Founded in 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is the most successful alliance in European history. NATO kept the Americans in, the Soviets out, and the Germans down. NATO had a fourth, grim purpose. Just the across Iron Curtain lay a massive Soviet army prepared to roll across the border and fight its way to the Rhine, with nuclear weapons if need be. Brussels thought the threat so serious that, in the 1950s, West Germany was allowed to rearm. NATO’s well trained and high-tech armies would fight the Soviets from the Iron Curtain to the Rhine, with nuclear weapons if need be. America maintained an army of a quarter of a million men in West Germany, the bulk of its combat power.
Despite the specter of a third world war raging across the continent, Western Europe flourished. Under NATO and the umbrella of American protection, Western Europe built transnational institutions like the Common Market and, later, the European Union. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, NATO and the bourgeoning European Union was poised to take the global lead in the 21st Century.
Since the end of the Cold War, European leaders convinced themselves that, in the words of Professor Francis Fukayama, history had ended. With the Soviet threat gone forever, over the last twenty-five years NATO nations have cut their defense spending down to the bare minimum. In 2018, NATO’s combined defense spending amounted to less than two percent of GDP (NATO guidelines call for a 2% defense GDP minimum) while American defense spending was about 3.5% of GDP. By way of comparison, American defense spending as a percentage of GDP at the height of the Reagan arms buildup in 1985 was 5%. These percentages may seem small but they amount to tens of billions of dollars and Euros per year.
Naturally, ahead of NATO’s annual summit in 2018, President Trump bashed NATO for failing to live up to its defense commitments. NATO nations had previously promised to raise their defense expenditures to 2 percent of GDP by 2025, but that wasn’t good enough for the president, who tweeted, “What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.” Prior to this year’s NATO summit, Trump bashed the Europeans again singling out Germany for failing to meet the 2% budget guideline saying simply, ‘That’s not fair.’ Trump even publicly confronted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his nation’s defense spending, ‘Where are you now?’ he asked Trudeau in front of the cameras after joking, ‘We’ll put them on a payment plan.’
A visibly taken aback Trudeau pointed out that Canada has ‘stepped up’ and participated in NATO deployments in Eastern Europe and throughout the world. Trudeau, who is not right about much, is right about Canadian deployments in support of NATO missions. For years, Canadian troops have fought alongside American troops in Afghanistan. So have those of the old ANZAC nations, Australia and New Zealand. As Australian Prime Minister John Howard said after the September 11th attacks, ‘This is no time to be an 80 percent ally.’ When President Bush delivered his war message to congress a few weeks after the attacks, British Prime Minister Tony Blair sat in the rafters alongside First Lady Laura Bush., ‘America has no truer friend, than Great Britain,’ the president told congress. It was the small Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland that took in thousands of stranded American airline passengers on 9/11.
For over a century now, the English-Speaking Peoples have shared sacrifice on the battlefields of Western Europe, the Pacific, Asia and the Middle East. The many nations have shared interests in trade and technology. Most importantly, these countries share a common heritage of language, the Common Law, parliamentary democracy, tweaked, of course, by the United States. Shared sacrifice, interest, and heritage has made for an unbreakable bond between The United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
As Great Britain prepares to leave the European Union, she should go a step further and, along with the United States, leave NATO. The organization’s reason for being ceased to exist the night the Hammer and Sickle flag was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time. And the English-Speaking Peoples shouldn’t stop there. The Allied victors of World War II and the Cold War should form their own institutions and rid themselves on anachronisms like NATO.