At The National Interest there’s an interesting article on NATO from Belgian professor Tom Sauer. Here’s a snippet:
NATO’s post–Cold War track record is dismal, which is not surprising, given the nature of the beast. Apart from the Balkans, which are more or less stable (although tensions are flaring up again these days), the NATO military interventions in Afghanistan and Libya are a complete failure. Thirteen and six years after NATO’s intervention, respectively, these states have hardly stabilized. On the contrary, Afghanistan and Libya are breeding places for terrorists. Again, this should not come as a surprise, because collective defense organizations are not meant for carrying out peace-building operations.
The biggest mistake, however, was NATO expansion. It is hard to refute the thesis that the Ukraine crisis is the result of interference by NATO and the EU in Russia’s spheres of influence. A red line was crossed, in the eyes of Moscow, and Russia had repeatedly made that position clear in advance. NATO expansion also contradicted Western promises. On the basis of these oral guarantees, in February 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev gave the green light for German reunification talks. And what did the West do? Expand NATO. Not just once, but twice. At the NATO Summit in Bucharest in 2008, President Bush even pushed through (against the wishes of the Europeans) a third extension, namely the promise to include Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. What did he expect Russia would do? Just take notice and agree?
More fundamentally, the West made the mistake after the end of the Cold War not to include Russia into the Euro-Atlantic security architecture on an equal basis. Contrary to positive examples in 1815 and 1945, the loser of the Cold War was left alone. Instead of replacing NATO with a regional collective security organization, the West kept NATO artificially in existence—and Russia in the dark. Ironically, the Baltic states, which wanted to feel more secure by becoming NATO members, are now feeling less secure. All this was predicted in the 1990s by foreign-policy giants like George Kennan and Paul Nitze.
IMO we need to be able to consider NATO critically rather than in Aristotelian, black and white terms. A NATO in which the United States bears all the costs of an increasingly interventionist collection of countries with competing interests is not of infinite worth nor is it of zero worth.
We also need to do a cost-benefit analysis of Lord Ismay’s waggish description of NATO’s original mission—”to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down”. We’ve already abandoned the last of those objectives.