NATO’s role as a deterrent is still critically important to the US

In his New York Times op-ed, Stephen Wertheim says that Americans should "want no part" in NATO. It's a provocative argument, but misses the mark, according to Ian Bremmer, who breaks out the Red Pen with Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst to argue that now is not the time for the US to back out of NATO.

Joe Biden this week is wrapping up his first trip abroad as President of the United States. Reasonably successful week, brought him to the G7, EU, face-to-face with Vladimir Putin. He also attended a meeting that brought NATO heads of state together for the first time since December 2019. Former President Donald Trump was no fan of NATO, though saying it was obsolete was the one thing he admitted he was wrong about in foreign policy as president, so kind of interesting. But Biden's strong support for the organization was a welcome change for the military alliance.

Not everyone out there is happy about a warm embrace from the US of NATO. Historian Stephen Wertheim just wrote a piece in The New York Times entitled "Sorry, Liberals. But You Really Shouldn't Love NATO." It's a provocative argument and we think it misses the mark in a few important ways. So we're taking out the Red Pen.

Let's start at the beginning. NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was founded back in 1949 in the wake of World War II. It was largely a response to the Soviet Union. Its mission was to protect European democracies, both diplomatically and, if necessary, with military force. Many people have challenged the existence and the point of NATO since the Soviet collapse back in '91, not just Wertheim, but we take issue with some of the arguments that are presented here.

Number one, Wertheim argues that NATO's existence risks great power war, I quote, "that the US should avoid like the plague." Does NATO really bring that risk though? On the contrary, we'd say it's helped to prevent a great power conflict by deterring Russian attacks on its members for decades and still now. Even Putin has said, as president, that only an insane person can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack NATO. That feels like a deterrent effect to me. Keep in mind that Article 5 of NATO, the pledge that an attack on one member nation is an attack on all, has actually only been invoked once, by the United States, after 9/11.

"...NATO, a military alliance that cements European division, bombs the Middle East, burdens the US and risks great-power war" - Does it really though? NATO has helped to prevent a great-power conflict by deterring Russian attacks on its members for decades

Next, Wertheim contends that "the Biden administration now faces a stark choice, commit to fight for Ukraine, creating a serious risk of war with Russia, or admit that NATO expansion has come to an overdue end." Wait, what? Neither Obama nor Trump actually faced such a "stark choice." Biden can continue bolstering Ukraine's defenses, Obama didn't want to do that, Trump did, work to lower the temperature with Russia and back NATO. This is frustrating to Ukraine's president who wants full membership and during the NATO summit tried tweeting that Ukraine was really, really, really about to become a member, and he got precisely nowhere. It's not actually an either/or.

"...the Biden administration now faces a stark choice: commit to fight for Ukraine, or admit that NATO expansion has come to an overdue end." Wait, what? Neither Obama nor Trump faced such a stark choice.

Wertheim also writes that "Europe is stable and affluent far removed from its warring past." Meaning, of course, that it no longer needs a military alliance with the US or US involvement in it for protection. But remember, when Russia attacked Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine six years later, just a few weeks ago, Russia was massing troops on Ukraine's border. No one thinks Russia wants to overrun the continent with tanks as Wertheim suggests. But how about threatening Europeans with cyberattacks, with nerve agents on their individual citizens? These concerns are real, they cannot easily be dispensed with.

"But Europe is sable and affluent, far removed from its warring past." Not so fast. Just a few weeks ago, Russia was massing troops on Ukraine's border.

Finally, Wertheim concludes that if the United States doesn't trust the Europeans to defend themselves then it "truly intends to dominate the world in perpetuity." Number one, that's wildly overstated given the role and impact and power of China globally. But to talk just about the North Atlantic frame, supporting European allies who want help from the United States, by the way, as is very clear from the NATO summit itself, is not the same as wanting to dominate the world. Indeed, the United States wants Europe to take a bigger stake in its own defense to allow America to shift more of its attention to China. And Wertheim's argument ignores the fact that Europe still trusts the United States, even if not as much as it has historically and wants the US to contribute to the continent security through NATO. In fact, the Alliance expanded precisely because Eastern and Central European and Baltic countries like Lithuania and Estonia wanted a guarantee against Russian military aggression. NATO has served its purpose on that front.

"it would seem that America truly intends to dominate the world in perpetuity." Supporting European allies - who want help from the US - is not the same as wanting to dominate the world.

In a meeting this week with NATO's secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, President Biden affirmed the US commitment saying of the Alliance, "If there weren't one, we'd have to invent one." Well, there is one, and I grant you NATO needs a bit of reinvention. But should the US back out completely? Sorry, Stephen Wertheim, but not right now.

That's your Red Pen. Hope you found it useful. See you again soon. In the meantime, stay safe and avoid fewer people.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

"The people are stronger," pro-democracy demonstrators chanted as news broke that the Sudanese military had staged a coup Monday, overthrowing the joint civilian-military government and dashing hopes of democracy in the war-torn country.

The backstory. In 2019, Omar al-Bashir – a despot who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years – was deposed after a months-long popular uprising.

Al-Bashir was a bad guy: he cozied up to terrorists like Osama bin Laden and dropped barrel bombs on his own people. He also embezzled truck loads of money from oil production while millions of Sudanese went hungry, and oversaw a genocide in the Darfur region that left 300,000 people dead and displaced 1.6 million.

More Show less

Turkey's Erdogan ups the ante with the West: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared diplomats from 10 Western countries "persona non-grata" after the group — which includes the US, France, and Germany — called on Ankara to release Osman Kavala, a Parisian-born Turkish businessman who's been held in jail since 2017 but hasn't been charged with a crime. Erdogan says that Kavala was involved in an attempted coup against the government in 2016. This latest move is a sign of Turkey's authoritarian drift in recent years, which has seen Erdogan's government increasingly crack down on opposition members as well as journalists. It also reflects Turkey's increasingly fraught relations with the West: things got particularly bad between Washington and Ankara after Turkey purchased missile defense systems from the Russians in 2019. The Council of Europe (the EU's leading human rights organization) had previously warned that Ankara has until November to release Kavala or it would impose "infringements," though it's unclear what those would be.

More Show less

ASEAN gets tough(ish) with Myanmar: The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet Tuesday for their annual summit with one notable absence: the head of Myanmar's military junta. It's a rare snub from ASEAN, a regional bloc that's gotten a lot of heat in the past for giving tyrants a free pass. The junta says ASEAN violated its traditional principles of deciding by consensus by disinviting its leader, and non-interference in domestic affairs for demanding the bloc's special envoy meet detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For their part, the other ASEAN members have grown visibly alarmed at Myanmar's rapidly deteriorating political and economic situation since the February coup, and they're worried about the spillover effects of Myanmar becoming a failed state. More importantly, Myanmar is a big thorn in ASEAN's side as it walks a fine line between keeping warm ties with the US — which most members want cash and security from — and getting along with China, one of Myanmar's few remaining friends and viewed with suspicion by most ASEAN members over its South China Sea shenanigans.

More Show less

149: The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record-high 413.2 parts per million in 2020, 149 percent above pre-industrial levels. A new report by the UN weather agency released ahead of the COP26 climate summit found that last year's lower emissions due to COVID-related lockdowns had no impact on the overall amount of greenhouse gases causing global warming.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

Why should all eyes be on the Virginia suburbs?

I'm here in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia, where the state will be having a gubernatorial election on November 2nd. The Virginia governor election is held in the year after the US presidential election typically, and is generally seen as a bellwether for how popular the incumbent president of the United States is. In 2009, the Republican candidate won by a commanding 16 points despite the fact that Virginia has been trending more and more Democratic in recent years due to the population growth here in the suburbs, which tend to be more blue than rural areas of the state.

More Show less

Can Big Government still rein in Big Tech or has it already lost control? Never before have just a few companies exerted such an outsized influence on humanity. Today's digital space, where we live so much of our daily lives, has increasingly become an area that national governments are unable to control. It may be time to start thinking of these corporations as nation-states in their own rights. On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer speaks with Nicholas Thompson, CEO of the Atlantic and former WIRED editor-in-chief, about how to police the digital world.

16: Rich countries have secured 16 times more COVID vaccine supplies than developing nations that rely on the struggling COVAX facility, according to analysis by the Financial Times. COVAX is steadily losing bargaining power to buy vaccines at low prices due to the combined effects of booster shots being doled out in developed countries, as well as low-income countries deciding to buy jabs on their own.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal