NATO at 70

Walter A. McDougall has a superb article up at Law and Liberty, recapping the history of NATO. While it’s quite long as articles go, it is the best short form history of the alliance I’ve read, as far as I can remember, ever. So you should too.

In just a few days, delegations from the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will gather in Washington to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the longest-lasting multilateral alliance in modern history.

They shall recall how NATO fostered unity, strength, and will among Western democracies for 40 years and prevailed over the Soviet bloc without a shot being fired. They shall also congratulate themselves on the subsequent 30 years during which the membership expanded from 16 to 29, the mission expanded far beyond collective security, and the area of operations expanded as far afield as Afghanistan. But unchecked inflation is often a symptom of institutional senility rather than vitality.

Perhaps the Americans who steered NATO on its present course were simply anxious to provide new raisons d’être for an alliance whose real target disappeared with the Cold War. Perhaps President Donald Trump had a point when he called NATO obsolete. Perhaps the years of its life are “three score and ten, or by reason of strength fourscore” (Psalm 90:10), in which case, this decennial may be its last.

The threat that gave birth to NATO—the communist bloc—ceased to exist 30 years ago. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics collapsed two years after that, reducing Muscovy back to its 17th century boundaries. During the 1990s Russia’s economy contracted by 45 percent and has not grown much since. The Russian defense budget today is 72 percent less than the last Soviet one. And while Vladimir Putin pretends Russia is a world power, even he admitted in his Munich address of 2007 that the Cold War’s bipolarity had been replaced by a hegemony in which the United States is the “one center of authority, one center of force, one center of decision-making,” and has “overstepped its national borders in every way.”[1] Most galling for Putin was the fact that the United States exploited Russian weakness to expand NATO up to and even into the boundaries of the defunct Soviet Union.

Nothing resembling the threat of Josef Stalin’s empire and Red Army exists today and Europeans are well aware of that, which is why only three European governments met the target—2 percent of GNP—for defense spending in 2017. Germans, French, and Italians simply do not feel threatened by Russia. Hence the “free rider” dilemma of a United States that accounts for 71.7 percent of NATO’s defense expenditures in 2017 has only become more acute, not less, since the end of Cold War.[2]

The voracious engulfment by NATO of nearly all countries west of Russia likewise risks its cohesion. The alliance motto, which looms on the wall overlooking the grand conference room in its Brussels headquarters, reads: Animus in consulendo liber (“A mind unfettered in deliberation”). But the fact is that NATO’s deliberations have always been fettered by its unanimity rule. Consensus was hard enough to achieve among the original 12, not to mention the current 29 governments each with own agenda . . . unless, of course, member states just surrender to the will of the United States.

It would appear that NATO today has become both “too big to fail” and “too big to work.” Some day, NATO’s credibility will be put to a test that its constituent states will be unable or unwilling to pass.

Empire by Invitation

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, like so many initiatives identified with the United States, was a British invention.[3] In 1948, Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin begged Americans to identify with the Brussels Pact, which Britain, France, and the Benelux countries had just concluded. Bevin’s premises were that Soviet obstruction had crippled the United Nations as an instrument for collective security; that Europe’s postwar democracies were too weak to defend themselves; and that the Marshall Plan could not succeed unless Europeans were assured of a U.S. military commitment.

There are lots of truths here, not least of them that, while I would not use the term empire, Europe has become an American (and to some extent, British) protectorate. Not so much because we wanted it to, as because it is certainly easier to let someone else defend you, especially if you are a believer in globalism. Most of Europe is, that’s why the European Union keeps talking about unity.

If the US hasn’t done anything else, we’ve made an intra-European war nearly impossible for the near future, they’ve all disarmed.

One of my friends is a British expat living quite happily in Siberia, I think from what we tell each other, he would agree heartily with the conclusions in this article, and I see much merit in them as well.

I can’t say that America really wishes Russia any ill, because I don’t think we, in general, do, but we often don’t think things through very well before we do stuff, often for domestic reasons, that may have adverse effects on others.

In any case, read the article linked above, and tell me what you think.

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7 Responses to NATO at 70

  1. Nicholas says:

    I know a little something about NATO as a member of my family worked at NATO in Brussels for several years.

    My own view is that preparedness for conflicts is useful, and so the standardisation and communication that NATO has achieved is beneficial. However, we do not know exactly where Russia will land in the next conflict, and the existence of NATO may be more of a hindrance than a help in diplomacy, were we to try and persuade Russia to ally with us against Turkey – or to remain neutral. Much as I love the Russians, I do not love the choices they make when it comes to arms dealing – but we are no better either. From a prophetic viewpoint, I do not think that we should be reading Russia into Ezekiel 38-39, which I know puts me at odds with much of the Christian prophetic community.

    Defining “we” is also an issue. There is some house cleaning that needs to occur in both the UK and the USA before we can really be the effective allies we used to be. Still, in the future, I personally would prefer an Anglo-alliance as the priority, and dealings with other nations contingent on their meeting certain requirements. In all likelihood, I do not think Europe can fight off the illness that plagues it, but the MEP elections in May could persuade me otherwise if the AfD and similar parties make sufficient inroads.

    As for “unity” – too much of that can be dangerous. We do not want unity of foolishness. We need wisdom and sometimes that involves having the courage to correct one’s friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. the unit says:

    Not that I know much. But got to say something. 🙂
    Well, it’s a piece of equipment. In spite of engineers in Congress over the years, like Newt and the like( 🙂 ), we been safe further than our blessings warranted.
    Hope it remains the same. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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