Can NATO Survive Resurgent Nationalism in Europe?

If you look at NATO spending figures as a percentage of GDP, you start to notice an interesting trend: as you move further East across Europe, the numbers rise.

After America - whose spending is just under 3.6% of GDP - you have only 3 countries whose military spending is above 2%. The UK is understandably one of them but the other two are Greece and Estonia. Greece is at the crossroads of Southern and Eastern Europe and in the late 40’s fought a civil war against communist insurgents that might very well have resulted in Greece becoming a member of the Soviet Bloc.

Tiny Estonia is a Baltic state of course and along with Lithuania and Latvia, they face a very high probability of some sort of hybrid warfare against them by Russia. Perhaps massive cyber attacks that could cripple their key infrastructure along with supposedly spontaneous rebellions or uprisings by ethnic Russians living in the Baltics. And then even some sort of direct military support from Moscow for local militia, for example. A replay of Eastern Ukraine in other words.

So it's not surprising that Greece at 2.37% in fact spends a higher percentage of it's GDP on defense than the UK does at 2.12%, with Estonia close behind at 2.08%.

Of the next 10 NATO countries, (starting with Poland which spends 1.99%), in terms of percentage of GDP spent on defense, only France and Portugal are not on or near the border with Russia, with more than a few being former Soviet Bloc countries. Germany whose history along with Russia's during the 20th century accounted for millions of deaths is behind Canada and Croatia, at 1.24% of GDP.

So what would happen to NATO if America backed out of the alliance? Or reduced it's military presence in Europe to a small fraction of what it currently maintains?

Germany is currently developing the Nord Stream II pipeline with Russia which has aroused doubts even among those who are savaging President Trump for his bluntness at the opening of this NATO session. Of course, the President couldn't resist taking a jab at Germany and other EU states for mothballing their coal and nuclear facilities and subsequently relying on Russian gas for a significant part of their energy needs.

Maybe in the long run, Germany is somehow right. Doing business with a corrupt billionaire autocrat (ok, you done with the obvious jokes? I'll keep going thank you) in Moscow is preferable to any military option. Remember Stalingrad and all that.

Or maybe not so much. Binding themselves on an increasing scale to Russia on an energy grid where energy moves West and cash moves East might prove a risky bet, especially for countries like Estonia and Poland. Yes America has bought and does buy energy from some fairly awful countries, but in the first place, shale oil and gas has changed that equation lately, and in the second place, they're not next door neighbors, in general. Discounting Venezuela's relative proximity to America.

So while Germany builds windmills, underspends on it's armed forces and helps Russia's oligarchs get even wealthier, one has to ask: is it that Germany still doesn't trust itself? Is it that politicians like Merkel, who was raised in East Germany, don't want to raise military spending because they don't trust Germans?

What happens then if nationalist parties do in fact take over in a number of European countries, both East and West? NATO was built on the assumption that militaristic nationalism was a bygone era. Can it survive a resurgence of such nationalism? That's what its defenders are desperately hoping for. But it might be getting late.

Posted by Keeley at July 13, 2018 3:15 PM
Comment #428940

Nationalism is not a bad thing. From the beginning of man, people have pledged their loyalty, devotion and lives to their own sect, tribe, state, country etc… Only recently has nationalism been redefined and turned into something evil.
Nationalism born out of suffering however, can be very dangerous.

What happens when a socialist democracy must provide for its own security?

Posted by: kctim at July 13, 2018 3:59 PM
Comment #428948

I have no doubt that Putin would like to resurrect the Soviet empire. His greatest asset at this time are fossil fuels. Germany appears willing to exchange security for energy.

Big mistake.

President Trump is trying to wake up our NATO allies to the present and growing dangers coming from Russia, and other bad actors around the globe. Meanwhile, the governments of NATO nations are seducing their populace with socialist goodies at the expense of maintaining a military posture that would deter Russian aggression.

Sadly, our Liberal Pals here in the US are crazed with greed blinding them to the dangers should the Russian Bear begin to exert its force in Europe. So, they protest our military spending and suggest we turn our weapons into food stamps and more socialist freebies.

Posted by: Royal Flush at July 13, 2018 5:45 PM
Comment #428951

trAmp is wandering around Europe with Melania and fake Melania, seeking to create chaos wherever he goes. In Brussels, he whined about Germany colluding with russia, which is pretty odd considering his own cahooting and colluding, and having Tillerson as his first Sec of State, and seeking to get rid of the sanctions, and and and and….
The idea that Germany is underspending on its military is patently ridiculous. It wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t want them to have any offensive military capability at all, and they’re paying a portion of our troops expenses in their country.

In the UK, he had to hide out in the country, but still managed to create an incident with his advisor Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper, telling them he would prefer Boris Johnson to Theresa May, complaining vaguely about the Brexit implementation, which he doesn’t even understand at all, so that was obviously prompted by someone else. I’m guessing he’s in contact with Nigel Farage. He also went back to insulting and blaming Sadiq Khan. Khan may be the leader of the Labour Party in the near future.

May is only in power because of a coalition with the DUP, the only Northern Irish group that was in favor of Brexit, which is actually hanging by a thread. The DUP leader is from Enniskillen in Fermanagh. They’re only managing to prevent a referendum on reunification because people don’t want to lose the NHS.

Posted by: ohrealy at July 13, 2018 6:02 PM
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