The origins and original function of NATO


NATO was created as a DEFENSIVE collective security alliance for the purpose of deterring any Soviet attempt to take more territory in Europe than they had been able to gain control of in the years immediately following WW2. By the time NATO was created the Soviets had nuclear weapons and the emphasis in NATO was always on deterring the Soviets from an advance into Western Europe by creating the impression that any such advance would cause a conventional war in which after a massive and very destructive struggle NATO would probably be defeated and would likely resort to tactical nuclear weapons in an exchange that would escalate to general war and Armageddon. To make this strategy work it was necessary that the conventional forces committed to Allied Command Europe (ACE) were sufficiently potent to make it clear that conventional Soviet forces would not have an easy and quick victory in which a "done deal" would be accepted as not worth mutual annihilation. Does that sound familiar? During the Cold War the process of keeping the NATO forces strong enough to make the deterrence "work" was great fun for all involved, exercises, books, promotions in large forces, etc. There was also a hell of a lot of money to be made in building the equipment involved. When the Cold War ended NATO would logically have been dismantled, but, the Hegemonist Temptation gripped the elites in the West and the alliance was illogically driven eastward to the borders of Russia and Russian attempts to join this supposed mutual defense arrangement were rejected. This made it clear to the Russians that the alliance was an anti-Russian alliance.

Somehow the Europeans were persuaded that NATO should become an "out of theater" instrument of US power.

That seemed to be an acceptable situation when the USA and Russia were not on a collision course as we are now, but both the USA and Russia still possess their roughly symmetrical nuclear weapon armaments and MAD still apllies.



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59 Responses to The origins and original function of NATO

  1. Excellent post and summary IMO! No Kerry is not that smart!
    But the idea of Russia in a NATO with or without US makes sense again IMO!
    My preference would be US not in NATO! But the preconditions for Russian members ip in NATO would be no nuclear weapons except for Russians in NATO and for US if it remains a NATO.
    And second US and Russia guarantee all borders West of the URALS!

  2. Fred says:

    Pre conditions to membership? Why bother offering it?

  3. Robert Kenneth Chatel says:

    WRC, I was ready to reply to an earlier version of Col. Lang’s post that showed this link: ,
    with the ultimate question regarding Kerry posted by Col. Lang, I believe. I thought the link looked suspicious. It seemed to be an obvious attempt at an April Fools’ Day fabrication, although the individual who posted it on FDL had put it up in early March.

  4. turcopolier says:

    That is why I removed it later today. pl

  5. Fred! For better or worse IMO Eurasia key to a peaceful world. Perhaps I am dreaming but I do fear that continent and land mass again being the focus of warring states or ethnic groups.

  6. Robert Kenneth Chatel says:

    Thank you for the clarification, Colonel. I thought that must have been the reason. The question of Kerry’s competence is worth discussing as well as the history and future of US involvement in NATO and future additions. I have no illusions about one’s ability to read Putin’s mind or look into his soul.
    My father was at the Japanese surrender and later became a chemistry teacher. He showed his students photos of the aftermath of the bombing made available to teachers in the mid-1950s. My generation grew up in the days of air-raid drills in schools and fallout shelters in our cellars. I recall a slogan to the effect that the difference between nuclear thinking and unclear thinking is only one of the spelling. Putin is certainly aware of what MAD means, especially since the then-USSR (the Ukraine) was the site of Chernobyl in 1986, the fallout from which those of us residing in northern Greece at the time well-recall, and the results of which we attribute to my wife’s thyroid tumor three years later (fortunately benign), since the cloud carried a radioactive isotope of iodine. School children in many western European countries were given iodine supplements at the time as a prophylactic measure.
    Now we have Fukushima and the reports of USN personnel being exposed to that: I find it a bitter and tragic irony that the carrier group involved was the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan Carrier Group.
    In 1981, I saw a performance in the Republic of Ireland of this song by this group (Moving Hearts) as part of an Irish campaign to keep nuclear power out of Northern Ireland, although everyone, especially the locals, knew that nuclear power was an accident waiting to happen, not to mention nuclear weapons:

  7. robt willmann says:

    The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has two interviews, published on 29 and 30 March. There is some overlap, but they are quite interesting.
    In the first one, remarking on NATO’s push eastward, he says: “We were promised that this would not happen – and we were cheated. We were promised that NATO would not bring its military infrastructure closer to our borders – and we were cheated. We were promised there would be no military installations on the territory of the new NATO members. At first, we just listened to those promises and believed them. Then we started putting them on paper as political obligations, and serious people, Western leaders, signed those documents. But when we asked them how come those political obligations were ignored and whether we can make them legally binding, they told us, ‘No, political obligations are enough, and anyway, don’t worry, whatever we do is not against you.’ ”
    In the second one, Lavrov talks a lot about the situation regarding Crimea and Ukraine. He discloses things people have said that are not reported elsewhere. He also notes that: “Incidentally, I was taken aback by what the US President Barack Obama said about Russia being a regional power and about the costs we will have to pay. We did not lose any lives when we responded to the legitimate choice of the Crimean people. The ‘games’ the American played in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslavia have cost thousands of lives. There is always a price, but in every case it is different.”
    Lavrov’s words sound more like a diplomat than the juvenile posturing language president Obama reads from the teleprompter.

  8. All,
    It does go somewhat against the grain for me to act as an apologist for Stalin – as will I hope be apparent from my comments on this blog over the years I have no history of sympathy for communism or indeed socialism in any form.
    However, the sequence of dates relating to the creation of NATO is important.
    The signing of the NATO treaty was on 4 April 1949. The initial Soviet atomic test was on 29 August 1949. However, this did not mean that the Soviets had deliverable nuclear weapons at that point. I cannot locate the reference immediately, but if my memory serves me right the first deployment of nuclear weapons to Soviet forces was in 1953 or 1954.
    The unexpected detection of the Soviet test by U.S. scientists on 3 September 1949 left Stalin facing a classic ‘window of vulnerability’, in that there were clearly very good arguments for the U.S. to resort to preventive action before the Soviets could acquire a functioning nuclear and even more thermonuclear arsenal, and effective delivery means.
    Ironically, overestimates both of the likely speed of the Soviet nuclear build-up, and of Soviet conventional strength, may have caused the U.S. to ‘self-deter’.
    According to the critical NSC 68 paper analysing the implications of the Soviet test, sent to Truman on 14 April 1950, the Red Army had 175 full strength divisions.
    At the end of the 1950s, painstaking work by the CIA analyst Raymond Garthoff established that only a portion of these divisions would have been rapidly available for war. In fact, one third had been at full strength, one third at partial strength, one third were cadres. In 1960, Allen Dulles told Garthoff ‘Ray, you’ve got rid of more Soviet divisions than anyone since Hitler!’
    According to NSC 68, meanwhile, the U.S. production of motor vehicles was at the time more than ten times that of the Soviet Union. In a speech on 6 November 1941, Stalin had set out his view on the importance of the production of motor vehicles:
    ‘The present war is a war of engines. The war will be won by the side that has an overwhelming preponderance in engine production. If we aggregate the production of engines in the U.S.A., Great Britain and the U.S.S.R., then we get a superiority of at least three times in comparison with Germany. That is one of the grounds for the inevitable doom of Hitler’s robber imperialism.’
    Curiously, this speech was made prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which was on 7 December 1941. Clearly, military preparations had been underway in the United States for some time. However, it remains striking that on 4-7 June 1942, the United States, at the Battle of Midway, inflicted – to quote Wikipedia – ‘irreparable damage on the Japanese fleet’, while on 8 November of the same year American troops were landing in force in North Africa.
    In the June 1950 edition of the confidential Soviet journal ‘Military Thought’, Major General V. Khlopov argued that despite American strategic air power and plans for its use against the Soviet Union, there was a fatal flaw in the assumptions underlying such plans.
    The combination of greater air capabilities in Europe and ‘powerful offensive operations on a large scale with a high tempo of advance’, he suggested, would mean that ‘the bridgehead on which the American militarists count to concentrate and deploy their forces for land engagements will be liquidated and their plans for [winning] the war will be buried with it.’ The article was discussed by Garthoff in a study published in 1958.
    In September 1952, George Kennan, during his brief and highly unsuccessful mission as ambassador to Moscow, wrote a memorandum to Acheson, in which he argued that exaggerated alarmism about Soviet capabilities and intentions had generated a fundamental misreading of U.S. military strategy in Moscow.
    As Kennan summarised the argument in the second volume of his memoirs:
    ‘the Russians, many disagreeable and disturbing aspects of their behaviour notwithstanding, had had no intention of attacking Western Europe in those postwar years, and thought we must have known it. For this reason, the manner in which NATO was formed and presented to the Western public, i.e. as a response to the “Soviet threat” and as a “deterrent” to Soviet aggression, mystified them and caused them to search for some hidden motive in our policy.’
    And the ‘hidden motive’ he attributed to U.S. policy, argued was ‘to bring to a head a military conflict with the Soviet Union as soon as the requisite strength had been created on the Western side.’
    The paper is available at
    In 1959, Michael MccGwire, who, having recently graduated from the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, had – like Colonel Lang’s uncle – been present at the landings in North Africa – had a eureka moment. The vast submarine fleet the Soviets had started constructing in 1950 had not, as he had along with everyone else had thought, been primarily intended to attack NATO convoys in the Atlantic. Submarines equipped with an 100-mm gun but no anti-aircraft capability, such as made up a large proportion of the Soviet fleet, would be useless for this purpose.
    Suppose however that the planners of the extraordinarily successful Anglo-American amphibious operations in North Africa, Sicily, Anzio, Salerno, and Normandy had had to reckon with an effective ‘combined arms’ resistance. Suppose the German/Italian forces had had local air superiority, together with a force of submarines which could venture out at night, and having discharged their torpedoes surface and use the 100mm gun to cause further havoc among the shambles.
    So what both Garthoff and MccGwire eventually concluded was that Khlopov’s article was an accurate statement of Soviet threat perceptions, except insofar as it gave an impression of confidence likely to have been much greater than Soviet leaders actually felt at that time. The substantial conventional remobilisation advocated by NSC 68, and implemented after the attack by North Korea on South Korea on 25 June 1950, meant that U.S. forces would no longer have been as weak as they had been at the onset of war.
    More significantly, an American pre-emptive nuclear attack could buy time for rapid U.S. remobilisation, leading to amphibious attacks on the Soviet LOC through the Baltics and the ‘soft underbelly’ in the Ukraine. And, of course, Anglo-American support for nationalists in the Baltics and the Ukraine appeared to corroborate these nightmare scenarios.
    From mid-1986, Garthoff and MccGwire, both then at Brookings, were telling anyone who would listen that Gorbachev’s adoption of the ‘commons security’ agenda of the Palme Commission was not mere propaganda. In fact, it was underpinned by a belief that the security problems of the Soviet Union had been to a very substantial extent of its own making.
    At that point, the belief was widespread among Russian elites that the Western enemy in the Cold War was communism, a creed whose bankruptcy was apparent to most intelligent people by that time, and if that if they accommodated Western concerns, their country’s interests might be respected. Over the subsequent decades, Western policy has been largely successful in disabusing them of both these beliefs.

  9. Fred says:

    “We did not lose any lives when we responded to the legitimate choice of the Crimean people. The ‘games’ the American played in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslavia have cost thousands of lives.”
    And yet note one of our statesmen, or stateswomen, have had the ability to see this simple fact. How many current members of the Senate and House ran on platforms against our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Even here in the lands of freedom we have a press who won’t interview the Russian Federation’s Foreign Minister. But boy do we get stories when reports quit their jobs. I think the line went “I’m proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth.” Still waiting on NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, Fox…….

  10. turcopolier says:

    David Habakkuk
    Your point being that the USSR threat was over sold in creating NATO? I can accept that thought having seen so many threats hyped over the decades but in my experience the hype was soon believed by one and all including those who had started the hype. pl

  11. jonst says:

    I would argue that there was a specific purpose for naming it the NORTH ATLANTIC Treaty Organization that is long forgotten about in this politically correct world. Shared cultures. That concept is ‘naughty’ now. I could hear them yelling ‘racist’.

  12. David H.! Thanks again for another significant comment!

  13. PL! Did not the reassembly of the Wehrmacht into the Bundeswehr begin in 1950?

  14. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You wrote:
    ” clearly very good arguments for the U.S. to resort to preventive action before the Soviets could acquire a functioning nuclear and even more thermonuclear arsenal, and effective delivery means.”
    I do not think there was any such arguments that were “very good” – and I defer to no less than Gen. Marshall who – in response to Bernard Baruch’s machinations for the start of a war with USSR – stated that “it was a very bad idea”.

  15. Florent says:

    very, very interesting.
    Thank you Mr Habakkuk

  16. Colonel Lang,
    I carry a lot of curious baggage on this. An excerpt from a report in the ‘Telegraph’ from November 2009 is perhaps to the point:
    ‘Lady Ashton, who was last week appointed EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, was treasurer of CND in the early 1980s. She has said she had no contacts with the Soviet Union and had never accepted money from Moscow.
    ‘The UK Independence Party has written to Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, asking him to investigate whether Lady Ashton was party to payments allegedly made to CND from the Soviet regime in Moscow.
    ‘The letter, based on allegations made by Vladimir Bukovsky, a former Soviet dissident, claimed that it is “very likely” that CND received “unidentified income” from Moscow in the 1980s.’
    (See )
    I remember in the early Eighties, when I was a television producer, running into one of my then researchers – a Glaswegian leftist – when I inadvertently encountered a CND march in Hyde Park. He said something like ‘Habakkuk – always marching the other way.’
    And then when making a very conventional middle-of-the-road programme about European security a few years later, I came across the work of Michael MccGwire. To my immense surprise, I found that anxieties expressed by CND people, which I had been accustomed to dismiss, were also shared by a former head of Soviet naval intelligence in our Defence Intelligence Staff. This started me on an intellectual journey.
    Subsequently, we had the Thatcher revolution. Many of the former CND people, with Tony Blair being a prime example, turned into neocons. Perhaps due to an inveterate habit of antagonism, I went on ‘marching the other way.’ Among other things, I came to think that a lot of people in the former Soviet Union we had been disposed to regard as heroic – Bukovsky being one example, Sharansky another – are complete creeps.

  17. walrus says:

    Thank you so much for your post Mr. Habakkuk. Off topic, but on 25 April, Anzac day down here, we will celebrate the centenary of the last time a politician decided that the soft underbelly was a tempting target.

  18. Babak Makkinejad,
    If one is serious about intelligence analysis, it is necessary that one attempts to get into the head of one’s actual or potential adversaries. This can be difficult, particularly when, as with Stalin, the ‘head’ of one’s adversaries is not a comfortable place to be.
    Moreover, there is, commonly, a tension between the need to get into the ‘head’ of one’s adversaries, and the natural human instinct to preserve one’s good opinion of oneself and one’s community, and the collective ‘myths’ of that community.
    In the dim and distant days when the British used to think, we were a naval culture. Given the importance, and also the vulnerability, of our sea defences, some of the leaders of the Royal Navy were all too aware that if one was too concerned not to be threatened by how others perceived you, one was liable to lose wars.
    An ironical consequence was that our naval intelligence sometimes cautioned against the possible pernicious effects of excessive alarmism. So in 1951 the Director Naval Intelligence, Vice Admiral Longley-Cook, was far more anxious about the possibility of a U.S. ‘preventive war’ than he was about a Soviet attack on Western Europe.
    However, to make sense of this period, one has also to understand that when Churchill – having initially suggested that Longley-Cook should be watched as a possible communist dupe – came round to his point of view, was worried precisely because he thought that, if he had been an American, he would have been inclined to opt for preventive war.
    It would I think be useful for Iranians if they looked back at the early history of the Cold War with an open mind – and on no account should they rely upon academic Western historiography, much of which is crap.
    A good start might be Longley-Cook’s memorandum, available at
    Another useful text is Michael MccGwire’s July 1987 account of ‘The Genesis of Soviet Threat Perceptions’, available at
    From the ‘Executive Summary’:
    ‘It is an axiom of Western politics that the actions of the Soviet Union created the cold war. So entrenched is this judgment that it carries a corollary with it: Soviet leaders must realize that the resistance of the West – the practice and philosophy of containment – is an inevitable result of their commitment to expansionism. It is difficult in Western perspective to imagine that Soviet leaders could seriously doubt this understanding of the past, however firmly the Soviets may deny it for the sake of public justification.
    ‘The historical record suggests, however, that the Soviet Union neither intended nor anticipated the intense rivalry that developed. In the wake of World War II, Stalin saw a resurgent Germany in fifteen to twenty years time as the principal threat to Russia, and he sought to preserve a collaborative relationship with the United States as a means of containing the threat. It was not until 1947-48 that he acknowledged belatedly and reluctantly that the primary threat was an ideologically hostile coalition led by the Anglo-Saxon powers.’

  19. kao_hsien_chih says:

    After learning of Soviet reaction to the 1983 Able Archer exercise, which simulated possible NATO first strike on USSR (which Soviets feared was going to be the real thing), Reagan supposedly had the following realization (passage is from his memoire and this was lifted from wikipedia.)
    “Three years had taught me something surprising about the Russians: Many people at the top of the Soviet hierarchy were genuinely afraid of America and Americans. Perhaps this shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did…During my first years in Washington, I think many of us in the administration took it for granted that the Russians, like ourselves, considered it unthinkable that the United States would launch a first strike against them. But the more experience I had with Soviet leaders and other heads of state who knew them, the more I began to realize that many Soviet officials feared us not only as adversaries but as potential aggressors who might hurl nuclear weapons at them in a first strike…Well, if that was the case, I was even more anxious to get a top Soviet leader in a room alone and try to convince him we had no designs on the Soviet Union and Russians had nothing to fear from us.”
    Who knows how “honest” Reagan really was with this statement… But it is the right sort of realization, up to a point. No matter how noble and peaceful and just we think we are being, other countries have reasons to distrust and fear us, and such distrust and fear can lead to dangerous things–even if we might not actually mean to do them harm directly. Of course, recent past has only further justified the suspicions that others hold that we do mean them harm, and it is delusional at this stage to believe that we don’t “really mean it” even as we engage in further provocations (or, even worse, as we seem to be so eager to do these days, “we really mean it and we hate you too.”)

  20. walrus.
    Surely the centenary of that catastrophe is next year?
    But of course, as you know, many of the most formidable fighters on the British side in both World Wars came from the ‘dominions’. From the description by Guy Gibson of his meeting the ‘aces of Bomber Command’ after he was appointed to lead 617 Squadron prior to the ‘Dam Busters’ operation.
    ‘From all over the world they had come: from Australia, America, Canada, New Zealand and Great Britain.’ Sir Harold ‘Micky’ Martin from New South Wales, one of the great bomber pilots of the war, is buried down the road from me, at Gunnersbury Cemetery in West London.
    A truly excellent idea. This is a golden opportunity for some useful ‘hasbara’, and it really should not be missed.

  21. walrus.
    Surely the centenary of that catastrophe is next year?
    But of course, as you know, many of the most formidable fighters on the British side in both World Wars came from the ‘dominions’. From the description by Guy Gibson of his meeting the ‘aces of Bomber Command’ after he was appointed to lead 617 Squadron prior to the ‘Dam Busters’ operation.
    ‘From all over the world they had come: from Australia, America, Canada, New Zealand and Great Britain.’ Sir Harold ‘Micky’ Martin from New South Wales, one of the great bomber pilots of the war, is buried down the road from me, at Gunnersbury Cemetery in West London.
    (Pat – please post this rather than the previous version, where I edited over my previous comment, and by mistake failed to delete it.)

  22. ToreBear says:

    Colonel Lang
    As a Norwegian, I’m very happy that NATO has continued to exist. NATO has enabled us to develop a good relationship with Russia, since the Russians can not threaten us with force. We are safe to deal with the Russians on a more equal footing, and it has yielded results, like signing a border treaty after 40 years of off and on negotiations.
    The USSR with the WP had about 400 million people, while Russia has about 140 million people. Living in a country of 5 million people next to Russia, I don’t see how we could mount a defense strong enough to deter Russia on our own.
    And if we can enjoy such security while being part of an alliance of mutual defense, why shouldn’t other countries be allowed to do so as well, like the Baltic states? They would be even more vulnerable to Russian pressure than we are.
    As for the Russians, I don’t remember any serious talk of joining NATO, it was perhaps seen as a long term goal as part of the partnership for peace framework. And logically, Russia would not have been able to join NATO until after the Baltic states and Poland in 2004, and by then Putin had no interest.
    As for the Europeans being persuaded that NATO should become an “out of theater” instrument of US power, I don’t think many if any were persuaded. Perhaps the Danes and the Dutch. European out of area capability is still pretty small compared to the capability to defend continental Europe with large armored formations.
    At least that is my understanding of the current situation.
    As for the idea that the Russians would have played nice if NATO did not expand to the east, that is in my humble opinion to ignore Russia’s long history. The Russians have a lot of history as a great power, it was only a matter of time before someone came to power that played on this history in order to gain support and legitimacy.
    And when I look at the areas controlled by the Russian Empire in 1914, compared to what it is now, there is plenty of “lost territory” for a Russian leader so inclined, to wish to regain.
    Ps. I was born in 1977, so I remember the feeling of living under MAD as a child growing up. I think we are a long way away from that situation returning. The weapons are still there, but the will among the people to live under that situation is not there anymore.

  23. Alba Etie says:

    Perhaps 25 April 2014 , might be a good time to read the another poem remembering the Crimea War ; Rudyard Kipling’s “The last of the Light Brigade “.

  24. turcopolier says:

    the United States spends 4.4% of GDP on military affairs. Norway spends 1.2%. If NATO is so useful to Norway why are you not spending more money on your NATO committed forces? Are we just a piggy bank for you to drain for your own benefit so that we provide a secure environment for your prosperity? what’s in it for us? pl

  25. Babak Makkinejad says:

    And Norway has lots of oil.

  26. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You wrote:
    “…And if we can enjoy such security while being part of an alliance of mutual defense, why shouldn’t other countries be allowed to do so as well,…”
    Do you then support Iran having nuclear weapons?
    Or Poland?
    You are still living under the MAD blanket of security provided by the United States.

  27. Babak Makkinejad says:

    It reminds me of how Arab students were reassuring me – during Iran-Iraq War – that Saddam Hussein would not drop nuclear weapons on Iranian cities.

  28. turcopolier says:

    the Iraqis did not have nuclear weapons during the Iran-Iraq War. pl

  29. Fred says:

    That’s great, America has an obligation to Norway, why not Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania because, hey it worked out great for Norway! How about we send the Europeans the bill for all the decades of defending them? That would sure solve American’s national debt and allow us to spend money on our own citizens rather than on Europeans.
    Why is adding more foregin countries to our defense obligations in the national interest of the United States? Move our military forces closer to the Russian border so that foreigners thousands of miles away from the US can ‘be safe’ and have great relations with Russia? No thanks.

  30. Charles 1 says:

    You often express this frustration with us Nato shirkers.
    I think perhaps most smaller Nato nations predicate the majority of their military affairs on Nato and joint self-defense out of necessity.
    That cannot be said of the U.S. You are everywhere, much of it by choice. Of course it costs more for that kind of bandwidth. Bandwidth other nations seemingly find neither feasible nor desirable.
    But surely “what’s in it for us”” is the question for your legislators, not the milkbugs whom it seems IMHO follow universal laws of self-interest, albeit not always rationally. The milk cow presents, claiming great terrors and mutual benefits beyond bursting udders, not to respond would be unnatural.
    Withdraw from Nato tomorrow and I think you’ll find there’s still no “peace dividend”- the U.S. would still be a high cost global force, forced into new strategic planning by deep state to defend itself from the rest of us free loaders as we went chinese.
    Who, speaking of piggy bears and banks, are now subject to the extra-territorial delights FACTA – without a shot being fired.
    Were there no Nato, Norway, the rest, would no doubt be subject to someone, something else. For me, it would happen be the U.S.
    I grant and celebrate the good fortune of it being the U.S., but don’t feel any need to don a penitent’s hair shirt for your largesse, our propinquity and our mutual good fortune.
    That’s for your legislators.

  31. turcopolier says:

    Charles I
    “much of it by choice” Yes. We should now choose on the basis of US interests, not those of others. Canada is a special case. you are actually the kinsmen of many of us including me. pl

  32. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The presumption there was that even if Iraq had nuclear weapons she would not be using them.
    I never found that persuasive.

  33. kao_hsien_chih says:

    Well, as someone infamously said, what’s the point of having all these weapons if you are not going to be using them, especially, if you think your cause is just?
    The trouble with “relevant political science,” falsely applied as it is too often nowadays, is that it serves as a device for navel gazing, to conjure up justifications for why your side is right and moral, like a lawyer’s argument, sometimes with all the subtlety of an ambulance chaser, whereas, once, scholarship was about understanding why things happened as they did, not to verbally “win” a case. No wonder everyone thinks that their side is moral and just beyond all and doubt and that they are justified in using anything to further their righteousness, nevermind the consequences.

  34. kao_hsien_chih says:

    It struck me last decade plus that the implicit deal that our leaders and their (other NATO countries that is) leaders have reached is that we give them protection while they give us political support for our military adventures everywhere. So, our politicians look like saviors of the Western civilization while American taxpayers have to bear a double burden, subsidizing the cost of NATO AND our interventionist foreign policy. A lose-lose deal if there were any, but that’s what passes for “leadership” these days, it seems.

  35. ToreBear says:

    Iran, No.
    Poland, No.
    Yes I know I’m still living under the US MAD blanket, but the chance of it being used does not feel as imminent as it did in the 80s.

  36. ToreBear says:

    Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are already NATO members. That ship has already sailed.
    As for the bill, well you were also defending your selves. I would think the US preferred to fight the WP in Europe and not in North America. Having a war on your own soil is pretty expensive.
    Also the US has sold a lot of equipment to us Europeans over the years as well, so it’s not so clear cut as you might think.
    One reason for the US taking on these obligations is perhaps because it sees it in it’s long term interest to keep Europeans free, prosperous and able to buy US products. I’m sure there are many other good reasons.
    Having a good relationship with your neighbors means you are less likely to end up in a war with them.
    If it makes you feel better, the US doesn’t have any units in Norway.

  37. turcopolier says:

    you don’t feel as threatened? That just means that you know you are getting a free ride at our expense. pl

  38. turcopolier says:

    You were useful to us in the Cold War because of the Finnmark border with the USSR. That was then. This is now. What have you done for us LATELY? pl

  39. ToreBear says:

    The information I have says Norway is spending 1.4% of gdp on the military in 2013.
    As for US spending, does that include health care for soldiers and former soldiers, or is that in a separate budget? In Norway the health care for soldiers is mostly taken care of over the health budget.
    Don’t know if it would make a difference, but with the super expensive US health care system, it just might.
    Anyway, believe it or not, we are increasing spending more than inflation every year, the “problem” is that our GDP has grown a lot, quickly. Now if we were to spend up to say 2% of GDP we would have to splurge on something, and that doesn’t really make sense. Also, I don’t think Russia would like to have a neighbor with so huge increases in military spending.
    We are however following long term plans that we think are sustainable, and perhaps the share of GDP will increase a little in the coming years due to purchases of f35s. I think it’s around 50.
    Also we spend 1% of our gdp on foreign aid, that could be argued also has a benefit towards national security.
    “Are we just a piggy bank for you to drain for your own benefit so that we provide a secure environment for your prosperity? what’s in it for us? pl”
    Well, yes you are kind of a piggy bank for us these days. Though we are stuffing the piggy with more money. Our oil fund is buying US bonds, stocks and real estate in the US.
    That is I guess one benefit of helping keep us secure. Another is that we buy a lot of US equipment. Big items the last 10 years were the 5 Aegis systems for our new frigates. 4+1 C130-30s. One flew into a mountain during Cold Response 2012, so we needed a replacement aircraft.
    Continuous upgrading of our f16s, Amraam missiles etc. And in 2015 I think we get the first of our new f35s.
    As for US spending, as Charles said, that is on the US. If it was cut to 2.2 percent I would think the US could still keep up it’s NATO obligations.

  40. ToreBear says:

    Well if paying for that nuclear deterrence is so horrible, I guess we could just build our own nukes.
    Of course the US president would have no say in their use.
    Personally I don’t think such a scenario would be in your interest.

  41. Fred says:

    ToreBear ,
    Europe isn’t our neighbor, Mexico and Canada are. It is past time for the US to exit NATO, Europe can go join a defensive treaty with the Russian Federation.

  42. Babak Makkinejad says:

    So Iranians are not entitled to the nuclear security blanket.

  43. ToreBear says:

    We send you lots of lutefisk, and the Nobel committee got your president a peace prize. What more do you want? 🙂
    Well there is useful to the US and potentially useful to the USSR.
    An occupied Norway, with each Fjord having it’s own Russian submarine base would perhaps make taking a ship over the Atlantic impossible.
    Also if I remember correctly, Norways usefulness increased a lot with the rising importance of the USSR’s northern fleet in their Nuclear deterrent. Not to mention monitoring of submarine movements toward the Atlantic. Or the Soviet naval aviation.
    As for lately. Well there is:
    And our special forces are training the Afghan Crisis Response unit. Technically we are helping the Afghans, but if we didn’t do it perhaps the US would have to do it.
    And I’m sure there are many other things we help you with, and you help us with.
    Did I mention Lutefisk? 🙂

  44. Madhu says:

    Keeping the US in Nato is a long time project by many constituencies in the US, UK and Europe. It’s not true that Europeans can’t arrange for a mutual defense. Attempts are quashed by the various constituencies. I thought accepting proper social responsibility was supposed to be a European thing compared to we Americans, anyway.
    Hillary Clinton pandered endlessly during her presidential campaign to eastern european constituencies that are pivotal in swing states like Ohio. There was no reset in herthe State Dept. She gamed the President and secured her voting blocs. Plus she believes in transforming other societies.

  45. ToreBear says:

    I think they are entitled to not being threatened with or attacked by nuclear weapons.
    But I don’t see any country being entitled to having nuclear weapons. Not Iran and not Israel.
    If you are looking for inconsistency in my argument, I’m sure you can find it the more questions you ask.

  46. turcopolier says:

    No country is “entitled” to anything. The notion that a country is “entitled” to things reflects a fatuous, fantasist belief in the rule of international law. NATO has existed because of the lack of truth in the idea of international peace enforced by law. pl

  47. Charles 1 says:

    I agree. If only we all were capable of accurately determining and striving for our interests.
    Were it not for geography, I can’t think of a finer – or fatter – country to be allied with or subject to by choice. You are our brothers, and we are, by objective mutual interest, in continental mode for the future. I’m grateful, not really being of a nation state able to defend itself, that we are left to enjoy the sovereignty, agency and markets we do.
    Being able to bitch not the least of our little pleasures!

  48. ToreBear says:

    Well you could say we have the law and the courts. We are just missing the police who can enforce it’s decisions.
    I would say the rights are there, and the court can give you legitimacy, but there is no one to enforce a ruling.
    And I agree, NATO is there to ensure the security of it’s members. Perhaps in the future, there will be a world police upholding international law, and NATO will no longer be needed to protect it’s members. But in the meantime, we just have to manage as best we can.

  49. Charles 1 says:

    ps have I told you I love yet this year!

  50. Charles 1 says:

    Plus there is Steve Van Zandts tv show Lilyhammer!

  51. Madhu says:

    The point about NATO being a defensive military alliance is a brilliant one and important to keep pointing out because there has long been confusion on offense and defense, on the nature of NATO and the nature of the EU and markets. In the Ukraine, they became confused. Dangerously so.
    A book written for the Council on Foreign Relations by Ben Tillman Moore from the late 50’s has this same confusion and it makes sense because in the 50’s considering how to stop another European war was as much a part of what the US was doing as developing a defensive alliance.
    It’s called ‘NATO and the future of Europe’ by Ben Tillman Moore. This confusion is present everywhere in the commentary, it has led to the crisis, and its intellectual proponents are deeply embedded in the Brussels project and in DC. Presidents may come and go but the nature of Atlanticist thinking will continue to pervert clear thinking on defense by we Americans–and others.

  52. Fred says:

    I’m sure Norwegians will be happy when Chinese world policeman show up to enforce new regulations.

  53. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I would like to state categorically that I firmly oppose a unitary world government with the power of legalized violence.
    Such a government will – without a doubt – degenerate to be a venal oppressive system now encompassing the entire planet.
    On the legal side; the theoretical basis of such a system does not exist, even in Europe.

  54. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think that is all fine and well but I would like to know what is the scope of operations of a “Defensive” North Atlantic Alliance in the light of advanced in technology such as drone aircraft, drone submersibles and soon autonomous and semi-autonomous drone infantry.
    What are the potential theatre of operations for NATO in its limited Defense posture?
    Is NATO an enemy of enemies of Israel?
    Will NATO fight in the Middle East to protect Israel – in spite of Israel having declined to be a member of that alliance?
    Whom is NATO defending against?
    I would like to know.

  55. Fred says:

    Meanwhile more ‘democracy’ building efforts. Of course we did absolutely nothing like this in Ukraine.

  56. confusedponderer says:

    I find the extent to which Russia and Putin nhave been villified remarkable. It gives sad testimony to the state of Western Media.
    Take the case of Chodorchovski, who is, by western accounts, a saint, unjustly persecuted by Putin. It i a prime oexample of an undeserved good rep that well paid PR can generate.
    Part of Chodorchovski successfull image stratgy rested in delegitimising his accusers and making them the problem.
    The trial was unfair! The Judge was biased! Putin didn’t like him! And if Wiki is to be believed, he introduced ‘unprecedented transparency’ into Jukos (at a time the fiscus was investigating him alread)! And what a successful businessman he is!
    Personally, I find it hard to reconcile claims of ‘unprecedented transparency’ with Chodorchovski’s business practices generally, and him operating a coulpole hundred shadow companies.
    Just one particularly hairraising story:
    Under his leadersip, Jukos, Russias largest oil producer, switched from producing oil to producing inferior ‘oil well output’ that was then auctioned at a pittance (say, a tenth or so of the market price) to a Jukos owned shadow company (thus avoidig oil tax), by a Jukus auctioneer, to be refined (removval of salt and water) in a Jukos refinery, to be sold through a Jukos trader at full market price … at an indecent amount of profit for Chodorchowski who in that scheme besaically defrauded shareholders (that included Russia) and the fiscus.
    A modest estimate is that Chodorchovski, over the years, in his remarkable career cheated Russia for $ 100+ billion (the one with 9 digits) in tax revenue, not to mention business partners.
    And all that under Jelzin with govenment tutelage and an undersecretary post in the administration – while he competeted for government and privatisation contracts. Conflict of intrest? Ah, never mind.
    That is to say one thing: Even in Russia, theft is stil, theft and murder is still murder. Chodorchovski would have gone to jail for what he did in any country because what he did was profoundly criminal. It isn’t about Putin.
    Putin iirc wrote his Ph.D. over developing a country – Russia obviously – based on natural recources. I assume Putin is a patriot. It is not hard to see why he has little sympathy for the likes of Chodorchovski. I can empathise with that.
    Fast forward to Germany: In Germany, the top manager for the top soccer team FC Bayern München, just was sentenced to 5 years or so in jail for tax evasion amounting to a sum of some 30 million or so. Nobody is calling for leniency.
    Probably, he just didn’t steal enough to qualify for sainthood.

  57. CP,
    On Khodorkovsky.
    In March 2004, Stephen Curtis, who was the London lawyer for Menatep, and had been put in charge of the group following Khodorkovsky’s arrest the previous October, died in a mysterious helicopter crash.
    The following May, Thomas Catan published a first-class investigative piece on the background in the FT. It made clear that if anybody murdered Curtis, it was not the Russian authorities – at the time of his death, he appeared to have started singing sweetly to our National Criminal Intelligence Service. What he is likely to have been saying would have been music to Putin’s ears.
    The withdrawal of the piece from the company’s website not long after may have been due to a legal complaint.
    (See )
    According to two articles published a year later in the ‘Moscow Times’ by Catherine Belton – now with the FT – Curtis became involved with Khodorkovsky through a company called Valmet, which was involved as far back as 1989 in training future oligarchs in Western banking and business methods.
    (See )
    At the time, Valmet was majority owned by Riggs Bank.
    (See )
    In January 2008, a film by Father Tikhon Shevkunov, who it has been suggested is Putin’s confessor, entitled ‘Lessons from Byzantium’, was presented on Russian television.
    (See )

  58. confusedponderer says:

    Mr. Habbakkuk,
    it took me a while to respond. That is a fascinating incident you refer to, just as the whole dealings of Chodorkowskij with MENETEP and YUKOS are a fascinating if sobering story.
    I currently read “Chodorkowskij – Legends, Myths and other Truths’ by Viktor Timtschenko, which I warmly recommend.
    The oligarchs vastly preferred the incapacitated bum that was Jelzin and his self service nation for the insiders of his ‘family’, that was administered by the likes of Berezowski, Chodorkowskij and Abramowich, who divided the riches they looted amongst themselves.
    There are characterisation of Chodorkowskij as a Russian Ghandi, a martyr. Absurd. Iirc neither Joan of Arc or Ghandid did have shell companies on the Cayman islands, and what, but tax evasion or profit laundering would one need them for?
    Profit laundering – How It Works
    “This is how the international tax-evasion system works, both for corporations and for individuals. In both cases, the system is based on the seventy “offshore” centers-tax havens-where secret shell companies and bank accounts are used to carry out transactions that create paper profits and losses, and where the legerdemain is immune from the eyes of tax authorities and law enforcement.
    … The offshore venues assess little or no taxes on foreign-owned shell companies. …. The offshore banks that handle the shell company money are not underground operations run by unknown shady characters. The banks’ managers may indeed be shady, but most of them work for subsidiaries of the multinationals-Citibank, Bank of New York, Credit Suisse, Barclays, Société Générale, Deutsche Bank, and others.
    More than half of world trade is within corporations, not between them. And half the world’s trade goes through offshore centers, as corporations shift profits to where they can avoid taxes. Companies set up offshore “subsidiaries” that, on their books, perform functions that allow the firms to cut their taxes. The simplest ploy is the “sale” and “rental” back of a company’s logo or other intangible assets. Or money stashed in tax havens is “loaned” back to the U.S. company, which then deducts interest payments on its tax returns.
    Even more important is transfer pricing: allocating profits for tax and other purposes among parts of a multinational corporate group.
    Offshore “trading” offices or companies handle imports and exports, buying a U.S. export from a company at a sharply reduced paper cost and selling it abroad for the real-world market value, so the exporting company makes no profit. That stays with the tax haven trading company. In the reverse, a company buys goods at a real price and “sells” to the U.S. firm at a grossly inflated one, so the U.S. firm has a huge cost to deduct when it uses the item in manufacture or resells it at a loss.
    Simon Pak of Penn State University and John Zdanowicz of Florida International University used aggregate customs data to examine the impact of over-invoiced imports and under-invoiced exports on U.S. federal income tax revenues for 2001. The findings were staggering. Would you buy plastic buckets from the Czech Republic for $973 each, tissues from China at $1,870 a pound, a cotton dishtowel from Pakistan for $154? U.S. companies, at least on paper, were getting very little for their exported products. If you were in business, would you sell bus and truck tires to Britain for $11.74 each, color video monitors to Pakistan for $21.90, and prefabricated buildings to Trinidad for $1.20 a unit? After all the deductions, the U.S. company has minimal profits. The offshore centers levy no taxes on “profits” claimed there. Comparing all the stated export and import prices to real-world prices, the professors figured the 2001 U.S. tax loss at $53.1 billion.
    Companies using transfer pricing may file tax returns that show they are operating at a loss. What does Wall Street think? No problem: the United States allows companies to keep two sets of books, one for the Internal Revenue Service, the other for the Securities and Exchange Commission. The IRS sees a company deep in the hole, while stock buyers are pleased by profits that soar.
    Transfer pricing is legal only if there is a true business purpose to the offshore entity. However, this rule is virtually never enforced, and account books in tax havens are off-limits to foreign tax and law enforcement investigators.
    Offshore is also used to hide companies’ overall balance sheets so tax authorities can’t judge if their returns are valid. A Miami private investigator told me, “If I have a Colombian company that imports Mercedes trucks from Germany, the company ordering the trucks will be registered in the British Virgin Islands or Curaçao. The order will be made by the ‘Dewey, Cheathem and Howe Company’; no Colombian firm will handle invoices. Colombian tax authorities won’t know how much business they’re doing.”
    A martyr indeed.
    An oligarch’s way of doing business.
    “… Lord Browne details the difficulties of doing business with the Russians. Browne recalls a meeting with Mikhail Khodorkovsky: “We had a pleasant lunch and discussed the possibility of BP buying a 25%, plus one share, in YUKOS. I did not feel that was enough. When I challenged him, he said: ‘You can have 25%, no more and no control. If you come along with me you will be taken care of”. Browne adds: “Bespectacled, soft-spoken Khodorkovsky could at first glance be mistaken as unassuming. But as the conversation progressed, I felt increasingly nervous. He began to talk about getting people elected to the Duma, about how he could make sure oil companies did not pay much tax, and about how he had many influential people under his control. For me, he seemed too powerful. It is easy to say this with hindsight, but there was something untoward about his approach.” He notes that in October 2003 Khodorkovsky burst on to the world’s media stage as he was arrested for fraud, theft and tax evasion. The company’s assets were sold and in 2006 Yukos was declared bankrupt. Shortly before Khodorkovsky’s arrest, in a private conversation, Putin made a passing but steely remark to Browne: “I have eaten more dirt than I need to from that man.” Khodorkovsky did what Putin regarded as unforgivable. Browne notes that Khodorkovsky started meddling in the political arena when he was only a businessman. Putin’s rule was “stay out of politics, just do business and you will be all right”. Khodorkovsky crossed the line. When you do that in Russia there is no coming back.”
    Favours for insiders and the well connected, the boot for the rest.
    Re. staying out of politics
    Apparently, after the arrest of Chodorkowskij, income tax revenue in Russia from corporations rose by 250% without new legislation. Before that, new legislation to increase taxation was blocked by paid-to-vote Duma representatives. In one particularly memorable and brazen incident, a representative was handed the phone by another representative who was at the time holding a directorship at Chodorkowskij ‘s bank MENATEP, and was given guidance on the speech he was to give on how to not tax banks. Think of a well trained parrot.
    Wall Streets rapaciousness is perfectly capable of the same excess. And since Citizen’s United the influence buying is perfectly legal if a little more subtle, though one can hardly call the knee-fall, from republican candidates at the feet of casino mogul Adelson, subtle.
    Or take the idea that Chodorkowskij was politically persecuted or that his sentence was ‘excessive’. Maddoff caused but a fraction of the mischief Chodorkowskij did, and got 150 years. Excessive? Chodorkowskij got what … 6, 8? Excessive? A soccer executive here got 6 years for cheating the fiscus for 30 million. Excessive? Hardly.
    A reassessment, by Anatol Lieven
    “… while Khodorkovsky’s trial was deeply flawed, the legal case against him was well-based and credible. More important is the comparative damage done to Russia by the two processes.
    Khodorkovsky’s trial has undermined to some degree Western and Russian domestic investment in the Russian energy sector. The massive theft of Russian state resources by Khodorkovsky and others in the 1990s had infinitely worse effects.
    This was the single greatest example of such plundering in the whole of modern history. It crippled the ability of the Russian state to provide basic services to its population – including for long periods even wages and pensions. As for state services, the collapse of state revenues had a disastrous effect on their funding, pay and morale.
    Before indulging in self-righteous denunciations of the Russian government, Westerners also need to ask themselves where Russia’s stolen billions went. Jupiter? Pluto? No. The stolen funds of the Russian people largely went into Western banks, Western real estate, and Western luxury goods. Russians may have been the thieves, but Westerners were their fences.
    It is universally recognized that official corruption in Russia is a disastrous barrier to that country’s development. The defense of Khodorkovsky, however, essentially rests on the idea that the enormous corruption of the 1990s should now be legitimized, while ordinary Russian policemen, judges and officials should be required to live on their miserable salaries for the sake of honesty and patriotism. This proposition is intellectually, politically, psychologically and above all morally vacuous.”

  59. CP! Thanks for your detailed comments on this thread!
    And thanks to David H. also!
    Neither of you may be aware of the name Clark Clifford! Starting with FDR as a fixer in FDR’s wartime administration and running the FDR map room, Clifford trained as a lawyer really blossomed after the death of Henry Stimson, Secretary of War.
    Clifford [not sure whether biographed in detail but should be] lived into his nineties. And allegedly deeply corrupt in later years but never prosecuted due to age, health and reputation. The modern role model for Washington lawyer and fixer Clifford was on the board of several banks and many accused of money laundering for various entities.
    Whatever Putin’s merits or demerits unlike US government officials all worrying about their next job, Putin has his until 2025!
    He understands now how deeply corrupt are the oligarchs of Russia [some state on the record he is the world’s richest man] and how much of the Russian economy is run by organized crime leadership [perhaps some are oligarchs?]!
    But the key fact he has now learned and documented is how the government of the US is also deeply corrupt, the US economy dominated by oligarchs and the Federal RESERVE, and organized crime. In fact some aspects of US politics and economy he understands better than President Obama IMO!

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