Home » NATO at 75: Rebalancing the Transatlantic Alliance

NATO at 75: Rebalancing the Transatlantic Alliance

by John Jefferson
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Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It’s great to be with you on the 75th anniversary of the formation of NATO. Please join me in thanking the CATO Institute and The American Conservative for hosting this important conference.

America is a republic, but only if we keep it—a republic, not an empire. A republic, not a mob-rule democracy. A focused America-First foreign policy is integral to restoring a government small enough to fit within the Constitution.

How did we get so far off course? In the wake of the First World War, our leaders tried globalism with Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points. It didn’t stick. Frankly, in the wake of the Second World War, having reset the global monetary system with the Treaty of Bretton Woods, conditions were set for an age of American empire. 

Of course, the United Nations was formed, but that was for everyone—even the Soviet Union. More focused support structures formed or were already in the works at Bretton Woods, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Fuel was added with the Marshall Plan, but the core alliance didn’t take shape until 12 countries formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949.

Formally, NATO was a defensive alliance, not an ideological one. While the members clearly rejected the Soviet Union and the threat of communism, they retained important differences. Not all of them were even democracies. Perhaps nothing illustrates the point more effectively than the 1952 addition of Turkey and Greece a few years later: Juntas took over the former in 1960 and the latter in 1973, but these countries’ membership in NATO was never questioned. The pragmatism of working together to stop a common enemy prevailed over ideology, governance models, history, or culture. 

Nevertheless, while the Treaty bound all countries into a common alliance, it was clearly referenced as the Washington Treaty because America was an undeniable superpower. Importantly, the Treaty was also ratified within the United States. While it was clearly a defensive alliance for the 12 initial members, the Treaty also bound member countries to the United Nations. The “rules-based order” long sought by the globalists began to take root.

Despite these steadily growing global organizations, the Cold War made it easy to portray a bipolar world. While the Europeans were glad to show up at the Olympics, they were increasingly reliant upon America’s lead in foreign affairs. In fact, the de facto age of the American empire enabled the European shift from defense spending to domestic priorities.

You could also see the shift in inspiring but absolutist speeches like John F. Kennedy’s: “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.” (The Europeans were happy to have us pay.) Or Ronald Reagan’s famous line: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Reagan gave that speech June 12, 1987. In the Spring of 1989, Private Davidson arrived in Germany to find the peak of the Cold War. Americans had live ammo loaded on vehicles, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to stop the Soviet horde from pouring across the Fulda Gap. 

On November 9, 1989, I was in the mountains of Bad Tolz being trained by 10th Special Forces Group when an SF E7 stood up and announced that the Berlin Wall was being torn down and the border was open. At first, we didn’t know whether this was a training scenario or real news. It turns out that Mr. Gorbachev didn’t tear down the Wall, nor did America. Instead, the East Germans found out the truth and tore the Wall down themselves. Finally, after previous failed uprisings, they weren’t shot in the back of the head by their captors.

That Thanksgiving, some buddies and I traveled to Berlin. We walked through Checkpoint Charlie, ate Thanksgiving dinner at the nicest restaurant in East Berlin, and returned to a British pub in West Berlin. We met people who were experiencing their first hours of freedom. Let me tell you, they were not looking for more government. They yearned for more freedom. 

A guy my age could speak some English, and I could speak some German. He knew he had been lied to. He was told we had two blocks of prosperity for show, just like them, but we were far poorer. That night, he confronted the reality that ideas matter. Our system worked, and his did not.

To pacify and assuage Russia, the surviving remnant of the Soviet Union, the United States and other NATO members assured a peaceful future. Just a few months after my visit to Berlin, Secretary of State James Baker told the Russians that NATO would not expand “one inch eastward.” The next day, Helmut Kohl, the future Chancellor of a united Germany, assured Russia, “We believe that NATO should not expand the sphere of its activity.”  

A year later, George H.W. Bush was President. He described the end of the Cold War as an opportunity to usher in a “new world order,” remaking the world into the image of the United States. Was he the first true believer that the coming century was indeed the end of history as described by Francis Fukuyama? 

Ronald Reagan had very effectively explained how America was seen as the world’s land of opportunity: “America represents something universal in the human spirit. I received a letter not long ago from a man who said, ‘You can go to Japan to live, but you cannot become Japanese. You can go to France to live and not become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey, and you won’t become a German or a Turk.’” 

But then he added, “‘Anybody from any corner of the world can come to America to live and become an American.” Perhaps he never anticipated the massive illegal immigration efforts to tear down the country. Reagan was an optimist when the world needed one, but the realists clearly sounded the alarm.

Perhaps the end of the Cold War proved a tipping point for the Europeans? In 1993, they formed what resembles a United States of Europe—the European Union. Concurrently, globalists in both the United States and Europe consolidated power and launched several new binding layers to their “rules-based order”—all with a generous security blanket provided by NATO and underwritten by America.

NATO’s original purpose as a strategic, defensive alliance shifted to a political organization focused on spreading “global initiatives” around the world – with particular emphasis in Eastern Europe and prospective members of the European Union. 

Look at the rate of expansion for NATO:

1949 – The 12 founding members

1952 – Greece and Turkey

1955 – West Germany

1982 – Spain

1999 – The first wave of post-Cold War enlargement
    (Czechia, Hungary, Poland)

2004 – The second wave of post-Cold War enlargement
    (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia)

2009 – Albania and Croatia

2017 – Montenegro

2020 – North Macedonia

2023 – Finland

2024 – Sweden

All through those years, a “globalist consensus” emerged when neoliberals and neoconservatives found common ground. In America, to get more wars in more places they agreed to more free stuff for more people—bankrupting America financially and morally. 

Perhaps the Europeans see it differently. They have certainly leveraged America’s defense spending to increase their own domestic spending. Defenders of America’s empire were happy to be leveraged, but bankrupt nations are hard to defend—ask Russia. 

While a handful of European countries kept their own currencies or have kept their own debt low, all major European powers short-changed their defense obligations, and not because they are poor. Many researchers, including some of those present here this evening (Justin Logan, Sumantra Maitra, Barry Posen, and others), have shown that European nations significantly reduced their defense budgets and downsized their armies, shifting the burden to the American taxpayer and military. Some estimates show that if Europeans had tained Cold War-level military spending, they would have spent an additional $8.6 trillion on defense over 30 years.

Nevertheless, NATO’s new strategic purpose marked a radical shift from defense to offense. NATO embraced the globalists’ political consensus and pushed others to do the same—especially prospective members of the European Union. 

Some observed that the core tenets of the globalist collaboration either enabled or encouraged NATO’s newly misguided mission: democratic systems with limited civil liberties (speech, press, religion, privacy, etc.) and lots of external (NATO, U.S., EU, etc.) intervention to shape outcomes, limited domestic population growth (a secularized culture that undermines families and embraces abortion, homosexuality, gender fluidity, an expansive welfare state, and more), and nearly unlimited and unmitigated immigration. All underwritten and in part enabled by abundant U.S. defense spending, more wars, more surveillance, and an increasing dependence on the financial system as an interconnected component. 

Along with these values, at odds with many cultures including Russia’s, NATO decided to seek another new member: Ukraine. 

This strategic imbalance within NATO has left America less free, less safe, and more burdened by debt. We are over-extended and swiftly losing credibility, influence, and power. 

  • The United States has averaged about 36 percent of allied GDP but more than 61 percent of allied defense spending. 
  • The U.S. is now over $34 trillion in debt and adding $1 trillion every 100 days at an exponentially growing pace.
  • Of the 52 countries to exceed 130 percent debt to GDP, 51 have defaulted. America is rapidly approaching 130 percent.
  • Many of our critical munition stockpiles are vitally low.
  • China has asserted itself as a near-peer rival and a very credible threat in the Pacific.
  • While the U.S. dollar is still the global reserve currency, BRICS and others are working to develop a true rival. Global settlements increasingly bypass USD settlement. 
  • If America is in fact an empire, now is the time to levy a heavier financial burden on those we protect and meddle less in the domestic politics of others.

It didn’t have to be this way. In retrospect, we recognize there were voices like Dwight Eisenhower, Pat Buchanan, and Ron Paul who in different ways sounded the alarm. America was adrift—or risked it in earlier years as Eisenhower famously warned. To win the Cold War, we bankrupted the Soviet Union with ideas and execution. Sadly, the end of the Cold War found America wandering far from the values that made America distinct, desirable, and victorious. 

Donald Trump is the only viable Presidential candidate to create these expectations, and he has already done so credibly as President with his ongoing campaign to Make America Great Again.

The choice America confronts is not a new one. Every empire has failed. When given a blank slate, America’s Founding Fathers created a republic, not an empire. A republic, not a mob-rule democracy. A republic, if we can keep it. 

Russia and Ukraine have a long history of peace marked by periods of conflict. Picking up in November of 2013, then Ukrainian President Yanukovych announced a plan to enter a trade-agreement with Russia rather than with the EU. This set off a course of events that led to a coup in Ukraine to establish a government friendly to the EU, and the subsequent Russian seizure of Crimea where Russia kept their Black Sea Fleet. 

Internal politics within Ukraine led to language and culture wars that left not only Russia, but also Polish and Hungarian populations within Ukraine confronting the impact of NATO’s strategic mission, which seems to include expanding the European Union.

America’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan ended on 31 August 2021. On September 1, 2021, the United States entered a strategic partnership agreement with Ukraine to support their membership in the EU and NATO.

That fall, Russia continued to escalate and negotiate. NATO held its position. On February 22, 2022, Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of NATO, gave a speech about the importance of NATO’s ability to project power around the world, including into Asia. On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine.

As the aggressor, nothing excuses Russia’s invasion. Nevertheless, after rapidly seizing a foothold in Ukraine, Russia entered peace discussions with Ukraine. According to multiple reports around the world, and now the New York Times here in America, NATO discouraged the peace talks and committed “as much as it takes, as long as it takes” to Ukrainian President Zelensky. This scuttled the peace talks.

One of the core issues in Ukraine res NATO membership. This has long been understood to be a cause for war by Russia. That doesn’t excuse their aggression. Nevertheless, they have not been vague.

Nor has NATO. NATO insists that Ukraine will eventually be a member. This isn’t just Jens Stoltenberg, but our own Secretary of State Antony Blinken. To them, Ukraine as a member of NATO is non-negotiable. 

And here we are, at an impasse, on the 75th anniversary of NATO.

It is time we stopped using NATO and other supporting organizations to wage a radical progressive culture war on values around the world. People don’t want what the globalists are selling.

They also don’t want their own countries flooded with illegal immigrants who have no desire to integrate with the culture. Instead, they are actively assisting the critical theorists in tearing down the status quo.

Return to those young Germans experiencing their first hours of freedom. People know they are being lied to. Americans and Europeans want more freedom, not more government.

America should lead an orderly end to NATO by pushing the Europeans either to create a European Defense Force or to become responsible independently for their own defense. This is the reckoning that America’s open checkbook prevented. Scarcity is real. Foreign policy should be grounded in realism. Realism is not isolationism.

In the meantime, we should make clear that the NATO Treaty does not automatically declare a state of war. In America, that power belongs to Congress alone. No Treaty can supersede our Constitution. Article 11 of the Treaty makes that clear: “This Treaty shall be ratified, and its provisions carried out by the Parties in accordance with their respective constitutional processes.” We may help a NATO ally, but NATO membership does not obligate America to fight your wars for you.

I trust this process will result in a diplomatic resolution to the conflict in Ukraine.

America is a republic, not an empire. Congress must:

1. Support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. 

2. Defend the borders of our own country.

3. Represent the citizens (not the inhabitants) of the United States. 

4. Protect their freedom, property, autonomy, and American sovereignty with justice, free commerce, fair trade, and focused diplomacy. 

5. As required by Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution, ensure every state has a republican form of government for its citizens.

6. Sound money is essential to defending freedom. While debased fiat may be constitutional, its implications are not compatible with the equal protection clause.

America can afford a government small enough to fit within the Constitution. The other nonsense is bankrupting our country financially and morally.

A focused America-First foreign policy is integral to restoring a government small enough to fit within the Constitution. One of my favorite verses in the Holy Bible is Romans 12:18: “If possible, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” This verse recognizes peace does not always depend on us, but it also makes clear we don’t need to accept every invitation to conflict, and we certainly shouldn’t seek out extra conflict.

As we gather, the globalists have been busy. While some are surely working to fortify elections, they are also working to fortify NATO as a status quo preservation agent. Their effort is clearly Ukraine. You can read all about it. It’s being done in the open. 

The question is, what are we going to do about it? I presented my plan. Elections have consequences and personnel is policy. We shall see what the future holds soon enough. 

Clausewitz recognized that war is politics by other means. However, we should recognize a corollary: “Politics is war by other means.” In politics, as in war, there is no substitute for victory.

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