The history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) dates back a long way. Shortly prior to beginning of the Cold War in 1949, NATO was born from the mutual initiative for world peace by the United States, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. Its founding purpose was to align various democratic nations in a military alliance for security and strategic support. Since every conflict or military offense to a member state of NATO can trigger the alliance to take part in the conflict, NATO has participated in many controversial world conflicts such as the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Cold War, the Bosnian War, the Yugoslav wars, the war in Afghanistan, the Iraq War, and the Libyan Civil War. Regardless of whether each of NATO’s past and current interventions are legitimate, Zubin Jotwani reassesses the involvement of the U.S. as a key member of NATO.
OPINION (Declared Bias: Left Libertarian)
Trump’s vocal distaste for NATO has revived the age-old, ongoing debate on the effectiveness and functionality of the organization itself. Trump argues that NATO, originally founded as a counter to the Soviet Union, has become irrelevant and obsolete in the post-Cold War political landscape; that NATO hinders America’s ability to act unilaterally; and that the European countries in the alliance free-ride off the U.S.’s military and economic might . However, not only does the existence of NATO merely benefit America, it serves as one of the foundations of American foreign policy . Hence, it is vital for America to remain in the alliance.
NATO’s missions and values strongly align with and support America’s interests, which is to advance the liberal global order that it established and has pursued since the conclusion of World War II. The American-led global order, which has greatly enriched the U.S., rests in the ideas of democracy, freedom, the respect of law, and the freedom of capital flow . However, the global order can only completely function if enforced militarily. Although the U.S. does possess immense military strength itself, aligning itself with a part of the world that owns half the world’s wealth and two-thirds of the world’s scientific innovation, greatly strengthens America’s hand in worldly affairs. NATO supplements and unwaveringly backs America’s military to maintain the American-led global order .
"NATO supplements and unwaveringly backs America’s military to maintain the American-led global order."
For example, in the mid 1990’s, NATO conducted a successful bombing campaign and deployed 60,000 troops, saving hundreds of thousands of lives from genocide. After 9/11, America invoked Article 5, the “collective defense” clause that asserts that an “attack against one ally is considered an attack against all allies” for the first time in history . Every single member of America’s NATO allies fully backed America without even an ounce of discord. NATO deployed thousands of troops in Afghanistan to participate in a war that the U.S. started to ensure that the country would never become a safe haven for terrorists ever again . In total, around 400,000 European troops have rotated through Afghanistan side-by-side with American troops.
Trump’s ascension to the presidency has complicated America’s foreign policy doctrine, especially in regards to its stance toward Russia. Trump’s oscillation from ambivalence to open embrace of Putin and Russia is a stark departure from previous presidents’ policies on the nation. However, aside from Chief Strategist Bannon, Secretary of State Tillerson, and Trump himself, the Trump administration holds a deep distrust of Russia, viewing it as a threat that must be neutralized. Vice President Pence, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Haley, Secretary of Defence Mattis, and the recently-appointed Ambassador to Russia Huntsman, all hold deep reservations on Russia . Trump is a president who delegates responsibilities to a degree not quite seen before. His cabinet appointments and advisors wield immense power; their hostile stance toward Russia, therefore, renders Russia the enemy of America.
Therefore, America and Europe today face the dual threats of ISIS and an increasingly aggressive, emboldened Russia. The nation has most recently been annexing and destabilizing large swaths of Ukraine, assisting Assad in savagely slaughtering his own people, meddling in the U.S. election, and is now setting its sights on the Baltic states . NATO has more than fulfilled its duty in repelling Russia. NATO has increased its rapid-response force from 13,000 to 40,000 troops, and plans to ensure that certain groups are ready for deployment within two days . It has also begun to deploy command-and-control centers in countries that neighbor Russia- the Baltics, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia. Even though NATO has not yet taken a direct role in the fight against ISIS, NATO’s infrastructure has allowed America to use Incirlik Air Base in Turkey as a launching pad for its operations . In this instance, America was able to bypass the tedious, time-consuming processes of securing a bilateral agreement with another nation to take rapid action against an ever-growing threat.
NATO achieves all this without much cost for America. One of the biggest misconceptions regarding America’s involvement in NATO is that the other partners do not pay their fair share in upholding the alliance. Although America does contribute 22% of NATO budget’s, which is more than any other nation in the alliance, each member state contributes an agreed upon amount proportional to its annual GDP. In fact, America has a discounted relative contribution compared to every other NATO member. For context, Germany contributes 15% to NATO’s budget-- which is not far off from America’s 22% contribution-- even though Germany’s GDP is less than a quarter of that of America’s . Furthermore, non-U.S. NATO nations spend US$300 billion annually on defense. Even though America spends almost double that amount on military expenditures, the non-U.S. NATO members collectively form a strong military force . America would be smart to align themselves as close as possible.
Like any organization, NATO is of course not perfect. However, the best method to address NATO’s flaws is not to ditch NATO altogether, but rather to encourage member states to work collaboratively within the existing system to improve NATO and its sturdy framework that has been developed through years of effort from so many nations. For all its pitfalls, the NATO framework has largely been successful in advancing American interests and making the world a safer place. It would be foolish not to work with it.