Tuesday, August 19, 2008

An Answer to the NATO Question from Germany

Gabor Steingart's introduction to this week's West Wing column on SPIEGEL ONLINE is, to say the least, provocative:

These days Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is often compared -- unfairly -- with Stalin and Hitler. In truth, Putin is a Russian Kennedy. And Putin's Cuba is called Georgia.

The crux of Steingart's argument seems to be that Putin's move on Georgia bears a strong family resemblance to the Bay of Pigs invasion, except that Putin was far more successful, perhaps because he is as good at learning from history as he is from reading texts on statecraft. There are a number of ways in which one can poke logical holes in this argument. However, I was more interested in how Steingart used the situation in Georgia to address my "Why NATO?" question:

Europe's task is to prevent the current situation from escalating. At the present time, NATO expansion into Russia's front yard does not increase security -- it merely serves to heighten tensions in Europe.

In light of my analysis yesterday, I would suggest that the phrase "NATO expansion into Russia's front yard" is a euphemism for "American expansion into Russia's front yard," which is why I used Lord Ismay's "goal statement" as a point of departure for my own argument. Steingart is right: Keeping the Georgia crisis from escalating is Europe's task; but is that task furthered by keeping "the Americans in?" Europe has had plenty of evidence with which to assess the impact of American saber-rattling in the Middle East; do they really want the same loose cannons (with apologies for mixing metaphors) installed along the eastern borders pointed at Russia?

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