NATO’s Perilous Quest to Justify its Existence
The unraveling of the Soviet Empire was widely perceived as a vindication of American verities and the beginning of an era of universal peace. Unfortunately, the preservation of the military alliance and its subsequent eastward expansion created an atmosphere of mistrust and trepidation.
Established in April 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO's prime purpose was deterring Soviet expansionism. By 1989 with the Berlin Wall coming down, NATO accomplished its founders’ stated objective. “Mission accomplished,” however, was not good news for the military alliance — it needed to be dissolved, find new enemies, or find a new mission for self-preservation. NATO’s new mission is defined on its website:
NATO is an active and leading contributor to peace and security on the international stage (emphasis mine). It promotes democratic values and is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes.
Rarely has the implementation of a strategic document missed its stated objectives so profoundly as the NATO mission statement. In its quest to “promote democratic values,” NATO has forgone the ultimate democratic value – preservation of human life. This “leading contributor to peace and security” became a façade for American ambition to reconstruct the world in conformity with its values. To impose the American vision of moral governance, NATO launched its version of The Thirty Years' War across continents with the ruthless application of modern destructive weapons. The Balkans, Lebanon, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya will carry the scars of NATO’s wars for generations.
The most outrageous example of NATO's “contribution to peace” is the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The US, to justify the invasion, fabricated evidence of Iraq developing a nuclear weapon and lied to the UN and the world about it. The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, explicitly declared the invasion illegal. After wasting trillions of dollars and having thousands of Americans and other NATO nationals dead and wounded, those adventures ended in humiliating withdrawal leaving behind millions of victims, chaos, and mass distraction. Ironically it was called nation-building. Paradox is NATO’s most distinguishing feature. Constantly at war, it considers itself peaceful. Not to be deterred, barely exiting the shameful retreat from Afghanistan, it ignited war in Ukraine.
A prelude for this war began with the demise of the Soviet Union and the subsequent disintegration of the Warsaw Pact that completely altered the world balance of power. Russia’s executive power was in a state of paralysis, and its military was in despair. That was when NATO initiated major eastward expansion into contested territory toward the Russian borders, increasing its membership from 16 countries to 30 today. At that time, Russia posed a threat only to itself.
Even though today’s Russia, with a population of about 150 million, is a fraction of what used to be the mighty Soviet Union, NATO still protects Europe ostensibly from Russian expansionism.
Europe, on the other hand, has become a massive economic power with a population of 500 million and a GDP exceeding Russia’s by tenfold. If we add the United States to the equation, we will have a population of about 850 million with combined GDP exceeding the Russians’ by twenty-fold. Militarily, Russia is also no match to NATO, whose defense budget is around $1.2 trillion, versus the Russian military expenditure, which is just under $90 billion.
Moreover, before the war, Europe and Russia were partners in mutual prosperity. It was impossible to conceive rapid growth of the European economy without cheap Russian energy, while Russia's dependence on Western technologies and energy euros could not be overstated. Indeed, the EU imposed economic suctions on Russia after the invasion because it believed that Russian dependence on Western technologies and services were critical for Russia’s economic survival.
Thus, given the mathematical logic, correlation of forces, and economic interdependence, any suggestion that Russia poses a threat to Europe is preposterous, if not cynical. On the contrary, Russia looks like easy prey.
Russia’s geopolitical vulnerability fueled Russian leaders’ anxiety. During the last thirty years, Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin issued multiple warnings that NATO's expansion destabilizes Europe and threatens Russian security. Finally, in December 2021, in a last-ditch effort, Putin demanded that NATO stop eastward expansion and committed to not admitting Ukraine to NATO. Still, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrogantly rejected any discussion of the subject. At that point, the last element of flexibility was lost, and Moscow reacted as expected to preempt a potential threat.
Nevertheless, Russia was accused of unprovoked aggression. The accusation against Russia, although, was not unanimously supported. As Pope Francis put it, “The real scandal of this war is NATO barking at Russia’s door, which caused the Kremlin to react badly and unleashed the conflict.”
France's President Macron went further; he exposed the charade when he suggested that the West has to offer Security Guarantees for Russia as an “essential” part of any peace talks. "This means that one of the essential points we must address,” Macron continued, “as President Putin has always said -- is the fear that NATO comes right up to its doors and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia." It was an empty and pathetic gesture, but Macron validated Moscow’s concerns and confirmed that this war is the inevitable consequence of NATO’s refusal to address Russia's security fears.
Indeed, it has been known for decades that the eastward expansion of NATO within several hundred miles of Moscow could not be long tolerated by Russia, irrespective of invocations of goodwill. NATO, however, as a military organization, was guided more by the power of arms than the power of reason. Having failed miserably at its new mission, it sought war to justify its existence. And, as usual, when NATO got into the fight, it entered without evaluating its likely outcome.
This time, the constant escalation of hostilities may finally trigger a global catastrophe. What is even more frightening is Biden's conviction that Putin would not use a nuclear weapon so NATO can continue to engage in a war, supplying weapons, providing intelligence, training the personnel, and finance to Ukraine with impunity. In Biden’s interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he said, “I don’t think he will.” According to Robert Gates, former defense secretary, Biden has been “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” And there is no reason to believe that the demented president is correct this time.
It is difficult to avoid the temptation, perhaps superfluous, to play the mental game of “if only.” If only NATO disbanded with the Warsaw Pact, the host of countries would not be destroyed, and millions of people would not have perished. With the money saved, we could have rebuilt our decaying infrastructure or have done other beautiful things to improve our lives. Europe would relish prosperity built on cheap Russian energy, and the Russian people enjoy Western goods and services bought with the energy euros.
A sophist may ask who has appointed NATO as the world policeman, prosecutor, judge, and executioner.
Alexander G. Markovsky is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, a conservative think tank that examines national security, energy, risk analysis, and other public policy issues. He is the author of Anatomy of a Bolshevik and Liberal Bolshevism: America Did Not Defeat Communism, She Adopted It. Mr. Markovsky is the owner and CEO of Litwin Management Services, LLC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org