Monday, September 15, 2008

The Future of Nato?



On April 8th, 2008 before the Senate Committee on foreign relations William Kristol, now listed as an adviser on foreign policy to the McCain Campaign, spoke with the voice of the Project for a New American Century. He admitted early on in the speech that NATO was in a crisis, and this is how he characterized U.S. responsibility for that crisis:

"In general, I would argue that the Bush Administration has been quite responsible with respect to the trans-Atlantic alliance. When President Bush came into office, common wisdom held that, if NATO did expand again, the expansion would be quite limited in scope and number. But it was the president's vision of a 'Europe, whole and free' that has led NATO to this day. Moreover, this past summer, at Prague, the administration put forward a number of constructive proposals for reforming and re-energizing NATO. And, finally, and principally at the behest of our European allies, President Bush went to the United Nations in September 2002 and secured U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. The Bush Administration is not responsible for the current crisis in the alliance.

"Who, or what, is? The answer to 'who' is France-and secondarily, Germany. The answer to 'what' is the new post-9/11 world to which the U.S. has reacted in one way, and France and Germany in another."

It would be ironic to call the statement carefully worded, because it shows little tact, especially in regard to allies that we need in Afghanistan, but Kristol, like his father, smiles as he cuts, and we need not worry that he has not thought all this through:

"I would argue that the Bush Administration has been quite responsible with respect to the trans-Atlantic alliance."

Note that he does not say "our NATO allies." If he had, the next sentence would be a non sequitur, but as it reads, Kristol does not mean France and Germany, two principle NATO allies, he means the fact of the Alliance itself: in perpetuating the need for the alliance by pursuing the interests of Eastern European NATO allies somewhat at the expense of our older partners.

"When President Bush came into office, common wisdom held that, if NATO did expand again, the expansion would be quite limited in scope and number."

Expanding the Alliance, especially eastward, means greater risk. Common wisdom was based on the idea that such risks would not be worth it. The central question our allies must answer is whether or not American power will help keep them safe, as alliances are meant to, or actually increase the likelihood of being involved in wars. Specifically as regards Russia, has American insistence that NATO expand into the Old Soviet Union actually increased the likelihood of war? We should all want them to believe that the answer to that is no, but as the Georgian debacle should have impressed upon everyone, forcing France and Germany to choose between strong NATO involvement or good relations with Russia is a bad policy. Russia pumps their gas and oil, is heavily armed, and prone to be unpredictable as a matter of maintaining the initiative. What are the consequences for France of letting NATO get dusty? The young Germans I know would shrug if the news tomorrow were splashed with NATO obituaries.

Kristol concluded:

"I think the Bush Administration is off to a good start in moving NATO in the right direction. The world is a dangerous place and we need help in dealing with these dangers. Accordingly, we need to do as good a job as we can in creating an alliance that has the military and institutional capabilities to confront these dangers effectively. But, at the end of the day, our priority has to be dealing with these dangers, not placating allies who are more concerned with the exercise of American power than the threats we face."

This kind of language only goes to convince many French and Germans that American power is one of the threats they face.