25 April 2015

*** Five ways to reboot NATO


Think of NATO as a computer program. What was NATO 1.0? It was the Cold War–millions of troops facing each other across the Fulda gap in Europe, two huge fleets perpetually shadow-boxing across the global seas, massive nuclear arsenals on a hair-trigger alert.

Then falls the Wall, and we enter the very short lived “new world order.” Cue NATO 2.0–robust, expansive, willing to take on overseas operations like the Afghan war. New members join from the old Warsaw Pact, more than twenty additional nations become part of the Partnership for Peace operations, including Russia. The future seemed bright.

But after a decade of frustrations in “out of area operations,” I would begin to hear questions like these during my four years as NATO Commander: “Why are we operating beyond the borders of Europe? Isn’t NATO an irrelevant artifact of the Cold War? Why is it even still around?” European defense spending was deflating rapidly, especially after the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Skepticism was building.

Then comes the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, the insurgency clearly funded, supported, and stage-managed by Moscow. Old ghosts rattle through Europe, especially in the East. The Baltics and Poland raise defense spending, Russian long-range bombers ply the skies of northern Europe, and there are dark mutterings in Moscow of Russian nuclear capability.

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