THE BLOG
04/02/2008 03:40 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bush: Leave NATO Alone

Am I the only non-Russian who thinks NATO is too weighed down by history to be any effective? Its name invokes Cold War imagery of airlifts and agitprop. One of its members, Greece, is still squabbling about the historical name of Macedonia, a NATO aspirant. And many of its European members -- with World War II scars strewn across their continent -- remain too gun-shy to chase down terrorists in Afghanistan or stop genocidal killings in Bosnia. So remind me again: Why are we expanding this alliance exactly?

President Bush is breaking bread over borscht with our East European allies while dangling a prized carrot in front of them: NATO membership. Let's be realistic and honest though. Decision-making is already bogged-down with too many cooks in NATO's kitchen. Case in point is Afghanistan, where NATO shows signs of strains, lack of will, and no enforced rules of engagement. Second, the collective security mechanism, as articulated by the charter's Article 5, will get further watered down with new members. Were NATO to admit Georgia and a conflagration between Russian and Georgian forces erupted over Abkhazia, a breakaway province, by law, an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all. Would Albanians, much less Americans, be shipped off to keep peace in the Caucasus? It's unlikely. Also, by adding more states with weak militaries -- virtually none of NATO's member states besides the United States meet the 2 percent criteria of military spending per GDP -- we really aren't making the alliance any stronger. Let's call a spade a spade: We just want these new members for their territory, not to reward them for their democracy progress (otherwise, why is Finland or Austria not a member?). Croatia will bolster our peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans. Ukraine would provide a buffer to Russia. Georgia would help us patrol a popular corridor in the Caucasus for terrorists and drug traffickers.

Seems to me we are bent on recklessly expanding NATO, without giving much afterthought to its overarching mission statement. I think it's merely a way to provide cover for an expensive missile defense system in East Europe that serves no purpose -- other than defense contractors' pocketbooks. I also don't buy this argument that NATO is the world's most successful military alliance -- frankly we don't know what a world without NATO looks like. Maybe a leaner, less-bloated alliance would be more successful at preventing genocides and chasing down terrorists.

Don't get me wrong: I'm all for a strong NATO, particularly one with a broader mandate to bring peace to far-flung places like Darfur or Somalia, but only provided that new members bring something value-added to the alliance, meet their requirements, and do not complicate decision-making. I also hope that the tenured European members of NATO continue their heavy lifting. But that isn't happening. Bringing in a state like Ukraine, given its sheer size, airlift capacity, and wobbly politics, would severely alter the alliance -- the equivalent of allowing Turkey into the European Union. Not to mention its membership would needlessly upset the Russians at a sensitive time. Macedonia and Albania, both economic backwaters, hardly make sense for membership. Only Croatia, which has modernized its military and arrested the war criminal Ante Gotovina, really deserves to be included into the club. President Bush should focus on reforming NATO, not expanding it eastward.