The Long Entanglement: NATO's First Fifty Years

By Lawrence S. Kaplan | Go to book overview

even the most solid of arrangements. Given the fluid political and economic condition of Russian society, Russian democracy could be the victim at any time of a military coup or an anti-Western government, coming into power by ballot or by force. The centrifugal currents operating in the old Soviet empire have not run dry, and the potential for more conflicts between Moscow and the former Soviet republics remains alive in 1995. NATO's presence, even in an attenuated military form, is an insurance against a new anti-Western campaign on the part of inflamed Russian nationalists.


CONCLUSIONS

Even if Russia becomes comfortable with NATO next door and accepts a supportive treaty with the Western Allies, security in Europe does not automatically follow. The rising militancy of Islam not only might topple secular Arab regimes but could affect the northern as well as the southern littoral of the Mediterranean. France and Italy may be affected. And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Greece and Turkey, both members of NATO, might fall out in an even more dangerous fashion than they did over Cyprus in 1974.

But there is another centripetal force undergirding NATO in the mid- 1990s and that is the role of a powerful united Germany. While German democracy is as assured as that of any of its neighbours, its very size creates problems. Its dominant role in the European Union is one fact for slowing the unification of Europe. In this context the American component of NATO is a counterbalance to the authority of Germany in the alliance. The allies rarely publicize this issue, but the allies in NATO remember the "pledge" of 1949, and show no signs of wishing to remove this link. The downsizing of American and European forces in the alliance is not accompanied by demands for the expulsion of American troops. Nor is there any sign that any member intends to exercise its right to remove itself from the treaty under Article 13.

If the American connection remains important for Europe today, does it follow that the European entanglement is still in America's national interest? While there are voices in the United States which from time to time speak out about the Pacific region replacing the Atlantic, or about the high cost of the Atlantic burden, the consensus of both political parties is that a return to isolationism, even if possible, would be self-destructive. The American stake in European stability is as vital today as it was during the Cold War. The mechanisms within the Alliance may change. It is not unreasonable to assume greater European responsibility in the future, possible symbolized by a European SACEUR, as some American commentators have observed over the past generation. But such changes need not involve an abandonment of Europe. Breaking entangling ties with Europe now would threaten what historian John Lewis Gaddis has called "the long

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