Europe, NATO and the EU

My enthusiasm for international organizations is limited, to put it mildly, but I make an exception for NATO. Almost alone among the 20th century’s great projects, it achieved its main goal – to deter a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. There are good arguments for the idea that a Soviet invasion was never very likely anyway, but at times during the Cold War it looked like a real possibility. Even if the Soviets didn’t want any more land (and they had plenty of their own) then, once the East-West confrontation hardened, they must have been tempted to secure their western border by knocking the European democracies out of play.

Now, when wars are fought with a few dozen planes and ground forces measured in battalions or brigades, it’s hard to comprehend the scale of what NATO achieved. At its height, the alliance commanded two army groups, NORTHAG and CENTAG, each containing four corps and an Allied Tactical Air Force. LANDSOUTHEAST, built around the Turkish armed forces, contained several more corps and substantial air power. Multiple fleets operated under NATO command in the North Sea, Mediterranean and across the Atlantic. Equipment was standardized – not perfectly, but well enough to get the job done. In many ways NATO was the most successful, and one of the most powerful, military alliances in history. But now it’s under threat, on both sides of the Atlantic.

The USA has always had an isolationist minority, and it’s on the march again. This is probably a reaction to the 1990s, when America saw itself as the world’s policeman. The rest of the world didn’t think it was breaking the law, so this did cause some resentment, but a retreat behind US borders is an even more dangerous prospect. The United States is a trading nation, and it will suffer badly if its friendly markets fall to enemies. It is not in America’s interests to turn inwards.

NATO MeetingOn the other hand, it’s not in America’s interests to encourage the European Union’s grandiose fantasies either. President Obama is currently trying to influence the UK to remain in the EU, a move that isn’t winning him any friends. Unfortunately, he’s being encouraged by a few serving and former generals who think “Brexit” from the EU would weaken NATO. This is exactly the opposite of the truth. It’s the EU itself that wants to weaken NATO. There’s now growing pressure to create a unified EU army, and it seems that Obama and his supporters think this would take on much of the generous support given to NATO by the USA.

It wouldn’t. The reality is that the Continental Europeans would just use it as an excuse to spend even less on defense than they do now. Only the UK, among the major European NATO members, is meeting the alliance’s target of spending 2% of GDP on the military; the others are falling short – often disastrously short – and a united European force would be the perfect justification to cut back further. They’d claim that reduced duplication let them get the same amount of defense for less money, but it wouldn’t be true. What they created would be a hollow force, impressive on paper but tied up by national vetoes and lacking in robustness.

The USA can’t make Europe defend itself, but it can refrain from encouraging the EU’s self-destructive stupidity. It’s in America’s best interests for the UK to be a strong, independent NATO member rather than part of a decaying European defense union. The British might not always agree with American foreign policy – the 2003 Iraq war left a sour taste in a lot of mouths – but when there’s a real problem we usually find ourselves on the same side. If the UK leaves the EU this June, it will ensure that America has at least one reliable ally across the Atlantic. The way the world’s going, that has to be a good thing.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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