We Have Always Been a Member of NATO

by Dave Schuler on August 23, 2014

Anne Applebaum wants the members of NATO to start pulling their weight:

Certainly it is long past time for NATO to become more rigorous about its membership. Some Europeans don’t want to pay for their defense? Maybe those who want to be covered by Article 5, the alliance’s security guarantee, should now be obligated to pay. Perhaps those who contribute less than 1 percent of their national budget should be told that the guarantee no longer applies to them. Certainly there don’t need to be any NATO bases in countries that refuse to contribute. And a much higher percentage of their military spending should go toward funding the NATO budget, so that NATO, as an alliance, can afford to pay for important operations.

NATO also needs to become a lot clearer about its goals. Europe has two immediate security issues: the threat from Russia in the east and the threat from Islamic fundamentalism to the south. NATO therefore needs two command centers, each of which would take care of planning and intelligence for defense against those threats. The basing of troops and equipment needs to be rethought completely: If we were starting from scratch, nobody would put them where they are now. NATO needs to shut down unnecessary commands and legacy bases, and move on.

Something to keep in mind about NATO: the target military expenditure for NATO members is 2% of GDP. Among NATO members only the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Turkey spend that much and, not coincidentally, those countries are the only NATO members able to project power beyond their own borders.

I don’t believe there’s any hope for Slovakia or Estonia’s spending more on their militaries. Why should they? They know we’ll defend them no matter what.

My own view is that we should be much more reluctant to intervene on behalf of other countries, particularly countries who won’t defend themselves, than we are and consider what purpose NATO actually serves these days. We may have our opportunity sooner than we might like. Despite our responsibility for the situation in Iraq, the “Pottery Barn rule”, etc. our European allies probably have more at stake than we do in what’s going on there. Given the issue, Security Council resolutions, and the stakes, this really seems like the right time to start putting together a joint effort for which NATO might serve as a starting point.

Just to reiterate my point of view for the umpteenth time, I don’t think our interests in Iraq warrant much intervention there but any intervention should be an intervention that achieves its objectives. Why put in any effort just for its own sake? Do or not do. There is no try.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

TastyBits August 23, 2014 at 11:54 am

From the article:

… Europe has two immediate security issues …

Actually, Anne Applebaum and other Americans have decided that these are Europe’s immediate security issues. The Europeans have not made the same choices about their security. This is the real problem.

What Anne Applebaum and the other delusional hawks fail to understand is that while the bad guys are devouring Europe, they are too busy to devour the US, and once they turn to the US, they have become fat targets.

The US should contribute to NATO the same percentage of GDP as the smallest contributor. Obviously, the US has a military in addition to its NATO contribution.

When the Europeans feel threatened, they will react. Historically, the Europeans are quite willing to go to war, and I expect the next one to be especially bloody. They have been peaceful for too long.

steve August 23, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Our intervention in Iraq is right in line with your general principle. Our air power, plus some discrete special ops and arms, is more than enough to tip things in favor of the Iraqis, if they are willing to fight. If they are not, then they either don’t care or they actually want IS to rule them. Either way, I don’t see the sense of our sending in an invasion only to thane the same thing happen when we leave again.


Andy August 24, 2014 at 5:44 am

I used to feel the same way, but now the low contributors don’t bother me too much – I just don’t think it makes a difference. If we didn’t have NATO we’d still have a bilateral agreement with, for example, Estonia to keep them from being swallowed by Russia. Still, it would be nice if NATO could at least do something like the Libya war without the US doing 80% of the work. Not gonna happen though.

NATO keeps looking for a useful purpose in regard to external threats and what is there besides Russia? That’s NATO’s basic problem – it’s a de facto anti-Russian military alliance. NATO is useful, however, in keeping Europeans from fighting each other which, given European history, is pretty important. Still, I wonder about the future of the alliance and if Western Europe can really keep itself held together.

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