Article 5 of the NATO Treaty is critical for its survival. It declares that all member nations are bound by treaty to defend all other members. It proclaims that an attack on one member is an attack on all.
The deterrent effect of Article 5 has worked really well. It has protected members from attacks for about 7 decades.
So far, Article 5 has been invoked once, after the attacks on 9/11. That was a serious attack, and NATO helped the US in its Middle East war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Thanks, NATO. But really, we would have been pretty pissed if they backed out and cowered. And we didn’t expect they would do that. They came through.
So far the alliance has been effective, but things have changed in the world since the end of World War 2, and even more so since September 11th. The world changed and so did NATO. But NATO changed much more slowly than the world.
It tried to adapt to the times but, as always happens in bureaucracies of nation-groups, things got bogged down in bureaucracy, competing interests and money squabbles. There are two similar, glaring examples, and they only require four letters to describe: U.N. & E.U.
Add N.A.T.O. to this alphabet of evolutionary errors.
NATO has become much bigger over the years, accumulating satellite nations, in the same sort of way Jupiter sucks in moons.
The organization originally consisted of 10 nations of Western Europe along with the US and Canada. They were all bound by treaty to protect any member from attack. Now, there are 29 members.
Over time, NATO consistently gambled on the deterrent effect of Article 5. Their goal was to extend their prospects for peace by adding more nations, going well beyond their original purpose. This mission creep became the very root cause of their current vulnerability.
For example, Turkey (!!!) and even Montenegro are now members of NATO. What if Putin decided to challenge NATO’s commitment to its common defense by marching into small, defenseless Montenegro? Will NATO respond and go to war with Russia? Was adding that extra bit of territory an enhancement to NATO’s protection?
Putin probably doubts all of this. He knows that NATO is in a no win situation. If NATO meets its treaty obligations and fights for Montenegro, then we have a tinderbox. If NATO backs down, they put themselves in danger by destroying the fundamental basis for their safety.
By standing down, the deterrent effect of the NATO alliance would evaporate, and member nations would likely factionalize based upon their own perceived status and their own interests. NATO would at least be exposed for the paper tiger it has become.
With Western Europe drowning in a sea of immigrants, a tsunami of their own making, and the European Union in turmoil, the continent is ripe for upheaval and is vulnerable to bad actors. It’s not a good picture.
Now, Donald Trump, in no surprise to those who listened to his campaign promises, has told NATO the brutal truth. They don’t pay their share, and the alliance needs reform. He sees a swamp there, too, and he promised Americans he’d clean it up.
The statists from both sides of the pond have reacted in horror, angry that Trump would do such a thing. Never mind that the boat of NATO is listing and the weather forecast is not good. They would rather go down with the ship than accept their mistakes and reform themselves.
That’s how big bureaucracies die. Whether they want to be saved is the important question. Currently, they only want to patch some leaks and board more passengers.
Yet, as usual, they grab their crutch of blaming Trump. By angrily blaming the bearer of the bad news, they continue to shun their responsibilities to their homelands and the world.
All of this exposes the folly of international bodies and cumbersome multinational alliances. Such entities eventually become too big to be seaworthy. And saving such a huge sinking ship may be an impossible task, especially if the passengers continue lighting fires on the deck.
Even if Trump threw them a lifesaver, they’d probably throw it back.