Over this past week, I had the pleasure of participating in the BALTOPS planning conference. I say pleasure literally, because the interactions with all of the participating BALTOPS nations was great. That may come as a surprise to readers, since I’ve been fairly critical of NATO in the past. Those that know me better know that I’ve worked with NATO partners before, even being assigned in the past to directly support NATO missions.
I have always said that NATO as an organization is a good thing. It forces integration between the partner nations, especially in terms of military equipment. It also forces these nations to interact with each other, preventing the mistrust that lead us to bounce from WW1 to WW2. I would credit NATO with preventing significant war in Europe and in general deterring Russian aggression. Nobody can take these (and many other) accomplishments away from NATO.
Just because something is good doesn’t mean it can’t have flaws. NATO partners have consistently underfunded their military, and that hurts integration when their older equipment can’t work with more cutting edge technology. When nations consistently can’t send military units to practice in exercises, it hurts our forces interoperability. Nobody can take these negatives and say that they are acceptable behavior.
Just because something has flaws, doesn’t mean we don’t make it work. At our conference this week, I saw participating nations coming together to build complicated scenarios that really stretched their units. We purposely put a difficult scenario together, knowing that in some areas it may not work, because unless you stress yourself, you can’t find out how good you really are.
And for anyone who thinks that somehow President Trump has degraded our interactions with NATO…I didn’t see it. He didn’t come up in conversation at all. None of the nations expressed dismay at working with the US. Quite the opposite. I had two nations actively seek me out to employ new technologies in the war game. They were excited…like, actually bouncing up and down excited, that we would be working together.
So when people tell you NATO is dead…don’t believe them. When someone tells you that pointing out NATO’s flaws is hurting our military…don’t believe them either. NATO nations still value the United States. If anything, the continuing rise in investment by these nations will make our alliance stronger in the long term.
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