Friday, February 8, 2019

Time for a Frank Discussion on NATO - Ari Lieberman

by Ari Lieberman

The US continues to shoulder the burden of an alliance that may have outgrown its usefulness.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in 1949 as a collective defense pact against the aggressive designs and intentions of the Soviet Union. Turkey was accepted into NATO in 1951. The latest NATO entry was the tiny Balkan nation Montenegro, which ascended in 2017.

The United States shoulders the lion’s share of NATO’s budget and the defense of Europe. According to one estimate, US expenses associated with the defense of Europe totaled US$36.0bn in 2018, which represents 5.5% of the US defense budget and 6.3 times the amount President Trump is asking to facilitate the construction of a barrier or wall on the US-Mexico border.

With the fall of communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the threat of a mass Soviet invasion of Western Europe instantly vanished. Western style democracy and free enterprise triumphed decidedly over totalitarianism and stifling socialism.

Despite the diminished threat, NATO still served a valuable purpose in that its collective defense doctrine promoted regional and world stability. Indeed, following the 9-11 attacks, NATO invoked the principles of Article 5, providing for collective defense of alliance members. It was an extraordinary expression of solidarity with the United States, which witnessed the worst attack ever perpetrated on its soil.

This appearance of unity however, is overshadowed by nefarious elements within the alliance that tirelessly work to undermine alliance goals and objectives. I and others have argued that Turkey should be expelled from NATO. Turkey served as a valuable member of the alliance since 1951 but under the leadership of its unhinged Muslim Brotherhood president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has morphed into an untrustworthy, aggressive, hostile entity.

Turkey has an abysmal human rights record but that’s only a fraction of the problem. Erdoğan is deeply anti-Semitic and xenophobic, allowed hundreds of thousands of Muslim migrants to pour into Europe, betrayed intelligence agents, helped Iran circumvent sanctions, supports Hamas and provided support for ISIS, maintains occupation forces in Northern Cyprus, purchased weapons from Russia which are incompatible with Western arms, and snatched US, Czech and Greek nationals for use as bargaining chips, a tactic commonly employed by the likes of rogue nations like Iran and North Korea.

In 2015, Turkish warplanes shot down a Russian Su-24 attack aircraft which strayed into Turkish airspace for a few seconds. The Russians were furious, and the Turks, fearful of the Russian response, called for an emergency NATO session to discuss the incident thus dragging alliance members into matters initiated by Turkey’s hyper aggressive stance and having nothing whatsoever to do with thwarting an invasion of Western Europe. 

In 2010, Turkey permitted a flotilla of ships to disembark from its shores to the Gaza Strip for the purpose of penetrating a legal quarantine Israel maintained over the Strip. The flotilla was backed by the highest echelons of the Turkish government. The Israeli Navy intercepted the flotilla and its personnel encountered fierce resistance from Turkish IHH members (an organization with ties to Hamas), killing 10 of them in self-defense.  This incident placed Israel in direct confrontation with a NATO member.

Turkey has long left the West’s sphere of influence to join forces with radical Muslim elements, like Iran and Hamas, whose values and morals are antithetical with those of the West. An increasingly unhinged Erdogan has stoked irredentist violence in Syria, and created needless friction with neighbors such as Greece, Cyprus and Israel. It is not inconceivable that this narcissist, imbibed with delusions of neo-Ottoman grandeur will one day drag NATO into a war with a few reckless miscalculations.

But Turkey is the least of NATO’s problems. The United Kingdom is NATO’s second most important member after the United States. However, there is a distinct possibility that Britain’s Labour Party boss, Jeremy Corbyn, may soon be prime minister of the UK. That development would be disastrous for NATO.

Like Erdogan, Corbyn is deeply anti-Semitic. Britain’s leading Jewish leaders and publications have referred to him as an “existential threat” to British Jewry and a staggering 40% of Britain’s Jews would seriously consider emigrating if he ever assumed the premiership. Ideologically, Corbyn shares more in common with Nicolas Maduro than he does with Western leaders. Russian and Iranian bots are working overtime to ensure a Corbyn victory in the next election. Indeed, Corbyn actually worked for the Iranian government mouthpiece, Press TV, from 2009-2012. It is safe to classify Corbyn as a fifth columnist who will work tirelessly to undermine NATO.

Finally, the inclusion of Montenegro is problematic. The tiny Balkan nation contributes near nothing to NATO’s defense yet 19-year-old American boys would theoretically be forced to defend a nation that 99.9% of Americans never heard of.

A discussion on America’s involvement with NATO is long overdue. There is strong opposition to such discourse and those even suggesting it are unfairly labeled as isolationists or worse, Russian stooges. However, in light of the staggering costs, diminished threats and changing realities, a reassessment is warranted.

Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has authored numerous articles and publications on matters concerning the Middle East and is considered an authority on geo-political and military developments affecting the region.


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