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There is a specter haunting the Western Alliance structure. Is America going rogue?
As the rise of the “Communist monolith,” under the Soviet Union’s aggression in eastern Europe threatened the devastated and struggling Western European countries, America joined Britain and France in establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to provide collective security against Stalin’s Warsaw Pact. The United States, with its undamaged industry and vast economy, became the core of this new alliance.
As expressed by the New York Times editorial board, “born after World War II, NATO linked America and Europe not just in a mutual defense pledge but in advancing democratic governance, the rule of law, civil and human rights, and an increasingly open international economy. The alliance was the core of an American-led liberal world order that extended to Asia and relied on a web of international institutions, including the United Nations and the World Bank.” Under American leadership, NATO won the Cold War that led to the demise of the Soviet Union.
Today, however, the stability of the Western Alliance structure is on shaky ground. Under the current administration, America is no longer acting like the respected leader of a strong and vibrant NATO. America is reintroducing the chaos of the interwar years with its every-country-for-itself attitude—America over all. President Trump has unilaterally abandoned multinational agreements on which previous administrations and allies have spent years finding consensus, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris Climate Agreement, and, most importantly, the Iran nuclear deal. These irresponsible, unilateral abrogations were foisted on our partners without any attempt at normal diplomatic interaction.
The Iranian nuclear deal is emblematic: The Trump administration argued that a massive renegotiation with Iran was needed, encompassing a broad set of issues. The deal had previously succeeded because none of the six partners believed that an all-encompassing agreement on every issue was possible. In the meantime, the United States has reimposed its sanctions while its partners continue to fulfill their responsibilities. The strains on NATO are public. For example, the United States’ ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, openly criticizes German businesses for fulfilling Germany’s obligations under the agreement. Just last week, a top politician in one of Germany’s opposition parties called for Grenell to be expelled from the country.
NATO is an alliance of nations which share similar expectations and goals across a wide breadth of human affairs, not just military, or economic. One of the fundamental strengths of this alliance consists of America sharing the intelligence gleaned from its vast, worldwide collection and analysis efforts involving human, signals, imagery, measurements and signatures, and open-source information. Currently, however, our alliance partners are placed in a difficult position because Trump continues to denigrate the conclusions of his own intelligence community. The continuing reports that the President doesn’t read his daily briefs, forms unfounded opinions without regard to facts, and then issues tweets that mock the congressional testimony of American intelligence agency chiefs, must be intensely troubling to the leaders of our partner nations.
In foreign policy, the key questions are: Does a policy enhance predictability and stability? Does it prevent conflict? Does it pursue common goals and objectives? A catch phrase these days is “I have your back.” It means a partner will be there. That is not what Trump is currently telling the world. He treats our allies like expendable employees, not partners. Our NATO partners must be scratching their heads as Trump abandons alliance leadership and goes his own way.
Editor’s Note: this op-ed originally appeared in the March 24th edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been reposted here with the author’s permission.
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