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November 04, 2008

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Phil H

NATO was set up to defend Western Europe from Soviet military invasion. When that threat passed so did NATO's reason for existence. Attempts to expand the organisation's remit (e.g. involvement in Afghanistan) and boundaries (i.e. extending membership ever eastwards) are doomed to failure for two separate but interlinked reasons.

Firstly, the populations of the Western European countries are heavily anti-war; they will just not tolerate seeing their young people being killed and maimed unless their countries vital interests, if not actual existence, is threatened. Indeed a cogent argument can be made that some original NATO members are not even prepared to support military action under any circumstances (remember, Belgium refused to sell artillery ammunition to the UK for use in the, UN mandated , expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait). So why aren't there enough troops, helicopters etc. to do the job in Afghanistan? The answer is simple, the peoples of Europe are not prepared to pay the price in blood and treasure and their politicians, wanting to be (re-) elected act accordingly.

As regards the expansion eastwards, NATO's founding principle was that an attack on one member would be regarded as an attack on all. Does anybody seriously believe that France, or Britain would again go to war if someone attacked Poland (it didn't work out very well last time, after all). Can anyone realistically conceive of a situation where, to pick a name, Belgium would declare war on Russia if that countries troops invaded, again to pick a name, Latvia. Supposing elements within NATO had got their way and Georgia had been admitted to the Organisation, do you think the USA, would have treated the recent Russian invasion as an armed attack against itself and responded accordingly?

Then there is the issue of capability. Article 3 of the NATO treaty says that all members will maintain the capability to resist armed attack. Since the early nineties defence budgets in all, the original at least, NATO countries have been slashed. Even if the political will were to be found the members of NATO no longer have the means to come to each others assistance. Just take the UK, its army is now so small and so under-equipped that it cannot maintain less than 15,000 troops in the field for any length of time without sustaining serious damage, the once proud Royal Navy is reduced to a minor coastal defence force (it can no longer operate in a war environment outside land based air-cover, which the RAF couldn't provide anyway – it has too few aircraft). With the possible exception of the USA, no NATO country has the capacity to fight a heavy war in support of its fellows.

No, NATO is now long past its expiry date. It doesn't matter if its President Obama, President McCain or anyone else who comes knocking on doors trying to get NATO members to live up to their commitments. The answer is going to be the same. NATO is now an empty shell, at best it is an attempted confidence trick but one that fools fewer people every year.

MK

NATO was born in the wake of WWII for Europe's defense: it should be kept this way as a "template" for EU defense as no individual European country has the budget or manpower (birthrate in the US is at or above replacement, Britain=well below) for a large standing army but it does need one badly whether the population is anti-war or not. (Remember the tale of the Grasshopper and the Ant? The Grasshopper did not prepare for winter and starved but the Ant prospered.) The Eurosphere holds a history of colonialism, possesses a large piece of the world's economic pie, and many of its wealthiest members have not had to do any heavy lifting militarily [save the UK] for a very long time: this is a dangerous social condition. It's economic status is a cause for jealousy from some poorer nation's average citizens, it's imperial history is a goldmine for spindoctors in restrictive regimes looking for a way to blame a scapegoat and stay in power, and nearly three generations of its citizens have zero concept that some things can't be resolved solely by diplomacy (the UK learned this lesson early under Neville Chamberlain; France, notably, never has.)

Further, after so long parts of NATO should be renegotiated. I don't agree with your stance that it has totally lived beyond its expiration date: the implosion of Yugoslavia and the Bosnian conflict that followed I see proves this. I do see very alarming signs that Russia is reverting back to old tricks: its recent escapade in Georgia is only one example of a nation getting bolder now that it has money from a huge oil boom. Litvinienko was poisoned by radioactive polonium for blowing the whistle on what really goes on in Russia. Politskovaya was shot because she openly opposed Putin on Chechnya. Viktor Yuschenko I suspect survived an assasination attempt: he has a much more pro Western stance than any in that Parliament and I suspect this was disturbing to the gang in Moscow because it curbed access to the Black Sea oil pipeline and OPEC trade routes (note that a lot of Middle Eastern weaponry has old Soviet designs and Iran has a long, storied love affair with the snowy north, especially because of its experience with nuclear chemicals.)

Note also overall that Russia has an extremely long history of its leaders resolving conflict with poisoning enemies or traitors and also a history of judeophobia that is as nasty as the Nazi's ever was: there are marches in Moscow against the Jews even when a huge number of these Jews have fled (and continue to flee) to America and Israel.(Putin spoke out against it but notably nobody lifts a finger to stop the marches.) Russia already has connections and interests in the Middle East in its oil treaties, it has shared recent history of antisemitism and of that group fleeing for safer shores, and lots of nuclear expertise to trade on: this is VERY DANGEROUS to Europe. It puts power in the hands of OPEC states which don't like the fact that Europe is losing interest in oil as a power source.

It gives radical imams and demagogues like Ahmadinejad more ammunition: the Jew-loving, Israel supporting West is to blame for the Islamic world's poverty (no illiterate Saudi or Syrian DARES to question the word of a sheikh when he uses religion to mask his anger that his children can no longer live in palatial style because oil is no longer to be king, Russia will eventually not pay for the equipment to drill, nor buy contracts in exchange for nuclear knowledge which are a useful bargaining tool in world affairs. Neither does the sheikh mention that Israel's strategic location is part of an ancient trading mecca that has made its history bloody as well as heavily contested: Most Middle Eastern nations must circumnavigate the peninsula somehow to access the wealthiest markets. If Israel was taken and Jaffa reoccupied it would enhance access to resource rich Africa as far down as Victoria Falls and simultaneously make it easier to access Western markets. So long as one is richer than Croesus, nothing matters.)

Europe needs NATO more than it realizes. When Russia invades Poland (again) maybe it will awaken. When Russia eggs on Iran, Iran creams Israel, and all hell breaks loose maybe it will wake up. When the same Hizbollah people young folks marched with turn on them and blow up Berlin or Amsterdam maybe then they will wake.

MK

NATO was born in the wake of WWII for Europe's defense: it should be kept this way as a "template" for EU defense as no individual European country has the budget or manpower (birthrate in the US is at or above replacement, Britain=well below) for a large standing army but it does need one badly whether the population is anti-war or not. (Remember the tale of the Grasshopper and the Ant? The Grasshopper did not prepare for winter and starved but the Ant prospered.) The Eurosphere holds a history of colonialism, possesses a large piece of the world's economic pie, and many of its wealthiest members have not had to do any heavy lifting militarily [save the UK] for a very long time: this is a dangerous social condition. It's economic status is a cause for jealousy from some poorer nation's average citizens, it's imperial history is a goldmine for spindoctors in restrictive regimes looking for a way to blame a scapegoat and stay in power, and nearly three generations of its citizens have zero concept that some things can't be resolved solely by diplomacy (the UK learned this lesson early under Neville Chamberlain; France, notably, never has.)

Further, after so long parts of NATO should be renegotiated. I don't agree with your stance that it has totally lived beyond its expiration date: the implosion of Yugoslavia and the Bosnian conflict that followed I see proves this. I do see very alarming signs that Russia is reverting back to old tricks: its recent escapade in Georgia is only one example of a nation getting bolder now that it has money from a huge oil boom. Litvinienko was poisoned by radioactive polonium for blowing the whistle on what really goes on in Russia. Politskovaya was shot because she openly opposed Putin on Chechnya. Viktor Yuschenko I suspect survived an assasination attempt: he has a much more pro Western stance than any in that Parliament and I suspect this was disturbing to the gang in Moscow because it curbed access to the Black Sea oil pipeline and OPEC trade routes (note that a lot of Middle Eastern weaponry has old Soviet designs and Iran has a long, storied love affair with the snowy north, especially because of its experience with nuclear chemicals.)

Note also overall that Russia has an extremely long history of its leaders resolving conflict with poisoning enemies or traitors and also a history of judeophobia that is as nasty as the Nazi's ever was: there are marches in Moscow against the Jews even when a huge number of these Jews have fled (and continue to flee) to America and Israel.(Putin spoke out against it but notably nobody lifts a finger to stop the marches.) Russia already has connections and interests in the Middle East in its oil treaties, it has shared recent history of antisemitism and of that group fleeing for safer shores, and lots of nuclear expertise to trade on: this is VERY DANGEROUS to Europe. It puts power in the hands of OPEC states which don't like the fact that Europe is losing interest in oil as a power source.

It gives radical imams and demagogues like Ahmadinejad more ammunition: the Jew-loving, Israel supporting West is to blame for the Islamic world's poverty (no illiterate Saudi or Syrian DARES to question the word of a sheikh when he uses religion to mask his anger that his children can no longer live in palatial style because oil is no longer to be king, Russia will eventually not pay for the equipment to drill, nor buy contracts in exchange for nuclear knowledge which are a useful bargaining tool in world affairs. Neither does the sheikh mention that Israel's strategic location is part of an ancient trading mecca that has made its history bloody as well as heavily contested: Most Middle Eastern nations must circumnavigate the peninsula somehow to access the wealthiest markets. If Israel was taken and Jaffa reoccupied it would enhance access to resource rich Africa as far down as Victoria Falls and simultaneously make it easier to access Western markets. So long as one is richer than Croesus, nothing matters.)

Europe needs NATO more than it realizes. When Russia invades Poland (again) maybe it will awaken. When Russia eggs on Iran, Iran creams Israel, and all hell breaks loose maybe it will wake up. When the same Hizbollah people young folks marched with turn on them and blow up Berlin or Amsterdam maybe then they will wake.

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