Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a Get Out The Vote rally at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., Saturday, 10 February 2024. Source; EuroNews - Photo: 2024

The EU Should Take Over Most of NATO’s Role

By Jonathan Power

LUND, Sweden | 13 February 2024 (IDN) — So what does ex-President Donald Trump think about NATO? Twice during his previous presidential campaign, he rubbished it publicly, saying it was “obsolete”. Yet when a little later he met the UK’s prime minister, Therese May, it was all hunkydory. He told her he supported NATO 100%. Yet on 10 February he made a scathing speech saying he “encouraged” Russia that “they could do whatever the hell they want” against those NATO countries which had not paid up their dues.

Jonathan Power

There are some—a few—influential people who have argued that NATO is indeed obsolete. One of these was William Pfaff, the late, much esteemed, columnist for the International Herald Tribune. Another is Paul Hockenos who set out his views in a seminal article in World Policy Journal. Their words fell on deaf ears.

President George H.W. Bush saw it differently and wanted to see the Soviet Union more involved in NATO’s day to day work. President Bill Clinton had another agenda—and one that turned out to be a dangerous one, triggering over time Russia’s present-day hostility towards the West- to expand NATO up to Russia’s western border, incorporating one by one Russia’s former east European allies and beyond. His successors continued that approach with Barack Obama at one time raising a red rag to a bull by calling for the entry into NATO of Ukraine and Georgia. Now last year Sweden and Finland have joined.

NATO’s job, as its British secretary-general, Lord Ismay, said in 1967 was to “keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down”.

To some extent, it did find a role after the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. It led humanitarian interventions in Bosnia in 1995 and against Serbia in 1999. In 2003 it deployed its troops into Afghanistan. At one time the NATO-led force rose to 40,000 for 40 countries, including all 27 of the NATO allies.

Nevertheless, there are some of us who don’t see these as great successes. A majority of historians who have examined the evidence are convinced that Stalin had no intention of invading Western Europe. The Second World War was won, the Soviet Union had a ring of friends around its borders, and Germany was divided. The allies had been an invaluable helpmate during it and it did not feel threatened by ist former comrades-in-arms.

So often overlooked is that the Soviet Union bore the brunt of defeating Germany and lost by far the most fighting men and civilians. Thorough searches by Western historians through the Soviet archives- they were opened during the years of President Boris Yeltsin- have revealed that Moscow had no plans to invade Europe.

Today, despite its deployments in the former ex-Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya, NATO is not a truly multilateral institution of equals. The Europeans do not initiate military action (with the exception of Libya that led to the overthrow and killing of President Muammar Gadhafi). It is the Americans who do that and the Europeans, whatever their reservations, invariably follow.

Obeying America

Moreover, obeying America rather than following their own convictions in ex-Yugoslavia, they did not seek UN Security Council permission which went against the UN Charter, and then are angry that Russia followed suit with its grabbing of Crimea.

NATO has no relevance to the problems that truly occupy Europe today. Its hands are tied to the inflexible US policy on Ukraine. It has nothing to say publicly about the massive refugee crisis that could break out if the Russians invaded all of Ukraine.

Europe is already full up. NATO cannot help dealing with the fact, as a European Union study concluded, that there will be an increase in tensions over declining water supplies in the Middle East that will affect Europe’s security and economic interests. Nor can NATO do anything to contribute to the fight against global warming, in the long run the most severe threat that confronts humanity. NATO directs its attention to a falsely analysed issue that is not a pressing need.

When it comes to the “war on terrorism” there is little that NATO does as a combined action force. At home each government deals with the issue itself. In the fight against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq the Americans, British, French and Russia battle them in their own way.

The EU should take over most of NATO’s role: doing more of what it has done in Georgia and stabilizing the Balkans, making use of its massive “soft power”, and thus undergirding world security. Yes, Mr Trump, NATO is obsolete!

*Note: For 17 years Jonathan Power was a foreign affairs columnist for the International Herald Tribune. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Copyright Jonathan Power


Photo: Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a Get Out The Vote rally at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., Saturday, 10 February 2024. Source; EuroNews

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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