know I am.
    While I don’t expect or want our people at the top to act panicky, I do look for signs that they realize how bad things are getting and I see no such signs.
    Here’s a great AP story that spells out our decline and pays particular attention to the loss of white America’s faith in their future. Yes, things are getting so bad that even a majority of white people are worried sick.
    “Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.”

    “”If you do try to go apply for a job, they’re not hiring people, and they’re not paying that much to even go to work,” she said. Children, she said, have “nothing better to do than to get on drugs.”
    While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in government data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press.”

  45. J says:

    What about the “spheres of influence” that “seem to have some influence” in NATO’s affairs, referring to the ‘business’ side of things like the Bilderberg Group, Tri-Lateral Commission?
    Bankers, business leaders all seem to want to control/have heavy say in what armies and what armed alliances do.
    Jut thought I’d throw this one out there.

  46. The Twisted Genius says:

    Labas, Ramojus,
    I knew exactly what you were saying in your initial comment. I sure our families have similar histories. People in that part of the world have long memories and, as David Habakkuk observed, those memories shape present day perceptions and visions. Lithuania and the other “new Europe” states were eager to join NATO as a hedge against their visions of Moscow’s ambitions. It may have seemed like a good move at the time, but it surely antagonized Moscow along the way. Moscow also has long memories.
    I think NATO’s only purpose now is as a means for the U.S. to maintain influence in Europe. It should have went away soon after the Warsaw Treaty Organization dissolved. It certainly shouldn’t have expanded eastward towards Moscow. We pour money into Europe’s militaries and get a ready made “coalition of the willing” to take part in our awesome wars. We should all move on.
    Back to Lithuania, I agree that it should work closely with Germany and the EU as you said. The Lithuanian military already works closely with other Baltic and EU militaries. Perhaps it could deploy units in support of French expeditions. Working with the 2e REP would be a good experience for a company of the “Žaliukai.” I also think Lithuania should look at Hezbollah for ideas on how to organize and equip their forces for territorial defense. Couple that with the nation’s own experience of guerrilla warfare and Lithuania could have an affordable and workable defense strategy.

  47. The Twisted Genius says:

    Here’s something for your enjoyment. Perhaps Charles I will also enjoy it.

  48. I always forget to add that Ron Paul and others suggest up to $27 Trillion went out of the Federal Reserve to the world’s Central Banks to avoid a financial collapse. Since the FED is not subject to audit none will ever know. What is clear however is that the costs of DoD ops and equipment and all the rest are peanuts compared to backdoor support of the Central Banks other than Japan, the EU, the British banks, and the USA banks. Up we have made our choices. Estates in the Hamptons for Wall Streeters and elsewhere but perhaps about to repeat the post-Soviet dry up of support by the US in Afghanistan.
    And probably many don’t believe the numbers but apparently the best estimates are there are $700 Trillion in unregulated untaxed derivative financial instruments now stalking the developed world. Is this the existential threat of the Soviet Empire, or perhaps Terrorism, I would suggest a more effective threat and higher vulnerability than many would believe.
    A threat all fear to discuss publically.

  49. And the man largely responsible for the expenditure of almost $300 Billion in the largest preparedness effort in US and world history has just been named to run the IRS.
    He headed the Y2K effort in the USA.

  50. David Habakkuk says:

    Most interesting reflections. I certainly think that for the Baltics, what one might call ‘hedgehog’ contingency planning makes sense.
    It has long seemed to me important to keep separate two issues: that of how far the United States wanted to contest Russian influence in the former Soviet space, and of the usefulness of formal guarantees in so doing. As to the latter, I have strong views, partly rooted in British inter-war experience.
    It was the fact that in the wake of the German occupation of Prague in March 1939 Neville Chamberlain issued a unilateral guarantee to Poland, without thinking through the likely repercussions, which paved the way for the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and the subsequent dismemberment of that country and the Soviet occupation of the Baltics.
    (On this, there is a fascinating account published under the title ‘A Fatal Guarantee: Poland, 1939’ in 1997 by a very distinguished British diplomat, Sir Nicholas Henderson.
    See )
    That Hitler’s countermove would be an approach to the Soviets was, to be blunt, hardly unpredictable. Whether a different British approach to the Soviets could have persuaded Stalin to reject the offer of a partition of Eastern Europe, and perhaps have avoided or at least mitigated the calamities that followed, has to remain a moot point, particularly given that Soviet policy remains highly controversial.
    However, I tend to follow the account given in the 1999 study ‘Grand Delusion’ by the Israeli historian Gabriel Gorodetsky. What he suggests is that in the wake of the German approach Stalin found himself in a cleft stick, in part because of the previous history of British policy.
    Unpersuaded that the British were in actual fact any more prepared to fight to defend Poland than they had been to defend Czechoslovakia, Stalin feared that, once they had subjugated the Poles, the Germans might push on eastwards – perhaps with the British looking on complacently.
    Accordingly, rational statecraft suggested a two-pronged approach, keeping open the option of ‘appeasing’ Germany, while at the same time desperately trying to get the British and the French to make concrete commitments to take military action in response to a German attack on Poland.
    It was precisely the fact that – as ‘Ramojus’ notes – the Baltics were ‘the staging area for Operation Barbarossa northern front’ that gave Stalin very good reason for wanting to take them over, particularly given the acute vulnerability of Leningrad. Given that British and French contingency planning involved a defensive posture at the outset of the war, it is not at all clear that they could have given Stalin the kind of commitments required to persuade him that alliance with them was the less risky bet. But the attempt to persuade him should have been made, and it wasn’t.

  51. TTG,
    What you say is I think very much to the point. I certainly think that for the Baltics, what one might call ‘hedgehog’ contingency planning makes sense. Are there any indications that they are moving in that direction, rather than simply relying on the U.S. security umbrella?
    It has long seemed to me important to keep separate two issues: that of how far the United States wanted to contest Russian influence in the former Soviet space, and of the usefulness of formal guarantees in so doing. On the latter question I have strong views, partly rooted in British inter-war experience.
    It was the fact that in the wake of the German occupation of Prague in March 1939 Neville Chamberlain issued a unilateral guarantee to Poland, without thinking through the likely repercussions, which paved the way for the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and the subsequent dismemberment of that country and the Soviet occupation of the Baltics. Whether a different strategy would have produced better results has to be a moot point.
    It is however quite clear that Chamberlain’s attempt to prevent further German expansion into Eastern Europe, without risking facilitating Soviet, had totally perverse consequences.

  52. Cold War Zoomie says:

    David…yes, those attitudes are complicated and contradictory. Generally, I found a constant, low volume hum of anti-American sentiment in the media punctuated by loud outbursts over specific policy issues. One day we’d be blasted for meddling too much, and the next get blasted for not doing enough to fix some problem that was not our’s to fix!
    On a personal level, most Brits were much less anti-American than the media, but I never knew what sentiments truly lurked under the polite facade. Was I just another Colonial Mongrel (as my girlfriend called me once) in their eyes?

  53. TTG,
    As Typepad has quite fairly taken exception to the length of my comment, and consigned it to spam, I have split it in two.
    A fascinating discussion of the events leading up to the Second World War was published in 1997 – under the title ‘A Fatal Guarantee: Poland, 1939’ – by the veteran British diplomat Sir Nicholas Henderson. Two years after its publication, however, there appeared the study ‘Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia’ by the Israeli historian Gabriel Gorodetsky, who had been able to see a great deal of Russian archival material, and I think clarifies some questions raised by Henderson.
    (See )
    What shaped Chamberlain’s policy was the belief that Stalin was attempting to finesse Germany and the Western democracies into war. An effect of this belief, however, was that the British were blind to the fact that Stalin was haunted by the fear that the British were attempting to finesse him and the Germans into war. The British failed to grasp that, against the background of Munich, the Soviets were deeply unconvinced that the guarantee to Poland would be honoured.
    One possible scenario, obviously, was for an attack on Leningrad through the Baltics, which would bypass Poland and so avoid triggering the guarantee. Another involved attacking Poland and continuing onwards into the Soviet Union, on the basis of confidence that the guarantee was verbiage.
    As Gorodetsky tells the story, Stalin anticipated that Hitler was likely to renege on any deal. Accordingly, he pursued what seems a rather sensible two-pronged strategy. One prong involved ensuring the guarantee was not verbiage by tying the British and French down to concrete military commitments. The other involved exploiting Hitler’s immediate need for a deal to improve the Soviet strategic position.
    As ‘Ramojus’ notes, the Baltics were ‘the staging area for Operation Barbarossa northern front’. In fact, had Stalin not secured control of them in 1939, the Soviets might very well have lost Leningrad – and the war – in 1941.
    Faced with a total unwillingness on the part of the British to talk turkey about military commitments, Stalin, hardly surprisingly, decided the second option made better sense.

  54. turcopolier says:

    Discussion of WW2 and surrounding strategy is enjoyable but it has little to do with the present circumstances of the US, the Russians or indeed the Europeans. The US is massively overextended and spending too much money on DoD and the IC. b is correct, Europe must “get its act together.” pl

  55. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think that Ukraine – the Border Country – in its present formation in unviable.
    There is no natural border nor a cultural one that would separate Ukraine from Russia.
    Yes, Western Ukraine – with its Catholic religion is the seat of Ukranian Nationalism but it lacks the power to make Ukraine into her image.
    I expect the Russians to be back, over the coming decades.
    I expect US & EU attempt to sabotage it that and fail.

  56. IMO and perhaps wrong but believe NATO as TTG suggests is largely to maintain US influence in a Europe that by its poor leadership and servile population led the USA into two World Wars. The European desire to be the world’s largest café society will probably end up doing it again.
    Of course the US is also responsible just as USA bankster’s tricks have led to a very close run thing on collapse of Britain and EU economies. Russia also that followed a corrupt Larry Summers advice to privatize without controls and now led by a criminal oligarchy. And President Obama about to name Summers to lead the FED. Allegations continue that Summers personally profited from Russian privatization efforts.
    Time will tell!

  57. Matthew says:

    Col: More pouting on NPR today about the Russians. I particularly liked the call for a political boycott–but not an athletic boycott–of the Sochi Olympics. I guess Washington learned that boycotting Moscow in 1980 merely made a bunch of second-stringers Gold Medalists.
    Do these Beltway Solons really think the world will notice if Obama, Harper, and Cameron refuse to attend the Opening Ceremonies? Sigh.

  58. Babak Makkinejad says:

    For Europe to get her act together, Germany has to be given a Primus inter pares among the European states.
    I do not think that very likely, after all, WWI & WWII were fought precisely to prevent that.
    It would a supreme irony of history that a 100 years later, after tens of millions of dead, it comes to pass.
    I think also that UK will not accept that, she will likely bolt the EU (one leg is already out) and try to attach herself to US as the unsinkable aircraft carrier off the shores of Europe.
    Furthermore, the UK control of Gibraltar cannot continue it that event; perhaps the first act of the Pan European Union will be a war with UK to gain control of it.
    And then there is the matter of Switzerland – what to do with her.
    It is also inconcievable for me to seriously consider Turkey as a member of the Pan European Union’s military structure.
    Is this new fangled military alliance to border Muslim states such as Iran and Syria and this become involved in the wars of the Muslims?
    On the other hand, I just do not see how a Dane could be persuaded that it is a worthwhile exercise to go and fight and die to protect Malta.

  59. turcopolier says:

    Germany is already primus inter pares. pl

  60. turcopolier says:

    “…largely to maintain US influence.” That’s the point. Who needs it? pl

  61. PL! Largely agree except some might argue that Europe will again be involved in its own civil wars. Most Europeans cannot see the Forest for the Trees. The forest being the rest of the world and the trees being their own self indulgence.

  62. turcopolier says:

    “Europe will again be involved in its own civil wars.” So what? Are we their guardians? pl

  63. Ramojus says:

    Aciu Ponas TTG !
    My sentiments as well, but more eloquently stated by you.

  64. Charles I says:

    Labas TTG and Ramjous.
    We do indeed have similar WWII family histories. My father b 1926 would not speak of it, only post emigration stories, older brothers not much more forthcoming. Grandfather didn’t make it out of the woods. OMG I’ll never forget the old Lithuanian dentist who did make it out we used to go to off hours once a year, dear soul! I wasn’t raised a Catholic though.
    Thanks for the link, i did enjoy it. Sadly, I don’t speak Lithuanian, dad’s favourite word of my youth was “Kapeesh?”, Grandma was Polish, as was Grandpa, in fact step-grandpa. The sentiment is clear from the start, who can deny the hokey beauty of a Phoenix freely reborn, actually quite smitten with the bird, and one always loves a choir.
    I used to support the Baltic & Ukranian desires to be part of the West by default but now have learned that their appropriate West is Germany. I believe here’s a pretty murky anti-communist black-shirt skeleton or two in Lithuanian history I hope does not complicate the Lithuanain path between democracy, Germany and Russia.
    I do have the hokey Canadian Pride that a Canadian became Lithuanian PM, and as a kid that I came from an unknown and therefore exotic place!

  65. Charles I says:

    Good and central point. My whole former investment strategy was predicated on this central fact and its inexorable detonation but the buggers abetted by the FED have kept the whole rickety chinese plates of a ponzi scheme spinning longer – and faster – than any rational actor could have predicted.
    And just now I’m fool enough to be in the real estate market.

  66. Charles I says:

    Somebody’s ego, somebody’s politico-bureaucratic empire. . .

  67. Charles I says:

    Even of the Georgians too couple of years ago

  68. ‘Was I just another Colonial Mongrel (as my girlfriend called me once) in their eyes?’
    Was this the same girlfriend who once – if my memory serves me right – threw plates at you? It is the kind of comment I would not know how to read, without being clear about the circumstances in which it was made.
    We have two ‘colonial mongrels’ in the street into which my wife and I moved two years ago. One is a lady who grew up in Connecticut, and from her name is probably Armenian in origin. She is married to an Englishman. The other is a Jewish American, married to an Australian – who is I think Catholic. We like them both.

  69. turcopolier says:

    David Habakkuk
    “we really like them.” Some of my best friends are immigrants as well. They are a credit to their people. sorry, I couldn’t resist the “slow pitch.” On a serious note, have you seen the BBC America series “Copper?” pl

  70. Charles I,
    ‘I believe here’s a pretty murky anti-communist black-shirt skeleton or two in Lithuanian history.’
    There are skeletons all over the place, in that part of the world – for all kinds of understandable reasons.
    An example. In the West Ukraine, Ukrainian nationalists quite naturally looked to Germany for support both against the Russians, and also the Poles – having been incorporated very much against their will in the newly-created independent Poland following the First World War. So it is hardly surprising that, as the Wikipedia entry on the SS ‘Galicia’ Division puts it:
    “The creation of a Ukrainian SS division was perceived by many in Ukraine as a step towards the attainment of Ukrainian independence and attracted many volunteers.”
    (See )
    Likewise, it is deeply unsurprising that the acerbic Russian commentator Sergei Roy, recalling that his uncle died in the battle of Kiev in 1941, was incensed at the spectacle of Yushchenko, as he put it ‘awarding medals to faithful servants of the Nazis only because they were also anti-Soviet, for which read anti-Russian.’
    (See )
    The wounds of the past lie very close to the surface throughout Eastern Europe. They can’t be forgotten, but somehow people have to find a way of moving on. And in particular, they should not be encouraged to behave recklessly on the basis of expectations of external support which might not when push comes to shove be forthcoming.

  71. BruceR says:

    Can’t speak to the info you received but the guys on the Hill are definitely paid serving soldiers (if generally summer reservists, outside of the NCO-officer leadership). That’s why the Guard is only there in the summer when school and college are out. I’ve been in the Canadian military since ’88 and it’s always been that way. Several of my longer-serving colleagues have done a tour with the guard and one or more operational tours during their career. (Afghanistan, etc)
    Not disagreeing with your larger point at all, just giving the guys in uniform their due.
    More here:

  72. BruceR says:

    PS: Maybe the Brits could consider reservists too though. It’s a ceremonial function and actors are a lot more expensive than short-contract soldiers. Better than using operationally deployable ones.

  73. YT says:

    The women I love call me worse names…

  74. I had not heard about ‘Copper’. Looking at the Wikipedia entry, I cannot see that it mentions a UK showing.
    As BBC America is a commercial channel, they are under no obligation to sell it to the BBC here, and would sell to another channel, if that gave them better revenue. They may be holding off, hoping that if the second series is successful, they can sell it for more.
    Have they made a good job of it?

  75. Charles I says:

    Thanks David. Years of learning the same lesson here over and over have overcome my naively bleeding heart to heartily agree, in particular with your ultimate point.

  76. turcopolier says:

    David Habakkuk
    Copper is a mostly Canadian and British production with a little American participation in the form of a few actors and Barry Levinson as one of the producers. IMO only a crew from other English speaking countries can do justice to literature about the American Civil War. There is still too much unfinished business here concerning the issues of that day whether they concern; race (Black), the federal republic, the widely varying cultures of the “United” States, etc. This shows up clearly in the national media’s disdain not only for the South but for all of “fly over” America. I have watched all of Season 1 over a few evenings with that most perspicacious of critics, SWMBO. In her view it is a flawed but, nevertheless, valuable work. Like all worthwhile drama it is concerned with a depiction of man’s fate in some particular circumstance. In this case it is an attempt to portray New York City in the last days of the Civil War, that is from summer, 1864 to the end in April of the following year. The dialogue descends into ridiculous anachronism from time to time with the use of such expressions as “OK.” There are also lapses in terms of what actually could happen at the time. As an example a Confederate covert action officer is said to travel back and forth to Richmond by railroad train. That would have been difficult because the front line between Grant and Lee would have been a problem. A few civilians were allowed to do that kind of thing under a “flag of truce” but it was a complicated business requiring intervention at the level of the War Departments. Nevertheless the staging, costuming and most importantly the characterizations of the denizens of NY City is fascinatingly correct. The motivations of the city’s commercial class of money men are clearly portrayed to include the widespread sympathy among them towards the South. This included the mayor as well as the governor of the state. The pro-Union men of business are there as well, active in the Union League Club. The series focuses relentlessly on the city’s mass Irish immigrant population. These are the famine Irish come to rest in the New World. This is not a pretty portrayal. They are hopelessly racist in the main. They despise and fear Blacks as rivals for employment and status. The city police are full of the Irish, hence the name of the series. These police are distinguished by their grasping corruption, stereotypical drunkenness and ambition. The Jews are only a scattered handful. They did not begin to arrive en masse until the ’80s. The writing falls into the trap of “soap opera” occasionally but is generally filled with a wealth of information that informs the minds of a people too little informed of their own past. I would like nothing better than to have this “crew’ produce my trilogy. pl

  77. Charles says:

    Wow that’s quite a review, didn’t know about the WBS timing, thought it was just another cop drama set back a ways. I’ll have a go soon as I finish off I think a Lizard Monster and a Mothman in the hopes of actually seeing Wild Bill and his stick actually make contact. Or Buck actually shoot something the next time he falls down.
    It is educational in the extreme. I see that crew of veterans always has the big target Buck out front clambering uphill or entering the confined space while “Security” is hanging back in the shadows/rear.

  78. I enjoyed streaming Season 1 of Copper on Netflix.a

  79. optimax says:

    I haven’t seen the show but always thought Copper in this shows context stood for Copperhead.

  80. turcopolier says:

    Oh, you mean the good guys. pl

  81. optimax says:

    Growing up in Northern Ohio, home of Oberlin College, people identified with abolitionists and the terminus of the Underground Railroad. They didn’t teach us in school it was also the tinderbox of the Copperheads.
    People in Southern Ohio were culturally closer to Kentuckesseeans than the denizens of the Mistake on the Lake.

  82. I will watch the series with interest, presuming that it finally surfaces here.
    It was reassuring to hear that, despite anachronisms and errors, it had made a good stab at handling the social and ethnic complexities.
    Is the portrayal of the ‘famine Irish’ essentially fair? I do not know whether it is or is not relevant, but in my experience changes in both countries have made relations between British and Irish much better than they once were. It may be too cynical to suggest that the final departure of Niall Ferguson for New England – where he suggested ‘proper protestants’ were more at home – may have had some relation to the appointment of Kevin O’Rourke of Dublin to the main Oxford economic history chair. By contrast, relations between British and Scots have got much worse.
    As for the ‘disdain not only for the South but for all of “fly over” America’ in the national media, that fills me with foreboding.

  83. turcopolier says:

    David Habakkuk
    The relationships portrayed in the film between groups is essentially between the immigrant Irish in New York City and the earlier population of English, Scottish, Dutch etc. There also was a long resident population of previously settled Irish. The famine Irish were something special because there were so many of them and they came withing just a few years. the Aftermath was that they achieved dominance in NY City until they lost it to subsequent waves of Italians and east European Jews. An alien place, they can all have it to themselves. pl

Comments are closed.