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Goodbye, NATO

Nick Witney, the former chief executive of the European Defense Agency, has an opinion piece in the Moscow Times bidding farewell to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – an institution whose usefulness has been outlived, he argues:

NATO has, of course, shown remarkable tenacity. It should have disappeared when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Warsaw Pact evaporated because its job was done. But then came the Balkan crises of the 1990s, culminating in the realization that only U.S. military power could put a stop to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. And then came the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and this kept NATO in business, spreading its activities to Afghanistan.

But NATO’s repeated demonstrations of resilience should not blind us to the fact that it no longer provides a healthy basis for the transatlantic security relationship. As long as NATO’s raison d’etre was to keep the Russians out and the United States in, NATO’s internal dynamic of U.S. leadership and European obeisance was both inevitable and appropriate.

Winston Churchill once remarked that you could always count on theAmericans to do the right thing — after having tried all thealternatives. In the same way, the Europeans will eventually findthemselves having to speak with one voice and act as one body in thewider world, if only because a globalized world will not allow them theluxury of doing anything else. As Charles de Gaulle forecasted: “It isnot any European statesman who will unite Europe. Europe will be unitedby the Chinese.” Only collectively can Europeans be effectivecontributors to global security or achieve a robust transatlanticsecurity partnership.

As NATO enters its twilight years, theUnited States should encourage the EU to grow into its globalresponsibilities. Despite all their differences and mutualdissatisfactions, Europe and the United States know that theirrelationship is as close to being best friends as they are likely tosee for the foreseeable future.