What does the US gain from paying for Europe’s Security?

Bryan MacDonald
Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist based in Russia.
What does the US gain from paying for Europe’s Security?
Despite the fact that Europe is a very rich continent - the EU’s total GDP is higher than the US - Americans are bankrolling its security.

The only way to explain the background to this conundrum is in fairytale style. When detailed in analytical text it’s even more baffling, and I don’t want to confuse everyone.

Once upon a time in a land far away there were two families, the Europas and the Amerigos, who were closely related. The Europa’s fought bloody wars for millennia, mainly due to disputes between kings and queens they declared fealty to, and a few centuries ago, the Amerigos moved out of the home region. After that, the Europas continued to - constantly - argue and the Amerigos became extremely rich in their new homeland.

Then, about 70 years ago, the Europas had the mother, father and cousin of all internal rows and much of the family was annihilated in a mass fratricide, but the Amerigos and their other cousins, the Sovetskys, came to save them. While the Europas became largely poor as a result of the conflict, the Amerigos and the Sovetskys were bolstered and decided they both wanted to be top dog. They then ‘fought’ a cold war for 45 years. The Amerigos worshipped free markets, but the Sovetskys believed in socialism.

The Europas were divided by the ‘isms’ - capital and social. Most of the family members on the west side of town supported the Amerigos but the east end of things fancied the Sovetskys ideas. Eventually, the Sovetskys system of communism proved inadequate and their power dissipated so the Europas began to unite again. But something had changed. A half century of peace and stability meant that the western Europas were now as wealthy as the Amerigos but the eastern branch were not; in fact, many on the east side of town were sickeningly poor after their system had collapsed.

The western Europas had become used to the Amerigos looking after security needs, but most of them were no longer afraid of the Sovetskys, who had now embraced the free market ideology and were called the Rus. They’d changed their names after half the family had splintered into smaller groups. However, many of the eastern Europas were still extremely afraid of the Rus and they pressured the Amerigos into also paying for their security. The Amerigos had promised the Rus after the Sovetsky split that they wouldn’t interfere with former family members - but this promise was broken. Now the eastern Europas too had their safety bankrolled by the Amerigos. However, they didn’t run off and join their cousins, instead they re-united with the western branch of the Europa family.

Reuters / Kacper Pempel

Together, the Europas were wealthier than the Amerigos. The Europas annual income was $18.5 trillion, but the Amerigos only earned $16.8 trillion. Despite this, the Amerigos spent $682 billion on security, but the Europa’s only splashed out around $250 billion; meanwhile the Rus could afford a mere $90 billion. Despite having much less money, the Amerigos were bankrolling the protection of the Europas. Some of the Amerigo family were unhappy about this, but the clan chiefs - for some unknown reason - believed it made sense.

Back to the real world now! Essentially, the EU has more money than the USA. It also contains, within it, the remnants of the British and French imperial forces and an army that once almost conquered all of Europe, but American taxpayers are paying for the EU’s defense. Sounds kind of crazy? Of course it is. What’s more the biggest threat to world peace is Islamic fundamentalism, and yet the unreasonable concerns of some new EU members have driven Washington into confrontation with Russia. Without Russia (and Iran), it's unlikely that ISIS (now referred to as the Islamic State) can be defeated - with that pair the chances increase massively. Hence, alienating them is hardly clever right now.

Quite how this has happened is difficult to explain but I’ve tried to that in the introduction. However, the big issue is: does US investment in Europe’s security make America safer?’ I don’t believe so. I also think it makes Europe a more dangerous place, especially in the borderlands around Russia. Those with an interest in theatre will be aware of the concept of Chekhov’s gun: “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off.”

“It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep,” he wrote in a letter to A.S. Gruzinksy on 1889. It’s no coincidence that Chekhov is Russia’s most performed playwright. Russians, perhaps through paranoia, maybe with solid reasons, see a NATO build up in these terms. Weaker alliance members also often become more aggressive, once the comforting umbrella has been placed over them. This is a recipe for disaster.

Now, NATO is keen to add Ukraine, but nobody in Berlin, Washington, Paris or London seems to be asking the vital question: “Would allowing Kiev to enter NATO make their countries safer?” Military alliances are not like nightclubs, where an administrator can let a customer pass the velvet rope because they like their appearance. Rather, such groupings are intended to strengthen the security of their members, usually mutually. For example, NATO was formed due to a post-war Soviet threat, which all founder members believed they faced. Later, the opposing Warsaw Pact had the same goal, except the perceived enemy was the US. When that concern evaporated, so did the Pact. When the USSR disbanded, NATO didn’t. Now it’s led to a situation where NATO is an end in itself, not a tool to protect all its participants from a clear threat. In order for NATO to remain relevant and justify its huge budget and the bureaucracy it funds, it must invent dangers. In other words, the alliance’s leadership are protecting their jobs. Without a bad guy, NATO wouldn’t exist.

Ukraine is of no serious strategic importance to anyone in the West. In fact, the only NATO country that has any genuine interest in Ukraine is Poland, and then only the western part which was historically part of Poland. Is what’s good for Warsaw also good for Washington, London, Berlin and Paris? I think not.
Modern Russia was founded in Kiev and Ukraine has always been part of the Russian sphere and was included in both empire and the USSR. Furthermore, a large portion of the Ukrainian population doesn’t want to join either the EU or NATO, a majority in most eastern regions and a minority in the western zone. Note, the same is true of the inverse, a majority in the west do not wish to have close relations with Russia.
So the question now is. How did Washington spending more than $5 billion in recent years promoting Western values in Ukraine and destabilizing the state, benefit the USA or Western Europe? It definitely didn’t enhance security and the EU needs the cost of modernizing Ukraine like it needs a hole in the head. There’s already a long queue of bankrupt existing members waiting to be bailed out.

NATO argues that bringing Ukraine into its fold would benefit stability in Eastern Europe. No, it would not! If it deterred Russia from taking military action, it would. However, it’s clear that Ukraine is a red line for the Kremlin, so trying to assimilate the embattled nation is actually destabilizing the entire frontier. Basically, if any outside interference is attempted, Moscow will never tolerate it and the region will always mean more to Moscow than outsiders. Therefore, Moscow will do whatever it takes (with all that implies) to prevent it. Worse still, if NATO were to succeed in dragging Ukraine to full membership, it would embolden future Kiev leaders to challenge Moscow. If Moscow snapped back, the US and its allies would then be pulled into a war they, presumably, don’t want and certainly don’t need. As history has proven, any entity prepared to enter into this region trying to edge out Moscow is going to lose – and lose badly. I am tempted to delve into Napoleon and Barbarossa, but I demur.

Some American officials and pundits, like James Stavridis, the former military commander of NATO, claim that “Russia doesn’t get a vote on who gets into NATO.” Neo-cons, such as British ideologue Ben Judah, believe that “we (NATO) should be ready to arm” Ukraine. Such a ridiculous point of view enters ‘men in white coats’ territory. Essentially, extremists, like Judah, are willing to risk a showdown with the world’s largest nuclear power to achieve… what exactly? What are the benefits to the West of following such a policy? As an EU citizen, and Westerner, I am failing to see them. Ask anyone, this week, on the streets of the UK, what is more important to them, Scotland or Ukraine? It’s likely that around 99 percent will say Scotland and the 1 percent who care about Ukraine will be immigrants from some of the 2004 EU accession states. You may remember the time when Eurocrats promised there wouldn’t be mass immigration to the West from the ‘cuddly’ new members; instead we got the largest peace-time mass movement of Europeans in history.

Another problem with expanding NATO, or the EU, right now is that some existing members are far from secure in one or both alliances. In Hungary, the far-right Jobbik movement is gaining popularity and the anti-Brussels Sweden Democrats took a huge chunk of the vote in their country last weekend. In France, Marie La Pen of Front National is a live contender to become president next year as Francois Hollande flounders. Meanwhile, in the UK, UKIP are lighting a fire under the establishment parties and the position of almost half the British landmass in either organization is perilous. It seems like a bad time for expansion.

The other poser is why the US, in 2014, is bankrolling the security of the EU to begin with. The EU is richer than the US and the EU has more people than the US. Surely, it should be the other way around? It’s similar to asking the weaker, poorer, brother to financially support his wealthier and stronger sibling.
Nevertheless, even if Brussels began to foot the bill for its own protection, poking the Russian bear to add a region of no value is madness. There are myriad problems in the current union. Greece is bankrupt, and getting worse. Cyprus is broken. Spain is whimpering to recovery and half its youth are jobless. Italy is stagnating and even France is looking shaky. The current UK government proposes to hold an ‘in-or-out’ referendum in 2017, if re-elected - UKIP wants to leave completely and as fast as possible.

With all these problems, why does the EU need another one? Especially a country where it’s clear that support for membership is not unanimous and that whole provinces are vehemently opposed to it. Even if every Ukrainian - very unlikely - suddenly decided to embrace Europe tomorrow, what would be the benefit to existing members, other than Poland, of adding Ukraine?

This year, a collection of (predominately) US neo-cons and new EU members has driven the EU to conflict with Russia. NATO’s Ukrainian proxies have lost the military engagement, and both Europe and Russia have lost the economic one, as all available data suggests. However, the real losers are the Ukrainian people, who have been manipulated by all sides.

The real ‘glory’ for Ukraine is not in division, it's in unity. It's in prosperity and a functioning state. The conflict the EU and NATO stoked in Ukraine, and Russia answered, has destroyed any chance of that. In the hope, however forlorn, that it can be reversed, I raise a glass and say ‘Slava Ukrayini.’

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.