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15 January 2008


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As a German I agree. NATO today is not needed anymore. For them to be auxiliary troops to the U.S. in Afghansitan and elsewhere is disdained by the European populations.

Time to fold it - maybe the lost war in Afghanistan will further that.


Washington seems to consider NATO as a second National Guard. Many Europeans think otherwise. The French rejected the EEU constitution in part because it made member militaries subservient to Washington.

Some would also turn NATO into the Western industrialized world's oil protection force.

However, prospects for this don't look good, since the Brits can't even handle their little piece of Afghanistan. Also, Russia seems totally capable of protecting its own energy resources, threatening to put its missiles into Iran if Washington puts missiles into Poland and the Czech Republic to "protect against Iran."

So what purpose does NATO serve? Is it just a market for merchants of death and their paymasters in Washington?

João Carlos

Demography. It is the plain truth.

Before the first world war, the europeans were 1/4 of the world population.

Today, the european population is going lower and older. Graying.

No one will see european armies fighting Verdun soon.

So, look at demography. That is a huge logistic problem.

João Carlos

sorry the bad english, my "native" language is portuguese (well, I am from Brazil, so portuguese is not exactly native, it is an european language, but it is the language I speak, I don't know tupi or guarani or other langauge the real natives talk)

Duncan Kinder
"It's worth reminding the Americans that the entire British army is smaller than the U.S. Marine Corps,"

The British army may be smaller than the Marine Corps, but nowadays, the per capita British income - for the first time in more than a century - is greater than the United States'. Free healthcare and subsidized higher education.

You get what you pay for.


65+ years on a war footing is going to be extremely difficult to get away from.


Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world after the US, Japan, Germany and China. It might be expected therefore that Britain would have the resources to be a significant military power making an important contribution to NATO. In fact it probably does outrank Germany and Japan whose defence expenditures since the Second World War have been constrained by a desire to shuffle off the guilt of former aggressionism avoid the taint of militarism. But Britain's military strength is in fact quite puny, and will continue to wither and weaken so that its presence in Nato will be insignificant as compared to the US.

With a population of 60 million, one fifth or less that of the USA, it has a smaller recruitment base and could not possibly put an army in the field that came anywhere near matching what Washington can deploy. Furthermore, there are serious recruitment problems: the population is ageing so that there is only a small proportion of the total young enough fo the forces to draw upon. A significant proportion of the British army is in fact made up of Australians, Irish, Fijians, Africans, and of course the Gurkhas. The quality of homeland recruits is declining: the British young are increasingly afflicted by obesity, they are less fit than they used to be, they sit in front of computer screens and TVs longer than earlier generations, and they get to school not by walking or cycling, but by car or bus. They do less sports at school and are increasingly unfit. Army recruitment officers have commented that the fashion of wearing trainers rather than leather soled shoes has left more young people with softer feet unsuited to vigorous outdoor activities in wild country.

Meanwhile, successive British governments have insisted on arguably adventurist foreign policies that have required deployments of slender military resources around the globe. Currently, Britain has a military presence in Cyprus, Germany, the Falklands, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and Belize.

Successive governments have also been obsessed with maintaining Britain as a nuclear and naval power. Defence expenditure on new nuclear subs, as well as two unnecessarily large carriers, threatens in future to divert funds from other less glamorous and macho but more basic needs so that the land and air forces will be lamentably under-equipped for the foreseeable future.

British governments are committed to NATO. But the British people as a whole probably are indifferent; indeed, I would hazard the guess that the great majority of the British would not know that Nato still exists and would ask what it is for if they did.

Certainly, it is time for Britain to withdraw from an organisation whose function since the fall of the Berlin Wall is unclear. And if Britain were to withdraw, that would be the most significant military power in the organisation outside the US. But Britain will not withdraw. Neither of the two parties, Labour or Conservative would contemplate so radical a change and removing what is proclaimed to be a cornerstone of the country's foreign and defence policies. So it will be for the US to administer the mercy shot to a dying organisation. Will it?

bob randolph

Nato is not just a "burden" vis a vis our relationship with Russia, but, in the hands of the Bush administration, it has become a "flash point" maker, as we have pushed it into the Baltic Republics and are now attempting to move Nato into the Caucasus with the incorporation of Georgia. Any squabble between the Russians and their former dominions can easily lead to a high stakes face-off between the US and Russia. It is an organization without a mission, has been ineffectual in Afghanistan, and is not only a burden, but a creator of liabilies. I would remove the word "Maybe" from the last sentence of your note.


The neokon rush to berate sovereign nations for not "doing more" in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) has always been ludicrously insolent and often vastly counter-productive (as the former prime ministers of Spain, Italy, the UK, and even Poland and Australia may well now be able to attest).

Zero domestic political support, slight capacity and wobbly, perhaps impossible political and military objectives would normally seem to be fatally limiting factors.

Jalalabad is a long way from the North Atlantic and even Brussels.

NATO's use-by date is long past -- perhaps ГАЗПРОМ could buy it?

Eric Dönges


dissolving NATO would force the Europeans to make security arrangements independent of the U.S.. This would strengthen the EU (as the only organization that could take the place of NATO) while removing the biggest piece of leverage the U.S. has in western and central Europe. While I think that would be in the long term interests of the EU, I'm not so sure if it is in the U.S.'s interests to be forced to treat the EU as an equal in all matters, not only in economic matters as is currently the case.


Nato ranks have expanded to include Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania Estonia and others. I don't believe that the rationale for extending US commitments to such countries was ever seriously explained to the US public. You might be right that it is time to end Nato.


Considering the profound ambivalence of the US towards Europe - ask for greater burden sharing, to then when we do and undertake efforts to create an ability to act - complain about us getting too independent and immediately suspect ulterior motives, the Europeans at least in part will want the US stay engaged closely, and will want to themselves stay in NATO as to not alienate the US more than the US can alienate themselves from Europe under their own steam.

Political talk influences perception and opinion. At the very least since 'Old Europe' and 'New Europe', 'near term peer competitors', 'pre-emption', and 'either you're with us or against us' talk there has been a notion that the US are something of a loose cannon, and the war in Iraq and the corresponding frenzy in the US has only confirmed that suspicion where it was held.
I certainly rather want the US in NATO, engaged, rather 'than over there', brooding over over paranoid fantasies and real threats, while trying to prevent Europe's rise as a near term competitor, and trying to undermine it, say, by, among other things, using 'New Europe' leverage to undermine European unity? If the price is to have US bases and bearing the at times tiresome self-incensing harangues and participation in actions and policies that are not hurting us too much, or are even in our interest, too — alas, so be it.

And there is a point to be made about 'New Europe'. For the new members the NATO membership is a way to ameliorate their fears of Russian domination, which are, considering Russia's gravity not that far fetched. 'New Europe' is now the foremost US client. And that does not take into account the undeniable gravity of the European Union. 'Old Europe' doesn't as much need them, and US policies toward the new clients can easily hurt the interests of the old clients.

Question: Would you rather sacrifice good relationships with Germany or Russia (which is not so much of a client, but still) for good relationships with the economic powerhouses Latvia, or Poland, Romania or Georgia? The scary answer is: The current administration answers with 'Yes!' The problem in my view is not so much NATO. It's about the US losing the sense for what's important and what's not, and to a much lesser extent about the inherent problem of size – the addition of new members with new interests and voting rights.

And then there is this defiance towards common sense especially in the current administration. NATO expansion into Russia's front lawn and backyard not only breaks assurances made by previous administrations towards Russia, it also and predictably provokes Russia even without those assurances. Why did the US do so anyway? Because the administration believed to get away with it, and to succeed, after which it wouldn't matter any more anyway.

The US foreign policy was very successful in basically adopting Japanese and German interests in the post war era, effectively ensuring with that their good behaviour and subordination once they sort-of regained their soverignty and had to face electoral pressures. It ensured that they wouldn't end up acting independently and revive balance of power issues in the respective regions. Ever since the end of WW-II the US was a balancer for their ambition and thus contributed greatly to their stability and prosperity, which is a thing both people remain grateful for, in my view, anyway.
Today, the US is no more a balancer, but apparently sees itself as a kick-starter for change that others deserve but, sadly, don't want.


NATO can't be thrown into the garbage dump of history fast enough for me. It's become just another camouflaged cover from under which America pistol-whips it's allies into compliance with the wishes of its own thuggish and sociopathic elites, who are inextricably linked to personality disorder sufferers world-wide - not a recipe for either good intentions or fair-minded results.


I had read somewhere that Israel is being considered as a member of NATO. Is there any truth to this?

Just what NATO's member states need - a nation built on racism and terror as an influential member of their defense network.

The idea sickens me even more than the idea of modern NATO, itself, if that's possible.

David Habakkuk

In thinking about alliances, one really needs to start from reflection on security threats.

An important security threat to the United States -- also to the Europeans -- comes from jihadist terrorism. While the possibility that jihadists may acquire nuclear weapons has been overhyped, it is a real and very threatening one. Also -- in addition to the concrete threat, we have seen that the simple possibility of such acquisition produces a fear which inclines people to so self-destructive things. These include acceptance of the erosion of democratic liberties -- and also the acceptance of interrogation methods familiar to the old NKVD, which does incalculable damage to the moral authority of the U.S.

The possibility of such acquisition, moreover, is not one which can simply be eliminated. The relevant metaphor is less drastic surgery, than the shrinking of tumours -- and here, ensuring the security of nuclear facilities is obviously as important as combating jihadists.

One obvious major point of vulnerability here is Russia. And here, it has to be said that we are dealing with a problem which is largely caused by the manner of the exit from communism in the former Soviet Union. Its severity, in particular, derives largely from the 'withering away of the state' which was the direct (and predictable) consequence of the policies of the Russian 'market Leninists' and their Western advisors. Figures like Gaidar, Chubais, Summers, Schleifer and Sachs are among those most to blame for the current vulnerability of Russian nuclear facilities.

A further major cause of vulnerability is the retention of Cold War high alert policies, which, has the effect of keeping hundreds of Russian nuclear weapons in transit or temporary storage at any time. (On this, see Bruce Blair's paper 'Primed and Ready', at http://thebulletin.metapress.com/content/wl66350172162k87/fulltext.pdf.)

Beyond this, the possibility of treating the security of the Russian nuclear arsenal as a common problem facing Russia and the West alike is obviously jeopardised by measures which suggest that the West sees the relationship in adversarial terms. Incorporating Georgia and the Ukraine in NATO, and installing anti-missile defences in Poland and the Czech Republic, obviously suggest that these are precisely the terms in which the U.S. continues to see the relationship. Frankly, I think it is dotty.

The other major point of vulnerability, obviously, is Pakistan -- where indeed the problems of potential vulnerability of nuclear weapons and of jihadist terrorism come together. As Brigadier F. B. Ali pointed out in his paper 'Pakistan on the Brink' on this site not long ago, the Western strategy of trying to use the Pakistan army to deny the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan threatens to break the army -- which could cause a total disaster.

If one asks which powers have the most obvious interests in combating Sunni jihadism in the area, an obvious answer is, first, Russia, and second, the Islamic Republic of Iran: both of which, obviously, border Afghanistan. What we are dealing with is the stuff of normal power politics -- where commonly the interests and aspirations of powers are complementary in some ways, in conflict in others. In this world, both 'compellence' and 'deterrence' are important -- but so too is 'appeasement'. In relation to the current security problems of the United States, a little more 'appeasement', both towards Russia and Iran, would make sense.

As regards relationships with the West Europeans, as Colonel Lang suggests, their military capabilities are of limited value. But insofar as they are of potential use to the U.S. the obvious way forward is through 'coalitions of the willing' -- whose feasibility does not depend upon the survival of NATO structures. Crucial here, obviously, is confidence that the military interventions in which help is asked for are well-judged -- a confidence which at this moment is lacking.


Eric Dönges,blockquote>dissolving NATO would force the Europeans to make security arrangements independent of the U.S.. This would strengthen the EU (as the only organization that could take the place of NATO) while removing the biggest piece of leverage the U.S. has in western and central Europe. While I think that would be in the long term interests of the EU, I'm not so sure if it is in the U.S.'s interests to be forced to treat the EU as an equal in all matters, not only in economic matters as is currently the case.That is what I think, too. The androids in the US national security apparatus would then, and some already do, see this as a strategic rivalry and promote a confrontational policy towards Europe. I think that's neither warranted nor sensible or desirable.

505th PIR

NATO is simply a relic without a soul (mission) that is propelled by the inertia of a long cold war. It is still alive because its political entanglements don't require debate and it is easier for the "pleyers" in the group to try to reform an existing matrix as opposed to recreating one from scratch out of the vaccume of a scrapped NATO.

If it does collapse, a multi-headed set of alliances will emerge that may not have a broad set of common interests or even conflicting interests. Europe might then head towards a neo-Balkanized state of affairs that can be exploited by the existing "great-powers" or be twisted painfully by economic and political affairs far afield.

Bottom-line, NATO will hang around until a satisfactory and stabilizing "arrangement" presents itself to all the stakeholders locally and internationally.


Eric makes the key point here. Within NATO, we European countries remain militarily weak countries who depend on the US for their security needs. Our value as allies is small and largely cosmetic.

Without NATO we might seek other arrangements - perhaps through European co-operation - which would allow us to defend ourselves without US aid. Or we might fail to do that, and add military vulnerability to our current energy vulnerability towards Russia. I don't see how either of those options would be in the US interest.

So although the US gains nothing of value from her NATO allies (except some fig leaves that could be got elsewhere, or would probably still be forthcoming without the NATO framework), it is still worth avoiding the alternatives.

William R. Cumming

The demise of NATO de facto or de jure is a complicated issue. The dominant power from the Urals to the British Isles will always be of great interest to the United States in its foreign policy. But now there are interests, strategic and otherwise that outweigh the investment of the limited talent, money and interest of the United States and its people. Asia must come first and then the Islamic World and the Petro states. The leadership of our country has mortgaged our future to the Petro-states. Additionally, it appears that alliance with other relatively energy poor nation states such as Japan, China, India and certain others gives us a vested interest in the relationships with energy rich states. NATO cannot be a useful tool for US foreign policy since demographics, history, energy dependency(check out the soon to end British and Norwegian petro timeshares) makes the European's need to develop realistic foreign policy and military strategies. They will not do so as long as NATO exists. They may not do so even if NATO does not. Having led the world in the catastrophic events of the 20th Century Europe is fully capable of doing it again but NATO is not the correct tool to prevent that from happening. Time to pull out of NATO. The next military conflicts are likely to occur between states in S.Asia and possibly over the resources of Siberia. I was at a dinner recently with a person born in Takistan (part of China) and educated in part at Bejing University. She stated the Han Chinese are massively moving west, south and north in China. Even though the population may be somewhat under control since adoption of the one child per family policy in 1974, she (born in 1978) was lucky that policy did not reach Takistan until 1994. Bottom line, demographics and energy will dictate foreign policy and military arrangements the rest of this century. NATO just does not fit the future.

Sidney O. Smith III

A bit off topic but some at sst have discussed the “character” or lack thereof of American neoconservatives and, moreso, how to treat neoconservatives.

Interestingly, there is a recent BBC dialogue between David Frum and George Galloway. Make what you will of Galloway, but he does raise the NIE and rely upon it in his gentle statements.

If nothing else, this exchange between the two does support the argument that the NIE is of historical significance.

Disclosure: I am Scots- Irish (actually Irish-Scottish), so I found Galloway’s approach highly entertaining.


Cold War Zoomie

dissolving NATO would force the Europeans to make security arrangements independent of the U.S.

Nothing wrong with that.

As an American who has helped provide that security off and on for the last 20 years, I'd be damn glad for Europe to make its own arragements indepenedent from us. To rebuild its own forces.

What ever happened to the Joint Strike Force, or Joint Reaction Force, or whatever it was going to be?

Clifford Kiracofe

This significant issue came up in the 1990s after the demise of the Soviet Union. The policy discussion then was basically: declare victory and terminate NATO; keep NATO as is as a defensive alliance operating within its historic boundaries and mission; expand NATO membership eastwards and change mission adding "out of area" (outside traditional "Atlantic" focus) mission(s).

The Clinton Administration and Congress had the opportunity at that time to provide serious leadership and terminate the costly and then unnecessary alliance. But no, the foreign policy establishment and Sec State Albright went maximalist: expansion eastward and "out of area" missions. I recall a Trilateral Commission meeting in DC area at the time that boosted the maximalist agenda. (thanks Zbig). George Kennon and Susan Eisenhower, as I recall, were among the voices against expansion eastward arguing it would provoke Russia unnecessarily.

The US foreign policy establishment perceives NATO as a tool for maintaining US hegemony in Europe, containing Eurasia-Russia, and projecting power globally to police hydrocarbon sources and associated pipeline infrastructure.

In the emerging multipolar world, and considering the US has shot its bolt in Iraq and elsewhere, the time is right (if a decade and a half late) to end NATO, or our participation in and financing of it. We need to do an old fashioned threat based "agonizing reaappraisal" of our security requirements and alter our national strategy and force posture accordingly. This would include base closures unrelated to NATO as well.


Some types at the Hoover Institute at Stanford, among others, have pushed the Israel in NATO concept. It is built into the "Princeton Project" recommendations also.

Babak Makkinejad


I think NATO is in existence only due to sheer momentum.

It was created to keep US in (Western )Europe, USSR out of (Western Europe), and Germany down.

Of the 3 legs of the stool, 2 are gone: USSR is gone and Russia is out of Europe and, moreover, Germany cannot be kept down.

Really, what the Europen Union needs is a new improved updated version of the Holy Roman Empire with a dominant role for Germany. That is the only way, in my judgement, that EU's pretensions to an independent security policy can be based.


I tend to agree with a lot of criticisms of NATO voiced here but missing for the most part is what should replace it. Given military weakness both in "old" Europe and "New" ISTM that some collective security arrangement is necessary. If not NATO, then what?

Despite all the rhetoric, I think Europe still wants the US as the linchpin of the continent's collective security, NATO or no NATO. In my view, NATO benefits the Europeans far more than it does the US. Europe is able to maintain such a weak military force because it knows the US is there to fight wars for it, which the US was only too happy to do in the Balkans. Those conflicts were of dubious direct benefit to the US, but they benefited our European allies, so we supported them.

The demographic reality in Europe means that Europe will likely continue to need the US much more than the US needs Europe. For Europe to create and maintain a credible force to meet its security needs would likely require sacrifices in non-military areas that Europeans are not willing to make. Even now, only six NATO nations (out of 26) are meeting the NATO goal of 2% GDP spending on defense. No, NATO really is a sweetheart deal for Europe - one they will not willingly give up no matter how intransigent the US is.

In the long run, I think it's better and easier to change NATO rather than discard it and attempt to create something new. First, it needs to be more accommodating to Russian interests and cultural fears - fears I believe are somewhat justified given Russia's history. Secondly, Europe must take a greater role by increasing their own military capabilities. Third, over time and as Europe (hopefully) builds a credible conventional force, one option is to move NATO away from a conventional security arrangement toward one that only provides a collective nuclear deterrent. I think NATO will still be necessary for this reason alone - for nonproliferation concerns as much as anything else.

David W

David Habbakuk, you make a good point about the terrorist threat, however, I don't see how NATO can be used to effectively 'fight' it. Putting missiles in Poland is much easier in comparison.

Instead, why not focus on building up INTERPOL? There is some consensus that a police -style approach tends to be more effective than military operations in combatting terrorism.

otoh, INTERPOL doesn't make for a very good honey pot/pork barrel, and perhaps they are better off that Uncle Sauron's Eye is looking elsewhere.

john in the boro

NATO amounts to what? Good question. The cited article suggests that NATO does not amount to a ready reserve for U.S. policy when that policy is out of NATO’s area. All kidding aside, it seems to me the alliance is in transition, and any appraisal of the relationship must consider what seems to be a comparison of apples and oranges.

The United States and European states in general have reversed positions in their relative military establishments. The economy of scale plays a large part with the United States enjoying significant advantages. However, taken as a whole, Europe compares favorably in economic and technological terms. Europe; once obsessed with military power, colonies, and its own cultural superiority; has become a kinder and gentler place save an occasion Balkan bloodletting. Most European states spend less on defense and more on their publics than in the past. The emerging EU owes some of its success to U.S. protection, NATO for instance. Thus, two disastrous world wars, imperialism, debilitating arms races, and many Byzantine military alliances later, Europe now finds satisfaction in its social, cultural, and commercial achievements. The United States, conversely, has become more and more militarized. The center of U.S. foreign policy has moved from the State Department to the Department of Commerce to the Department of Defense. Military bombast has largely replaced commercial and political diplomacy. A comparison of GDPs and defense budgets starkly reveal the dissonance on both sides of the Atlantic. The change up is striking.

NATO, in its early years, provided the United States a mechanism with which to pacify Europe and avoid a third world war (I do not subscribe to WWIII-VI). Simply, NATO was a brake, and the United States was the driver. What the WAPO article implies is a change of drivers: NATO is still a brake but European states want their turn at the wheel.

The EU is still emerging, and NATO provides a ready model for a future European military alliance. Such an alliance, without the United States, might become a serious challenger to the United States. The NATO budget is about 60-40, United States-European members. That is significant European military spending which is about triple to what China spends not to mention the equal technological capabilities. Moreover, Europe and Russia have good reasons for closer cooperation in which both sides have much to gain—markets, resources, etc. The bi-polar international order is gone, Europe, Russia, China, India, and even Venezuela are forming new centers of power that the United States cannot ignore or, apparently, dominate.

This brings us back to NATO. For the United States, NATO amounts to the chair at the head of the table of the World’s most powerful economic-military alliance. I think the more relevant question is not whether or not NATO is past its shelf life but how much longer will the SACEUR be an American.

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