This thought was triggered by a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary General, and General Philip M Breedlove, SACEUR and Commander US European Command, concerning “A NATO for a Dangerous World.”
Given European NATO members’ long-standing disdain for national defense, for providing their treaty-obligated share of men and equipment for NATO defense, for providing their treaty-obligated GDP share of funding for NATO defense, it’s time to walk away from NATO and form a new mutual defense alliance with selected nations of eastern Europe.
As Rasmussen and Breedlove themselves note, NATO (and the underlying EU) aren’t facing the current threats (the US isn’t either, but the US can control that), and they’re failing the spirit of their defense obligations, if not exactly the letter of them. Yet Rasmussen and Breedlove themselves underestimate the problem.
Now, an unprecedented period of peace has been challenged by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
And against Georgia, its nuclear threats against Poland over a missile defense capability, its economic war against Europe (vis., Russia’s winter cutoff of natural gas to Ukraine a couple years ago, which caused gas shortages—as Russia knew it would—in Europe). We have, in fact, a new cold war with Russia. (And one with the People’s Republic of China, and a shooting war that we don’t recognize with terrorists—ISIS, for example. The latter two, though, aren’t directly relevant to this article; I’m writing about an alliance to deal with Russia in the face of NATO’s evident failure.)
R&B do recognize parts of the problem, and they understand some of what needs to be done.
- fundamental mission remains the same: to defend the territory, populations, and shared values of all…members
- the presence of NATO forces in Eastern Europe for as long as necessary; upgraded intelligence gathering and sharing; updated defense plans; and an expanded training schedule with more exercises, of more types, in more places, more often
- able to deploy even more quickly and deploy at the first sign of trouble
- also need to pre-position equipment and supplies, so that they can travel light but strike hard if needed
All of these are needed, but NATO already has demonstrated that it’s politically unequal to the task, and its leadership is emotionally unequal to it. This is especially the case with those last two bullets. The recognition and decision to act are more political matters than military, and NATO and EU leadership have demonstrated repeatedly their reluctance to decide quickly and their reluctance to act quickly once decided.
No, I propose the following. The US should walk away from NATO. The EU’s NATO member nations have been free riders on our treasure long enough. Instead, we should form a mutual defense alliance with selected nations of eastern Europe, nations whose peoples and leaderships remember what it was like to live under Russian dominance. This alliance should have as its core mission the four bullets above, only it’ll be on their home territory, instead of western Europe magnanimously moving to “defend” eastern Europe, so long as that serves the interests of western European nations.
The eastern European nations I propose to be approached for membership in this Free Europe Treaty Organization include these, running generally north to south:
- Czech Republic
- Slovakia (and maybe we can help them adjust their politics and economics. If not, we’ll need to rethink their membership)
- Ukraine (even—especially—rump Ukraine if that’s all that’s left after the West’s shameful abandonment of them to the tender mercies of Russia)
- Georgia (especially Georgia)
Also, contra R&B, Russia’s hybrid war tactics involving “snap exercises, secret commandos, and smuggled missiles” should be added to our new alliance’s kit; they work, as Russia is demonstrating.
Other nations can be looked at as interest and suitability develops.
These nations will provide to such an alliance considerable interest and capability; nearly all have significant per centages of their populations who know firsthand what Russian dominated life was like. Western Europe has lost the memories of the Russian (Soviet) threat, and they have lost the associated motivation.
Unfortunately, aside from the pie in the sky aspect of the thought, this alliance also must await a more reliable, trustworthy American President.