As NATO turns 70, questions arise about its continued feasibility

By Shen Jiru Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/3 16:03:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT



The US is holding a gathering of NATO foreign ministers on Wednesday and Thursday to celebrate the military alliance's 70th anniversary.

After World War II, the US and the Soviet Union started vying for global hegemony. NATO was established in 1949, while its major rival, the Warsaw Pact, was founded in 1955. After the Soviet Union disintegrated, the Warsaw Pact faded away. 

The initial aim of NATO was to deter the Soviet Union and stave off its aggression against Western Europe. As the successor of the Soviet Union, Russia has been the key target that NATO has intended to counter. The alliance has continued its controversial Eastward expansion up to Russia's doorstep. Russia's neighbors such as Lithuania and Latvia are members of NATO and Ukraine hopes to join. 

Even some Westerners believe that with dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, NATO should no longer exist. However, the US has still kept the alliance so as to be able to control Europe. The mission of the organization has been expanded, not only to contain Russia, but also to interfere with issues in regions beyond Europe. 

For example, in Afghanistan, besides US troops, there have been soldiers belonging to NATO members, such as the UK. The alliance has even penetrated Central Asia under the garb of smoking out terrorists. Under US control, NATO is not the force that can be expected to secure and maintain world peace; it will make trouble and create turmoil all around.

The US wants NATO allies to spend more on defense. Although NATO members made a deal to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense by 2024, US President Donald Trump was not satisfied and demanded these US allies increase defense outlay to 4 percent of GDP. 

EU members are not one with the US on the spending issue. In November 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron proposed to create a joint EU army and German Chancellor Angela Merkel endorsed his idea. But the path to achieving it would be tough, as the 28 EU members have diverse national interests. 

The irony is that NATO allies still rely on the US for security. If NATO ends, it would be hard for them to develop their own arsenals. For instance, Europe may not be capable of making aircraft carriers for want of funds and technology. If Europe separates from NATO and builds its own defense force, operations and leadership will be tough issues to solve. 

In the short run, NATO will not disband. The US global strategy is to contain Russia and China. To achieve this, Washington not only wants to keep its presence in Europe, but also hopes to establish Arab and Asian counterparts to counter the two countries. Recently, Trump even said Brazil could be a member of NATO. It is not easy for Trump to pull the US out of NATO as he threatened, because Europe plays an important part in the US global strategy. Using Russia's threat as a pretext, the US still hopes to keep its footprint in Europe, but demands other members pay more in keeping with its president's America First philosophy. 

The author is a research fellow at the Institute of World Economics and Politics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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