Against the backdrop of the events that have unfolded in recent years, and due to which the United States has effectively already lost its dominant position not only in the political economy, but also in the military industry, the countries that really founded NATO, and a number of its other members today, have begun to talk more and more frequently about leaving the alliance or, at the very least, reshaping it.
Once again, this position was raised during an interview in the publication L’Opinon with Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the famous French politician and leader of the “Unconquered France” party, who stressed that Paris has “nothing to do” in NATO, since the alliance is mainly involved in supporting the American economy, and does not help France defend its sovereignty. “The United States has signed virtually no agreement that is of interest to us, and this applies not only to the military sphere. And stop repeating that we and North America have common values! By no means do we stand for the same principles. The US primarily defends its right to do whatever it pleases. This country has been at war for 222 years out of its 244-year history. This is one of the few states that has taken more than half the territory away from one of its neighbors – Mexico,” the French politician added in an interview with a journalist for the publication.
The threshold for military spending that is set in NATO – something that Washington requires – is, at least 2% of a country’s GDP, and that is essentially, according to Mélenchon, just a “line of credit for the Americans” designed to support the US economy, and its military-industrial complex. And this is additionally confirmed by the sanctions continuously imposed by Washington on countries that, instead of buying American weapons, attempt to procure better ones whose quality has proven its worth – and specifically Russian ones.
It must be acknowledged that the issue of whether France will remain in NATO has recently become increasingly relevant throughout French society. In 1966, Charles de Gaulle was president, France left NATO due to growing pressure exerted by the United States in the alliance, and for a long time stayed outside the bloc, and that in no way diminished its national defense capabilities. In essence, it was only in 2009 that France returned to NATO in a full capacity, but nowadays there is a critical attitude towards this unification, under the auspices of the United States, that is rising yet again.
France, which has the third-largest NATO army, one year ago stated – through President E. Macron – that the North Atlantic Alliance was “brain dead”, and that centrifugal forces existed among its principal member countries. Now Great Britain (which has the world’s fourth-largest armed forces) and Germany (the fifth-largest) have temporarily disengaged from its foreign policy strategy, and are chiefly involved in tackling their domestic problems. London is busy with Brexit, and Merkel is trying to maintain a steady course in the face of falling ratings for the country’s ruling party. Turkey is openly pursuing a purely nationalist, Neo-Ottoman policy, and injecting major discord into the alliance’s unity.
Criticism leveled toward Turkey, which never supported those who initiated the North Atlantic Alliance, but rather Hitler’s Germany during WWII, has been resonating for a long time. And Turkey acceding to NATO in 1952 – three years after the alliance was created – had all the overt characteristics of a compromise as an “instrument to contain Moscow”, although even back then countries in the West did not particularly want to see a Muslim country among their ranks. It is true that Ankara has itself repeatedly criticized this step, since it was unwilling to become dependent on the United States and Western Europe, but it was justified by the residual hostility to the USSR that remained in Turkey after it had been an ally with Hitler’s Germany, and concerns about Moscow’s military might after it won the last world war.
In recent years, Western apprehension toward Turkey has not diminished, but has only increased – and for several reasons. In addition to an uptick in disagreements between Ankara and Washington due to Turkey’s purchase of Russian-produced S-400 missile systems – and its unconcealed rapprochement with Russia, which does not suit the White House at all – criticism of Erdogan’s authoritarian rule and human rights violations has become more stern, and the incident comes to mind when the evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson was imprisoned for several years. Relations with Western Europe have become particularly aggravated over the last year due to Ankara’s expansionist policy in the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya, persistent, unresolved issues concerning Northern Cyprus, and Turkey’s attempts to use the flow of illegal refugees to Europe to leverage its own interests. Under these conditions, more and more often rhetoric from leading politicians in NATO countries has begun to touch upon the issue of justifying Turkey’s membership in NATO. However, in the Republic of Turkey itself calls to leave the alliance are growing louder, and there are even calls to prohibit the United States from using the Incirlik Air Base.
Britain has even begun to speak about potentially withdrawing from NATO, especially after Brexit occurs, and this is chiefly due to the lack of clarity for London on the prospects for its future relations with Europe, as well as the United Kingdom’s substantial and the kingdom’s significant cash injections into the alliance, where it is the second-largest financial donor.
In addition, a number of European countries have also recently begun to reassess their NATO memberships. For example, in Montenegro, which joined the alliance quite recently, according to the latest polls in 2017 only 43% of the population supported NATO membership, with 51% against it. Therefore, if the government in this country changes, where the Democrat Party occupies a large part of the parliament and is opposed to NATO membership, the scenario where this country leaves the alliance is possible.
The irrational, and sometimes openly hostile attitude on the part of American military service personnel towards people from certain countries in Eastern Europe, and which is demonstrated by them during the periods of the more frequently joint exercises held near the alliance’s eastern borders in recent years, also reinforces the critical feelings felt toward NATO. For example, in recent days Polish media outlets have been energetically discussing the scandalous results following joint Polish-American exercises dubbed Tumak-2020, which led to drunkenness, insults, and fistfights among the modern-day “military brotherhood” of overloads and vassals. In particular, it was reported that after one of the joint dinners, a group of drunken American soldiers began to insult the Poles, calling them “Polish pigs”, which sparked a fight in which several Polish soldiers received severe head injuries.
Anticipating a change in who will rule the White House, Poland has effectively buried the idea of creating Fort Trump inside the country, and is now even trying to challenge the very fact that this idea ever existed, writes The Washington Times.
The rhetoric about NATO also changed in Washington after Donald Trump came to power – when making his campaign promises four years ago, coming to power of Donald Trump, he demonstrated a desire to take an isolationist position. Later on, at one of the conferences, he bluntly stated that NATO is an outdated organization, and that America could leave the alliance altogether, 67% of whose budgetary contributions are made by the United States.
Despite the active pleas for unity on the part of the NATO Secretary General, it has recently become increasingly obvious that J. Stollenberg himself is the person who needs this alliance the most, since it is his only personal means of subsistence, while the centrifugal forces among its member countries keep increasing.
Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.