The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an international military alliance between 29 European and North American Countries that started when the North Atlantic Treaty was signed on April 4, 1949. The purpose of NATO is to have a system of collective defense, where if one member state is attacked, it is seen as a direct attack on all members, thus each nation will come to the defense of the attacked nation.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Each nation agreeing to defend the other in the case of an attack means that aggressors will likely be discouraged from attacking a NATO nation out of fear of retaliation from an incredibly powerful military alliance. While this sounds good in theory, there are a lot of issues with NATO in practice.
One of the main purposes of NATO is to keep the Western World safe from authoritarian regimes, for “freedom” and “democracy.” Herein lies one of NATO’s biggest problems. If NATO is devoted to stopping the spread of authoritarian regimes, then why is one of the most influential members Turkey?
Turkey is one of the most powerful members of NATO, yet Turkey is an authoritarian state run by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan has continuously imprisoned journalists and political opponents, consolidated power, quashed dissent, and discriminated against the Kurds. Turkey should have no place in NATO if it is truly meant to defend against authoritarianism.
Another flaw with NATO is that it has exceeded its original mandate. According to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was NATO’s first Supreme Commander, “If in 10 years, all American troops stationed in Europe for national defense purposes have not been returned to the United States, then this whole project [NATO] will have failed.” NATO was never meant to be a permanent alliance where the US was constantly sending troops to Europe and spending resources. NATO was meant to be temporary until our allies regained their strength from WWII. Thus, according to Eisenhower, NATO has failed at its mission.
The most glaring flaw with NATO is that it isn’t as much an alliance of military partners as it is one nation picking up the slack for all others. Very much like a group project where one student does all the work, while the other students benefit. The United States is the hardworking student while the rest of the nations get the benefit. The United States, in 2017, contributed 70.1% of NATO’s aggregate defense spending, the next highest was the UK with a measly 5.9%. NATO guidelines dictate that each member state spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense spending. Of the 29 member states, only 5 (US, Greece, Poland, UK and Estonia) meet this quota. While 5 member nations (Canada, Slovenia, Belgium, Spain, and Luxembourg) spend less than 1% of their GDP on defense.
The member nations of NATO aren’t paying their pledged share, thus the burden of the “collective defense” falls on the United States’ shoulders. The countries in NATO get to directly benefit from the United States’ military protection while not actually putting in any effort themselves. This allows for these nations to be able to fund social programs for their people because the US is paying for their defense. The United States is being taken advantage of and it is time for a change. NATO must become a “collective defense” as intended and not a United States-only-defense like it is now.
Overall, for NATO to become useful again, Turkey must be removed until democratic values are restored and the member states must pay their fair share. Otherwise, NATO will continue to lose its value.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.