In a recent provocative thought piece for the Center for American Defense Studies (CADS), Major General Don McGregor, USAF (Ret.), a CADS Senior Advisor, asked whether a Russia ‘Reboot’ was still possible. He noted how, in light of the growing CCP China threat, the U.S. would be better served with a friendly, or at least neutral Russia, than a hostile one.
McGregor also explained how NATO expansion to Russia’s borders had helped create the current dangerous frictions and hostility between the West and Russia.
And now we have Stephen Wertheim, an Ivy League academic, and historian of U.S. foreign policy, arguing the same thing in the New York Times (NYT).
Wertheim is the director of grand strategy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, and a visiting faculty fellow at the Center for Global Legal Challenges at Yale Law School. His opinion piece is titled: Sorry, Liberals. But You Really Shouldn’t Love NATO
Wertheim notes how the left’s newfound love for NATO and other military alliances is as much about being anti-Trump than about sound policy. He writes: “To most Democrats, alliances symbolize international cooperation. Proof positive is that Donald Trump supposedly sought to tear them down.”
Unfortunately. They have been wrong on both counts.
After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, depriving NATO of its original reason for being, skeptics of the alliance included liberals as much as conservatives. In 1998, 10 Democratic Senators joined nine Republicans in opposing the first, fateful round of NATO enlargement, which would soon extend the alliance to Russia’s border.
Among the dissenters was Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. In between voting against the first Iraq war in 1991 and the second after Sept. 11, Mr. Wellstone warned that expanding NATO would jeopardize Europe’s hard-won gains. “There is peace between states in Europe, between nations in Europe, for the first time in centuries,” he said. “We do not have a divided Europe, and I worry about a NATO expansion which could redivide Europe and again poison relations with Russia.”
Events have proved him wiser than his party seems to think. The left has ceded criticism of NATO to the right, mistaking armed alliances for friendly partnerships and fixating on Mr. Trump’s rhetoric instead of his actions.
Partisans and the media fixated on Trump’s rhetoric and his nominal withdrawal of 9,000 U.S. troops from Germany – mostly redeployed forward to Poland and other front-line states on Russia’s borders. However, “In the end,” Wertheim notes, “he [Trump] reaffirmed every U.S. alliance commitment, embraced NATO’s expansion to Montenegro and North Macedonia, and beefed up U.S. forces in Eastern Europe.
But they [NATO sceptics] have gained credence as Russia objected, first with words, eventually with arms, to the expansion of an alliance whose guns had always pointed at Moscow. By 2008, NATO declared its intention to admit Georgia and Ukraine. Each had been a founding republic of the Soviet Union and had territorial disputes with Russia. For each, Russia was willing to fight. It swiftly occupied parts of Georgia. Once Ukraine’s pro-Russian president was overthrown in 2014, Russia seized Crimea, home to its Black Sea naval base, and backed separatists in the Donbas region.
And he rightly concludes:
It’s time for Americans to recover their critical faculties when they hear “NATO,” a military alliance that cements European division, bombs the Middle East, burdens the United States and risks great-power war — of which Americans should want no part.
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