Part of the Problem with Claims of NATO Obsolescence

…is the Left’s and Europe’s lack of understanding of the meaning and the import of obsolescence.  This is illustrated by a piece in World Politics Review.

The failure to understand is illustrated with this claim:

[A]lthough Russia’s resurgence as a revanchist and norms-breaking power has conveniently thrust NATO back into the thick of European and American security concerns, Europe actually faces no threats for which the alliance is the most effective instrument. In fact, Europe faces no military territorial threats at all.

Never mind that Russia militarily partitioned and is occupying significant fractions of Georgia and Ukraine, has moved nuclear weapons into its enclave in Kaliningrad, as mounted cyber attacks on each of the Baltic States and its subsequent redeployments of military units closer to the borders with Poland and those same Baltics.

The failure is further illustrated with this:

…Russia’s resurgence, and Moscow’s clear willingness to use military force to further its political objectives, do not represent an existential threat to Europe….

How illogical is that?  How head-in-the-sand?  If Moscow is willing to use military force to further its political objectives, on what planet is that not an existential threat to the nations of Europe?

Then there’s this:

[L]ike his attacks against China for currency manipulation, Trump’s criticisms of the disproportionate cost borne by the US for European defense are slightly outdated. Although the trend has been reversed since the Ukraine crisis, the past decade actually saw a steady drawdown of American forces stationed in Europe under the George W Bush and Obama administrations, which left the US military presence on the continent at historic lows.

This is just disingenuous.  We still bear a disproportionate cost for the defense of Europe: we still spend more than the 2% of our GDP on defense that the NATO treaty requires every treaty member to commit to defense.  Most of the NATO nations—notably including rich and prosperous Germany—still commit less than the 2% they promised to commit when they joined NATO.

Even this bit is disingenuous:

The metric Trump uses to measure proportionate contributions to the NATO—total defense expenditures, which puts the U.S. at roughly 75 percent of alliance spending—is also misleading, since the vast majority of America’s defense budget is not devoted to European defense. If you look at contributions to the alliance’s permanent budget, for instance, the U.S. pays 22 percent, compared to 14 percent for Germany and 12 percent for France. But Germany’s GDP is roughly one-fifth of America’s, and its population is one-fourth; France’s GDP is roughly one-seventh of America’s, and its population is one-fifth.

The US has permanent global commitments, and NATO does not.  NATO has traveled all the way to the Balkans and made trips as far as Afghanistan, but these are temporary sojourns, and so the relative costs for Europe are quite trivial and irrelevant to the question of proportionate contributions to European defense.

Beyond that, there’s very little in the piece that addresses the question of NATO obsolescence.  Beyond this bit of vapidity, that is:

NATO is no longer as necessary as it once was. But there are many reasons why both sides of the Atlantic should want to maintain it.

NATO is obsolete because it’s designed to resist a Soviet-style massive ground and air invasion backed by the threat of nuclear weapons employment.  It’s not at all prepared to resist, much less defeat, today’s threat: terrorist attack, whether isolated incidents or well-coordinate, broad spectrum attacks; military attacks in small bites, like today’s Russia inflicted on Georgia and Ukraine while Europe watched with its collective thumb in its collective mouth; the new combined arms attack represented by military assault accompanied by cyber assault and infiltration by little green men, Russia’s hybrid war; economic threats like withholding Russian sales of oil and natural gas to western Europe.

This isn’t a time to bleat about Europe is too spending comparably with the US or to pretend confusion over President Donald Trump’s remarks vs those of his Vice President and his Cabinet Secretaries; this is a time for NATO’s European nations to get serious about their commitment, and it’s a time to revamp NATO—with those increased monies—to deal with today’s and tomorrow’s threats, not simply to rest on yesterday’s laurels.

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