Hamilton: Can NATO, history’s greatest alliance, rise again?
Recently, a military colleague asked if this writer spent much time under NATO command. The answer: Eight fascinating years, to include being in nominal command of the Allied Command, Europe, Mobile Land Force. A five-company composite battalion of units from the five strongest NATO nations. The ACE mission was to immediately plant five different national flags in front of any threatened Soviet/East German advance.
Fortunately back then, at the height of the Cold War, the overall strength of the then 14-member NATO kept the Soviets and the East Germans on their side of the Iron Curtain. ACE never saw action. Still, taking part in NATO maneuvers in Norway, Greece, and Turkey convinced this writer that NATO was, at the height of the Cold War, a formidable force.
NATO, like the Marshall Plan, was one of America’s greatest inventions. When Western Europe was too poor to pay for its defense versus Soviet invasion, the U.S. provided most of the troops and paid almost all the costs.
But, with the demise of the Soviet Union, all that changed. NATO nations that had once been good about meeting their NATO expense obligation began to lag. Some others had never been good about paying. Now, a new menace is arising under the command of Vladimir Putin who is determined to make Russia rise like a Phoenix from the ashes heaped on the Soviet Union by several American Presidents, most notably, President Ronald Reagan.
Today, NATO is a victim of its own success. NATO membership has expanded from its relatively strong 14 nations at the height of the Cold War to 29 nations, many of them far removed from the Atlantic Ocean which was the center point of NATO’s original design and far too weak to be effective in a fight versus Russia.
Until every NATO nation brings its defense spending back up to its pledged two-percent of its Gross National Product (GNP), Western Europe will remain an attractive target for Russian aggression. Actually, President Trump is urging the NATO nations to bump their defense spending to four-percent. Presumably, that extra two-percent is needed to overcome the unwise open-border immigration policies of Germany and others that have allowed them to be infested internally with cells of jihadist terrorists.
In terms of geopolitics, Russia and Germany have always been positioned to dominate the Eurasian land mass. So much so, it might have been better during World War I to let Germany and Russia duke it out to the exhaustion of both. The Kaiser would probably have ended up being in possession of France, which never seems to matter much anyway — except as a source of good food, wine, and insults hurled at the United States.
President Trump is rightly alarmed to see so much cooperation between the East German-raised Chancellor Merkel and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Given her communist upbringing, it seems easier for Chancellor Merkel to lean East rather than West.
Sadly, Chancellor Merkel is allowing Germany’s armed forces to wither. The Luftwaffe is down to a handful of operational aircraft. Few German warships are seaworthy. The once-mighty Bundeswehr is a shadow of its former self, making a military renaissance by NATO long overdue.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. In 2015, he was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the University of Nebraska. Dr. Hamilton is the author of The Wit and Wisdom of William Hamilton: the Sage of Sheepdog Hill, Pegasus Imprimis Press (2017). “Central View,” can also be seen at: http://www.central-view.com.
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