Joe Biden wraps up his first overseas trip as President of the United States this week. Reasonably successful week, brought him to the G7, EU, face to face with Vladimir Putin. He also attended a meeting that brought together NATO heads of state for the first time since December 2019. Former President Donald Trump was not a fan of NATO, although to say she was obsolete was the only thing he admitted he was wrong in foreign policy as president. , so interesting. But Biden’s strong support for the organization was a welcome change for the military alliance.
Not everyone is happy with the warm embrace of the United States of NATO. Historian Stephen Wertheim just wrote an article in the New York Times titled “Sorry, Liberals. But you really shouldn’t like NATO.” It’s a provocative argument and we think it misses the mark in several important ways. So we take out the red pen.
Let’s start with the beginning. NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was founded in 1949 in the aftermath of World War II. It was largely a response to the Soviet Union. Its mission was to protect European democracies, both diplomatically and, if necessary, by military force. Many people have disputed the existence and usefulness of NATO since the Soviet collapse in 1991, not just Wertheim, but we dispute some of the arguments that are presented here.
First, Wertheim argues that NATO’s existence risks a great power war, I quote, “which the United States should avoid like the plague.” Does NATO really carry this risk? On the contrary, we would say it helped prevent a great power conflict by deterring Russian attacks on its members for decades and even today. Even Putin has said, as president, that only a crazy person can imagine that Russia will suddenly attack NATO. That seems to me to be a deterrent effect. Keep in mind that NATO Article 5, the commitment that an attack on a member country is an attack on all, has in fact only been invoked once, by the United States. , after September 11.
Second, Wertheim argues that “the Biden administration is now faced with a difficult choice, whether to commit to fighting for Ukraine, creating a serious risk of war with Russia, or to admit that NATO expansion has ended late “. Wait what? Neither Obama nor Trump faced such a “difficult choice.” Biden can continue to bolster Ukraine’s defenses, Obama didn’t want to do it, Trump did, work to lower the temperature with Russia and support NATO. It’s frustrating for the President of Ukraine who wants full membership and during the NATO summit tried to tweet that Ukraine was really, really, really close to becoming a member, and he didn’t ‘precisely resulted in nothing. It’s not actually an either / or.
Wertheim also writes that “Europe is stable and rich, far from its bellicose past”. Which means, of course, that he no longer needs a military alliance with the United States or American involvement to protect himself. But remember, when Russia attacked Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine six years later, just a few weeks ago, Russia was massing troops on the Ukrainian border. No one thinks that Russia wants to invade the continent with tanks as Wertheim suggests. But how about threatening Europeans with cyber attacks, nerve agents on their citizens? These concerns are real, we cannot easily do without them.
Finally, Wertheim concludes that if the United States does not trust the Europeans to defend itself, then it “really intends to rule the world in perpetuity.” First, it’s vastly overestimated given China’s role, impact, and power in the world. But to speak only of the North Atlantic framework, to support the European allies who want the help of the United States, moreover, as is very clear from the NATO summit itself, it is not the same thing. than wanting to dominate the world. Indeed, the United States wants Europe to take a greater part in its own defense to allow America to focus more on China. And Wertheim’s argument ignores the fact that Europe still trusts the United States, even if it is not as much as it has historically, and wants the United States to contribute to the security of the continent. through NATO. In fact, the Alliance expanded precisely because the countries of Eastern and Central Europe and the Baltic States like Lithuania and Estonia wanted a guarantee against Russian military aggression. NATO has achieved its objective on this front.
In a meeting this week with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, President Biden affirmed the United States’ commitment to the Alliance: “If there wasn’t , we should invent one “. Well, there is, and I grant you that NATO needs a bit of reinvention. But should the United States completely back down? Sorry, Stephen Wertheim, but not now.
It’s your red pen. Hope you found it useful. See you again soon. In the meantime, stay safe and avoid fewer people.