Magazine article The American Conservative

No More NATO

Magazine article The American Conservative

No More NATO

Article excerpt

I am "not isolationist, but I am America First," Donald Trump told the New York Times. "I like the expression." Of NATO, where the U.S. underwrites three-fourths of the cost of defending Europe, Trump calls this arrangement "unfair, economically, to us," and adds, "We will not be ripped off anymore."

Beltway media may be transfixed with Twitter wars over wives and alleged infidelities. But the ideas Trump aired should ignite a national debate over U.S. overseas commitments-especially NATO. For the Donalds ideas are not lacking for authoritative support. The first NATO supreme commander, General Eisenhower, said in February 1951 of the alliance: "If in 10 years, all American troops stationed in Europe for national defense purposes have not been returned to the United States, then this whole project will have failed."

As JFK biographer Richard Reeves relates, President Eisenhower, a decade later, admonished the president-elect on NATO. "Eisenhower told his successor it was time to start bringing the troops home from Europe. 'America is carrying far more than her share of free world defense,' he said. It was time for other nations of NATO to take on more of the costs of their own defense."

No Cold War president followed Ike's counsel. But when the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, and the breakup of the Soviet Union into 15 nations, a new debate erupted. Some of us argued that when the Russian troops went home from Europe, the American troops should come home from Europe.

Instead, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush began handing out NATO memberships, i.e., war guarantees, to all exWarsaw Pact nations and even Baltic republics that had been part of the Soviet Union. In a historically provocative act, the U.S. moved its "red line" for war with Russia from the Elbe River in Germany to the Estonian-Russian border, a few miles from St. Petersburg. We declared to the world that should Russia seek to restore its hegemony over any part of its old empire, she would be at war with the United States. No Cold War president ever considered issuing a war guarantee of this magnitude, putting our homeland at risk of nuclear war, to defend Latvia and Estonia.

Recall. Ike did not intervene to save the Hungarian freedom fighters in 1956. Lyndon Johnson did not lift a hand to save the Czechs, when Warsaw Pact armies crushed "Prague Spring" in 1968. …

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