Dear RIAN, might you consider this in your “Features Opinion” column?
Mr. Secretary, you ordered the music – now pay for it.
Recently, U.S. Defense Secretary Gates criticized most of NATO members for not doing enough to support the bloc’s programs and initiatives. One must recognize that the U.S. is in fact carrying by far the largest financial burden in NATO and thereby providing a “public good” of security, with other states becoming “free riders”. Yet has not the U.S. benefitted from NATO as much and as well as it has contributed to the alliance? And has Mr. Gates not left out of his speech American policies that have helped bring about the very state of affairs he is criticizing?
One must keep in mind that NATO’s existence allows the U.S. to sell billions of dollars in weapons to old and new NATO members who must switch to and maintain NATO standards. This is a boom for the American military-industrial complex which has by far greater share of the European market than EU producers have in the U.S.
NATO is also a major means through which the U.S. continues its presence and involvement in European affairs over twenty years after the cold war has ended. Some have begun to see NATO as one of the obstacles to independent EU defense and security identity. In this connection, the United States is the main sponsor of NATO expansion and uses new members to open military bases, including ABM sites. Expectedly, these policies raise tensions and hurt cooperation with Russia, something that key European states are not interested in. Thereby, post cold war NATO has sometimes served to re-draw dividing lines in Europe, to divide security rather than to unite greater Europe in a common and inclusive security community. These efforts are at odds with the needs of the current financial crisis when EU-NATO and the United States face tough financial challenges and the IMF has even considered borrowing billions of dollars from Russia.
Meanwhile, as European members of NATO have supported and contributed to U.S. campaigns in Afghanistan, Europe has seen a dramatic rise in heroin trade, which the American forces in Afghanistan have done very little to combat. In the sphere of human rights, the U.S. committed what has been perceived as “un-European” acts towards prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo and has even reportedly used new NATO members to conduct clandestine torture of suspects, actions that fly in the face of avowed EU standards.
Finally, the U.S. invasion of Iraq was widely unpopular in major European states and has put an additional burden on U.S. financial resources. Therefore, Gates’ calls for greater contributions from other NATO members is an indirect way of calling on them to aid U.S. campaigns and policies, many of which the European public and leaders did not and do not support. In some ways, American contributions to NATO resemble Soviet subsidies of Warsaw Pact members via cheap oil, gas, and foodstuffs.
As it is said in Russia, “The one that pays, is the one that orders the music”. If the U.S. wants to continue to order the music, it must not mind paying for it. The alternative is clear: more real multilateralism and cooperation over common security challenges and, finally, a trusting and a good-faith approach to other regional and global players, including Russia.
Leon Rozmarin, Ph.D.
Lecturer Northeastern University Suffolk University Boston, MA