NATO’s Weakness Will Make Europe Stronger

A German blitzkrieg force in Poland symbolizes Europe’s new military direction.

To half of the alliance, the Cold War is over. To the other half, it’s back on. Seventy percent of Poles say they view Russia has a major threat, according to a Pew poll published in June. For Germany, it was a little over half that.

This dissonance is at the core of NATO’s weakness. And it was exposed in last month’s Pew poll.

Collective defense is at the heart of NATO, under its Article V. But in only two countries out of the eight surveyed, did a majority say they felt they should honor that commitment: the United States and Canada. In Poland and the United Kingdom, those in support fell only slightly short of a majority.

But across Western Europe, a clear majority wanted to abandon its allies. In France, 53 percent said no to defending an ally, compared with 47 percent who said yes. In Italy, it was 51 percent against to 40 percent in favor. Germany was the most decisive, with 58 percent saying they should not defend a NATO ally and only 38 percent saying they should.

Judy Dempsey, editor in chief of Strategic Europe at Carnegie Europe, called the poll results “devastating.”

“The longer the Europeans refuse to even consider the use of military force to protect their allies, the more NATO’s sense of collective defense and solidarity will weaken,” she wrote. “The inexorable outcome is the demise of Article V. What then is NATO for?”

Britain’s Times newspaper compared the poll to Oxford University’s infamous vote that “this house will in no circumstances fight for its king and country” in 1933. “Benito Mussolini, after reading of the Oxford king and country debate, decided that Britain was a ‘frightened, flabby old woman,’” Times wrote in an editorial, warning that Putin could well draw the same conclusion.

The poll also showed that Poland’s trust in the United States for defense has collapsed. Of all the NATO members polled, Poland is the one most under threat. In every other nation, over 65 percent of those surveyed said they believed America would defend a NATO ally. In Poland, only 49 percent did. And no wonder. America had promised to defend Ukraine, for example. That didn’t do Ukraine much good.

Where is this leading? Paradoxically, to closer military cooperation between Europe.

Consider Poland’s situation. They know they cannot defeat Russia in an all-out war. They’re beefing up their military and putting together an impressive tank fleet to make any such war more expensive. But to have a chance to survive, or, even better, to prevent such a war, they know they need allies.

Now, if you’re not sure your allies will honor a piece of paper they’ve signed, how do you make sure they’ll protect you? You hug them closer. Invite them into your country. Have them build bases in your borders. Have your soldiers serve in their armies. Make it almost impossible for an enemy to attack you without attacking them too.

This is exactly what Poland is doing. A great deal of that reaching out is aimed at America. But there’s one more country they’re working hard to draw close to—Germany.

This strategy of drawing close to wavering allies is exactly what we see with NATO’s new Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), deployed for the first time in Poland last month. Designed to deploy to any NATO state in 48 hours, it is NATO’s fastest responding unite. Dr. Martin Zapfe, director of the Global Security Team at the Center for Security Studies think tank in Zurich, wrote that the VJTF “is best described as a ‘mobile trip wire,’ constituting a deployable guarantee of alliance solidarity that should make it more difficult for Moscow to attack an individual ally without striking all of the (major) allies at the same time.”

In its initial configuration, this “trip wire” strongly involves Germany. The VJTF is built around the German-Dutch army Corp. The Corp’s staff make up the command units of the new force. The head of the Corp, Lt.-Gen. Volker Halbauer, is the head of the interim VJTF. In fact, this interim VJTF is essentially a rebranded German-Dutch Corp with a few other units bolted on. Even when it reaches its full strength of 5,000 soldiers, one fifth of them will be German.

Historically it’s an incredibly odd situation. The Germans have been put in charge of a new blitzkrieg force and invited into Poland.

 

This close integration goes beyond NATO. The Dutch Army has three brigades. One is officially part of the German Army, and a second is on its way to joining. The Netherlands is signing the heart and core of its army over to Germany. Poland and Germany are beginning on a similar path together. Their two navies closely cooperate and their armies have swapped a battalion to pave the way for future cooperation—a Polish battalion is serving in the German Army and vice versa.

Eastern Europe is still reaching out for America and calling for American bases. But U.S. President Barack Obama has proved reluctant to fulfill this request. Nonetheless, these appeals will continue. But Eastern Europe knows it will never integrate with the U.S. Army. Those nations will confine their efforts to combine forces with Europe.

Full article: NATO’s Weakness Will Make Europe Stronger (The Trumpet)

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