It is time for America to retire from our billions-of-dollars-a-year NATO burden. It is decades past time for the European community to provide for its own defense. Here Cato Institute director of foreign policy studies Justin Logan hammers home a scholarly, rock-solid case for America’s departure from the European-centric NATO. Justin notes, “NATO has produced some benefits, but the costs to the United States—tens of billions per year, validating Russian nationalist narratives about the West, and infantilizing its European partners—are often ignored.”
As Justin tells readers, “Russia has made it clear that it views the expansion of NATO territory and military power as a threat. However innocent the West believes its intentions, it isn’t hard to see why Russia would be concerned. In 1999 NATO added the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. And over the next ten years, that list grew to include Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, and Croatia. In 2008, President George W, Bush suggested adding Georgia and Ukraine to the alliance, for the first time absorbing not simply former Warsaw Pact members, but former Soviet republics themselves.”
April 1949, a dozen nations, including the United States, Great Britain, and France, signed the North Atlantic Treaty. The first secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Hastings Ismay, famously remarked that the alliance had three purposes, all in Europe: to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.
NATO achieved this mission decades ago. Yet the alliance has continued to grow in the post-Cold War years: Today, it has 28 members, all but two of which are European. And while NATO struggles to find a precise mission in the absence of the Soviet threat, it maintains unparalleled popularity among foreign-policy elites in member states. It is like the third rail of national security policy — only “unserious” people question NATO.
Two years ago, Philip Gordon, then-Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, said, “NATO is vital to U.S. security.” Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder claims it is “an alliance that is more needed by more people than ever.” Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations explains that the NATO wars in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Libya “demonstrate NATO’s utility and its contributions to the individual and collective welfare of its members.”
This has not proven a particularly persuasive argument to the public, which wonders, not unreasonably, why the United States must keep 40,000 troops in Germany, especially when its leaders have spent the past 13 years warning that the greatest national security threat is terrorism — while fighting one war in Iraq and another in Afghanistan. A 2012 Rasmussen poll revealed that 51 percent of likely voters wanted to remove all U.S. troops from Europe, with only 29 percent opposing that measure and 20 percent uncertain.