Letters

Who Needs NATO?

Who Needs NATO?

Andrew Bacevich is quite right that Europeans are not happy about NATO being used as an instrument for "underwrit[ing] American globalism" ("Let Europe Be Europe," March/April 2010). And I agree with his premise that European pacifism has taken over the organization, which evidently runs counter to U.S. military aspirations. However, he has chosen to omit some important political realities.

There’s not much point in talking about letting Europeans take responsibility for their own security at a time when U.S. nuclear weapons are still deployed in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy. In addition, the United States makes no secret of its plans to deploy its missile defense systems in Southeastern Europe. As residents of Odessa say to such proposals, "Don’t make my slippers laugh!"

Bacevich also suggests that a NATO free of U.S. influence could take responsibility for "guarantee[ing] the territorial integrity of Poland and Lithuania." As a linguist by training, allow me to translate. In the Western press, "the territorial integrity of Poland and Lithuania" tends to mean "defense from Russian aggression." This idea is simply ridiculous: Democratic Russia has never given cause for Baltic or Eastern European states to tremble over their sovereignty or security, despite NATO’s attempts to portray Russia as an enemy threatening to attack in the dead of night (the way "NATO ally" Mikheil Saakashvili launched an attack on South Ossetia in 2008).

Moscow intends to develop partner relations with NATO as a military bloc and with each of its 28 members on a bilateral basis. All the initiatives of Russia’s political leadership are aimed at our dream to be friends with the peoples of Europe, to live in the same home with them.

We will even find a place in this common cause for Bacevich, too.

Dmitry Rogozin
Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to NATO
Brussels, Belgium

I would like to disagree with Andrew Bacevich’s argument that the United States should pull out of NATO. In Afghanistan, U.S. allies have now deployed more troops than they did in the Balkans in the 1990s and have absorbed casualty rates equal to or even exceeding America’s. In response to U.S. President Barack Obama’s latest request, they contributed an additional 10,000 troops. Their civilian contribution is also critical. Although far from ideal, it’s a sacrifice we shouldn’t diminish or demean.

There is no push in Europe for the United States to go home. Opinion polls regularly show that the U.S. and European publics have similar views of the threats they face and the agenda they want their leaders to pursue. The fact that Europeans have largely banned war on the continent is to be welcomed. But European officials often tell me in private they wish they had a few more sticks in their foreign-policy portfolio. The United States will certainly need their cooperation in managing a nuclear Iran or if it ever achieves a breakthrough in the Middle East.

The United States is in NATO today because it is a power that shares values and interests with Europe. There is no effective multilateralism without Atlanticism. If the United States withdraws from NATO, it will simply find itself with fewer allies and more instability. You don’t need to be Carl von Clausewitz to understand why that is not a good outcome.

NATO today has real problems. But it needs to be fixed, not abandoned. A U.S. president who followed Bacevich’s advice would indeed be guaranteed to go down in history — as a failure.

Ronald Asmus
Executive Director of the German Marshall Fund’s Transatlantic Center
Former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
Brussels, Belgium

Andrew Bacevich replies:

If Europeans choose to help in "managing" a nuclear Iran or achieving "a breakthrough in the Middle East" — whatever that means — they will act because doing so accords with their interests. The United States’ remaining in NATO will do nothing to increase the likelihood of European assistance. Or has Ronald Asmus — as with most other Americans — already forgotten the Iraq war?

Dmitry Rogozin assures us that Russians "dream to be friends with the peoples of Europe." This is excellent news. Yet we should treat such assurances the same way Russians respond when NATO expansionists claim that their proposed incorporation of Ukraine or Georgia into the alliance merely reflects the West’s commitment to peace and democracy.