Can NATO be saved?

Can NATO be saved?

Here’s a story I heard once that may or may not be true : One day, when he was commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, Gen. Stanley McChrystal was striding along purposefully at his headquarters when he passed a group of Dutch soldiers carrying on and enjoying themselves. (One imagines they had big walrus mustaches.) The troops greeted McChrystal boisterously: Good day, general! That evening, hours later, when McChrystal returned, the same Dutch troops were still there, still carrying on, and still clearly having a blast during their Afghanistan vacation.

This anecdote may be apocryphal, but it encapsulates the tension between the U.S. and its NATO allies: McChrystal, the American warrior monk who eats one meal a day and sleeps four hours a night, curling his lip at the Continental mentality of his Euro-troops. It, and so many other NATO stories, immediately sprang to mind after reading Secretary Gates’ already legendary farewell speech to NATO, the full text of which DoD posted Friday. Gates called out the alliance on many of the problems that everyone recognizes but no one discusses, and he did not paint an optimistic picture of its future.

Gates did, however, lay out some broad suggestions for ways NATO could be saved:

[I]f current trends in the decline of European defense capabilities are not halted and reversed, future U.S. political leaders– those for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me – may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost.

What I’ve sketched out is the real possibility for a dim, if not dismal future for the transatlantic alliance. Such a future is possible, but not inevitable. The good news is that the members of NATO – individually, and collectively – have it well within their means to halt and reverse these trends, and instead produce a very different future:

• By making a serious effort to protect defense budgets from being further gutted in the next round of austerity measures;

• By better allocating (and coordinating) the resources we do have; and

• By following through on commitments to the alliance and to each other.

It is not too late for Europe to get its defense institutions and security relationships on track. But it will take leadership from political leaders and policy makers on this continent. It cannot be coaxed, demanded or imposed from across the Atlantic.

And that reality — that Europe must save NATO, not the U.S. — is what may make it so difficult to avoid the fate that Gates predicts. Witness the weeks and months of debate it took before NATO agreed to intervene in Libya, and a decade before that, in the Balkans. The nature of the alliance, with all its sovereign members and their disparate cultures and politics, means that it’s likely to continue as a “two tiered” system, as Gates described it:

Between members who specialize in “soft’ humanitarian, development, peacekeeping, and talking tasks, and those conducting the “hard” combat missions.  Between those willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership – be they security guarantees or headquarters billets – but don’t want to share the risks and the costs.  This is no longer a hypothetical worry.  We are there today.  And it is unacceptable.

What do you think? Can NATO reform and improve? Is it even worth saving for the 21st century?

Join the Conversation

For many years, long before joining NATO, the Swedes excelled in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. Like the Canadians, they helped form the UN’s peacekeeping doctrine, and they actually committed the best of their training resources to maintain excellence in this area. Like so many areas where the USA has this “my way or the highway” attitude, the United States ended up having to learn most of what it now knows about stabilization operations on its own, through the school of hard knocks rather than by soliciting help from its allies. Washington DC needs to look at the solution to the problem of a disfunctional NATO alliance in increasingly wider circles around the SecDef’s desk.

NATO is freakin useless, we should get rid of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), and form a new NATO (North American Treaty Organization) with Mexico and Canada to focus on our homeland, border security, drug trade, criminal activity, terrorism etc…

Europeans are increasingly anti war and it translates to their elected leaders. Bring home our European troops, NATO is lost unless Europeans spend money and time on equipment and training

One our debt takes us down, NATO is toast.

Given the Europeans addiction to generous government sponsored social welfare programs, without a real external threat Europe will never as a whole act swiftly and will never spend what it should on defense. It’s really as simple as that. Stepping back and letting the shortfalls of the Europeans shine in the Libya operation might jar some of them, but as a whole I doubt it. We try to think of Europe as this big unified continent, and with show pieces like the EU, that’s how the Europeans want to be viewed, but the reality in a military world is they are a multitude of different nations and always will be.

I think the way to save NATO realistically is to restructure. Gather those nations that have demonstrated the willingness to be relevant and cut the rest lose. Apply caveats to membership that lay out clear GDP non-negotiables, as well as, operational must haves for all members.

The NATO can and he must be saved. It is absolutely right the most Europeans have slashed their Defense Budgets so much as they are now unable to defend their self our to fight a small war against a loser like Libya. And other NATO members like France and Germany are sometimes more enemy’s them Friend’s, this is all true.

But on the other Hand the USA cannot have enemy interests to retried there presents from Europe our to dissolve the NATO. Those the NATO will be dissolve, the biggest loser will be the USA flowed by the Ost Europeans.

For the USA the main function of the NATO is it to hold together the Alias and to secure the US Interests in Europe and to prevent resurgence of Russia. And the NATO fall the Russians will be become the new Hegemons other the entire Europe and not only Ost Europa also other West Europe with his pro-Russian governments like France and Germany.

And Europe under Russian Influence will be a totally disaster for the USA and the people in Europe even. Europe remains have a bigger Economic Power them the United States and they have also comparable advanced our better Technologies in all Domains the defense sector included. And it is simple not in US Interest to lose their Influence in Europe and to give enemy’s like Russia the possibility to become more influence. It is bad enough what France sell the Russians is Mistral ships but them the NATO falls the Russian’s will become full Aces to the Technologize and Economic possibilities of Europe. The NATO keeps the Russians out and holds the Germans and now the France down, this was the Idea of the NATO from the beginning and these Tasks remains no matter how weak, NATO has become militarily. And the USA must be careful t not goes the European way with his power and Military. The Europeans has abandoned there Global Presents and slash their Military to insignificance the USA fortunately took their place but them the USA do the same china and Russia and over Foes of the West World will took the place of the USA.

NATO needs to evaluate its members and drop any that are not contributing. The new eastern European countries can constitute the new NATO and we can drop Germany, for one.

Totally agreement. The U.S. just has to realize that it can’t rely upon NATO for action outside of Europe. Otherwise, NATO is a small price to pay for European stability.

@CharlesHouston, But it would be a mistake to let the German and French from the line. You most think more strategic, it is better to have the German and Frances in the NATO them Outside. To build a new NATO is not necessary; the first priority of the NATO for the USA is to maintain their Influence and to secure the status quo in Europe “keeps the Russians out and holds the Germans and the France down” and the NATO accomplishes this task in the moment.

Them you build now a new NATO with Loyal Allies like the Ost European and traditional Allies like Great Britain you will become a situation like 2004 them the German and the Frances have joint in an Alliance with Russia. Fortunately Gerhard Schröder and Chirac have lost the elections and the so called new Axe “Paris, Berlin, Mosque” is now history but them you build a new NATO you will get the same situation permanently. i think better a weak Alliance with the Old Europe in hear them an enmity with the Old Europe, the Ost European Alias will stay friends and Alias of the USA also in the good old NATO.

To make a new NATO is therefore unnecessary and hurtfully for the USA Interests but this can be an option those Old Europe not respect the US interests like 2004 but in the moment the situation is Ok.

When Americans are sending their sons and daughters to die and Europeans aren’t there is nothing ungracious about pointing out there are serious inequities that need to be addressed. You cite a great many political realities in Europe, all Gates does is cite the reality in America. Like it or not Europe better gets it collective poop together.

There’s nothing Germany provides geographically that Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania don’t provide better.

then it must be the preexisting infrastructure and internal German interests.

There is a need for change. The simple reality is that NATO can’t take down a B movie clown like Qaddafi without US help. That’s a joke, period.

Germans have died in Afghanistan. In some ways their sacrifice is even more profound than that of our own men and women, because they have far less moral support on the home front, and the combat restrictions placed on them by their government are more severe than ours. This video notes that 68 Bundeswehr soldiers have died in missions outside the nation’s borders. and lists out men who have died in Afghanistan.

So the next time you want complain about them, or other NATO nations who came and helped us, watch this and other videos that sing to these “forgotten heroes“

The answer is so easy. the US should not withdraw from NATO, but, look at what next country (besides the US) provides the the most finacial aid, then match that amount of finacial aid, plus one Dollar ($1.00) thus, The US is still being the biggest contributer to NATO. Then check what country provides the most troops to NATO operations, match that number, plus one extra troop, thus being the nation that still provides the most troops. We can play this game for a very long time until the European nations realizes that NATO, with out the US is absolutely nothing, and then maybe they might start pumping money and troops back into the system so everybody has a equal share in NATO. A Dollar and and a troop. nothing more.

Hey.… you know … the keey here is again Germany. They are enjoying a nice time because their military expenditure is almost “zero” and because of that France and the UK, and others, don’t feel the rush to beef up their military…now we need either Germany to push up to show to the old “baguettes” that Germany is again there or some russian tupoleves to cross our skies once a week.… maybe in a secret arrangement with NATO.

Germany got used to disengage from military adventures and only by shame they will build some more decent capabilities.
They need to come up with a German air carrier squad … and maybe Poland also. In total, NATO european countries should have a total of 6–8 mid-large size carriers.

BUT the current situation is also in part the FAULT of USA.…. how many times the USA undermined a deeper European military understanding to avoid competition? … someone here (DoD Buzz) could post recent secreted files open showing that…no?!!

–europeans should have a 5th generation jet single project, and that needs to include the UK, France and Germany as key partners
–build a permanent NATO air carrier squad with mutual ships but rotating crews…I’m sure we could have French pilots going out with German ones lead by Italian radar operators, Spanish, Greek, Polish etc etc dispersed over an entire new fleet.… and that will reinforce the spirit of “belong to us” as opposing to “belongs to the USA”

if each country tries to mimic the entire USA capabilities it will not work. Together in a professional-synergistically way we can kick ass!

Give me a break, compare relative GDPs, populations and total numbers of casualties and the Germans should be ashamed of their paltry contributions. They love to enjoy the benefits of world economy that is guaranteed through American military power while simultaneously wanting to use their history as an excuse to not pull their fair share. Compare the efforts of Denmark or Canada to the Germans and frankly the Germans are a big fat collective joke.

Without a real external threat Europeans collectively will never sacrifice their entitlements to spend the resources required to assemble the forces you describe, period. It won’t happen, that’s got nothing to do with the USA and everything to do with political reality on the ground in Europe. Look at France, proposals to actually be able to fire people that are bums cause riots. The UK tries to raise tuition fees and the students riot. Europe will never find the political will to commit to real military capacity without a real tangible threat.

>Europe will never find the political will to commit to real military capacity without a real tangible threat.

Which just means they have a sane military policy.

in the last 60 years,USA have destroyed european defense industry, giving gifts for that.They have thousands soldiers in europe, don’t be choqued if many country imagine USA protect them everytime.Now US build missile defense shield, another reason for reduce polish or others east european country defense budget.And now when USA reduce and have problems, they demand to europe one better defense? and i’m sure they will sell f-35 and c-17, just for save the rafale and A400M.…

Unfortunately it is not a joke, it is real and i see in the moment no hope for change why a big part of the population of old Europe especially Germany have a population how has lost touch with reality. But the World but the world changes and the Dangers will rise also for the Europeans and the influence of Germany in Europe shrinks.

But the moment I see no hope for a positive change in Europe but the future can bring a positive change why pro American country’s like Ost Europe will get more influence in Europe and left and anti-American countries like Germany will loss there prominent position in Europe. For example the German population will shrink by 2050 to just 63 Million people and Great Britain will be become the biggest country in Europe. And also the world will changed, China will be become a Global operating World Power and a treatment for the entire West World.

1990 the NATO able to fight the World War III against the Communist Empire now and only 20 Years later the NATO are not able to beat a loser like Libya. I hope what this event can be reversed them they are European weak up by a significant threat for their own interests. It is also possible what the experience of their weakness in Libya will have a positive effect for some NATO countries. Hope dies last.

No it means someone else is guaranteeing the freedom of navigation of the seas for them and keeping tangible threats from their shores, not that they don’t exist. Their military policy is just an extension of their entitlement mentality, someone else is footing the bill for them so why bother.

I think Libya will jar some group think in the UK MoD and PMs office, but that’s about it.


What a choice of alternatives… I’m not saying that “there is no geostrategical alternative to Germany”, but at least Spain, France and Turkey would E-A-C-H grant the U.S.A.

2) PLUS to their overseas territories
3) AND to their aircraft carriers
4) or at least control over famous, naval chokepoints such as the Strait of Gibraltar, the Bosporus and the Dardanelles!
5) (And a border with Iran)

But Germany – although not such a cringing lapdog of the U.S.A. like Britain, and being almost landlocked, too (as World Wars I and II clearly demonstrated) – is Europe’s wealthiest country, its military resources ( $ , men and matériel) are FAR from pooled, and despite its toetipping in Foreign Policy (don’t wake up THAT dog!) the U.S.A. knows it can comfortably rely on its long-term political predictability ( = stability), supportiveness for its military presence, even of U.S. nukes, and on its politicians’ appalling moral indifference towards your state of permanent war.

Don’t dismiss Germany’s soft power too easily, just because it doesn’t look as glamorous as having lots of allies die for you in one of your stupid wars. True Japanese loyalty is harder to get (beware), and for reasons unknown (Imperial hubris? Anglo mentality defects?) you’re still oblivious of the opportunity and of the potential of a much, much closer relationship with Russia…

I’m always amused about the claim that we are keeping the seas free — basically protecting Chinese shipments. Particularly when we cant seem to do anythign about a bunch of Somali pirates in wooden boats.

But it’s really a win win situation — Americans can feel special and whine about how unappreciated they are and Europeans can have a higher lifestyle. Americans are so desperate to feel special these days the Europeans really should be charging them more.

What on earth would Russia have to gain from a strategic alliance with the United States?

Boomer is a prime example of the new American loser. Someone who dosent think we can compete globally we should withdraw from the world and lick our wounds, poor and squalid.

The biggest country on Earth, “almost Sarah Palin’s neighbours”, with one of the biggest reserves of all sorts of untapped, solid, liquid and gaseous natural riches, as well as of energy, arable land, forestry and skilled, intelligent, under-employed labour, in dire need of development of all sorts of industries?

I haven’t the FAINTEST idea…!

Come on, don’t be so incredibly mentally lazy: Think of “Saudi Arabia, II ” : The U.S.A. (which presently have a “slight” problem with finding enough demand for their products, as well as a “slight” problem with the supply of strategic minerals from China and Congo, etc., as well as the beginning of a brain drain) could be both their biggest clients AND their biggest suppliers of everything! It’s called strong mutual, economical dependence. Like your Economy is right now from oil, European consumers and Chinese money!

But you would have to turn away those “anti-Iranian” missiles all around Russia’s borderline first, as well as possibly create common, civilian and estatal Russo-American aircraft and Space industries, too, to deliberate share strategic hi-tech, as a détente (deterrent, balance, guarantee) of peace.

Should the foreign policy of China ( = future Hyper-Power Nr. 1 – whether we like it or not, it won’t matter anyway) some day become mature, transparent and dependable, prepare for the possibility and advantages of similar historical mega-deals with them, too. From giant ot giant.

Alternatively, you could also grow old and obsolete in front of a mirror, medal-spangled like in the golden old days of V-Day. Like the anthem-singing British.

What competition, cant no one in the world compete against the US military period. How is telling slackers and leeches to get off their duffs, man up, and carry their own loads afraid of competition. We can out grow and out produce anyone in short time. We are the only country in the world capable of being 100% self sufficient. Where we failed was in trying to improve the rest of the world by giving them money but they just got lazier and more dependent. By cutting loose from NATO and the UN and not giving out another dollar of aide to other countries and bringing all of our troops home we will save trillions in short time while other countries will fall faster without our financial aide and backing and get weaker so we have nothing to fear militarily. As far as being able to respond to threats without NATO — they were never thier initialy to start with so big deal.

I’m always amused by those that think China is such an overwhelming juggernaut given that it can hamstrung in one good afternoon by the USN and cast back to 3rd world status.

So that makes you an old American loser? Hybrid loser? International loser? Just looking for clarification.

The Germans are dismissing the Germans, not the US. At barely 1% GDP committed to their military they are the classic example of “punching below their weight”. Soft power and a $1.50 will get you a cup of coffee.

What aircraft carriers? The DeGaulle? Really?

In regards to not dying in our “stupid wars” that’s fine and dandy, all this article says is that keep it up and America won’t die in any of yours anymore either, and given the pathetic state of total European military power it won’t be much of a war.

I think our relationship with Russia is getting closer. We made a phone call and they poo pooed the S300 sale to Iran. They told the Norks they were idiots for the shelling. We BSed at the UNSC and they turned a blind eye while we bombed Libya. They bitched a couple weeks and then did an about face and said Qaddafi has to go. They’re participating in joint exercises like they never have. I’d hardly say we are oblivious and not transforming the relationship.

Well, I knew you were wrong, I never realized you were just another DoD Buzz jerk with a chip on your shoulder, tearing down the system and our friendships abroad. Now I know, and I will remember that.

Basically there is no level of commitment and casualties that will satisfy the xenophobia of small town America. Merkle being an ossi, made the mistake much of eastern european leaders do — believing our propaganda.
The Germans are better off at every level just not participating in our adventures at all — a lesson they are applying in Libya.

Vitesse, honestly, …before the Swedes joined NATO? Might want to do some homework on that one. Has anyone told the Swedes?

NATO has no purpose anymore. NATO should be disbanded. Europeans appear to be managing their economies as well as, or better, than the US. So Gates should not be lecturing the Europeans. Selling them overpriced JSF is not the way to improve NATO. NATO should be Europe focused, but the Russians are not the Soviet Union. Russia has half the population of the old USSR. Russia is not the enemy anymore. We have met the enemy, and he is us. We are destroying our own economy, quite apart from any external enemies.

To the poster “muscimol”

You wrote: “Europeans should (…) build a permanent NATO air carrier squad (…) ”

We should build (more?) hyper-expensive (ask Britain), stupid, super-vulnerable “aircraft carriers” for what??! If even our Coast Guards, civilian Europeans and their companies constantly and easily cross our “mare nostrums” ( = the Baltic, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the North Sea) in twin-PROPS and helicopters, and not just for leisure and business, but also to fight alien-smuggling, to rescue the shipwrecked and to replace oil rig crews in the frozen, polar sea, etc., etc., all without U.S. American help or “aircraft carriers” ? Or do you seek naval activity at the antipodes of Europe, ~ around New Zealand? Do you have any basic, geographical notions of Europe or any European experience at all, or do you perhaps think that countries like Austria and Switzerland etc. really “have to have” the same foreign, Imperialistic goals as the U.S.A. (basically supply cannon-fodder for djoowsish wars) ?

You don’t follow current events much do you?


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