Is Donald Trump right that Nato is obsolete?
Mary Dejevsky, a writer and broadcaster, says Yes.
Nato was an alliance of the Cold War and became obsolete as soon as the Soviet Union was dissolved. The West’s failure to disband it – or at the very least rename it and reform its purpose – in response to the demise of the Warsaw Pact is one of the greatest political errors of the past quarter century.
There were reasons why this did not happen, including the pressure of events through 1989-1992 and a guilty conscience on the part of the Western powers about having left Central and East European countries to languish behind the Iron Curtain. But the continued existence of Nato, and especially its expansion up to the Russian border, had two perverse consequences.
One was to fuel the feelings of insecurity that make the Kremlin so difficult to deal with today. Without Nato there would have been no Russian intervention in Georgia, no snatching of Crimea, no fighting in Ukraine. The other was that its outdated focus distracted its generals and their political masters from threats elsewhere, which is the point Donald Trump was making.
Daniel Hamilton, a senior director at FTI Consulting, writing in a personal capacity, says No.
Nato’s role has changed substantially over the years. Today, it’s not all about troops and bases; it’s also about the sharing of expertise and intelligence and the coordination of tactics.
Nato is the most effective means of binding the US – whose military spending is more than triple that of the UK, France, Germany and Italy combined – with European security concerns. Each day, members benefit from coordinating tactics to head off threats from terrorism, people-smuggling, cyber-attacks and maritime piracy.
With an aggressive and expansionist Russia deploying new missile systems and troops in Eastern Europe, collective security is crucial. Military prowess matters. Those that don’t enjoy Nato protections have suffered invasion and occupation. Some question America’s commitment to the alliance, yet 40,000 Nato troops are on stand-by to deploy to Europe at any time.
Nato’s original purpose – to protect democracies from enemy forces – has been reinvigorated by the rise of global terrorism and Russian aggression. In a dangerous world, it has never mattered more.