Secretary Gates’ warning on NATO

NATO countries in Europe are in blue. Click map to view.

The Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle this morning reported that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned NATO allies that the United States can’t continue to support the alliance if European allies don’t do their share.

Robert Gates

Without naming names, he criticized “nations apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.”  He said that unless something changes, NATO could cease to exist.

Earlier Gates warned that if the United States cuts back on its military budget, the U.S. government will no longer be able to project its power on a global basis.

Gates stated the alternatives honestly and correctly.  But would the demise of NATO be such a terrible thing?  Would a cutback on the reach of the U.S. military be such a bad thing?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created in 1949 because leaders of the nations of western Europe, devastated by war, did not believe they could defend themselves against the Red Army.  For more than 40 years, the United States maintained forces in western Europe which, along with the U.S. nuclear arsenal, deterred any thought the Soviet leaders might have had of attacking Europe.

Now the Soviet Union no longer exists.  Western European countries have good relations with the Russian Federation.  True, some of the eastern European countries formerly dominated by the Soviet Union want a U.S. guarantee.  NATO has expanded to take many of them in.  But is it the responsibility of United States to bear 43 percent of the world’s military expenditures to provide this reassurance?  If a guarantee is needed, shouldn’t the European nations provide it?

Currently NATO is mainly an adjunct to the U.S. global “war on terror.”  NATO allies were quick to join the United States in 2002 in the invasion of Afghanistan, but the people of France, Britain and other European countries no longer see this as being in their interest.  I think the people of the United States are slowly coming to the same conclusion – that invading foreign countries does not make this country safer.

If the United States did not have military bases on every continent, and military forces able to intervene almost anywhere in the world, there would be fewer U.S. military interventions.  I think this would be a good thing, not a bad thing.

Click on NATO – Homepage for the official NATO web site.

Click on NATO wiki for Wikipedia’s history of NATO.

Click on Obama’s Russia ‘Reset’: Another Lost Opportunity for a good article by Stephen F. Cohen, professor of Russian studies at New York University, on how NATO expansion threatens the “re-set” of U.S.-Russian relations.  [Added 6/15/11]

Today’s D&C had a couple of other items worthy of comment.

• A military investigation concluded that the reason Afghan insurgents won a victory in a key battle in 2009 was that the Afghan government troops ran away, hid and even stole personal items from American troops fighting and dying nearby.  It is a familiar story.  In Vietnam, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, the insurgents fighting against U.S. forces fight with determination and skill, while the government forces seem content to let the Americans do the fighting.  Could it be that the insurgents believe in their cause, and the U.S.-backed forces do not?  Maybe there is a reason for this.

• The government of Alaska yesterday released more than 24,000 pages of e-mails sent by Sarah Palin from the time she took office as governor in 2006 to the time she accepted the Republican vice presidential nomination in 2008.  They filled six boxes, weighing 250 pounds in all.  Reporters from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC and other organizations immediately started combing through them to see what they could find.  Why should Sarah Palin’s personal correspondence – or anybody else’s – be a matter of public record?  Shouldn’t there be such a thing as privacy?  There is enough information about her public record as governor of Alaska, and her public statements afterwards, to make a judgment about her.

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