‘Anachronism with no military or mission’: NATO foundations crumbled, says Stratfor founder

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg © Michael Dalder
The foundations of NATO have “dissolved” since the end of the Cold War, with Europeans reluctant to invest financially and militarily, and the US unwilling to operate within the constraints of the alliance which lacks any unified strategic outlook, wrote George Friedman.

The internationally-recognized analyst and reputed geopolitics expert, George Friedman, who founded private intelligence company Stratfor, has offered some frank and telling views on the role of NATO as well as shrinking European military might and its “motivation” to defend itself.

While talking about what he termed “Russian ambitions,” Friedman repeatedly stated that the military bloc gradually becomes an “anachronism.”

This is so, Friedman suggested in an op-ed for Business Insider, in part because “NATO began to take on a function it was never designed for,” particularly by integrating Eastern European countries who sought to be “Europeanized” rather than “defended.”

“Membership in the EU and NATO, it was believed, would turn these former Soviet satellites into Western countries,” Friedman continued, probably striking a blow to post-Soviet countries of Georgia and Ukraine – striving to join the bloc in future. “But NATO is a military alliance. It’s about tanks and planes and war plans. Integrating new countries into Western Europe was not the alliance’s purpose.”

“Defending these countries and the rest of Europe was NATO’s function, but that function atrophied as war seemed increasingly irrelevant,” he added. “That was the foundation of NATO. That foundation crumbled long ago, mostly with the fall of the Soviet Union and the signing of the Maastricht Treaty that created the European Union.”

NATO’s mission was clear during the Cold War, Friedman reiterated, saying it was the defense of western Europe from a “Soviet attack.” However, “the military mission evaporated, but the alliance continued in place.”

Currently, the Europeans worry that the US has lost confidence in NATO and that the bloc is no longer the safety guarantor it used to be, Friedman wrote: “And I think they are right.”

The US, Friedman believes, does not intend to play the leading role within NATO old framework anymore, while Europe is “incapable of taking that role because it does not have the troops, hardware, or motivation to do so.”

The reasons for it, he went on, are rooted in Europe becoming a “soft power” of NATO while their participation in US-led interventions being “little more than symbolic.” To no surprise, Friedman writes, the bloc became less and less a factor in Washington’s decision-making while the Europeans “compensated by congratulating themselves for their sophistication compared to the American ‘cowboys’.”

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This is being aggravated by how the European countries deal with crises in their surroundings, and most notably, by how they responded to recent terror attacks in Paris and Brussels, Friedman explained.

“A state that does not act quickly and decisively to counter terrorism within its borders loses legitimacy and the trust of its public and its allies.”

The big picture for either NATO or Europe is quite pessimistic, the renowned strategist wrote in conclusion: “The foundations of NATO have dissolved … The willingness of the US to operate within the constraints of NATO is long gone. A unified strategic outlook is missing.”

The alliance will not cease to exist, and at NATO meetings, such as the upcoming summit in Poland in July, both the US and Europe “will all agree that something needs to be done,” but “nothing will be.”