Tag: NATO

NATO in the 21st Century

 

Truman_signing_North_Atlantic_TreatyWhen I was a senior in college, I was enrolled in two different seminar classes taught by the same professor. He was a very wise and experienced man who fought with MacArthur in the Philippines before receiving his doctorate in history. He is the preeminent NATO historian as well as a distinguished early American history scholar. The two classes were called “NATO: A Modern History” and “Jeffersonian America,” and both of those courses have been on my mind recently.

The Jeffersonian America class began with Washington’s Farewell Address from in 1796. Washington used the address to discuss what he believed should guide American foreign policy. He expressed a desire to uphold current alliances, but also cautioned against creating more alliances, “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements.” Washington feared a United States being pulled into the conflict because of rivalries that have defined much of European history. “Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe,” he asked “entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?”

Now let us fast forward to April 4th 1949 and the founding of NATO by twelve nations. The alliance was formed less than four years after the surrender of Germany and four months before the first successful Soviet nuclear weapons test. The free world was threatened by the Soviet Union’s expansionist foreign policy in Eastern Europe and the hardcore communist philosophy that underpinned it. My thoughts on communism are pretty much in line with those of Brigadier General Jack Ripper. The Soviet Union represented a real and present danger to the entire world because of its communist philosophy. NATO was formed to protect the United States and the other member nations from Soviet aggression and was central to the eventual collapse of the USSR.

April Glaspie, Signalling, and the Baltics

 

Haines-Little-Green-MenYou’ll all remember the story of hapless April Glaspie, often blamed — unfairly, in my view — for the First Gulf War. She was accused of giving Saddam Hussein the very mistaken impression that the United States would remain neutral should he invade Kuwait. The transcripts of the meeting vary in their particulars, but according to The New York Times, this is what she told him:

But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 1960s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction. We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods via Klibi [Chedli Klibi, Secretary General of the Arab League] or via President Mubarak. All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly.

When journalists later confronted her with this transcript, she said, “Obviously, I didn’t think, and nobody else did, that the Iraqis were going to take all of Kuwait.” As I said, in my view she’s been unfairly scapegoated. In the transcript, she’s clearly referring to his “border disagreement” and reiterating the message American diplomats had given Iraq about that disagreement since the late 1960s. No sane interlocutor could understand her to mean, “We’d be just fine with it if you moved your border to the other side of Kuwait.”

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I haven’t seen this discussed on Ricochet (or much of anywhere), but it seems significant to me. This week, NATO agreed to station troops in Latvia and Poland: 4 battalions from 4 countries (US, UK, Germany, and Canada if PM Trudeau can be persuaded). My interpretation is that NATO wants personnel from a number of […]

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Where Does the Anti-NATO Sentiment Come From?

 

Flag_of_NATO.svg_Rather than flapping my arms and screeching “Useful idiot!” at the television screen, I thought I’d try to explain (to the best of my knowledge) what NATO does, why, and where — I suspect — some of Trump’s anti-NATO sentiment must be coming from.

This brief history of NATO does a good job of explaining how NATO came into existence. The first paragraph is key:

It is often said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in response to the threat posed by the Soviet Union. This is only partially true. In fact, the Alliance’s creation was part of a broader effort to serve three purposes: deterring Soviet expansionism, forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and encouraging European political integration.

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Donald Trump has called NATO obsolete. He is not all wrong. NATO was formed in 1949 for the nations of the West to form a united front against the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is long gone. Donald Trump makes the point that the United States continues to fund NATO, from one-fifth to one-quarter of […]

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Why Wars Break Out: Bucharest Declaration Edition

 

Claire has started two excellent discussions here and here about the causes of war. I look forward to reading her argument in subsequent posts. But I also wanted to throw out my anticipatory two cents on the subject without being constrained by commenters’ 250-word limit. In the case of The Big One – China – the causes of war, if there is to be one, will be the same structural ones identified by Thucydides 2,500 years ago. Like Athens and Sparta, this is a paradigmatic case of rising and declining powers clashing. But in the case of lesser conflicts, one can never overestimate the role of ordinary human stupidity and inability to grasp the perfectly predictable consequences of foolish actions.

Dying for Narva? Our Foolish NATO Commitment.

 

imageI confess I have a soft spot for Estonia. I visited for my first and only time when I was six years old. Unlike the other Soviet workers and peasants, who every August flocked en masse to the rocky shores of the Black Sea, my family preferred the wide, uncrowded, sandy beaches, cool northern waters, and fragrant pine forests of the Baltic. The three Baltic capitals – Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius – were ancient Hanseatic merchant towns that, despite 30-some years of Communism, mass-deportations, and Russian colonization, had managed to preserve their distinct Baltic character and culture. To my parents, the whole region – but especially Estonia – looked and felt like Scandinavia or, at least, what they imagined Scandinavia to look and feel like.

Tallinn itself I remember as a medieval jewel straight out of a storybook, with winding cobblestone streets, Gothic windows, and a skyline marked by crow-stepped gables, church spires, fortress towers, and red tile roofs crowned by bronze weathervanes and finials. There were pubs, coffee houses, and jazz clubs. The food tasted different. This place felt … Western. Someone told my mother that, if one stood at the water’s edge on dark nights when atmospheric conditions were just right, one could faintly see the lights of Helsinki across the Gulf of Finland. I clearly remember her standing on the beach at night squinting at the horizon, trying to catch a glimpse of the world beyond the Iron Curtain.

For years afterward, I made childish drawings of Nordic Baroque towers and spires, trying to capture the magic of that place. I often wanted to return, but Tallinn was the one place where my childhood steps remained un-retraced. It was not one of the world’s great capitals, it was off the beaten track and, until the summer after my second year in law school, the right opportunity never seemed to present itself. That summer I tried to visit, but was arrested crossing the Russo-Estonian border, which is kind of a funny story.

The Cuban Missile Crisis of 2016

 

“Just as Iraq was President George W. Bush’s catastrophic legacy,” writes Maajid Nawaz, in an article headlined How Obama Lost the Mideast to Putin,

Syria will be Obama’s. Bush’s sins of commission wrought no less chaos than Obama’s sins of omission. If the Stop the War lobby’s primary motive was to avoid civilian casualties, then by any standard they should slither away shamefully into voluntarily redundancy.

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Turkey and Russia tell different stories about the downed Russian aircraft. You might have already chosen your favorite, but the storytelling continues in Belgium! What international thriller could not be improved by the avant garde cliché premise that everybody is lying?  It’s rare to see physics being used as an effective tool to comment on […]

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Russia, Turkey, and Article V

 

20150707_collective-defence-img2Two particularly interesting comments came up at the tail end of my post about Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian jet. Let me reproduce them:

Pilgrim wrote:

I’ll just say it. Dump Article 5. Mutual defense obligations are either doomsday machines or paper tigers. If the treaty is wrongly considered a paper tiger, then it becomes a doomsday machine. The treaty is no stronger than the capabilities and resolve of the allies and both are open to question.

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Our fellow NATO member and stalwart ally against the Red Menace appears to be a little conflicted (from Gateway Pundit) A man, who just two years ago was the poster boy for the far-Left media’s attacks against the U.S. government’s no-fly list for “unfairly” targeting Muslims, finds himself and several family members sitting in a […]

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Saturday afternoon we were riding to the House of Prayer (Gebetshaus) in Augsburg, discussing the ISIS attack in Paris the night before. The friend who was driving us- a good Catholic Charismatic CSU voter- brought up the question of Article Five in light of Hollande’s comments about “waging a merciless war” on ISIS. Let’s assume […]

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As you might have already heard, from the Washington Examiner:  A Russian air force jet was shot down after it violated Turkey’s airspace, according to unconfirmed reports. Witnesses say they saw a large explosion in Huraytan, northern Syria, as three fighter jets flew above. Preview Open

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Remember that time when your wife made you go to the couple’s dinner at the TGI Fridays and you forgot to bring cash? At the end of the night you said to just pass the check to everyone and you’ll put the rest on your card. The bill went around the table and you somehow […]

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The Strategika Podcast: Josef Joffe on Whether the West Will Still Fight

 

josef_joffeIn this next installment of our new series of Strategika shows on NATO, I’m talking with Josef Joffe, research fellow at the Hoover Institution and publisher/editor of the German weekly Die Zeit. Our topic: is NATO endangered partially by an erosion of will on behalf of both Europe and the United States? And is European reticence different in kind than the American version or just in degree? You can hear the conversation below or by subscribing to Strategika through iTunes or your favorite podcast player.

The Strategika Podcast: Peter Mansoor on NATO, Past and Future

 

Mansoor-PeterIn the newest installment of the Strategika podcast from the Hoover Institution, I’m talking with retired Army Colonel Peter Mansoor (former executive officer to General Petraeus in Iraq), now the General Raymond E. Mason, Jr. Chair of Military History at Ohio State University. In this first of three podcasts on the future prospects for NATO, Professor Mansoor takes us through the alliance’s history, how it’s adjusted to the post-Cold War world, and what its prospects for survival are given the threats from Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Listen in below or subscribe to Strategika through iTunes or your favorite podcast player.

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The Daily Mail is not generally known for excellence in fact-checking and basic English composition, so maybe I’m reading this article all wrong. It seems like this report is claiming that Russia has occupied a naval base inside Norway’s borders. Preview Open

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NATO: Alliance or Protectorship?

 

640px-Flag_of_NATO.svgGiven Vladimir Putin’s recent aggressions — to say nothing of the sum of Russian history — one might think former Soviet-bloc states would be arming to the teeth, lest one of their border provinces becomes the next Crimea, South Ossetia, or Abkhazia. But as it so happens, very few of the nations who border Russia spend more than 2% of their GDP on defense (Lithuania and Latvia each spend half that; the United States spends roughly 3.5%*). In many of them, military spending has has actually declined in recent years.

This begs a question: what is the United States doing in alliance with imperiled countries unwilling to even attempt their own defense? The matter is especially jarring when one considers that — despite not sharing a land border with a potentially belligerent nation (not for the past 98 years, at least) — the United States spends more than twice on defense as all other NATO members combined, despite having a GDP 17% smaller than that of its colleagues.

It’s even worse when you consider how few of the dollars spent by our allies could even potentially benefit us. By my counting, only two of our allies have the means and will to reliably deploy large numbers of combat troops overseas to fight alongside ours: the United Kingdom and Australia (who is not a formal NATO member, but who has fought alongside America in every theater since WWI).

What Ukraine Should Do Now

 

Vladimir_Putin_12024In a new piece I have up at Forbes, I lay out exactly what’s at stake for the West with Vladimir Putin’s continued aggression in Ukraine. In short, Putin wants nothing less than to unravel NATO. The U.S. has been decidedly unhelpful in assisting Ukraine, even though our allies there are much more reliable than the ones we’ve been arming in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. So what should Ukraine do now? My suggestion:

If I were Ukraine, I might concede Donbass and Crimea on a de facto but not de jure basis. Russia will not let them go under present circumstances. Let the Donbass (or that part that it presently holds) be a problem for Russia and the separatists to contend with; don’t let its self-appointed leaders dictate Ukrainian policy. When the time is right, the Donbass can come back into the fold. I would maintain a formidable standing army to defend the remaining Ukrainian provinces that have come to hate Putin’s Russia with a vengeance. I imagine that Odessa, Kiev, Zaporozhe and Lviv will make short change of self-appointed Muscovites when they arrive to proclaim new people’s republics. Who knows? If active hostilities ended, maybe even Barack Obama would supply defensive weapons. He’s good at shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.

The upshot: