Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Is Trump Just What the Doctor Ordered for Ailing NATO?

Friends, President Trump is not alone in questioning the relevance of NATO in the post-Cold War era, when Europe faces no serious external threat, and European governments insist on cutting their military budgets to the bone.  The truth is that, if NATO has a future, it lies in a growing commitment to multilateralism.  That is, NATO shouldn't be a blank check given to Europe by the United States -- it should be a joint effort to promote peace and security, WITHOUT unnecessarily antagonizing other global actors, like Russia.  Trump is often seen as anti-NATO, but I see it differently: Trump is giving NATO one last chance to redefine itself in a way that will work for everyone.  Read all about it in my latest article, soon to appear in the Daily Caller:

President Trump: NATO's White Knight?

Consumers of the drivel produced by the mainstream media will be well aware that, according to the New York Times, President Trump allegedly discussed with aides the possibility and ramifications of a U.S. withdrawal from NATO. They will also be aware that President Trump has harshly criticized some of our NATO allies, mainly for under-funding their own militaries.

All this feeds into a narrative that the media has been fabricating since before the 2016 election: Donald J. Trump is a wrecking ball laying waste to the international order. He threatens America's traditional allies while empowering our enemies. No one is safe, in short, with such an impulsive “man-child” at the helm of the ship of state.

The party line in the mainstream media, however, could not be further from the truth.

For one thing, the press and the “experts” ignore the fact that NATO has for years been on shaky ground. Our European allies have consistently allowed their military capacities to whither, while they ink agreements that make Europe dependent on Russia for its energy supplies. NATO nonetheless persisted as an “alliance” propped up entirely by U.S. military power (and massive U.S. defense expenditures), and by the alleged strength of U.S. resolve to defend our allies against any threat.
President Obama's ignominious retreat when the government of Syria crossed his “red line” on the use of chemical weapons, however, exposed the threadbare nature of U.S. resolve, as did Obama's retreat from Iraq. Not surprisingly, Russia has increasingly viewed NATO as a paper tiger. Putin's aggression in Ukraine (as well as his interference in U.S. elections) was an expression of his contempt for NATO, and for the West in general. 

Truthfully, though, NATO had always, since its inception in 1949, been hamstrung by a fatal flaw: many doubted that the United States, if pushed to the wall, would ever sacrifice the blood of its precious soldiers to defend tiny nations in Europe from attack. Luckily, the Soviets never tested our sincerity during the Cold War. Neither has Putin in recent years, despite the palpable weakness of America's strategic posture in the Obama years.

And then along came President Donald Trump. 

Trump unceremoniously lambasted the governments of a long list of NATO member states for entrusting their security to an alliance to which they contribute virtually nothing. He demanded that NATO members take seriously their stated commitment to spend two percent of their respective GDPs on defense. He declared his support for the alliance, but he asked our NATO partners to get serious about sharing the burdens of maintaining international peace and security.

The international press and the diplomatic elite naturally expressed outrage. NATO leaders simply don't speak to one another in these frank terms! Surely, they declared, Trump's criticism of other NATO countries would be interpreted by Russia and other potential adversaries as a signal of dissension and irresolution. These enemies would be emboldened, and the world would be increasingly unstable and unsafe.

The truth, however, is that, although the leaders of other NATO countries were clearly irritated by Trump's straight talk, they responded to his criticism precisely as he would have wished: by upping their military expenditures. The logic and justice of Trump's argument, that NATO is a reciprocal alliance binding all member states to contribute to the common defense, could not but bring shame on the heads of European leaders who, under the unimaginative, internationalist leadership of President Obama, had grown used to taking advantage of American strategic lethargy. As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently announced, the fruits of Europe's Trump-induced shame are no less than an extra $100 billion in defense spending. That's a pretty impressive achievement for a blundering hothead, no?

The strength of an alliance, of course, cannot be measured purely in dollar terms. What is more significant about NATO in the Age of Trump is this: no longer is the organization a unilateral expression of America's commitment to defend Europe from whatever may happen to threaten it. Increasingly, under Trump, NATO is taking shape as a multilateral alliance designed to achieve collective security through the sharing of burdens and the coordination of vast, polyglot military forces. To put it another way, NATO will no longer serve as a mere propaganda arm of the Pentagon – it will become again what it was during its glory days in the midst of the Cold War: a vigorous coalition of great powers dedicated to deterring aggression and keeping the peace.

Put yourself in Russia's shoes. Which NATO would you prefer to pick a fight with: a polite, self-satisfied, ossified organization totally reliant on American military power, with the proviso that such power will be sparingly used by timid and casualty-averse U.S. leaders...or a dynamic military and diplomatic partnership backed by the robust armed forces of dozens of powerful states, eminently capable of defending themselves with or without the assistance of the United States? The question answers itself.

The next time the media informs you that President Trump is “undermining” NATO and the international order, therefore, enjoy a good laugh at their expense. 

NATO was dying on the vine under the languid leadership of Barack Obama and his European cronies. Donald Trump, by contrast, has breathed new life and purpose into the organization, giving it a chance at relevancy in the 21st century. 
We are safer now, without a doubt, than we were when President Trump took office.

Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: He appears weekly on the Newsmaker Show on WLEA 1480.

And here it is in the Daily Caller: 

In other news, please spare a moment to take pity on poor Tom Brokaw, who is a solid liberal, but not quite PC enough for this intolerant day and age.  He dared to attempt some constructive criticism of American Hispanics, some of whom are indeed closed off in a "multicultural" ghetto, and who liberals encourage to spurn assimilation.  Brokaw had a point, and as usual the Left doesn't want to hear it.


  1. Dr. Waddy: Once again you have provided a perceptive and persuasive treatment of a vital issue. I've always taken NATO as a given good thing.I question it now.

    In 1948 during the Berlin Blockade, President Truman sent B-29s, capable of delivering the nuclear weapons that only we (thank God) possessed, to England. The sociopathic and utterly objective Stalin understood what that meant. Western Europe was prostrate and would certainly have been occupied by the forces that monster commanded. Only well led American power thwarted him. Under our physical protection and our beneficence in the Marshall Plan, Western Europe healed and prospered. It would, surely, otherwise, have descended into the depths of limitless Marxist oppression.

    In Shakespeare's King John, the Papal Legate says to the young Dauphin, "How green you are and fresh, in this old world". I think that may be the way the continent regarded us after WWII (not the Brits, they did all their straitened circumstances allowed them to, to resist the communist onslaught - eg. Malaya). It was if the continent was saying "ok, if you Yankee youngsters want to defend us, we'll let you - be our guests - knock yourselves out"

    Of course the fundamentally anti American power Obama encouraged a view of American resolve as undependable. Not for him involvement in the endless quarrels of the Northern hemisphere's
    peoples; "a plague on all their houses" was his observation.

    Then: Donald Trump, a canny player with the guts to call 'em as he sees 'em: he had no intention of surrendering US security and he blew up the game hoary old Europe had been playing, with New Yawk moxie. "You want defense against a resurgent Russia, then do your part or we'll leave ya high and dry".

    I think Russia has always assumed that the U.S. would go to the defense of any NATO country and that that certainty has always restrained them. They remember Hitler's fatal assumption that the "effete" French and British would not honor their pledge to Poland. Perhaps ironically, I think our Vietnam effort told the Russians that we had backbone. If continental Europe wants Russia's respect for NATO power to continue, then they had better do their part or that hombre in our White House will call their bluff - and more power to him.

  2. Very well said, Jack. I agree that the US conventional/nuclear umbrella over Europe has deterred, and will continue to deter, the Russians, but at this point their own palpable weakness must also figure highly in their strategic thinking. Truthfully, I don't believe it would take much effort on the Europeans' part to frisk away any Russian attack -- but they prefer, perhaps inevitably, to let us do the fighting (or the deterring) for them. Trump wants a more equitable division of labor. As you say, "more power to him".

  3. Dr. Waddy: On Europe's ability to turn back an unlikely Russian onslaught - That's an heuristic point. The Russian Army at war: there is the forever monumental defense of Mother Russia against arguably the most harrowing threat since the Mongol tidal wave; then there is the humiliating repulse (for a time at least) of their shameful invasion of Finland. I think the only thing that could trigger a Russian advance now is a (for them) unendurable incursion into Ukraine and despite President Trump's criticisms of Russian actions toward Ukraine, I think he grasps, viscerally, that such would be to Russia what Cuba was to us in 1962. Western Europe alone( Gads, unless the Germans. . . but no!) would not dare such a reckless provocation and why should they?

  4. I agree, Jack -- Russia is very unlikely to pursue aggressive war against NATO. It doesn't even have the stomach to tackle Ukraine! The Baltic states, though, might have some reasonable concerns, and I do wonder whether the West would come to their aid. Putin to me seems frankly a lot more restrained than we in the West generally believe. Maybe his successor will be more of a hawk? If we're not careful about provoking Russia, it could come to pass...

  5. Dr. Waddy: My guess is that Ukraine is a very complex issue for Russia. Their historical origin in the Kievan Rus entity and their WWII ordeal retaking Ukraine may well make them loathe to use force against Ukraine. They may even, in their restraint, be saying once again to the West " look, we really don't want to fight you, we have better things to do and we know war like no other nation does - can't you see, we are holding back - BUT DON'T PUSH US BEYOND OUR ENDURANCE! Try very hard to understand our history - after all, you have limits too". That said I do think its plausible that the Baltic States could be at some hazard if the U.S. withdraws from NATO

  6. Dr. Waddy: I like Brokaw for his popularization of the term "Greatest Generation" but otherwise I think him a standard bigoted leftist news commentator. Its always satisfying to see sanctamonious leftists hoisted on their own petards, as is also happening now to the VA Governor. I think its not just that the left doesn't want to hear dissent, its that it is fully committed to the complete suppression of such heresy. If it can be that vicious to one of its own, how may it be for we who excoriate them now, should they achieve irresistable power? How will they treat those who chafe at their totalitarian rule? But we need not ask - they are showing us now.

  7. Amen to that, Jack. Forgiveness is a concept utterly foreign to the Left -- unless, of course, it has need of you. If, say, a liberal Supreme Court Justice were to show some evidence of past thought crimes, you can bet liberals would get over their outrage mighty quick... Same goes for a philandering Clinton, needless to say. I have no love for Northam, but I think all the fulmination over his sense of humor decades ago is pure silliness. I hope he stops apologizing and reads these latter-day inquisitors the riot act. (But he won't.)

    You give the Russians a lot of credit in Ukraine. Their policy seems patently irrational to me, since they've driven the country into the arms of the West very effectively. My guess is the Russians haven't invaded all the way because they fret about the Western reaction and know they're not strong enough to face down NATO. I would fault them for a failure of nerve -- and the Soviets too. They could be surprisingly timid. Of course, all this is/was to our advantage.

  8. Dr. Waddy: Oh yeh, It would be edifying to see a prominent Dem turn on their politically correct inquisition but is highly unlikely - they are far too forcefully indoctrinated and intimidated.

    You may well be right: it may be that Russia was permanently psychologically maimed by WWII and is disingenuous whenever it proposes action against a strong opponent.

  9. It WOULD be nice to see a Democrat stand up to the PC crowd! Probably only a Dem could do it and succeed in doing real damage to the PC movement. There have to be a few Dems with common sense and backbone, right? Hmmm.

    The hangover from WWII may have cooled Russian jets for several generations, but I suspect they're over that now. Maybe a memory like Afghanistan is more salient?

  10. Dr. Waddy: Two great points on your part. It appears at least now that the VA Gov. is conducting an uncharacteristic (for most any Dem)resistance to standard politically correct intimidation. I agree that his being taken to task for such a triviality as his collegiate hijinks is silly but unfortunately it is effective in our sometimes bizarre polity. He may actually be doing us a service though he almost certainly will submit. VA is far from fully compromised as of yet and he may, in desperation, be appealing to the the real America therein. It should leave him to his fate, I hold, he has been a willing excoriator of our President and an unfeeling apologist for baby killers.

    You are right in suggesting that their Afghanistan repulse may be of more influence than WWII on Russian attitudes toward military action. Could it be that educated military minds in the U.S., have, since WWII, been convinced that Russia's WWII heroics were realized only by the existential threat they faced
    from the Nazis? It would not have taken a puissant force to invade devastated post WWII Western Europe and that justifies the Marshall Plan and NATO but history does show a pattern of Russian military ineffectiveness on soil other than Mother Russia.

  11. Interesting point, Jack. Yes, Russia's historical military performance has been...uneven, to say the least. Even against the Nazis the Russians fought abysmally, man for man. They succeeded only because of superior numbers and a complete indifference to the horrific human costs of their attacks. I wouldn't like Russia's chances in a war versus NATO, even assuming the US left the alliance.

    Northam is a piece of work, and I wouldn't mourn his passing from the scene, but on the other hand I hate to see people bullied by PC Puritans. Arguably, he did himself the most harm by admitting he was in the picture, and then deciding he wasn't. That's pure political (and personal) idiocy.

  12. Dr. Waddy: Because of the essential seriousness of the 2020 election, I rejoice at the increasing discomfiture of the Dems in VA due to their humiliating now triple scandal. Virginia is a key state and I think its real America component had yet to be fully aroused. This tawdry spectacle might do it(?).

  13. Jack, I think what is happening in Virginia is interesting in itself, but its real importance lies in what it portends for the Democratic "field" in 2020. Dredging up people's past un-PC utterances and personal foibles is the new gold standard of leftist politics. Can you imagine the bloodletting that's in store??? I sure can!