Even under Trump’s (non-) leadership NATO members continue familiar pattern of abject servility

For a remarkably honest and clear-eyed assessment of post-Cold war NATO, one need look no further than Tony Wood’s article in the New York Review of Books:

Rhetorical differences aside, successive US governments have always been clear that NATO is not a gathering of peers. Its function has been to bind European states into an international order dominated by the US—and to do it on Washington’s terms.

The original Alliance goals — summarized crudely as keeping the Soviet Union out, the Americans in and the Germans down — clearly had to be revamped with the fall of Communism.  Indeed many believed that NATO too should have vanished along with the Soviet Union.

But that was not to be. Instead NATO became the cornerstone of a “vast strategic expansion” designed to enable the US to have a guiding hand in the post-Communist transformation of Eastern Europe.  In other words, the Cold War strategy of “containment” of the then Soviet Union was replaced by a strategy of enlargement of the world’s ‘free community of market democracies’.

Yet this expansion of NATO, in violation of promises to Gorbachev from several Western leaders, helped to increase tensions with Russia and thus generate the very threat it was allegedly designed to counter.

Here is the point that Tony Wood’s article hammers home most clearly:

That decision [to enlarge NATO]…. was founded not on a collective assessment of Europe’s likely security needs during the post-cold war peace, but on Washington’s unchallenged sense of its own priorities. An alliance that had served as the linchpin of the US-led international order since World War II was subordinated still more firmly to the US’s specific foreign policy goals.

The abject servility (there simply is no other word) of America’s NATO allies could not have been better demonstrated than at the Brussels Summit in July 2018. Trump’s foreign policy, from the revocation of the Iran nuclear deal, to the exacerbation of the Israel-Palestine conflict to the multiplying trade wars, is vigorously opposed by most of NATO’s longstanding members, including Germany*, France and even the UK. Despite this, Alliance members acquiesced to every American demand, and the final Summit Communiqué bears witness to this sweeping capitulation.

Thus, among other things, all NATO members agreed to an immediate increase in military spending and to the creation of an extraordinary new NATO rapid-reaction force by 2020. Dubbed the “Four 30s,” it will consist of thirty battalions, thirty air squadrons, and thirty warships, ready to deploy within thirty days. (See paragraph 14 of the Communiqué.)

Tony Wood summarizes the now all-too-familiar NATO dynamic in witheringly blunt terms:

Far from being anomalous or atypical, the Brussels summit neatly encapsulated the power dynamic between the US and NATO: Washington issues instructions, politely or otherwise, and its European allies fall into line.

Of course it is not just European allies who fall into line but Canada too. Nonetheless, the one thing in which we hapless citizens can take comfort is the virtual certainty that, whatever the actual text of the Summit Declaration, with the prospect of a federal election looming, we can be sure that further increases in the Canadian defence budget are decidedly not in the offing.

For the full article by Tony Wood, see: NATO and the Myth of the Liberal International Order (The New York Review of Books, 21 August 2018).

For the full text of the 2018 NATO Summit Communiqué, see: Brussels Summit Declaration (NATO, 11 July 2018).

Photo credit: TheGuardian.com (President Trump and PM Justin Trudeau)


*Germany was not a founding member of NATO but joined as West Germany in 1955.



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2 Responses to “Even under Trump’s (non-) leadership NATO members continue familiar pattern of abject servility”

  1. George JacobyAugust 24, 2018 at 7:24 pm #

    Much truth in this article when it is observed that collective defence article 5 has only been ever invoked on behalf of the USA in response to an unconventional terrorist attack on it coming from outside the NATO European area. In the meantime the USA questions its own commitment to article 5 while ordering Nato members to increase their defense spending out of all proportion to the real threats faced by Nato even by Russia, but rather in proportion related to the support of USA global military strategy and dominance.

    At the same time many disarmament, nuclear and otherwise, and conflict mediation activities by other Nato members are undermined or vetoed by the USA: from the illegal invasion of Iraq and its aftermath to the Nuclear Ban treaty to the cancellation of the JCPOA, with Iran and attempt to impose extraterritorial sanctions on Nato members, to divergent policy on Israel Palestine and ME security, to applying tariffs against other Nato members for bogus national security rationale, bilateral differences with Turkey leading to talk of expulsion or withdrawal etc. etc.

    Obviously there must be a more balanced relationship between the USA and other NATO members, particularly the NNWS, if the original goals of NATO collective security are to be realized. Canada should support a much more robust and balanced process for coming to decisions within Nato when USA and other members have differences over security and politico military policy particularly when these are inposing undue costs on Nato solidarity.