Over the past few weeks a series of comments made by various politicians around the world have put NATO’s future in to question. The alliance, which was created by the major western nations in response to Russian aggression during the Cold War, currently has 28 members and is based in Belgium. It’s purpose is still to protect the West against Russia and is based around the idea of collective security – if one member is attacked every other member will attack the aggressor.
One of the most serious comments was made by none other than Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for the USA’s upcoming presidential election. He said that if he were president the USA would only come to the aid of a NATO member that meets the organisation’s target of spending 2% of GDP on defence. Although the UK does this, according to the Wall Street Journal only 5 of NATO’s 28 members meet this spending goal.
Trump’s comments are particularly worrying for the alliance given the fact that the USA has long been the power that has stood up to Russia. In addition, the country accounts for around 75% of all military spending by NATO members. Without America, the west simply wouldn’t be able to stand up to Vladimir Putin.
To make matters worse, a few weeks later Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn decided to stick his oar in. When asked about his opinion of the alliance he stated that should another NATO member be attacked, he ‘would want to avoid us getting involved militarily’. This contradicts a fundamental part of what the organisation stands for.
Corbyn and Trump are not alone. Marine Le Pen, the leader of far-right party National Front (France’s third largest party) would quit the alliance immediately, as would Beppe Grillo, leader of Italy’s Five Star Movement.
The need for NATO has also been called into question. Yesterday, an article in The Times reported that the European Union wants a European army, supposedly to support and complement NATO’s army. The EU and NATO are 2 different projects; one calls for ever-closer Union between counties (politically, legally and economically) and the other exists solely to protect western nations. The idea that the EU, with all its ongoing problems, should take on this huge proposal is ridiculous. Nations would never commit troops to it and it would be impossible to fund.
There is still a need for NATO. With Russia’s invasion of Crimea a couple of years ago and a new era of east-west tension sweeping the globe it would be stupid to disband the alliance. Most of its critics will never get into power (Corbyn, Trump, Le Penn – you can sense a theme) and even if they did hopefully they would eventually see sense. It is natural for such a huge organisation to be questioned from time to time but NATO is not like the EU. Just because the UK wants more control over itself doesn’t mean we should isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. Being part of NATO gives our country power and makes us stronger. Trump and Corbyn are stupid not to see that.