Magazine article Insight on the News

NATO Must Face the Fact It Is Obsolete

Magazine article Insight on the News

NATO Must Face the Fact It Is Obsolete

Article excerpt

Given certain conditions that exist on the international scene -- the collapse of the Soviet Union and the apparent retreat from leadership by the United States under the Clinton administration, as well as the inability of Europe to deal in any substantive way with the tragedy of Bosnia -- the time has come to ask a critical question: Is NATO necessary?

For the length of the Cold War, NATO was the axis, the base and the fist of the Western alliance in Europe. It served brilliantly to deter communist expansion in Europe. It represented a community of cultural, psychological and economic interests in Western Europe (excluding Turkey and Greece), spearheaded by the nuclear shield of the United States.

For nearly 50 years, NATO was a success in its stated mission, a remarkable achievement in the annals of alliances. Ironically, it has become the major victim of its most singular triumph -- stopping international communist aggression, a threat that no longer exists. Today, NATO appears to be in a state of confusion, a victor with no parades and testimonials, a behemoth without a purpose.

As might be expected, however, NATO has no desire to die. There's a little bit of Alice in Wonderland at work here -- the Cheshire cat is gone but its smile remains.

NATO has become an entrenched and far-flung bureaucracy with large chunks of valuable property in terms of bases, depots, military installations, ammunition and weapons stores. It is filled with talented personnel, including some of the top security, intelligence and military minds in Europe. Not unlike the U.S. military, the alliance is trying to find a new direction and identity for itself.

There are several arguments for keeping NATO intact, all of them contradictory and tinged with nostalgia. The first rationale centers on Russia reemerging as an empire and once again threatening the peace of Europe -- if not today, then very soon. The alliance would transfer troops from Germany to the Russian border with Poland and Ukraine to guard against that eventuality. This is sheer madness. It means that all military strategy would continue to be designed as if the Cold War were still in place, a fact that would be duly noted by the Russians.

A second rationale takes the opposite tack and envisions Russia joining NATO. To what purpose, one might ask? To defend the United States and Germany against former Soviet republics? That's not likely.

The third rationale is based on the idea that the United States, given its current neoisolationist mood, would be replaced by Germany and Russia as the most powerful military guarantor of European security. …

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